The former dictator of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, was hanged on December 30 at 6:10 AM Iraqi time (03 00 GMT). Despite some organisations expressing reservations about the fairness of the trial, most Iraqis celebrated the death of the man who had caused them untold grief – famine, mass murder, war, torture, and the creation of a state of constant fear. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International had called for Saddam Hussein to be tried before an international tribunal as the Iraqi court was, they argued, pressured into returning a guilty verdict (LINK HERE). The politics behind the Saddam trial, not to mention the US invasion of Iraq, are certainly quite convoluted, but it is sad to see even the little pockets of Saddamists around the world.

As I read the newspaper this morning, I was shocked to see opposition to Saddam’s execution in India. Why would people in India care about Saddam? India and Iraq have never been such strategic partners, economically, militarily, or ideologically. India’s political apparatus has as usual come out with its asinine views on world machtpolitik. Congress (I) spokesman Abhishek Singhvi called the execution “victor’s justice,” while CPI National Secretary D Raja termed the execution “barbaric” and the “trial…farce and the verdict to hang Saddam a judicial assault as the country was under US-British the occupation”. Meanwhile, CPI (M) workers began a protest outside the American Centre in Delhi as news of the execution broke. And keeping in mind the Muslim vote bank and electoral politics, Amar Singh of the Samajwadi Party accused the Congress government of becoming “a puppet of George Bush.” (LINK HERE) Thankfully, the BJP remained muted on the issue, both now and earlier when Saddam had been convicted.

These knowledgeable politicians forgot one thing in their tirade against Saddam’s execution and the US – not many Iraqis mourned him, and many welcomed the news (LINK HERE). Unlike the Indian leaders, the Iraqi people saw their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, and parents disappear, being raped, tortured, or whatever else took Saddam’s or his sons’ fancy. The mass graves, the gassing of the Kurds in the north (and Iranian soldiers and civilians during the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War), the killings at Dujail, the persecution of the Shiites, and the grip of terror he held Iraq in were much more vivid to them than to Mulayam Singh Yadav (who is trying to declare January 4 as a day of a nationwide strike) or other Indian leaders. That Saddam committed these crimes is a known fact – not much happens in a dictatorship without the dictator knowing about it…who would dare cross a man who had his own sons-in-law killed? Even if Saddam did not commit all those crimes, responsibility for even a few of them warrants the death penalty. I would go as far as to say that the execution should have been made in broad daylight, at noon in a public square in Baghdad instead of the clinical way states nowadays use to kill their own. Human beings, essentially still animals, need the spectacle.

Even Saddam’s supporters had no aim of returning the fallen leader to power. “At his death, Mr. Hussein had ceased to be much of a major rallying point, even among diehard Sunnis, whose battles in the past three years have been less about restoring Mr. Hussein to power — a chimerical goal, considering that the former leader was America’s most closely-guarded prisoner in Iraq — than about reversing the political transition from Sunni to Shiite rule.” (LINK HERE) It is odd to hear people criticise the authorities for executing Saddam on a Muslim day of forgiveness…Saddam certainly did not extend that courtesy to his victims.

What surprises me even more about Indian responses is that the nation many Indians seem to like to rebuke, the United States, has the potential to become India’s greatest benefactor, at least for the next thirty or forty years. India needs America’s good will in getting Americans to invest in India, transfer of technologies in nuclear as well as other fields, a permanent position in the United Nations, support against China, and other strategic objectives. Without doubt, the Bush administration did not go into Iraq with noble aims, but that is a separate issue from the execution of Saddam Hussein. Yesterday died a tyrant, a man whose deeds keep company with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tsetung, Saloth Sar, and Augusto Pinochet. Why would Indians feel sympathy towards this man? An odd sentiment for a nation that is proud of its Gandhian traditions.

The BJP’s position, however, reflects maturity far beyond its experience in power. For one, Saddam has been executed and he won’t come back – there is no use irking the big power on the matter. Secondly, Saddam was indeed an evil man – is the world not a better place without him? Third, India’s silence, its lack of criticism on this issue may win some friends in Washington. The US will want to reward its friends for support, and for India, that could come in many ways. Unfortunately, mindless voters ejected the BJP from power in 2004. Manmohan Singh, however good a man he may personally be, cannot compensate for the entire Congress coterie.

But returning to the topic of Saddam’s execution, it is disheartening to see large crowds of Indians burning effigies of Bush in protest. This is only a sign of their ignorance, stupidity, lack of foresight, gullibility, and a demonstration of the ease with which they could be manipulated. Indira Gandhi’s emergency horrified Indians, but Saddam’s genocides did not. What kind of people are these? Has class really been inverted so much that imbeciles now rule the roost?

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Jaideep A. Prabhu is a specialist in foreign and nuclear policy; he also pokes his nose in energy and defence related matters.

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