An excerpt from THEODORE DALRYMPLE
Anyone who watched Saddam Hussein being led to the gallows without any knowledge of who he was would have concluded that a dignified, decent, and upright man was being informally executed by a gang of criminals. After all, it was he, not they, who showed his face to the world; he, not they, who refused to disguise himself.
And the revelation that he was taunted by his gaolers immediately before his execution, and not allowed to sleep the previous night, has rendered his execution less than optimal, from the public-relations point of view. Anything he might have suffered as a result of mistreatment was, of course, trivial by comparison with the suffering he inflicted on thousands, perhaps millions, of others; but a sense of proportion in moral outrage has never been among the Middle East's great cultural virtues.
The same, alas, is now true of Europe, or of the European official class and its tame intelligentsia. Everyone was agreed, of course, that Saddam was a very bad thing, a dictator who used every method of political persuasion from torture to a bullet in the neck and poison gas. But very few missed the opportunity to express an unctuous self-righteousness about the death penalty.
The editorial of Le Monde on the day following, for example, was entitled "No to the Death Penalty," and said that while President Bush may have claimed that the execution was a step on the path to democracy, "our," that is to say the French and superior, concept of democracy was different. The British foreign secretary and Irish foreign minister took the opportunity to express British and Irish opposition to the death penalty; the position of the Italian prime minister was even stronger (or weaker, depending on how you look at it); the Vatican also took the opportunity to express its opposition to the death penalty; and the European commissioner for foreign aid, M. Louis Michel, former foreign minister of that land of irreproachable integrity, Belgium, said, "You don't fight barbarism with acts that I deem as barbaric. The death penalty is not compatible with democracy."
In general, Europeans of the official class spoke as if the death penalty had been abolished in Europe in about 479 b.c., when it was abolished in Britain in 1965 and in France in 1981, not exactly historical epochs ago, even in the baby-boomers' truncated historical perspective. Whatever the practical political consequences of the execution of Saddam, which are inherently uncertain, the fact is that the European leaders are so entirely, parochially, and narrow-mindedly enclosed within their own worldview that they are now unable to conceive of any opinion but their own.
The egregious M. Michel seems to be implying that the two largest and most important democracies in the world, the U.S.A. and India, cannot actually be democracies at all because they have the death penalty. He also seems to be saying that New Zealand, Britain, Australia, Canada, and France were not democracies until 1961, 1965, 1973, 1976, and 1981, an odd reading of history, to say the least. Such is the ignorant arrogance of the great ones of Europe, who must have been confirmed in their decision not to allow any kind of democratic intervention in their deliberations by learning that in fact a clear majority of Europeans believed that Saddam ought to have been executed. If that is what people think, they clearly ought to be abolished.
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