When the news about the execution of Saddam Hussein broke out, I felt strange. I have no doubt that he was a tyrant who did not hesitate to exterminate his political opponents. But hanging him in front of a handful of audience (who later passed on the recording of the hanging) confuses me. ‘Revenge’ i think is the only word that can aptly describe the moment in which the executioners exchanged vicious words with Saddam Hussein. Certainly, the execution will only reinforce the circle of violence in Iraq.
What is more important to me is that the execution has made it impossible to uncover all of Saddam Hussein’s political crimes, which at various points were supported by the international community, including us in Indonesia. What I mean by ‘supporting his crime’ includes ‘being silent’ on what he did. Two examples: we were silent when Saddam Hussein executed the Kurds, and we did nothing when he waged a war against Iran in the 1980s.
I suspect that we turned a blind eye to what happened to the Kurds because we were the stern supporters of state sovereignty. Just like Saddam Hussein who had to deal with the separatist Kurds, we in Indonesia have (had) to deal with the ‘problems’ in East Timor, Aceh and Papua. Just ask ourselves what many of us thought of the Acehnese who joined the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the Papuans in the Free Papua Organization (OPM), or of the East Timorese who joined the pro-independence movement. I guess Stephen Krasner was very right to choose the title “Sovereignty: Organized Hypocrisy” for his famous book.
We viewed Iran as a Shiite state. In the 1990s many in Indonesia scorned Shiite followers in some cities, particularly in Jakarta and Bandung, denying their religious rights to exist. Yet, we cheered Ahmadinejad, the current president of Iran, when he visited our country a few months ago. It just presents a good example that in fact we always choose something that suits our interest (or mood?).
Oddly enough, in his last moment, Saddam Hussein managed to turn the image of his being a secular opportunist tyrant into a martyr through some Platonic words. Below is the last words of Saddam Hussein taken from The Guardian*:
By several accounts, Saddam was calm but scornful of his captors, engaging in a give-and-take with the crowd gathered to watch him die and insisting he was Iraq’s savior, not its tyrant and scourge.
“He said we are going to heaven and our enemies will rot in hell and he also called for forgiveness and love among Iraqis but also stressed that the Iraqis should fight the Americans and the Persians,” Munir Haddad, an appeals court judge who witnessed the hanging, told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Another witness, national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, told The New York Times that one of the guards shouted at Saddam: “You have destroyed us. You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution.”
“I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persian and Americans,” Saddam responded, al-Rubaie told the Times.
“God damn you,” the guard said.
“God damn you,” responded Saddam.
New video, first broadcast by Al-Jazeera satellite television early Sunday, had sound of someone in the group praising the founder of the Shiite Dawa Party, who was executed in 1980 along with his sister by Saddam.
Saddam appeared to smile at those taunting him from below the gallows. He said they were not showing manhood.
Then Saddam began reciting the “Shahada,” a Muslim prayer that says there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger, according to an unabridged copy of the same tape, apparently shot with a camera phone and posted on a Web site.
Saddam made it to midway through his second recitation of the verse. His last word was Muhammad.
The floor dropped out of the gallows.
“The tyrant has fallen,” someone in the group of onlookers shouted. The video showed a close-up of Saddam’s face as he swung from the rope.
Then came another voice: “Let him swing for three minutes.”
* I got the link from http://raincoaster.wordpress.com