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Candide’s Latest: Monday, November 6, 2006
Saddam's Hanging Chads

Iraq and Bush get their Mussolini moment

So they’ve got their hanging. Saddam Hussein will be executed. Two years ago it was Osama who helped the Bush presidency secure reelection as Osama took to the air and gave his version of a campaign ad for the GOP. This time it’s Saddam. The GOP has its October surprise, and it’s a boosty one. Bush, an old habitué of executions in his Texas days (40 people were executed in Texas in his last year alone, and 152 in all; see “The Texas Clemency Memos”), didn’t waste a second lathering up the anticipated blood on the campaign trail, where talk of capital punishment has never hurt anybody, at least not in the United States. “Today,” he said from—where else: Waco, Texas—“the victims of this regime have received a measure of the justice which many thought would never come.” Interesting that he chose to include the words a measure of, giving a sense that at least he’s perhaps recognizing the irony of a death sentence on Saddam while his own war has resulted in the death sentence of possibly more than half a million Iraqis and now closing in on 3,000 American soldiers. Let’s not be one-sided: Everyone in the United States, from anchors to bloggers to candidates, Democrats and Republicans, have been falling over each other to splash about the same blood and revel in the verdict. This is a bacchanal. Hussein “was a brutal, evil dictator" who is "getting the punishment that he deserves," Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who runs the Senate Democratic campaign arm, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." But, he added, "I don't think his conviction makes much of a difference in this election, even though it's a very good thing that it happened.” Don’t buy your hanging tickets just yet: “An automatic appeal of the death sentence will delay it,” the Times reports, “but some Iraqi judicial officials privately held out the possibility that Mr. Hussein could go to the gallows in a matter of months, perhaps before next spring. That may depend on behind-the-scenes maneuvering by Mr. Hussein’s embattled successors in Iraq’s new government, who have already shown that they are not hesitant to pressure judges in the case.” The LATimes paid some attention to the news in Iraq: “Some Shiite Muslims and Kurds celebrated. Some Sunni Muslim Arabs responded with anger. For many in Iraq, Hussein has ceased to be the mesmerizing patriarch who once towered over their nightmares and lives. Many interviewed Sunday and in recent months said they had laid him to rest long ago, more worried about the internecine violence racking the country.”

Other reactions:

Robert Fisk: A Guilty Verdict on America As Well: “So America's one-time ally has been sentenced to death for war crimes he committed when he was Washington's best friend in the Arab world. America knew all about his atrocities and even supplied the gas - along with the British, of course - yet there we were yesterday declaring it to be, in the White House's words, another "great day for Iraq". That's what Tony Blair announced when Saddam Hussein was pulled from his hole in the ground on 13 December 2003. And now we're going to string him up, and it's another great day. Of course, it couldn't happen to a better man. Nor a worse. It couldn't be a more just verdict - nor a more hypocritical one. It's difficult to think of a more suitable monster for the gallows, preferably dispatched by his executioner, the equally monstrous hangman of Abu Ghraib prison, Abu Widad, who would strike his victims on the head with an axe if they dared to condemn the leader of the Iraqi Socialist Baath Party before he hanged them. But Abu Widad was himself hanged at Abu Ghraib in 1985 after accepting a bribe to put a reprieved prisoner to death instead of the condemned man. But we can't mention Abu Ghraib these days because we have followed Saddam's trail of shame into the very same institution. And so by hanging this awful man, we hope - don't we? - to look better than him, to remind Iraqis that life is better now than it was under Saddam.” See the full column…

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Military Times Editorial: Time for Rumsfeld to Go

“So long as our government requires the backing of an aroused and informed public opinion ... it is necessary to tell the hard bruising truth.”

"That statement was written by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Marguerite Higgins more than a half-century ago during the Korean War. But until recently, the “hard bruising” truth about the Iraq war has been difficult to come by from leaders in Washington. One rosy reassurance after another has been handed down by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “mission accomplished,” the insurgency is “in its last throes,” and “back off,” we know what we’re doing, are a few choice examples. Military leaders generally toed the line, although a few retired generals eventually spoke out from the safety of the sidelines, inciting criticism equally from anti-war types, who thought they should have spoken out while still in uniform, and pro-war foes, who thought the generals should have kept their critiques behind closed doors. Now, however, a new chorus of criticism is beginning to resonate. Active-duty military leaders are starting to voice misgivings about the war’s planning, execution and dimming prospects for success." See the full editorial...

Bush, Continental Divider

From the News-Journal's Editorial Board: "Sometimes," he said, standing where many presidents stood before him on the same occasion, "our differences run so deep, it seems we share a continent, but not a country. We do not accept this, and we will not allow it. Our unity, our union, is the serious work of leaders and citizens in every generation." How distant those words now seem, spoken as they were in President Bush's first inaugural on January 20, 2001. The words weren't false. The president who uttered them proved to be. On the eve of the bitterest of midterm elections, the nation seems not so much divided (as it was in 2000 and 2004) as dejected, sickened by what its elected representatives have become, disgusted by what they're doing to hold on to power. Common now: campaign ads that appeal to obscene racist sentiment in Tennessee, talk show hosts demonizing a celebrity for "acting" up his Parkinson's disease while advocating for embryonic stem-cell research, and speeches by the president and members of his administration literally equating votes for Democrats as votes for terrorists." See the full editorial...

What Amnesty Means

In 1986, the federal government granted 3 million illegal immigrants amnesty. The Christian Science Monitor went after the stories of eight immigrants. Example: “Mr. Baichu came to the United States from Guyana in 1981, wanting to become a boxer. Instead, he earned three World Series rings as a massage therapist and assistant training coach for the New York Yankees as well as a league championship with the Houston Astros. He is a certified pilot and masseur.” Or: “From breaking news to weather updates, Mary Vega listens closely and retells the story to thousands of Spanish-speakers in Rhode Island. She provides instantaneous English-Spanish dubbing for the nightly news at local ABC television affiliate WLNE.” She was once an illegal who overstayed her visa. See the rest. Good antidote to bigotry and misconceptions.

The Sandinistas’ Ortega Is Back

Leftist Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega had a strong lead over four other candidates after an election that could return the former leftist to power 16 years after a U.S.-backed rebellion helped force him from office, according to preliminary results released early Monday,” the AP reports via the Globe & Mail. “After Sunday's vote, with 15 per cent of polling stations counted, Mr. Ortega had 40 per cent to 33 per cent for Harvard-educated Eduardo Montealegre of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, a party that broke from the ruling Constitutionalist Liberal Party after former president Arnoldo Aleman was convicted of corruption. Trailing behind were Sandinista dissident Edmundo Jarquin, ruling party candidate Jose Rizo and former Contra rebel Eden Pastora. Mr. Ortega needs 35 per cent of the vote and an advantage of 5 percentage points over his closest rival to avoid a runoff in December.”

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Saddam, the Model
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