Saddam’s execution a warning to would be tyrants

The execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has drawn mixed reactions from all corners of the world, including in his own country of Iraq. That’s really an understatement, of course, as the death penalty imposed by the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government against a Sunni ex-president threatens to even further deepen wounds in a country already bursting at its seams with sectarian strife.
However, beyond all the criticisms of the trial, I believe that Saddam’s execution sends a strong signal to future genocidal tyrants around the world that their crimes will not go unpunished. At the same time, it closes a sad chapter in the lives of the families of Saddam’s many victims, who will be assured that the tyrant will never again threaten them or their loved ones.
Saddam is probably the first head of state responsible for crimes against humanity in modern times to face the ultimate punishment following an open judicial process. From the middle of the last century until Saddam’s conviction in November 2006, it was almost unheard of for a murderous national leader to face the hangman for his crimes.
The list of mass murderers who have escaped the gallows is staggering: Adolf Hitler took his own life before he was captured; Imperial Japan’s Emperor Hirohito did not even face trial; the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin died while in office; Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot died of heart failure before he could be turned over to an international war crimes tribunal; Serbia’s Slobodan Milošević died days before the conclusion of his trial; Uganda’s Idi Amin died of natural causes while in exile in Saudi Arabia; and Liberia’s Charles Taylor is now awaiting trial in The Hague, which does not impose the death penalty.
So while lawbreakers in retentionist countries like Singapore were being sentenced to death for far less serious crimes like drug trafficking and kidnapping, these all these dictators managed to get away with murder. In fact most of them did not even serve jail time for their crimes. Where is the justice in all that?
Many have argued that Saddam’s execution will not improve the dire security situation facing Iraq now, but that is really a separate issue. Justice has been served through Saddam’s conviction and execution. He received the due process of an open trial conducted by his own countrymen, not by the US occupiers. In fact, most of the judges that presided over the trial were senior judges appointed by Saddam himself years back. If the US was presiding over the trial, I doubt it would have reached such a speedy conclusion, as the lengthy appeals process would have probably continued until Saddam died waiting in jail.
Iraq faces a long, difficult journey ahead towards national reconciliation and peace. Saddam’s execution may not produce an immediate remedy to the sectarian violence, but it is a necessary first step that will hopefully lead to a healing process and eventually a lasting peace for that nation.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

7 thoughts on “Saddam’s execution a warning to would be tyrants”

  1. i see Saddam’s execution in a different light.

    The US has supported and worked with many dictators in the past – as long as its in their interest. the Shah of Iran was a despot who killed his own people too – but because he allowed US companies to make money in Iran, and he bought US weapons, and sold oil to US – he was ok.

    When the Islamic Revolution took over, and the Ayatollah called them the “Great Satan”, what did the US do? instigated Iraq to go to war with Iran.

    Think about all the tyrants and despots in South America that the US had supported and protected in the past.

    I tend to think that the US pressured the Iraqi govt to quickly put him on trial and to quickly execute him.

    Why? Because the man holds too many secrets. He may have killed his own people – but who armed him? The war with Iran – who instigated?

    Saddam was a good equaliser to the power play in that part of the world – when he was on the US side. Now – Iran is becoming even more powerful. And the US refuse to work with Iran to stop the Shiite-Sunni issues there that will tear Iraq apart.

    You talk about tyrants not being executed fast enough? Because they still held power. The US will never get the Emperor executed. they took it out on the generals. Because they know its something they cant do.

    Why not the Chinese Communist Party for killing thousands of innocent students in Tiannamen 18 years ago? why not invade China over it? after all, the students were trying to promote democracy?

    The US will only work towards situations where it will be in their favour.

  2. oh, and a final thing:

    history is written by the victor. The victor or in this case, the occupier, gets to do what they want.

    Not that i’m a Saddam sympathiser. he was a madman. but a madman who no longer serves the needs of certain parties. There’s more to the story than just the end of a tyrant.

    Arab nationalism (Baath party), or a united Muslim world, i think, scares the US.


