Saddam Hussein was executed a few hours ago. But what will be learned from the unfolding tragedy in the Middle East? Perhaps that complex problems are not equatable with the power or evil of one leader. Eliminating a leader never eliminates the problems
This is my first post-Saddam note. I will keep editing to a minimum required for site hygiene, to bracket off the posting from subsequent developing news, views, and comments.
I learned the news a few minutes ago via the BBC. I did not want to get into this leadership issue. It seemed too big to make any sense of, without a great deal more time and effort than I can find for it. But maybe instant impressions are worth recording.
One more death in Iraq
Last night it was clear that sentence on Saddam Hussein was going to be carried out. I had a surprising reaction: Whether you are for the death penalty or not, it seemed better to me that such an act be swift rather than drawn-out. It did not involve decades of additional languishing on Death Row. But better for whom? For the executed prisoner? For family? For political opponents? For political supporters commited to make capital of a single symbolic action?
I set aside the mighty issues of capital punishment, legitimacy of the legal system passing judgment. Whatever. This is one more death in Iraq.
Maybe poets can offer understanding more than politicians. There is a three-thousand year legacy of drama which reminds us of the consequences of human ambition. Shakespeare, from Macbeth to Hamlet ,remains one source of deepest insights. John Donne, Ernest Hemingway and more recently the Bee Gees remind us for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for us.
The leaders we deserve
The story remains one of society’s beliefs about its leaders. Saddam’s obituaries have been prepared for months, maybe years. Now we can learn what is in Saddam’s obituary.
For some while I have grappled with the deeper meaning of our leadership stories. Increasingly I am drawn to the notion that we create the leaders we deserve, just as we create other superheroes and super villains. So we create our leaders, and cast on to them our greatest fears and needs. They rule our thoughts by our consent, sometime unconsciously given, sometimes more consciously.
If we find time to reflect on this, maybe some legacy of hope will come from the death of one more Iraqi, earlier today.
A further examination of this story, the world-wide reactions to the release of video accounts of Saddam’s execution. See What have we learned from Saddam’s execution