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Bully Is Executed

Natalia J. Garland

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Saddam Hussein has been hanged to death for his crimes committed against humanity. He was responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, with estimates upward to two million. How and why does one man become a cruel dictator? Why do some people willingly follow the leadership of a dictator? Why do others allow a dictator to take over their country? Today I will offer a few of my impressions based on post-9/11 observations.

Some people seem to be consumed with a lust for total control and power. If we put this desire on a continuum, it would probably range from the strict employer to the abusive husband and onward to the ruthless dictator. Perhaps the ultimate proof of and the most intense feeling of raw power is the ability to kill anyone, anytime, anywhere. Whether committing the murder oneself or ordering someone else to do it, the power is evident. It can start with one's own countrymen and then expand to worldwide nuclear conquests.

Followers of malevolent dictators may derive perverse satisfaction from identification with another's political power and from a system of government which provides license and justification to torture and kill. Dictators and their followers are incapable of empathy, yet very aware of the fear and intimidation which their actions inflict on the average citizen. If a dictator smiles and waves, or if he pats a child on the head, it is only for self-glorification and to manipulate the tender feelings of the people.

A dictator can take over a country when people are focused on day-to-day survival. People need food and housing. The immediacy of these needs can be exploited. Some people will succumb in a self-serving manner: so long as their needs are met, they do not care who has political control or about any horrible injustices done to their neighbors. Others will succumb because they feel alone and defenseless, and because they have dependent families. Still others may have goals that can be pursued only under the dictator's eyes, such as state-sponsored sports or arts.

Average people seem not to have the aggression required to overcome bullies, whether on the school playground or in the seat of government. Self-preservation or the pursuit of victory seem to require saturation of personal tolerance for the negative. Suffering is difficult, but facing psychopathology or outright evil seems more difficult.

What happened to Saddam after his hanging? Did the mouth of hell open up? Did he undergo a last-minute repentance known only to him and God? Does it matter? We cannot know the present location of Saddam's spirit and, for the purpose of building a peaceful future, it does not matter. What matters is that extreme psychological damage has been done to the country of Iraq over a number of years. Many Iraqi citizens have never known daily life without danger. Getting a grip on this opportunity for freedom will be a new experience.

Some Iraqis will feel relief and closure with the impossibility of Saddam ever returning to power. Speaking as one American, I felt that the earth was favorably altered when the news of Saddam's far-away execution reached my house. I do not celebrate anyone's death, and I leave judgment to God, but Saddam's departure from this earth seemed literally to clear the air. I could breathe deeply again. I lacked grief or even sentimentality. Whether or not this reflects the limitation of my own humanity, I do not know. But I know the blood of our American military was shed to bring us all to this moment. For the soldiers and for the victims, I mourn. (Written 12/31/06)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2006 Natalia J. Garland