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February 26, 2007 | by  | in Features |
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Obituary: R.I.P Saddam Hussein, December 30, 2006

Besides sipping champagne and letting off a few party poppers, or popping a wee pill at your favourite outdoor rave, what better way is there to see in the new year than with an execution or two? Call it the circle of life, Simba. This year we were blessed with a fittingly new-year festival of hope and obscenity in the hanging of Saddam Hussein.

The act of dying is of course a tried and true subject of human celebration. In sixteenth-century Paris, Midsummer Day was celebrated with the burning of a dozen live cats on an enormous pyre; King Charles IX once threw a fox into the fire. The populace are said to have danced to the sounds of caterwauling. Hermann Göring’s trial at Nuremburg and Adolf Eichmann’s in Israel were intended as public catharsis for both the victims of and victors over the Nazi regime. Allow me to guess that most of my readers will abhor the festive burning of cats, applaud the bringing to justice of Nazi war criminals, and feel torn over Saddam.

Let me also hazard a guess that, however you feel about their deaths, they pique your interest. Because death is inherently interesting: we all know we have to die, but none of us have any experience of the act. It is ordinarily mysterious. But to return to why we feel torn over Saddam.

On the one hand, he tortured, gassed and was generally mean to millions. This upsets anyone with compassion. For those of you who don’t really care about people you have never met, by raising the price of oil Saddam (his avowed aim for invading Kuwait) cost you money. His carbon emissions record is also appalling: when he set alight 640 of Kuwait’s oil wells, burning 110 million barrels per day, he advanced global warming a fair way, thus forcing you to buy those damned energy saver light bulbs with the offensively bright glow.

But, on the other hand, the manner of his execution was a little upsetting. It’s not that he didn’t deserve to be lynched by Shi’ite militiamen chanting “Muqtada” – more that both Sunni and Shia militias use the spectacle as an excuse for more violence. As the blogger ‘Sunshine’ (a 14-yr old Baghdad schoolgirl) wrote, most Iraqis wouldn’t normally listen to the militias: “I didn’t know what are Shiites and Sunnites until I was 12 years old… the terrorists who kill Shiites are the same who kill Sunnites”. Only by using spectacular acts of violence can they folk hold on to power.

So we will have our morbid festival of justice, but we will not be able to enjoy it without complaining. Death does not, alas, run according to our script.

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Salient is a magazine. Salient is a website. Salient is an institution founded in 1938 to cater to the whim and fancy of students of Victoria University. We are partly funded by VUWSA and partly by gold bullion that was discovered under a pile of old Salients from the 40's. Salient welcomes your participation in debate on all the issues that we present to you, and if you're a student of Victoria University then you're more than welcome to drop in and have tea and scones with the contributors of this little rag in our little hideaway that overlooks Wellington.

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