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Thursday, November 16, 2006

The US might make a martyr of Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein has been demonised quite a bit by the media and he does deserve it, to a fair extent. But when his trial has been such a travesty of justice, does he now deserve the death sentence? Wouldn't life imprisonment have been better, especially since the Americans have hardly got Iraq under control to begin with and their former president's death at the hands of an occupying power could so easily set the country up in flames?

Financial Times, South Asia correspondent, Jo Johnson told CNBC-TV18, "I think the verdict may be just but the sentence is wrong and a big political mistake. No one disputes that Saddam was guilty of many of the crimes for which he was tried. I think the political mistake is that countries which are behind trying him are seeking to impose the death sentence on him."

"For eg. Britain opposes the death penalty at home and normally wouldn't extradite people to countries which have the death penalty - it does seem to be extraordinary that our foreign secretary seems to be endorsing the death penalty. Britain seems to be caught in a complete political quagmire of its own making. A life imprisonment would have been much more consistent with Britain's stand on the death sentence."

But Strategic Affairs editor from Indian Express, C Rajamohan feels that to expect amnesty is futile because "we are talking about the consequences of war and it is not the first time or the last time, when victors have delivered justice. Given the conditions that exist in Iraq today, and in the broader context of the Middle East - the point is that a dictator pays for his sins and it's a reasonable outcome out there."

"You can keep questioning the process but it won't take us very far because he (Saddam Hussein) is a divisive figure in Iraq. If the Sunnis or the Iranians had got their hands on him, they would have handed out their own justice. So, we've got to see this in the right perspective rather than be troubled by whether the highest level of western jurisprudence will be applied."

National Public radio, South Asia, Philip Reeves disagrees and explains, "I feel the issue here is the moral authority of the people who are now running Iraq, be it the US or the Iraqi government. I think the task they have is to recover some moral authority, which they have lost over the last three years. And by applying the death penalty, they are missing the opportunity to show that they could have handled this differently, that they could have given him a life imprisonment and dealt with all his crimes and given the Iraqi people time for reconciliation."

Chief correspondent, South Asia, Al Arabiya, Walel Awwad feels that this sentence has made any ordinary American a target, anywhere in the world. He says, "I think counterproductive measures have been carried out by the Americam administration." But Reeves says that this would give rise to even more anger among the Sunnis and Saddam Hussien could become a martyr if executed.

Also there is the timing of the verdict. It's come just in time - right before the November elections in the US, and no one is surprised because it seemed like a foregone conclusion - that the judgment was delivered just in time to boost President George Bush's rating at the hustings.

So now, America seems to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea and with no face-saving measure in sight to retreat with any amount of grace.

Written for www.moneycontrol.com

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