The video of Hussein’s execution is making its way around and around the globe, raising in its wake howl after howl: he deserved it, this is the way all evil people should end, I can’t believe you can see him dying right there on the screen!

The spectacle of a public execution has always been one way people in power try to distract us from what’s really true. And what’s really true, and has always been true in one way or another, is that those in whom we’ve entrusted the power to act on our behalf haven’t deserved our trust. In fact, those people are the ones who’ve put into motion many of the things they’ve been charged with fixing.

And while that video plays on millions of computer screens, Iraq plunges deeper into civil war, children die from preventable diseases, genocide continues in Africa, and the polar ice caps melt just a little bit more.  But the person watching the screen is distracted by the spectacle of an actual video of a man being hanged, and fails to see that evil goes on about its insidious business while he is turned the other way, transfixed, watching something that has changed not one single thing for the better.

But here’s something else I know, something lots of people know, either deep within or right on the surface. It’s this: No evil in the world can be fixed until you call it by its proper name. So let’s start things off by calling Hussein’s execution what it really is: smokescreen. Not justice. Having done that, we can then call what’s happening in Iraq a civil war for which Americans are responsible. Not public infighting. The fact that children die from preventable diseases? Wrong. Not regrettable.

If you’re going to resolve to do anything this year it should be to insist on the right names for things. Because when you do, you will stand up to the people who want us to forget how much there is to be done, the people who this week would like us to think that this execution fixes any of the things that are tearing Iraq apart, that it has anything to do with true justice. And when you do that, you will quiet for a moment the insensible howl of the mob and replace it with the sound of your voice saying clearly the right names for the things that are wrong. And maybe then we will be able to get on with making right some of the things in the world that are wrong.


28 thoughts on “Smokescreen

  1. Your quote: And so it is that every time that video shows up on somebody’s computer screen, Iraq plunges deeper into civil war, children die from preventable diseases, genocide continues in Africa, and the polar ice caps melt just a little bit more. – end quote

    I went on YouTube to see what was new (something I do once a week or so) and the top five pages were various versions of Sadaam’s hanging. That’s a sad thing to see. I just couldn’t see the appeal in watching someone die for real on a computer screen.

    One man’s execution changes nothing on the grand scale of things. I know I don’t have the answer to any of the items you mentioned earlier. Except for not contributing to global warming. There are legitimate aid groups to help with preventing childhood diseases and genocide in Africa. Not as familiar with ending our involvement in Iraq.

    I dated a few Vietnam era Vets, and saw first hand how many of them changed after they got back. I have a son in the Air Force who spent 3 months in Iraq and is now in Qtar.

    I know this post is more a ramble than a real post to your topic, but there you have it. 🙂 Love ya, Sis.

  2. Thank you very much for this post, Bloglily. Powerful indeed.

    I will call the videos out there of Saddam hanging what they truly are: pornography of violence.

    I will continue in my habit of calling things what they really are, encouraged by the knowledge that mine is not just one small voice in the wilderness.

  3. I too was going to post about this although I felt too sickened at that moment in time to put the words down. Thank you so much for writing this. You have captured the way I feel more accurately than I could express.

  4. Once again, Bloglily, you have put your finger right on the spot. As a society we survive by using small white lies. Bending our words so they do not cause offence. Politicians bend their words so they hide what is really happening. The word becomes the thing. “We Won!” hides the loss. “Tax Cuts” hide the increasing percentage of our income the Government is taking. For that matter, “Tax” hides the institutionalised robbery we take as a normal part of life. “Execution” hides the murder done in our name. Grrrr – Maybe I will take the rest of this rant to my blog – sometime soon. When I cool down and become coherent again.

  5. The tail wagging the dog. Wasn’t that a movie too? “Wag the Dog”, basically about an American president who, to distract the American people from something, invents a war in a faraway land….

    Thanks for speaking up Bloglily!


  6. Bravo, Lily. So, so true. I felt those videos were in execrable taste – what possible good comes of exulting over such a futile, pointless killing? It was an ugly life and an ugly death and has nothing to do with the ability of politics to actually improve our common human condition.

  7. Thanks for this post. It is important to say these things. Hanging Saddam now saves the Bush administrations embarrassment had he come to trial for the gassing of the Kurdish village, Halabja, for such a trial would undoubtedly have brought to light Donald Rumsfeld’s complicity in helping Saddam set up his poison gas capability and the sale of US helicopters to deliver the lethal dose.
    While that attack, which killed 5000 people, is today being touted by senior US officials as one of the main reasons why Hussein has been taken out, at the time Washington’s response to the atrocity was much more relaxed. In fact only four months later, the government stood by as the US giant Bechtel corporation won the contract to build a huge petrochemical plant that would give the Hussein regime the capacity to generate ‘modern’ chemical weapons.

  8. In ‘Henry IV Pt. II’ Shakespeare has the dying Henry IV advise his son, Prince Hal, to divert his subjects’ eyes from the problems in their own land by making war abroad. That land was England. We have as much to be ashamed about in this area as the US. I’ve found the news fervour around the execution obscene. Fortunately, it has slipped from the headlines here today.

