Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Public Spectacle



I try to stay off politics when writing this blog, but given recent events, I simply can't resist.

I confess that I've just spent the morning searching for video imagery and/or pictures of Saddam Hussein's execution. For the past three days, I've been struggling to resist this urge, but I finally allowed it to overtake me. Unfortunately, my thirst for bloodletting was neither satisfied nor satiated by the poorly shot video, which conveniently goes completely black at the real moment of execution. (Even on obscure Arab sites.)

The thing is, it wasn't enough to see the rope being put over his head. Uh-eh. No. I wanted more. I wanted to bear witness to that fast, gritty moment that historians will probably one day look back on and reflect was the simultaneous peak and irreversible point of no return of American power as we know it. Beyond the historical significance of the event, I believe the apolitical, anti-intellectual animal part of me just wanted to see the pure public spectacle of the whole thing. I felt very much like the medieval serf being called into the town center to watch the gallows being erected in order to watch the hanging/beheading/public torture of so-called "criminals".

Once upon a time, public executions served as mass entertainment. These sorts of activities were highly anticipated. And popular! People would bring a picnic lunch. In fact, they would make sure to pack plenty of fruit and vegetables--some for them, and some to throw. As organized cities evolved, they were seen as providing an outlet for the animal tendencies of humankind. As I watched botched video after botched video, a part of me wondered if the rest of the world had been hoping to see Saddam Hussein dragged, flogged, and pilloried in the heart of Baghdad. I tried to imagine the turn-out if the execution had been publicly announced and performed out-of-doors for all to see. Crowds upon crowds of his victims would have been there to see it with their own eyes. Clearly a security risk, but still.

One more thing that I noted as my futile search for snuff was under way was the number of cookie-cutter internet blog sites, created by self-appointed "post-modernists", who all have something "deep and profound" to say about what has been dubbed the "first" world-wide internet execution. Umm...first, have we completely forgotten the video of Nicholas Berger? Or Nuremberg, for that matter? Many of these sites are written by poorly-read graduate students who have perused the works of Michel Foucault, and now think that they can spout off something unique about this event. One site generically asks, "Has the execution of Saddam Hussein managed to "revive" the use of public execution? Discuss."

I won't go on ranting with these details, but I would like to briefly point out the obvious:

1. Is the internet today's "town center"? Duh.

2. Are we (as human beings) any more evolved than our fruit-throwing forefathers (and mothers) who lived in the days of:

... fanaticism
...witch hunts
...30-year long religious wars...
...genocide...
plague...
famine!
...tyranny...

Oh, wait.

Did my point just prove itself?

Doh.

Ha.

But, ok, really...what do I know? I'm just pointing out a few commonalities. Not sayin', just sayin'...

At any rate, I must end now. I have a gnawing compulsion to brush up on my knowledge of Brittany Spear's crotch photos.

Peace,

Namaste

Oh, and, if anyone out there is interested in the works of Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish is a worthwhile read in times such as these.

11 comments:

VJ said...

See also in that vein: 'The Thief, the cross and the Wheel: Pain and the Spectacle of Punishment in Medieval and Renaissance Europe', Mitchell B. Merback, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1999.

It's a topic always worthy of some discussion. It is strictly against the Geneva Conventions to publicly exhibit or make a spectacle of the execution of prisoners of war. We do not have pictures of the Nuremberg hangings for example. As simple post mortem pic should have sufficed. But alas, there's always that question of bloodlust, which led of course to the foreshortening of Saddam's war crimes trial for his largest documented atrocities against the Kurds, for example, for reasons unknown.

Overall, it was just about the most botched prosecution for international war crimes since Rwanda, which is saying quite a lot. Everything ought to have been done better, but it was never a priority as it was in the aftermath of WW11. That stands to reason, the actual prosecution of the war was never a real priority for the Bush administration. Everything with them is half assed or wholly incompetent. Saddam's execution seems to be more of the latter. There should not have been any video, nor taunts from his guards. That will only allow him to garner more sympathy in his death, and help him in becoming a
martyr to some of his kinsmen. Vengeance is swell. It should have little or no place in modern warfare. We'll be paying for our incompetence in this war and others under the feckless Bush for generations to come. We might as well have fed Saddam to the wild beasts that remained alive at the zoo for all the good it will do us.


But yeah, perhaps one person in a 1000 understands all this. Unfortunately the JAG corps has been almost completely silenced in their advisory role too.

Cheers & Good Luck! 'VJ'

Sodom said...

What a hypocrit!

Sodom said...

