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Thursday, December 28, 2006

New York Daily News - Stanley Crouch - Stanley Crouch: Letting Saddam rot in jail is the best penalty

New York Daily News - Stanley Crouch - Stanley Crouch: Letting Saddam rot in jail is the best penalty:
Letting Saddam rot in jail is the best penalty

Last night I thought about Saddam Hussein as I was looking at Fritz Lang's 1931 film "M," about a child murderer who terrorizes a German city and even taunts the police with a note in which he promises to continue killing. When the murderer is finally captured, we do not see the trial.

The film ends with three mothers who have lost their daughters to the killer's knife; one of them warns the audience that nothing done to the murderer will bring back their daughters. All we can do is take better care of our children and try to protect them.

I think the same thing about the butcher of Iraq. He is beyond execution.

Ours is a world in which ruthless and brutal men often rise to the top and barricade themselves behind walls of murdered, mutilated and tortured bodies. The degree of pain they bring not only to their individual victims but to their families is both incalculable and far too horrible to ever erase or avenge - even by their deaths, fast or slow.

It was easier for me to identify with the parents of the murdered girls in "M" because I have a daughter and had already lived through the paranoia of imagining her kidnapped, molested and murdered. Still, it is impossible to imagine how the many who lost friends or relatives to the torture and mass murders ordered by Saddam live with the memories.

I will never forget Saddam puffing on a cigar and laughing as though he was being paid for it after having announced death sentences to members of the Iraq assembly, about half of whom were to be shot immediately. He had just taken power and had decided they were enemies of the state. Saddam was really enjoying himself as they gasped and begged for their lives. Their protestations made them even funnier targets of his sense of humor.

So what does one do with a man who demanded that so many die or experience torture under his reign? Should he be killed like his two sons, either of whom would have been an equally cold and monstrous successor? One can easily imagine either of them slithering through the many palaces erected in recognition of megalomania and cruelty.

Should Saddam be executed as slowly as possible or be swathed in white and stoned to death as we hear those savage ululations that have accompanied the deaths of so many in the Middle East?

Though a stoning death sounds fairly good, the pain felt by the guilty man would not come close to what he helped bring into the world. The former dictator of the Central Africa Republic, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, got what I think they all should get and seems the only thing close to justice.

Men who have had an inordinate amount of power and who have gleefully abused it in every way possible should be stripped of everything. They should be held in isolation, fed bland meals and allowed no more than an hour of exercise outside of their cells once a day. Then they would be wedged between their memories of omnipotence and the hard blues of their present circumstances.

Such people are beyond our revenge, but they are not beyond boredom and the thoughts of once having seemed to have it all. Removing their freedom is rough on them but I cannot imagine anything worse than taking away their power to terrify their populace and take from it whatever things might amuse them.

They need to provide us with some amusement, finally. If we smile when thinking of the rabid monster wasting away for the rest of his life, that's about as close as any of us will get to a feeling of satisfied revenge. Anything more is truly a fantasy.

Originally published on December 28, 2006

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