George Bush will be hard put persuading three, four or five
thousand American soldiers, marines and reservists who have already
been there to go back to Iraq this year, to face 4 million Sunnis
displeased by the Saddam hanging. Hard put too to persuade Nuri
al-Maliki to stay in office, and stay alive, till they get
In the meantime the spinning of the killing of Saddam continues.
The US had nothing to do with it; we merely guarded him for three
years, then took him to the house of death and flew his coffined
body to Tikrit. We tried to stop it happening so soon. We would
have "handled it differently". What's all this fuss? The last 60
seconds of a tyrant's life matter less than the first 60 years.
We've killed his two sons and his 14-year-old grandson and we'll
kill his half-brother tomorrow, so the "process of national
healing" can begin. Has any "process of national healing" been so
mismanaged in world history? Has any filmed event won fewer hearts
and minds? JFK's killing perhaps, though it pleased a good few
Southern schoolboys, who cheered at the news.
If we only look at the politics of lynching a warrior-hero,
abusing him on the gallows, keeping him awake the night before by
banging on his cell door and flaunting before his bleary eyes the
hangman's rope, we can see just how dim the whole plan was. What
Sunni will pose beside Maliki now? What Arab leader, Sunni or
Shiite, will praise his political skill?
And who will trust the Americans now, after this and Abu Ghraib
and hurricane Katrina, to get any process right in any country
including their own? Not the British soldiers on the ground in
Helmland Province, Afghanistan. Not the Australian "security
guards" in downtown Baghdad. Not the Iraqi dentists, doctors,
nurses, restaurateurs and university lecturers daily fleeing the
country. Not the children with toothache. Not the pregnant women
with nowhere to go to give birth. Not the grandmothers of dead
babies in humidicribs whose electricity gave out. Not the
middle-class parents afraid to put their children on school buses
lest they never see them again.
And who in the US will trust the American Army, the State
Department and the current American rulers of Baghdad either? Not
the 30,000 boys and girls wounded, nor their families. Not the
13,000 or 15,000 parents and siblings bereaved. Not the mayors of
the towns the 3000 dead kids came from. Not the Democrat local
members Bush is now asking for more soldiers, more weapons, more
money, more patience, more time in a Long War as long, perhaps, as
the Cold War.
The US is facing outright defeat and worldwide contempt
as never before because of the Saddam gallows Grand Guignol
and the secular Golgotha his jeering, black-hooded captors turned
it into. And none of this need have happened. All the cluey US
spin-men had to do, after consulting a few legal experts, was yield
him up to lengthy trial by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague;
let him give big speeches the media would soon tire of; and let him
grow very old and sad in jail.
But they didn't, and the consequences are dire and daily
mounting. Soon they'll have Tariq Aziz to deal with. He's a
Christian, a friend of Pope John Paul, and literate, well-spoken,
Anglicised evidence of how broad-based a secular government Saddam
ran, and how much 4 million university graduates, civil servants,
medical professionals, lawyers, judges, soldiers, police and
schoolteachers miss him now, in a world of veils and checkpoints
and daylight kidnappings and suicide bombings and 10,000 policemen
killed in two years.
Will Tariq Aziz hang? Will his breaking neck and open eyes and
slowly swinging corpse be telerecorded too? Will he be allowed his
beloved P. G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie paperbacks in his cell
on death row? Will he get a final press conference? Will he be
allowed to wear a suit and tie? What questions will he be allowed
In freedom's name we have helped the US start this barbarous
process. In freedom's name we too are called barbarians now, by
fairly civilised peoples who may have a point.
And we Australians are in the thick of it. Staying on, to
"finish the job". The job may not be all that's finished by the
time we're done.
Bob Ellis is an author and commentator.
Copyright © 2007. The Age Company Ltd.