Thursday, January 04, 2007

Alone and Drawing Boards in the New Year. Also: Saddam's Execution

Happy New Year!

Oh-seven has begun, and with its arrival has come the gift of paid labor, and the sorrow of spousal abandonment. Two days ago my wife left for India on her annual trip to places located outside this country. It's part of her business school curriculum, and because she's traveling with a bunch of other b-school students and teachers, I'm not too worried. She called last night for a minute or so from the airport in Mumbai to let me know all was well and that she was alive. In any event, she's left me to my own devices for three weeks. I'm sure it'll be fine for a while, but I figure by the end of the 3 weeks I'll be pretty well tired of life in Decatur with just me and the cat.

The paid labor I referred to is a new storyboard gig, this time for a commercial for a prescription canker sore medicine. The spot's pretty funny, or should be. If you see a burly guy in a pink body suit using a flamethrower on your TV screens some months from now, you'll know that's the spot I was talking about way back on January 4th. After it's aired, maybe I'll post up some of the boards.

In world news, the Iraqis -- or to be more specific the minions of Sunni cleric Moqtada al Sadr -- hanged Saddam Hussein just before the new year, and the cell phone-video taken of the scene has now been widely distributed on the internet. Yesterday posted it up with a prominently featured link, complete with "Warning: Graphic" tag, seemingly daring users to click and watch the final seconds of Saddam. I already blabbed in this space about how I thought it was wrong to execute Saddam (or anyone actually), but I'd say the snippets I've seen from these ghastlty videos says much better than I can that no matter how you gussy it up, murder's still pretty much just murder. (For the record, I've seen the first video that was released which cuts off as the noose is being fitted around Hussein's neck; of the full snuff-film version, I've seen just the first few seconds). Most of the people complaining about the execution don't seem to be put-off he was executed, only put-off in regards to HOW he was executed. It was less a hanging and more a lynching, they say. For instance, Saddam was taunted by the Shiites who were killing him. They told him to "go to hell" among other things. They wore masks and shouted "Moqtada", referring to the powerful and thuggish Shia cleric who's often described as the real power in Iraq these days. Conspicuously, the Saddam death videos bear a close resemblance to the other snuff movies that have come out of the Arab world since 9/11. The beheading of Daniel Pearl, the beheading of Nick Berg, and other videos featuring masked men murduring helpless Westerners are all done in badly-lit rooms, and feature armed masked thugs and the defenseless victim awaiting their fate. All of them stomach-turning.

I suppose if everyone in the room with Saddam had been solemn and quiet throughout the execution, if someone had hoisted a few 10Ks into the corners to push back some of the dinginess, maybe there wouldn't be this outcry over the execution from the paid chatterers. But I doubt it. I don't think it's the insults or the dinginess or the haste with which the execution was carried out that's got people curiously upset. I think it's the video. For the first time that I can remember, the American people are seeing what an official execution of one of the bad guys looks like, and the fact that it's not all that different from the disgusting Nick Berg video is what's got people feeling bad and then feeling bad about feeling bad because of who's getting killed in an quasi-official way.

So I ask this: if capital punishment looks basically the same no matter what milieu it's placed in, might that suggest that the death we deal in this country -- brightly-lit, solemn and unmasked as it is -- has the same stink of murder to it as what was done to Saddam? Maybe I'm being optimistic, or maybe I'm overstating the level of outcry, but perhaps the nausea some folks feel over what was done to a mass-murderer like Saddam doesn't bode too well for capital punishment in the U.S. Then again, maybe I am being overly optimistic.

Anyway, enough of the high horse.


Harwell said...

First off - wow, go Peggy. I'm sure that will be a neat experience, just as I like to imagine you're unbelievably relieved that you didn't have to go to India with her, Crane. Am I right? Huh, am I?

Anyway, interesting post. I've yet to cave in and watch any of the Saddam video - that picture you posted alone creeps me right the hell out. But I don't know that I share your optimism for how it might affect opinions of the death penalty in the U.S. I suspect that there's still an overwhelming mindset of "oh but that's over there" in regards to any sort of violence in the middle east, that Saddam's hanging is like you suggest just another incident of zealous Muslims killing someone in the name of a person/being we can't correctly pronounce.

I actually think the biggest problem with hanging Saddam is the possibility that two or three weeks from now no one will even be talking about this at all and that he'll be remembered not as a mortal who was hanged, but still as the larger than life ruler of Iraq. This guy was by all accounts a ruthless dictator for decades, and yet he's sentenced and executed in a matter of months? Even looking at that from an eye-for-an-eye perspective, how is Saddam's punishment equivalent to the depths of his crimes? His suffering lasted a fraction of a second. I'm sorry, I just don't view that as justice.

That guy should've sat in an isolated prison with no windows, no contact, nothing for the rest of his miserable life. Keep him alive to make him WANT to die. That's punishment.

Not to mention, a car bomb killed like 13 or so people in Baghdad yesterday. The death penalty isn't a deterrent for violence in America, and it sure as hell isn't in a place where people are willing to strap bombs to themselves in the name of religion. Killing Saddam made most of the world briefly feel content. But it changes nothing, really.

And how satisfying it must have been for Saddam to know that he was killed for ruling a country that was in better shape when he was in power than when he left this planet...

He deserved a worse fate.

JudgeHolden said...

Yeah, one of the problems people had with how this execution was handled, is that for the 30 years worth of crimes Saddam commited during his 30 year-reign, the new Iraqi government had just one long, drawn-out, indecorous trial. As soon as the defense rested, or however they do trials over there, he was promptly found guilty, and then hanged as quickly as humanly possible. What about finding out the truth on all of those other crimes he committed? Some 30 years worth of depravity and inhumanity. Some folks put the number of Iraqi deaths Saddam was directly responsible for at 2 million. Doesn't the world deserve to know more about that? Not to say that Saddam himself would have been forthcoming in these theoretical future trials, but the people who were either victims of Saddam, or had loved ones who were murdered in one of Saddam's paranoid crackdowns, would be able and willing to add their voices to the record, and more fully document Saddam's crimes for posterity. But we won't get to hear any of that because you can't try a dead man.

Bush and his neocon cronies intended Iraq to be a point of American pride -- "look what we can do if we'd just find the will to do it!" -- but it's been just one crushing, demoralizing disappointment after another. This execution, enabled by US officials, is just the latest.

blankfist said...

Rock on, Peggers! But, before she gets too far gone, you should have her read this. You know, just in case she gets any ideas.

I think they should've put Crane in the cell with Saddam to put his feet to the fire about those 30 some years of injustices and... snore. Eh, who cares. The video, however, isn't all that graphic. You see the filmmaking expertise of some masked Shi'ite who shakes the handheld camera phone around so much, it's a wonder he caught anything at all. Then, eventually, they slip the noose over Saddam's neck, and miraculously ol' Shia Fellini manages to catch Saddam as he drops out of frame. Another thirty seconds or so of shaky nonsense passes until the frame nods about on the face of Saddam staring upwardly along the rope, his neck snapped, as if he was about to say, 'It's a me, Mario!' The last part is sorta creepy, I guess, but for some reason it didn't seem as harrowing as, say, having someone's head sliced off a'la Nick Berg! The videos of the beheadings I refused to watch, and I'm glad I did. Still, I wouldn't expect Crane to watch any of those videos, especially when he still refuses to watch the Kramer videos online. But, that's cool. I get why you won't. Racist.

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