Forget about Saddam Hussein. Let's talk about Adolf Eichmann.
Eichmann was a mass murderer. He never denied his acts of brutality, he gloated over his accomplishments. And he was brought to trial by the government of Israel. Justice in Jerusalem. The banality of evil. Why did Israel bother to engage in the long, drawn out, costly trial of "the man in the glass booth," whom they knew was guilty? A man who because of his admission would be incarcerated for the crimes he had committed? Why?
Because Israel wanted the fact of the Holocaust officially and permanently recorded in history through a trial.
The Eichmann trial was far less about guilt and innocence than it was about recording into the annals of history the events of the Holocaust. Eichmann was a tool, he was placed on trial in order to serve the purpose of history and justice.
Because Israel did not want to allow for the opportunity of a madman to arise and claim, years later, that the Holocaust never happened, that these crimes were never perpetrated, that Eichmann was a savior, a martyr, a good guy not a mass murderer. The trial was there to prove that Adolf Eichmann was not merely a cog in a wheel, not just a part in a larger mechanism, not only a big player in a grander plan or a part of a heinous scheme.
Sound familiar? It should.
What happens during a trial? Events are read into historical record. Witnesses offer testimony while their memory is still fresh, while the pictures are still clearly defined in their minds, while the wounds still ache. Documents are produced and validated and offered into evidence. Then comes justice. Trials are not convened for the purpose of legitimizing revenge, trials are the instruments of justice.
In the democratic world we are in the business of justice not in the business of vengeance. Justice is slow, vengeance is quick.
Justice should never be rushed. Justice requires due process. Justice requires patience. Justice requires protocol. And then, when justice has been determined, then comes punishment. And for a mass murderer, for someone who has reached the heights of monstrous behavior, like Adolf Eichmann who transported the Jews of Europe to their death, execution is an appropriate form of punishment.
Execution - by bullet or by gallows or by bow and arrow or by birds pecking out the eyes - is the appropriate end for the person who has without conscience or second thought taken the lives of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people. In a civilized world, in a democratic society, execution is appropriate as a response to justice, not as a cathartic act of revenge. And until someone has been proven to be guilty of the death of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of people, execution is revenge, execution is vengeance, it is not justice.
The mantra of a democratic society should be justice. The mantra of a democratic society should not be vengeance. The actions of a democratic society should be just, the actions of a democratic society should not be predicated upon revenge.
When every single place where a massacre took place is recorded into history, accurate memory is preserved. When every single family that has been wronged is allowed to offer testimony, history has been recorded. When every single town that has been destroyed, decimated, obliterated, vanquished is named and described, legacy lives on. Every victim had a name, every victim was part of a family and every victim lived in a town. They deserve to be remembered.
History and justice. The two go hand in hand. To deny one is to diminish the other. History and justice. It is our responsibility to record, to pursue and to preserve. The rest is irrelevant.
Now back to Saddam Hussein. What a colossal mistake. What injustice.
It was a mistake because Saddam Hussein was tried and convicted for perpetrating a mass murder that took place in 1982 that killed 148 Shiite Muslims in the northern town of Dujail. Just one incident involving one case of mass murder. Saddam Hussein was guilty of tens of thousands more incidents of mass murder.
The only way to actually right the wrong that Saddam perpetrated on the Iraqi people would have been to try him for every event and enter every event into the court record and convict him of every murder. This mass murderer should have been held accountable for more than one single event.
Executing Saddam Hussein was cathartic, but short sighted.
The present government needs to come into its own and get out from the beneath shadow of Saddam. They must confront the evil and acknowledge all the murders. And then Saddam Hussein should have been executed as he was.
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