Namaste has a thirst for blood-letting. Isn't that rich.

I also find it interesting that you have taken to searching blogs for further evidence of the gruesome hanging, as the deeply disturbing video widely available to the public just didn't do it for you. I think you might want to re-think your tagline "Namaste": It just doesn't fit the persona anymore; if it ever did.

Also interesting is the scorn you have displayed for your fellow bloggers; the ridicule of their "cookie cutter" sites and not so "profound" insights. Was it not you who lectured the blogger community on what a blog is and is not.. Oh Namaste--the hypocricy!

Namaste said...

Sodom--(as in "sodomy"?)

You're totally right. I suck. I should just stop blogging now if I know what's good for me. I should not have forced you to read my blog in its entirety. Please accept my apologies for insulting your decency, good manners and intelligence. You are a better human being than I am. You are good, I am bad. You obviously have a much higher moral character than I do. I should not have written with such sarcasm. Clearly, my sense of irony and rhetorical wit does not impress you. I am a failure. I should not be human. I should stick with my "theme".

My humblest apologies for this transgression. In fact, I do not deserve your readership. Perhaps your time can best be spent elsewhere.

Yours truly,

N

Silent Responder said...

Hi Namaste. I read your blog a lot, but never comment. I like your writing and your style. You seem very free-spirited, and you have a way of expressing yourself that is unique and very versatile. Unlike "Sodom" (who obviously has some "anal" issues), I think that your willingness to comment on this matter in this post is not hypocritical, but very compelling. What I like about this post is that you are obviously being ironic. You are well-read and well-versed in politics without being preachy. I like how you manage to point to he absurdity of things by being absurd. You have quite a remarkable gift.

Keep up the good work, Namaste! I honor the divine in you, and look forward to reading more.

Namaste said...

Thanks, Silent R. I appreciate your feedback. Next time, leave an email address so that I can write to thank you personally.

And VJ--Out of curiosity, would you consider Mr. Hussein a POW under the Geneva Convention? I certainly wouldn't. Oh, and to my knowledge, there are published pictures of the Nuremburg hangings.

VJ said...

By definition, the former leader of a country that has been attacked, and it's leadership 'decapitated' by warfare with another state IS and should have been considered a PW by the Geneva Conventions. Ditto for most if not all of the 'combatants' we've tortured, extradited, captured & imprisoned in country & at Gitmo. This is a complex legal argument dealing with the Laws of War, some of which has been argued here at Jack Balkin's place in recent years: [http://balkin.blogspot.com/] and from a more traditional military perspective here from Phil Carter's Intel Dump: [http://inteldump.powerblogs.com/]. The entire general topic looms large in the discussions of the recommendations of the JAG corps, which have been neglectfully summarily dismissed by the Bush administration since it's start.

I could be mistaken about the Nuremburg hangings, but I don't recall any of the photo's. I'm almost certain that Justice Robert Jackson would not have allowed them. Everything about the process was entirely different. The Arabs know that Saddam was essentially killed by a Shiite death squad, and have reacted accordingly & quite predictably. We have not avoided making Saddam into a martyr, which is about the worst possible outcome we could have hoped for, but one that was seemingly pretty predicatable given Bush's track record there.

Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'

Namaste said...

Really excellent points all around, VJ. Thanks for your insights. It's tragic, isn't it, that the main reason Hussein was tried in Iraq was to avoid the US having blood on its hands. Better a Shiite "death squad" than multilateral condemnation and a life in prison (under Geneva). The short-sightedness of this administration is beyond compare. Again, I could't agree with you more.

VJ said...

I agree that Saddam should have hanged, but his really monstrous crimes remain all but unexplored by the legal process, and they sadly have now gone unsanctioned. Part of the problem was that prior to this war, the official US position on the horrendous & genocidal Al-Anfal campaign was to implicate the Iranians in specific cases of gas attacks, since we were directly responsible for supplying the precursor and dual use materials necessary for the construction of Saddam's chemical weapons capacity. CW was used to great effect during the Iran-Iraq war, and was something that was directly recommended by Reagan's military advisors at the time, of which Rummy figured highly. So yes, it could have gotten very messy. The National Security Archive has some of the background here too:
[http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/]. Overall, not as fun as it looked on TV either. Cheers& Good Luck, 'VJ'

El Guapo in DC said...

Get a room you two!

VJ said...

Would that it be that simple. Still more on the topic of Saddam dying for our sins by Tompaine.com here:

[http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/01/09/did_saddam_die_for_our_sins.php]

Cheers & Good Luck, 'VJ'