October 29, 2009

Execution of Saddam - in hindsight a good thing

According to a new book by Saddam Husayn's lead lawyer Khalil al-Dulaymi, the deposed Iraqi president was planning an escape attempt in 2006. The plan called for Saddam loyalists and other Sunni militants to mount coordinated attacks on American and Iraqi facilities, and eventually overpower the guard force at the detention facility at Camp Cropper and free Saddam.

Camp Cropper was one of the primary U.S. Army facilities in Iraq, located near Baghdad International Airport. The facility was used to house high-value detainees, including many former senior Ba'th Party officials. The security around this facility was probably unsurpassed anywhere in the country. The thought that the insurgents would be able to free Saddam Husayn is ludicrous.

In most cases, I am not a fan of the death penalty. I also believe that there are unique situations in which execution is not only advisable, but essential. The execution of Saddam Husayn was one of those unique cases where the execution, as I look back, was in fact a good thing.

Why do I say that? Saddam Husayn was more that just a deposed dictator convicted of war crimes. Saddam was, and remains, a symbol to his supporters, mostly die-hard Ba'th Party members. The remnants of the Ba'th have been active in the violence directed at Iraqi, American and coalition forces.

Are there still Saddam Husayn supporters? Look at this poster (below) in the city of Tikrit, near to Saddam's hometown of 'Awjah and the center of his support base. There was an AP caption labeling this a "vandalized poster of Saddam." The use of the descriptor "vandalized" has a negative connotation, giving the impression that this was an anti-Saddam gesture. In actuality, the Arabic graffiti spray painted on the poster reads, "Long live Saddam and the Ba'th [party]." This is a pro-Saddam gesture, exactly the opposite of the reporting.

As long as Saddam remained alive - even in a maximum security facility guarded by American troops - there was always the hope that somehow his escape might be possible. In this case, it made sense to quash that hope. Likewise, moving him out of the country would not remove that hope that there was the possibility of his return. There still may be Ba'thi resistance, but Saddam will never again lead the Ba'th Party.

All in all, executing Saddam was a good thing. I don't see another solution.