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Saddam as Victim

By James Taranto
January 3, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Debra Saunders notes a rather outrageous quote from a self-styled human-rights advocate, objecting to Saddam Hussein's execution:

Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program, said in a press statement, "The test of a government's commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders. History will judge these actions harshly."

What nonsense. The measure of a government's commitment should be in how it treats its citizens. Hussein had countless Iraqis killed without a trial. He ordered the death of an 11-year-old boy because he thought it was "the right of the head of state." History will focus on his misdeeds, not on the timely execution of a guilty despot.

Saunders is obviously right: It is perverse to consider the execution of a mass murderer as worse than the murder of children.

But she doesn't quite capture the full perversity of Dicker's statement, "The test of a government's commitment to human rights is measured by the way it treats its worst offenders." By this reasoning, hanging a thief or a jaywalker would be less bad than hanging a mass murderer.

And suppose we apply the Dicker principle to the previous regime in Baghdad. How did it treat Iraq's worst offenders, namely Saddam Hussein his sons and assorted hangers-on? It provided them with nearly limitless wealth and power. By Dicker's logic, this is close to ideal: The more brutal a dictatorship and the more lavishly its rulers live, the stronger its commitment to human rights. What a monstrous moral inversion.



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