Let me start thusly: he was guilty, of that there can be no doubt. He was hanged for a massacre that had occurred over 20 years earlier, and the proof was incontrovertible. Despite that, I have serious reservations about the fairness of his trial- I find it an outrage that two judges were removed midstream for being insufficiently partial to the prosecution, and only a fool would argue that the outcome was not preordained. The procedures in place were substantially less rigorous than those at Nuremberg, and no one at Saddam's trial possessed even a fraction of the stature of Justice Jackson.
In the end, though, I am struck by Saddam's, well, humanity at the very end. The Bush Administration tried to demonize Saddam, a cross of Satan and Fonzie- snap his fingers and people die by the thousands. But when you read something like this, "'He just gave up,' said Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser. 'We were astonished. It was strange. He just gave up,'" you realize that he was just a man.
The usual people reacted in the usual ways.
The execution punishes "a crime with another crime," said Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI's top prelate for justice issues, in an interview published Friday with the Rome newspaper La Repubblica. "The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the state," Martino was quoted as saying.
"We oppose the death penalty in all cases, regardless of the individual or the crime," said Rob Tinline, spokesman for the British Foreign Office. "[But] it's an Iraqi trial, with Iraqi defendants, in an Iraqi court — it's a decision for the Iraqi authorities."
"Saddam's heinous crimes against humanity can never be diminished, but he was our ally while he was doing it," he said Friday. "Saddam as a war trophy only deepens the catastrophe to which we are indelibly linked."
I do not claim any special knowledge of the hereafter. I do not know whether Saddam will be rewarded with virgins and ambrosia, or burn in hell, or simply fade into the black. I do know that he was no monster. He was just a man. He both rose and fell at the behest of my government, and you can add one more body to the count that will stain my great nation's soul.