Part of the reason that I didn't post yesterday was the news that Saddam Hussein has been captured.
I wanted to think about what it meant. It seems too easy to celebrate as if it is just a sporting occasion, and say "Ha - post hoc justification for the war." I was quite shocked to hear on the radio that this means that the war is over - it made me want to tear my hair out in despair.
It is merely another chapter in a long and sorry saga. Let's go back to the First World War, when Iraq, a made-up country with a made-up name, was created from the wreck of the Ottoman Empire. The Ba'athists came to power with the support inter alia of the CIA. For many years Saddam was the ally of the West - my enemy's enemy is my friend, and he was at war with Iran. We shipped weapons, overtly and covertly, to Iraq to aid the war against Iran. I was attacked as unpatriotic for saying that in the Southend smoking room during the 1991 Gulf War.
I will confess that the news of the gassing of the Kurds in Halabja in 1988 does not feature in my memory, nor, I suspect, my diary. Perhaps because it occurred the week after my father's death, so I was in no frame of mind to concentrate on world events. But, surely, if it was a big news story, it should have seeped into my consciousness. Perhaps it didn't get sufficient news coverage.
The history of the Nineties is a story of abject failure - the US Government giving Saddam a nod and a wink to invade Kuwait, then the arbitrary decision to go to war to defend Kuwait. The fiasco of the sanctions that had no effect upon the regime but condemned very many ordinary Iraqis to death and disability. I'm not even mentioning the effects of Depleted Uranium.
I am still not convinced of the case for war in Iraq this year. The capture of Saddam will be used in eternity to justify an otherwise disgraceful episode. The errors, blunders and trimming are legion - the lies about Iraq being behind Al-Qaeda (despite all the evidence showing that they were sworn enemies and as ideologically opposed to each other as they are to the West; the hurry to get the weapons inspectors out of Iraq in order to start the invasion; the lies that it would be clinical, with minimal civilian casualties; and most of all, the tissue of lies that attempted to justify a pre-emptive strike, an invasion of a foreign country, against all the principles of International Law.
The war is far from over, and, sadly, I cannot see Iraq finding closure soon. It was interesting reading Paddy Ashdown, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, saying that the Mistake made in BoH was to insist on establishing democracy before the rule of law. The same mistake is being made in Iraq - the concept of democracy is attractive, but is meaningless without the rule of law.
I appreciate that I am not being eloquent, or particularly insightful, but I just feel this need to record my gut feelings - gut feelings built up over fifteen years.
I also have to say that I am appalled by the thought that he will be executed. I guess it seems the least that can be done in vengeance for the thousands of brutal deaths for which he is responsible. But however evil the crime and the criminal, it still does not justify cold-blooded murder by the state. Those that execute in the name of law-enforcement bring themselves to the level of the genocidist.
Philosophically, is a death sentence a punishment one should relish more or less than life imprisonment? Death is so final, and satisfies the public because it is absolutely conclusive that that person can never do again what he has done before. To be imprisoned for life allows the opportunity to reflect and repent upon what they have done - if they are capable of such reflection, and such repentance. If one believes in the Judaeo-Christian-Moslem god, and the variations of perdition, is to die at the hands of a hated state a means of redemption, becoming, literally, a martyr?