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Views in brief

January 5, 2007 | Page 12

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Saddam Hussein's execution
The stakes in Oaxaca

Saddam Hussein's execution

SADDAM HUSSEIN was executed just before dawn on December 30. While I don't think socialists have any tears to shed for this man, the facts of his execution are absolutely despicable and speak to the brutality and terror of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Saddam Hussein's "trial," as it was, took place under the auspices of several different incarnations of the U.S. puppet government of Iraq. Exactly what code of justice were they using? Was it the same code from one government to the next?

Note that the U.S. had him put on trial in Iraq, and not at the International Court of Justice in the Hague--which does not have the death penalty as a possible punishment. All of Europe and many other countries around the world that have banned the death penalty must be shocked and awed at how "liberated" Iraq employs American-style frontier justice.

If memory serves, Hussein's lawyers were often harassed, frequently denied access to their client, and I believe at least one was actually assassinated during the trial. Even Human Rights Watch--which decried the horrific acts of Hussein's regime--called the trial a sham and denounced it.

With his final appeal turned down just five days prior, the Iraqi government acted to execute him minutes before the opening of the Islamic holiday of Eid, so as not to violate an Iraqi law that forbids execution of prisoners during religious holidays. And to top it off, they hanged him--how 19th century!

And all of this is not even to mention the fact that the U.S.--the greatest purveyor of violence in the world--never had any right to overthrow the government, even of a corrupt dictator like Hussein. Or that while he was being tried for the murder of hundreds of Iraqis, the U.S. occupation was busy murdering hundreds of thousands. Or that U.S. forces had custody of him until just before the execution. Now, who was it that executed him?

The crimes of Saddam Hussein pale in comparison to those of George W. Bush, who said Hussein "was executed after receiving a fair trial--the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime." Bush went on to say that "bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror."

How many milestones have already been passed on the occupation's long road to nowhere? How can use of the death penalty make a society more democratic?

And let's not forget that as governor of Texas, Bush executed more people than Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death for killing. Bush denied justice to the victims of his brutal regime just as much as the next tin-pot dictator. His hypocrisy is truly beyond human comprehension.

Saddam Hussein's execution is yet another horrible scene within the panorama of barbarism that is the U.S. occupation of Iraq. This is why we need to say: Iraq for Iraqis, troops out now!
Brian Chidester, Warren, R.I.

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The stakes in Oaxaca

TODD CHRETIEN'S response ("What's Next in Oaxaca?", December 8) to my letter ("Power in Oaxaca," November 17) misses my point and makes some revealing factual errors.

Todd says Oaxaca can't be compared to the Paris Commune because only the teachers' union has struck, not more unions. But strikes played even less a role in the Commune.

He says in Paris, "organized currents...fought to link the immediate struggles they waged to the goal of abolishing capitalism." Perhaps he is unaware that the Frente Popular Revolucionario, a group considering themselves revolutionary Marxists, have won a leading role within the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO). Their politics are flawed, but not more so than the Blanquist and Proudhonist sects that were the most influential anti-capitalists in Paris.

We remember the Commune today not because it was a socialist revolution with a good chance of winning. We remember it because Marx, who thought its prospects were dim, both defended it and popularized the inspiring achievements of mass democracy in this, the first city run by the working class.

My point was that, in a world where those ideals are considered impossible or outdated, if they are not completely forgotten, it is urgent to bring them back. And socialists who have had to inspire others with tales of soviets and communes from previous centuries should leap at the chance to once again popularize the details of a living example. I submit that we need to do more of this.

Whether the APPO wins or loses in its demand that the governor step down, and whether Mexico's crisis deepens or subsides, workers' power in Oaxaca (for reasons Todd states) is likely to be fleeting, like the Commune, not infectious like Petrograd.

But it isn't "wishful thinking" to call what has happened a (temporary, small) socialist revolution in the sense that the working class of Oaxaca has taken over the city and created the participatory structures to rule. And viewing the past through rose-colored glasses can make us miss startling new facts like these.
Avery Wear, San Diego

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