Agam's Gecko
Sunday, December 31, 2006

n the Middle East, Eid al Adha was marked yesterday, December 30. The religious authorities in Indonesia have put the observance of Idul Adha on December 31. So Happy New Year to all, and Selamat Idul Adha to my Indonesian friends.

As I watched the rebroadcast of Iraqi television's coverage of Saddam's execution on C-SPAN today (with English translation), I was struck by how out of touch the western media coverage of the event has been. By that I mean out of touch with the psychological weight this man continued to exert on the Iraqi people, even by his mere continued existence. It had been hoped that the weight could have been lifted with Saddam's capture on December 14, 2003, but the ongoing Baathist and terrorist insurgency meant that the fear of Saddam's return could not be eliminated as long as he lived.

The Iraqis tried him in their own court, as a sovereign country. He was found guilty of crimes against his country and people, according to their own legal system. He had his appeals process according to law, and his sentence upheld. There have been precious few murderous dictators in history who have ever met justice in so fitting a manner. The Iraqis did it themselves, with more fairness than any of Saddam's victims ever had. The country's first fairly elected government decided when the sentence would be carried out -- immediately before the dawn of Eid al Adha. This day, for Iraqis, will now have two reasons for celebration, and they will never forget it. Their national leaders knew exactly what they were doing, and why.

A great weight has been lifted off that country, and also from the world. We who never experienced the Republic of Fear will never fully understand it. The Iraqi people know one new thing today, at long last. The tyrant is not coming back, ever. That nightmare at least is finally over, and the psychological impact of that cannot be appreciated fully by anyone who didn't live through it.

Yet, unsurprisingly, I heard many American phone-in callers to the Washington Journal program yesterday, decrying the Bush administration for killing Saddam on a Muslim holy day. Absolutely wrong on both counts, and one wonders where such resolute obtuseness comes from, and why it's so prevalent. A large part of the answer, I believe, is that the masses tend to adopt the narrative as fed by popular media -- stringing headlines together to come up with a worldview with little depth, but plenty of passion. People who believe the new Iraqi government is nothing but a Bush puppet, simply haven't been paying the slightest attention to recent events there.

Eid dawned without Saddam Hussein in this world, and so also will 2007. It's no magic healing event that would fix all the problems plagueing Iraq, but it's a big step in any case. I'm just hoping that the coming months will surprise the rest of the world, at how big a step it really was.

All the best to each of our esteemed readers, for the coming year. Let 2007 see increased prosperity, peace and freedom in the world, for the peoples of all countries.

UPDATE: Well, it's a curious way to say "Sawasdee Pii Mai" (Thai for Happy New Year). Public celebrations have been cancelled in Bangkok following a series of powerful bomb blasts in the capital about an hour and a half ago. At least three people have been killed -- two resulting from a blast at Victory Monument, and another from a bombing near a supermarket in Saphan Kwai* (not the Klong Toei bomb as I incorrectly reported earlier). Seven bombs in all have exploded across the city, seemingly all targeting busy public areas such as bus interchanges and shopping centres. Several of the blasts did not apparently cause injuries, but between the Victory Monument bomb and the Klong Toei bomb, around 25 were injured. It will be a tense New Year's Eve in the Big Mango. Details here.


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