It seemed increasingly clear, as the day wore on, that the execution of Saddam Hussein would happen very soon -- not just within thirty days, as we were told at first, but within hours. And it was so: we awoke on Saturday morning to photographs of the doomed man in a funereal black coat with a cartoonishly large noose around his neck. In deference to our delicate sensibilities, the newspeople told us, we would not see the execution itself. Just the before-and-after shots.
Saddam's last words were an epitaph on his life: ethnic insults and curses exchanged with his executioners and the invited audience. And then, at the very end, he turned to the holy scriptures of his faith. Perhaps if he had paid closer attention to them earlier on he would be alive today, and Iraq a very different place.
The execution was the fruit of the guilty verdict and sentence Saddam received for the massacre of 148 Shiite men and boys in the town of Dujail in 1980s. At the time of his death, Saddam was in the midst of another trial for other offenses, this one the mass murder of Kurds after the first Gulf War.
Shiites, Kurds, even members of his own Sunni family: Saddam's alleged crimes could have busied many judges for many years. They won't now, of course: you can't try a dead defendant. And so the Kurdish victims of his murderous regime will not have their day in court. And his Sunni defenders will be encouraged in their selective veneration of his memory, rather than in a rigorous examination of his crimes against his own.
Wouldn't it have been better to allow these trials on these accusations to go forward, no matter how long it took, rather than cut the process off at the knees by executing him for one of them? To document the dictator's sins against all three of Iraq's major groups, rather than just the majority one currently in power? There seems to have been more than enough hate in the man for everyone when he was in power. There ought to have been sufficient justice as well.
And he shouldn't have been executed. Nobody should. Saddam's execution just adds one more death to the pile; it doesn't bring a single one of his victims back to life. He should have spent the remainder of his life in prison making Iraqi license plates and reading the Koran -- he might have been surprised at some of the things he found there. God, who created Saddam for a life very different from the one he decided to lead, wasn't finished with him yet, as God is not finished with any of us. We don't have the right to foreclose on what God may be doing, and we are not wise enough to know what that might be.
The perfect way to start our New Year -- The Geranium Journey at St. John's, Cold Spring Harbor, LI!
The Rev. Barbara Crafton will join us at St. John's, tomorrow, Thurs. Jan. 4 at noon. We will break bread together with people of faith from many backgrounds. Bring your lunch....desserts, etc, will be there. Bring your thoughts on making our world better..... Bring friends from all congregations...... Cold Spring Harbor is an easy train ride from Penn Station, New York!
The Geranium Journey extends the gift of fellowship across traditions and our lunch gatherings are open to anyone and everyone. Bring your lunch, a friend, and an open heart. St. John's will provide the space to encourage spiritual exploration and discussion. A freewill donation will be appreciated. Call the church at 516-692-6368 for train info or driving directions.