  9. While I understand and agree with parts of what you are saying it is not looking at the big picture to completely blame America for the troubles in Iraq. Even if it was wrong for us to go over there when and how we did Saddam nor the Iraqi people who allowed him to rule can be completely exonerated for the parts they played in the world they now live in. We each have personal responsibility as well as civil and national responsibility. It was the actions of the whole that have led up to what the world is today, not just one country or one man.

    Saddam’s execution was a tragedy from the standpoint of a life wasted. He had the potential to make his country great and life good for his people and even at the end it was all about him. Very, very sad. Sure, it doesn’t change anything major, but for those who suffered for attrocities at Saddam’s hands I’m sure they feel some vindication regardless of the state their country is in today.

    I refuse to watch the video and think the fervor around it is ridiculous, but lets remember that it is the same kind of fervor that happens when Paris Hilton has a sex tape, or Brittany Spears does something stupid. We are a world that has been spoon fed instananeous images of ‘news’, regardless of its merit, for decades now and the people crave it as much as they loathe it. That to me is sad in an of itself.

  10. It would be so good to keep Lily’s call for honest words going. All the way to some serious politician who has a chance for a big leadership role. Someone who has influence has to give the equivalent of the “I’m mad and I won’t take it anymore” declaration, which has to demand a reversal of our establishment’s arrogance that American greed, power, and unilateral actions are good for the entire world. (The “establishment” includes a lot more than the reigning goverment.) Every person running for president should have to take a position on whether the U.S. is doing what is best for the world. Make it the number one question for every candidate. And make sure the B.S. detectors are turned on.
    Defining, and admitting to, our own greed will challenge each of us to find right and honest words.

  11. Giving something a name is a very powerful thing. I have refused to watch the video in question…I don’t want to see this. That people are watching it and rejoicing disturbs me. I wish I had the answers.

  12. Thanks for concisely and clearly pointing out what is wrong with mob mentality regarding the execution. As someone who is opposed to capital punishment, it fills me with silent disgust to imagine that, in this day and age, a state can be so cruel that it makes an execution public, and that people can be so cruel that they can rush to watch the killing and cheer for it.

  13. Bravo for standing up and starting the year with a shoutout BlogLily. I almost agree with you. Iraq is in civil war, and Americans are responsible. But so are Iraqis. And so are we all, whether we’re Americans, or Iraqis, or citizens of any country in the world. It may seem to the rest of the world as if Americans could have stopped the war, but it doesn’t feel that way to us Americans. We feel just as powerless about it as anyone else. That’s what governments do to their people, make them feel powerless. I’m sure Iraqis felt powerless to eliminate Hussein. I feel powerless to eliminate Mr Bush as long as my countrymen keep electing him. If we’re all responsible for murders in Darfur, then we’re all responsible for Sunis and Shia. We can’t start drawing national boundaries if we’re calling things by their proper names.

  14. BlogLily,
    Excellent post! You are very correct in your observation of this execution. It is less a statement about Sadam as it is a statement about all of us. Thank-you for having the courage to make this post.

  15. Bloglily- I don’t comment very often, but after I read your post today I wanted to let you know how inspired I am by all your posts. You always have wonderful, insightful things to say– and beautiful photographs as well. Even if you don’t hear from me very often, I’m here reading. Happy New Year.

  16. Bravo! Let’s make it a resolution to call things by their proper names. It wasn’t justice, it’s not friendly fire or collateral damage.

    Thank you for making this post. Happy New Year.

  17. Bravo.

    The video is a snuff film, and the Bush administration is doing its usual bait and switch: they (i.e., the Iraqi government, which is beyond an oxymoron) arrested the man who filmed the lynching. It’s like going after whomever took the pictures at Abu Ghirab — it’s utterly the wrong direction.

    (I posted a short rant before the execution. )

    Do you know the poem “Naming of Parts”? It’s apt, unfortunately.

  18. I had an evidence professor, his name was Mr. Hughes [I only give the name because people deserve to be remembered] he said, fairly frequently: “The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right name.”

    I, too, am frustrated, even angered, by the circumlocutions which are the daily fodder fed to us. The press is as guilty as the government.

    Saddam Hussein was, I suppose, a bad man. Apparently a lot of his countrymen are bad men.

    Here’s my little saying [pace Mr. Hughes]: “There is one way to tell what people want: watch what they do.”

  19. I absolutely agree Lily. I find myself ambivalent when it comes to the death penalty/executions, but one thing I firmly believe is that the taking of a human life–even one that has been as grossly perverted and used to bring so much harm, suffering, and death to others, as the life of Saddam Hussein’s–is never a time for celebration, or jubilation. That a person acts in such a way to make so many of his peers feel the only suitable punishment is death…is terribly sad and disturbing; and is says as much about those carrying out and watching the execution, as it does the person being punished.

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