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Tony Grist

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Glum [Jan. 1st, 2007|12:16 pm]
Tony Grist
I stayed up till midnight- just. Ailz and I stood at the bedroom window and watched fireworks bristle along the skyline.

I got a call from Bolton in the wee, small hours. Happy, shining people wishing me a happy new Year. The lads had gone back to Sara's house and were partying with her parents. 

I'm not a party person.

I keep coming back to Saddam. There's a jolly picture in the press this morning showing him with his neck broke. His executioners (more like a Shia lynch mob actually) jeered him and loosed the trap door while he was still saying his prayers. All through the process he showed courage and dignity. The new Iraq makes the old Iraq (Saddam's Iraq) look good.

I'm so ashamed of what America and Britain have done.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: idahoswede
2007-01-01 11:20 am (UTC)
I'm in total agreement with you. Why on earth would you have to jeer a dying man who is saying his prayers? Who the hell was in charge and if this was a legal proceeding, those doing the jeering should be demoted, punished, whatever. I'm just disgusted by this rush to execute as well.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-01 11:40 am (UTC)
The execution was presumably arranged by the Iraqi "government" (whose writ, the Guardian says, barely runs beyond the Green Zone.) The trial should have taken place in the Hague, but if if that had happened the complicity of western governments in Saddam's crimes might have been given a thorough airing and that would never have done, would it?
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[User Picture]From: methodius
2007-01-01 11:48 am (UTC)
Which makes one wonder about Milosevich's convenient death, too.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-01 03:14 pm (UTC)
I believe our leaders are totally Machiavellian- so, yes, anything is possible.
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[User Picture]From: red_girl_42
2007-01-01 08:54 pm (UTC)
I too am ashamed of our countries.

Someone's death, even if it's necessary (and I'm not saying this one is or isn't), is never cause for celebration, jeering, or rubbernecking. And victory over your enemies does not give you the right to behave as badly as they have.

I noticed that two photos of Saddam (one being hanged, the other dead) were on Yahoo!'s "Most emailed photos" list the other day. I find that horrifying. What the Hell is wrong with people?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-02 10:24 am (UTC)
People have this fascination with death- and especially violent death. If we brought back public executions they'd draw huge crowds.
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[User Picture]From: happydog
2007-01-02 06:09 am (UTC)

I'm so ashamed of what America and Britain have done.


I don't say enough about it, but me too, cap'n, me too.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-02 10:27 am (UTC)
It's not only the arrogance and illegality of our Iraq policy, its the corruption and incompetence with which we've carried it through.
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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2007-01-02 03:56 pm (UTC)
I heard him say in an interview in 1990 that he "hoped God would be satisfied with him."

That opens up a big area to ponder.

How on earth do we know what "satisfies" God?

I've read that people like Hitler are handled gently but firmly in the Beyond while they heal from their horrible crimes.

This sounds like the "beating-to-fit-and-painting-to-match" description of Heaven--someone wistfully wants to fill in all the blanks.

I think--oh, boy, as if it matters--that in the long, long scheme of things, we're all pretty much alike, and that is to say very primitive and young and ruled by our chemicals and our isolation.

Did you happen to notice the eerie juxtaposition of the Crucifixion and this hanging? I did, without wanting to. It was like the Antichrist version...
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-02 06:46 pm (UTC)
Robert Browning talks about

"That sad, obscure, sequestered place
Where God unmakes but to remake the soul."

I've always liked that.

Yes, I don't suppose that Saddam was essentially any worse than the rest of us. He was a strong, hard man in a brutal, warrior society. Our medieval kings (some of whom we admire) behaved in just the same way.

I read this morning that he was in the habit of feeding the birds and watering the weeds in his prison yard.

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[User Picture]From: jackiejj
2007-01-02 07:57 pm (UTC)
That line of poetry is breathtakingly exactly right.

He watered the weeds? Gosh.

He was, like anyone, scared at the end--easy to see on the video.

He had no empathy, and yet he fed birds? I am perplexed.

Maybe he did have empathy, and was a sadist.

I am very glad I am not God. I don't know what to think.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-02 10:38 pm (UTC)
I think he was complex. Aren't we all? Another thing he did that scarcely fits the received view of him is write romantic novels.

