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Vengeance not justice message of hanging

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It happened last weekend.

While most of the modern world ushered in the new year by getting drunk, blowing noisemakers and standing under torrents of inflated ballons and confetti, the once fearsome dictator of the nation of Iraq grew cold in a vault somewhere after starring in a viral video that raced around the world in less time than it took Saddam Hussein to eat his last meal (which, some insiders have speculated, was a burger and fries).

They stretched his neck, the preferred method, over the years, for the dispatch of witches, horse thieves, rebellious slaves and continental spies.

That’s how the British took care of Nathan Hale, remember.

Of course, Hussein was no Nathan Hale. The man himself ordered perhaps thousands of his countrymen to the gallows during his reign. And though there may be some argument that Saddam Hussein was, in fact, a patriot, we’re not buying it.

He was a bad man. We get that. Yet still we question the necessity of his execution, especially in such a brutal manner.

We ask in the same spirit of disgust we felt when Saddam’s two sons, Uday and Qusay, were executed in 2003 by US forces and then their images plastered throughout the world’s media outlets.

Uday and Qusay, of course, were sadistic brutes just like their old man. And perhaps it was fitting that they died violently. But when their corpses were treated like trophies it gave us occasion to grimace.

We understand that it was not the American judicial system that imposed the sentence of hanging on Saddam Hussein, that it was an act of the current Iraqi administration. More or less.

But we argue that the source of the condemnation matters little when the millions who downloaded the former dictator’s snuff film will interpret it as an action decreed by the good ol’ US of A.

And their perception is not too far from reality: Our president has vowed several times to hunt down Saddam Hussein and kill him, and it would be naïve to think that our country played no role in Hussein’s ride in the noose.

We’re the murderers now.

The message, sent out to the world on grainy cell-phone footage, is this: Mess with us and we’ll kill you. Or, more accurately, Mess with us and we’ll kill someone else.

Because the men behind the World Trade Center massacre are still, for the most part, at large. And meanwhile the dark milestone of the 3,000th US military casualty has come and gone, the death toll still mounting.

And the hanging of the former dictator will do nothing to stem that flow.

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