Mourn a million dead Iraqis, not Saddam Hussein!

Submitted by cathy n on 20 November, 2006 - 1:04

"We deplore the decision...to impose the death penalty on Saddam Hussein" - Amnesty International

By Sacha Ismail

Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq, has been sentenced to death for crimes against humanity. Of such crimes, there can be no doubt, he is guilty.

The sheer murderousness of his 35 years in power is at least comparable to the Nazi regime before the start of the Second World War, and we have no more reason to mourn his demise than socialists had to mourn the end of Hitler and Goering. Any protest in defence of Saddam Hussein by people who call themselves socialists would be a sign of their having lost all political bearings.

Lamenting Saddam’s fate would be particularly strange in the context of the enormous number of Iraqis who died violently as a result of his rule. The Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 and the first Gulf War of 1991, both provoked by his Ba’athist regime’s regional imperialist drive for domination, claimed many hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives; over almost four decades, state repression cannot have claimed much less.

In general, however, socialists oppose the death penalty. We might make an exception to that rule in a situation of revolutionary civil war, in which the working class battles to defend itself against an armed counter-revolution: but not in Iraq today, when the death penalty is wielded by a government that is far from democratic, let alone revolutionary.

Tomorrow the theocrats in power in Baghdad and Basra will use their power of judicial murder against the former Ba’athist ruler and his henchmen; the day after that they will use it against those fighting for democracy, and working-class revolutionaries above all.

At the same time, the Iraqi government is backed by the occupation forces of a power itself responsible for numerous crimes against humanity, big and small. As governor of Texas, George W Bush oversaw the execution of dozens of mostly brown-skinned and overwhelmingly poor Americans, including children; today he is head of a state which ranks behind only China, Saudi Arabia and Iran in the league table of murdering its own citizens. By invading and occupying Iraq, it has unleashed a tidal wave of violence which, according to a survey published last month in medical journal The Lancet, has resulted in more than 600,000 Iraqis losing their lives (the majority of them killed by the forces of the Islamist and Sunni-sectarian “resistance”).

Together with the direct victims of Ba’athism, those killed in this war must bring the tally to more than a million dead. It is those deaths which give us more reason than ever to support the authentic forces of democracy in Iraq, and in the first instance the Iraqi workers’ movement — against the occupation, the Islamist “resistance” and the Iraqi government. They do not given us any reason to mourn the fate of Saddam Hussein.

Comments

Submitted by vickim on Sat, 30/12/2006 - 14:27

This is intended as a comment to explore a feeling I have that might be politically incorrect (in the AWL) but is worth discussing.
I don't mourn Saddam Hussein, but the news that he was going to be killed and the news that he has been killed sickened me nonetheless; not heartily sickened me, sickened me to the core of my being, or whatever, but certainly made me nauseous.
I think there were several things wrong with the article above.
First, the headline that goes with it, the implication in the headline being that Saddam Hussein by himself killed a million Iraqis, when, as the article says, Saddam Hussein and the US/UK invasion and the insurgency between them have killed a million Iraqis. (And between them Saddam Hussein's regime and the Iranian regime killed several hundred thousand Iranians as well.) They are all guilty.
Second, while I wouldn't go out of my way to organise a protest against Saddam Hussein's death sentence, there is something to be said for, even at the risk of appearing perverse, insisting on the wrongness of judicial murder of a man, even a mass murderer like Saddam Hussein (the article does that, but halfway down, and you wouldn't guess it from the headline).
Killing people is wrong. The state killing people is very wrong, whether it is by a cold-blooded execution or a cold-blooded invasion. There isn't much hope for humanity while states, especially democratic states, execute people in cold blood.
To my mind, the article underplays the fact that there are political connections between states that cold-bloodedly execute people (US, Iraq et al.) and states that invade other states (US, Iraq et al.) and states that build up tyrants (US et al.) and states built by tyrants (Iraq et al.). All of them are murderous and all of them are our enemies.
To use a phrase of Trotsky's, we should try to be the party of irreconcilable opposition. I think that spirit was missing in the headline to this article, and to an extent in the article itself.
I haven't had any loved one tortured or gassed to death by Saddam Hussein's state machine, and if I had I might have been dancing in the streets today. But I don't think that undermines what I am saying.

Submitted by Janine on Mon, 01/01/2007 - 15:22

In reply to by vickim

I largely agree with Vicki's comments about the execution, but with one exception.

I didn't take any inference from the headline that the million dead Iraqis were all killed by Saddam. In fact, it hadn't even crossed my mind that it could be read like that until I read Vicki's comments. It seems a far-fetched reading to me.

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