Which he chose to publish anonymously- though everyone in Iraq knew it was him.
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[User Picture]From: solar_diablo
2007-01-02 04:56 pm (UTC)
We supported him for years while he provided a geostrategic counter to Iran. During that time he used chemical weapons on his own civilians, he repressed the Shite majority through tactics as diverse as rape and torture, and he engaged in a war with Iran than led to the death of an estimated 1 million+ people.

Given the culture that has existed in the region for centuries (a tribalist "blood for blood" mentality that will not be easily erased by "progressive" Westerners any time soon) and given Hussein's treatment of them during his reign it doesn't surprise me one bit the moment the Americans handed Hussein over to his countrymen they jeered him at his execution. Frankly, I have a hard time casting judgment on the behavior.

Capital punishment is barbaric, don't get me wrong. The West's dealings with the people of that region has often been deplorable, I understand. But I think to cluck our tongues at the behavior of the executioners betrays a sort of reverse colonialist mentality toward Iraqis with little understanding of the culture and history behind it. And while Hussein might have gone to his death with defiance and insults rather than blubbering, to characterize him as dignified, or the old Iraq with its systematic oppression and murder as somehow better than the free for all bloodshed of the new Iraq just seems out of place.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-02 07:05 pm (UTC)
Saddam behaved the way tribal warlords have always behaved. I don't suppose his behaviour was any worse than that of Richard the Lion Heart (who is popularly remembered as a good king).

I watched the footage of the execution. I saw dignity in the way he carried himself.

Yes, he was a bastard. It's pretty much a precondition for being a political leader.

Is the new Iraq worse than the old Iraq? It's certainly no better. We went to war with the promise that we would create a democracy. We have let those people down dreadfully.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2007-01-02 07:34 pm (UTC)
I keep hearing about the execution, but I didn't know what had happened. That's horrible. Here's to 2007... being better. Somehow.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-02 10:40 pm (UTC)
A couple of the officials at the Execution filmed the whole thing on their camera-phones. I believe the footage can be seen at YouTube
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2007-01-03 01:01 am (UTC)
You're KIDDING. Horrible. I want to look but... don't.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-03 12:27 pm (UTC)
I haven't looked. I think there are things that should be private. Even dictators ought to have the right to die in private.
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[User Picture]From: besideserato
2007-01-15 06:26 pm (UTC)
When I read this first, a week or so ago, I thought of my aunt and how the family crowded with her in her last moments. This was not always so, I thought, this private dying.

And then I was reading the works of Walter Benjamin where, in his essay about Nikolai Leskov, "The Storyteller", he writes: "It has been observable fir a number of centuries how in the general consciousness the thought of death has declined in omnipresence and vividness.... And in the course of the nineteenth century bourgeois society has, by means of hygienic and social, private and public institutions, realized a secondary effect which may have been its subconscious main purpose: to make it possible for people to avoid the sight of the dying. Dying was once a public process in the life of the individual and a most exemplary one; think of the medieval pictures in which the deathbed was turned into a throne toward which the people press through the wide-open doors of the death house. In the course of modern times dying has been pushed further and further out of the perceptual world of the living. There used to be no house, hardly a room, in which someone had not died.... Today people live in rooms that have never been touched by death, dry dwellers of eternity, and when their end approaches, they are stowed away in sanatoria or hospitals by their heirs.... Just as sequence of images is set in motion inside a man as his life comes to an end--unfolding the views of himself under which he has encountered himself without being aware of it--suddenly in his expressions and looks the unforgettable emerges and imparts to everything that concerned him that authority which even the poorest wretch in dying possesses for the living around him."

I thought of you, this comment in particular. It's not the same, of course, because he didn't die among his people--he was executed. That's the difference. But I wonder, if death had not been pushed out so far from our minds, would we react the same? Were executions once not a public thing as well? Do they not continue to be so in a way?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-15 08:18 pm (UTC)
Good point. There's something to be said for the old view of dying as a social act.

One reads of public executions in the 18th century in which the victim was aware of him/herself as a performer and did his/her best to give the public a good show.

And when Joseph Addison, the essayist, was on his deathbed he sent out invitations to his friends to come and "see how a christian can die".
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2007-01-03 12:32 pm (UTC)
The Deputy Prime Minister spoke of his disgust yesterday. He's the first and only member of the British government to speak up for simple human decency. The rest(including Tony Blair) have all weasel-worded their way around the issue.
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