"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.