  3. Hi aygee,

    I agree with you. The blood in the region is very much on the US’ hands. This article wasn’t meant to be a defence of the invasion or anything else the US has done to prop up evil regimes.

    I wrote the post before the full revelations of Saddam’s last moments came to light (through the mobile phone video). I think the taunting and opening of the trap door before he finished his prayers is unacceptable. It’s apparent now that Shi’ite vengeance was a key factor in this execution.

    Nevertheless, I feel it does not remove the fact that he was a murderer who received a punishment that befitted his crimes.

  4. indeed Saddam was a murderer.

    But so is George Bush – the millions of innocent Iraqis he killed in the name of “Freedom” outnumbers the number Saddam killed, in the name of “unification”.

    So are we going to put George Bush in the Hague and try him for crimes on humanity? probably not.

    the hundreds, maybe thousands that died on Tiannamen Sq. Are we sending anyone from China to the Hague?

    the hundreds that were massacred in the Palestinian refugee camps during the Lebanon war – an incident that involved Ariel Sharon. Did he go to the Hague?

    how about our friend Kim Jong Il?

    Shi Huang Ti – the first emperor of China, had to go to war, and killed millions to unify the 7 kingdoms too – and made China what it is today.

    See the point i’m making on who gets to write history?

    There was a reason they didnt take him down in the first Gulf War, when they could have. Because they know – he kept Iraq together, and a counterbalance to Iran and Shiites.

    Anyway, the point i’m getting – whether Saddam’s good or bad, it depends on perspectives. His killing was too rushed, not respectful, and there was a strong need to shut up a person who can expose US’ indiscretions in the Mid East over the last 30-40 years.

    Healing process and lasting peace – from his execution? I think its going to get much much worse.


  5. Although Saddam’s crimes against humanity were not doubt many and real, is it right to murder a murderer? Would it improve the bleak political situation in Iraq?

    I remember Jesus once said something like, “let the man who have not sin before cast the 1st stone.”

    MMmm…. this whole death sentence issue is quite a philosophical and tricky one. My stand on it is unclear…. In fact, I have a headache just thinking about it.

  6. Hi aygee and Charissa,

    aygee – I agree the execution was ill-timed. It would have been better if his Kurdish genocide trial were completed first. Also, doing it on the Sunni Eid Al Adha (the Shi’ites began their Eid only the day after the execution) would only inflame sectarian tensions.

    I admit this is a sensitive issue (even among non-Iraqis like us). My guess is that the main issues that divide people’s opinions on Saddam’s execution are:

    1. Are we for or against the death penalty?
    2. Was the US right to invade Iraq?

    Those against the death penalty or the US invasion would tend to see Saddam’s execution (or any execution for that matter) as state-sponsored murder, revenge, unjust, etc. Those who are for it would tend feel it is justified.

    Both are emotive ethical and moral issues which deserve separate articles in future.

    But my main point is this post was that Saddam got punished for his crimes, unlike almost all of the previous mass murderer heads of state in the past century.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. some get away with it, and some don’t.

    Others stay alive because they’re still of use to someone or some nation; or they’ve protected themselves well that the international community cannot touch them.

    Saddam isolated himself over Kuwait. Otherwise, the arab nations want him around as he’s the biggest threat to Israel.

    So he, how do i put it, was “unlucky” in that
    – he didn’t have many friends internationally nor among the arab nations (esp Saudi Arabia, US’ best friend).
    – he was Israel’s biggest security threat
    – Kurds and Iraqi Shiites (the current govt) so wanted to avenge his cruel rule on them (and the US needed to let this happen because they, in turn, want to have Iraqis’ continued support for being in Iraq)
    – he was the main person blocking the international community’s access to the second largest oil reserves

    so the sooner he’s out of the picture, so much the better in everyone’s interest.

    i bet if the Cold War was still around and Russia was a superpower, i bet he’ll still be alive now.

    anyways…i’m done. Look forward to your next posting, Gerald.

    – Aygee

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