Monday, January 15, 2007

What to say?

On the remarkable report by John Burns in the NYTimes today on the hangings of Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Tikriti, and Saddam's former chief judge:
Iraq’s turbulent effort to reckon with the violence of its past took a macabre turn today when the execution of Saddam Hussein’s half-brother ended with the hangman’s noose severing his head from his body after he fell through the trapdoor.
...
After the executioners pulled a black hood over the heads of the two men, tightened nooses around their necks and pulled the lever opening the trapdoors, both fell like a deadweights. But the hangmen’s calculations of weight, gravity and inertia — a grim science that has produced detailed “drop charts” that have been used for decades in hangings around the world — appeared in Mr. Tikriti’s case to have been seriously awry.
...
The grim mishap early today — described as “a rare incident” in an official statement — appeared to unnerve the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
...
The Iraqis were so shaken by the decapitation that they waited more than seven hours after the executions, at 3 a.m. local time, to formally announce them and then read a statement that made only a passing reference to the severing of Mr. Tikriti’s head.

After several paragraphs that traced the “big crimes against humanity” committed by the two men, the statement concluded: “In a rare incident, the head of the convict Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan” — his name as it appeared on court documents — “was separated from his body during the execution.”

The statement offered no details, leaving those to a news conference another six hours later, when rumors had begin circulating among Sunni Arab loyalists of the former regime and on Arabic-language television channels broadcasting across the Middle East that Mr. Tikriti had been deliberately decapitated in an act of revenge by the Maliki government.
And so, more damage control ensues...Condoleezza Rice laughably joins in the condemnation of what her government is into neck deep. What else is a self-respecting world leader to do?

One is once more left with the impression that whatever can go wrong in Iraq, it will...