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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)
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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
It was indecorous to taunt Saddam Hussein at his execution. I take failures of decorum seriously; they are ominous at any time and the omens are specially bad for a country that is trying to evolve new customs, as Iraq is. So far, so bad, but let's keep it in proportion. A lesser dictator also killed by his own people, Benito Mussolini, had his body hung upside down in the Piazzale Loreto, with his mistress Clara Petacci and the rest of his entourage swinging in a line beside him.
Why do people behave in this indecorous way? The answer is obvious - because their family, friends or countrymen have been murdered by the dictator. They offer the dead their living throats to make one last cry of rage.
No need to ask why do victims behave as they do towards murderers. Why did the murderers behave as they did towards their victims in the first place? Not so easy. What shall we do about it? Harder yet.
I shall probably be taken to task for my own lack of decorum, but when I heard the indrawn breaths of outrage at Saddam hearing bad words in his last minutes, I thought of all the same people praising poor Reg Keys for denouncing Tony Blair to his face. Mr Keys' son Tom was a military policeman killed by a mob in Iraq. Reg Keys became a protestor against the war and stood against Blair in Blair's own constituency. Naturally he lost, but having stood, was entitled to the traditional post election speech. So he had his say, burning with emotion, and Blair had to stand a yard away and take it, knowing the cameras were on him all the time. And the papers purred with pleasure, calling it an iconic moment. As far as I was concerned it was understandable behaviour from a grieving father towards the man he blamed for his son's death - understandable but indecorous.
OK, so there's a difference. Tony Blair wasn't about to be killed. Then again, Tony Blair did not kill Tom Keys (a fact that the elder Mr Keys seems to have forgotten in his anger), whereas Saddam Hussein did kill his victims. So I see the behaviour of some of the relatives of those victims, who seized their last chance for a fractional revenge, as understandable. I also wish it had been prevented. But the concepts of "world outrage" and "Saddam Hussein" really ought to have intersected before last Saturday.