A Quiet Tear for Saddam Hussein

Published:  December 31, 2006

This evening I watched a minute or so of televised footage of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein being led to, and prepared near, the gallows on which he was executed.

The visual tableau was morbid and disturbing. Mr. Hussein, docile at the hands of the execution team, carried a facial expression of, at once, fear, and a quiet but deeply-rooted panic. Regardless of the crimes of this misguided brother, a mere hint of humanity was all that was required to feel sympathy for him at that moment.

Saddam Hussein was a brother in our human family. Every man is a brother; every woman a sister. The character of their social intercourse does not change that. This man, while alive, cruel, steeped from young adulthood in a power that only grew over time, a practicing criminal from those younger years, as well, later to order the murder of thousands, including citizens of his own nation; vengeful, apparently taken by the hubris of every dictator. This writer does not, nor would he ever, deny the catastrophic personal and political failings and crimes of this tragically misguided brother. Indeed, through his lifetime Saddam's actions and errant personal development begged for correction and punishment, for him, and compensation for his victims.

But equally true is the reality that his childhood poverty and abject lack of familial guidance helped to shape what he became. Had the economic and other conditions around him been different, there is little doubt that he'd have been different, as well. Simple Sociology 101. Moreover, as a fellow human being, and a brother in the human family, at his time of execution we should forget, if temporarily, his past life and deeds, and feel compassion for him. It is undoubtedly this general orientation that was responsible for the opposition to capital punishment by Coretta Scott King, the wife and later widow of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The present essay does not advocate against capital punishment; indeed, this writer does not necessarily oppose the death penalty in every case.

Though greatly and criminally flawed, Mr. Hussein was a brother. The moment he is forced to stare squarely at his mortality, and know and viscerally feel that his time in this life is done, is exactly when we must tap into our compassion and love for him.

Indeed, has it been said: "Often those who need love most, are deserving of it, least."

Our brother Hussein lived a life predicated on principles tragically opposed to those of love. Let's not make that mistake, ourselves.


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