Noose For The News
No sensitive — and perhaps sensible — person could have savoured his or her drink on the evening of December 31, having woken up that morning to pictures of Saddam Hussein being put to death and having watched, the entire day before, footage of the noose being tightened around his neck. Imagine watching death — what that must have meant to a ten-year-old!
We had, so far, only read about famous people being hanged, like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru. And in recent times, about Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the deposed Prime Minister of Pakistan who was sent to the gallows in 1979 by the then President Zia-ul-Haq.
More recently, hanging became hot news when rapist-murderer Dhananjoy Chatterjee was put to death. The Indian TV channels covered every aspect of the “event” — from interviewing the hangman to informing viewers about the diameter of the rope. If they had their way, they would have shown the hanging too — but then you are not allowed to show such things in a civilised society. As a result, the final moments of a convict are usually recreated later by, or with the help of, the witnesses — the jailor, the guards and so on.
Saddam’s execution, on the other hand, was captured on camera. And while facing death, Saddam was no less brave than our freedom fighters who went to the gallows valiantly. Perhaps braver, considering that Saddam was 70, when the rush of adrenaline is nowhere near the kind you experience in your 20s.
But there he stood, defiant, refusing to wear the hood and chanting the name of Allah while staring straight ahead, till the very second he got sucked in by the death trap. Yes, you can see him go down, and even hanging awkwardly from the rope with a broken neck, courtesy www.youtube.com. The images were bound to be uploaded on YouTube, considering that many witnesses were filming the execution on their mobile phones.
And YouTube, which is a site where you can upload just about anything except hardcore pornography, is widely watched by Internet users across the world, including India. So what will the young Indian think of Saddam’s hanging?
I received a message last week from a reader, an engineering student in Hyderabad who is just 18 years old. “Sir, are you against or in favour of Saddam’s hanging?” I replied. She asked again, “Sir, do you think US has the right to rule any other nation?” I replied. She asked again, “Then what is the UN there for?” I had no reply.
I wanted to tell her that there is no UN, only the US, but she probably knows that. And the man in the ranch (he should have emerged out of it by now) knows that too. But what he does not know is the huge cost his countrymen are going to pay for his actions. Hanging Saddam in a hurried manner was a mistake. But allowing the release of footage of his hanging was a big mistake — so big that no American is ever going to feel safe in the coming decades.
Meanwhile, according to the Melbourne paper The Age, Saddam was the 3000th person to die in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. Is anyone going to hang for the remaining 2999 deaths?
(Published on 4 January 2007)