Strategic sub-text of the Iraq verdict

Sunday's verdict of a Baghdad court sentencing former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, to death by hanging should not come as a surprise to those following the year-long trial closely. However, the general response has been emotive and the refrain has been that this high-octane trial has lacked the degree of fairness it warranted. It would appear that the deeply entrenched anti-Bush sentiment that is widely held in the global liberal spectrum since the ill-advised Iraq war began in 2003, has tempered this response.

Prima facie, there is little dissent on the point that Saddam Hussein, as president, was part of a historical continuum in modern Iraq wherein the minority Sunni community held sway over their more numerous Shia brethren and other minorities such as the Kurds. The Saddam Hussein decades were stable and Iraq was prosperous, but the regime was oppressive and gross human rights excesses were committed. But it merits repetition that Hussein was no exception and many military dictators have ruled with an iron fist to ruthlessly stamp out dissent in any form. Iraq, at the time, was an accepted member of the global community and the major powers, including the US, supported the Hussein regime particularly in the war against Iran and even tacitly allowed the use of chemical weapons.

However, 9/11 and the purported anxiety over WMD associated with the Iraqi leader were used as rationale for the US-led military action in early 2003 and the regime was toppled. A more democratic dispensation was sought to be ushered in by the US, but the mayhem that continues to date, which has led to the death of over 6,50,000 Iraqis according to one estimate, is reflective of the elusiveness of this normative objective. But the ground reality is that a century-plus of Sunni domination has been dramatically and radically overturned in the internal calculus of Iraq. Currently, a more representative, albeit tenuous government, headed by Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, reflects the will and aspirations of Iraqis. The Hussein trial was held under the umbrella of this Iraqi government even if it is contested by large sections of the Sunnis and loyalists of the earlier regime.

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