Ski Masks and Leather Jackets

Remember when I said this blog would be your new source of political information? Sheesh. That didn’t exactly work out, did it? I wouldn’t say that I am not political, or unwilling to share ideas, but

A. there are a lot of people who do it better than I ever could


B. the critical thinker in me is baffled by politics, an arena that doesn’t always offer truth and verifcation in straightforward ways

But a good political post is a good political post. One of my favorite political blogs is Making Light, a group blog run by a husband-and-wife pair of book editors.

Of all the things I’ve read about the recent execution of Saddam Hussein, this is by far the most thought-provoking. What does it mean that Hussein was executed by men in black ski masks and leather jackets, their identities hidden, who made taunts about his Sunni religious identity? What does it mean that he was executed on the first day of a major Islamic religious event? Was his execution justice or thuggery, or both? What kind of message was sent to the Iraqi people by the circumstances of his execution?

Hussein’s execution was not only about him and the punishment for his crimes, but also about framing his country’s way of doing things, supposedly a new way brought about by his very removal from power. Is this how a civilized nation does things?

An execution has to be stage-managed if it’s going to send the right message. There needs to be an appearance of impartial professionalism and control to give it that air of inevitability, and make the executioner seem like the business end of law and order, not just some guy who’s about to kill some other guy. If everything goes smoothly, the stunned and depersonalized prisoner will have only one role available to him, that of a man crushed under the weight of the law, in a ceremony which engages only with the termination of his physical life. Our sympathies, if any, will be strictly abstract.

Needless to say, Saddam Hussein’s execution didn’t meet those standards.

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