Saddam already seems to be preparing for his imminent martyrdom, having reportedly shouted God is great! Life to the glorious nation and death to its enemies! to his stunned courtroom audience after his verdict was issued. This prospect has caused British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the European Union, United Nations human rights experts and countless Arab analysts to worry that Saddams death will fuel even more violence and upheaval between Sunnis and Shiites in an already war-ravaged, politically unstable Iraq.
Following the medias announcement of Saddams fate, thousands of exuberant Shiites ignored curfew and took to the streets of Baghdad to celebrate the imminent death of the man who committed countless atrocities against their people. Dancing and singing, the Shiites praised a verdict that they feel will restitute Saddams tyrannical regime, which consisted of crimes such as genocide, the assassination of Shiite leaders, the arrest and torture of activists and the usage of chemical weapons in north and south Iraq.
Not surprisingly, public sentiment in Saddams childhood home, the Sunni-filled Tikrit, is dramatically different than in Baghdad. Sunnis, like their Shiite counterparts, also swarmed the city streets. However, in place of dancing and singing, they held pictures of Saddam aloft, chanting We will avenge you in protest.
Predictably, Saddams verdict has spurred incidents of violence between Sunnis and Shiites. Although a curfew has been instilled in Iraqs most fractious regions to prevent bloodshed, 72 Iraqis were saidto be found dead by sunrise on Nov. 5.
While Sunnis and Shiites have clear-cut views over the prospect of Saddams death, other Iraqis show variations of opinion. Many echo the sentiments of Tony Blair and the United Nations, saying that Saddams death will only incite more violence. However, others see the execution as not only a fitting end to a man who caused such suffering for his people, but also as a chance to prevent future dictatorships that would mirror Iraqs former Baath regime.
Many of historys dictators, such as Adolf Hitler or Ugandas Idi Amin, escaped public condemnation and execution for their nefarious actions. If we make an example of Saddam, perhaps future dictators will realize that they will eventually be held accountable for their drastic political maneuvers.
Like many in history, Saddam started out as an altruistic visionary who dreamed of elevating his nation through secular pan-Arabism, socialism and economic modernization. To better Iraqi society, Saddam became heavily involved with economic and welfare groups, and even founded the Campaign for the Eradication of Illiteracy, as well as Compulsory Free Education in Iraq, in which free education up to the university level was offered to all. Due to his anti-communist views, Saddam became an ally of the United States, and was even presented with a key to the city of Detroit after donating several hundred thousand dollars to a Catholic Church. However, after Shiite uprisings threatened his regime, Saddam resorted to extremities to stay in power, extremes that eventually cemented his reputation as one of the most feared and despised leaders in world history.
While Saddams execution might temporarily worsen the age-old Sunni-Shiite conflict and encourage Baath party supporters to revolt, no amount of war will be able to reverse the message that Saddams death will send to the world. If Saddam is executed, his death will not only be symbolic of the fall of the Baath regime, but will also set a standard of intolerance for future leaders who cause mass suffering in the name of totalitarianism.
History is cyclical, and with time, a new Hitler or Saddam will begin their ascent to leadership, only to have their intentions clouded by their own power. However, if the global community unites against fascism now, chances are that future governments resembling Iraqs Baath regime or Hitlers Third Reich will halted, preventing the agony and suffering of millions of innocent people.
Staff Writer Kirstin Fawcett is a sophomore from Bowie, Md. She majors in English.