Thursday, January 04, 2007

Brith, Death and the resurrection of Saddam

It is said that President Bush is hailed by some as kind of a messiah, and it is alleged by some that ‘America’ likes to play god. They could be right, at least in the case of Saddam Hussein. When Saddam was handed down the death penalty I thought he, or the persona of ‘Saddam Hussein’ had been dead for a long time, the once majestic dictator appeared out of a rat hole looking like, to put kindly, a rather deprived Arabic version of Santa clause. After that incident those were the images that one associated Saddam Hussein, but not anymore. After his televised and youtubed hanging, Saddam has been proclaimed as a martyr.

The ‘America’ who created Saddam and who killed him has now, it seems have aided in his resurrection. His persona is now heroically celebrated all over the Sunni-Muslim world including here in Sri Lanka. The very event is hailed here as a moment of unity of all political parties, historic perhaps in its own right. The JVP has put out posters in support of this great man, and the likes of Asaad Sally are organizing bush-bashing, flag burning exercises in front of the U.S. Embassy. All’s well, freedom of expression (despite the Rajapakse administration) is still a constitutional right.

But perhaps everybody needs a reality check.

Saddam Hussein was a brute, a murderer and a ruthless dictator. He was no hero. This so called partisan unity on the issue is not coming from genuine sensitivity to Muslim sentiments here, but rather out of sheer necessity and a range of other ulterior motives. For the JVP, it’s a chance to poke at the Americans and play ‘hero’ after a while, for the UNP it’s a necessity, Muslims are its most consistent vote base, for the P.A. and the rest of them - well they got to be in the show somehow.

Lot of people, not just the Sri Lankan politicians seems to be using the Saddam hanging as an excuse to attack the U.S. and the opposition sometimes seems to stem from the general opposition to the Iraqi war. I think there are more genuine reasons to oppose the hanging, one is that Saddam never faced trial for all the crimes he committed, another is the trial process was flawed (although it’s difficult to see how he could not be found guilty had the trial been fair), and thirdly it would, as it has done now, would induce further sectarian divide Iraq.

Apart from that personally my opposition to the hanging also stems from my fundamental opposition to the death penalty but perhaps the real shocker for me was the fact that it was televised. That was just atrocious, any man, brute or not, deserved better treatment than that. Strangely enough, none of the newly united Sri Lankan politicos gave prominence to the video, that’s hardly surprising since we all remember how Wimal Weerawansa used his mobile phone camera to record Mervin Silva crunching the JHU monks’ testicles in parliament.

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