Sgt York on Lynching

One of my correspondents, who calls himself Sgt.  York sent this.  I found it interesting.  I include this note as to provenance for those of you (several already) who do not seem to understand the meaning of quotation marks.  pl


"Taunting someone about to be executed is something they do at lynchings, not judicial proceedings.

This was a lynching. Reminds me of those Western movies where the Sheriff has a cattle rustler in his jail and the mob demands that he be turned over for a hanging… except the sheriff rufuses.

S.H. was captured by the US Military and was in US Military custody. He should have been given POW status according to the GC. Instead, US soldiers walked him back and forth from his jailcell to a sham trial and then escorted him from the US Military prison and handed him over to the lynch mob.

He was in US custody and a prisoner of war. The US had the option to try him for crimes against the US (not sure what those are) or to turn him over to the Hague for crimes against humanity.

The Western Sheriff is now a thug who surrendered his prisoner to the lynch mob.

Sgt. York"

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34 Responses to Sgt York on Lynching

  1. Leigh says:

    Every time I think this administration can’t possibly be more incompetent than it has already proven, BushCo does something that tops the last. To assassinate Saddam on the first day of the Sunni holiday…to have his assassins chanting Muktada snd Hakim…to have Saddam appear more in control than anyone else there. This beggars imagination.
    You are right, Colonel. Saddam should have been tried at the Hague. Didn’t Gonzales know that? Or has the administration broken so many laws that it no longer knows which are in force any longer?

  2. ali says:

    “The Western Sheriff is now a thug who surrendered his prisoner to the lynch mob.”
    This is unfair. We have a different sort of moral cowardice here. A nation cried for blood and was obliged by supplicant politicians. All that follows belongs to the empty headed response to 9-11.

  3. J says:

    in keeping with historical tradition, one has to wonder just how many more lynchings that we will have to put up with from the bush-cheney team? will they order the mass hanging of gitmo prisoners next?

  4. John shreffler says:

    Ah well, we’ve been engaged in a bad remake of Liberty Valance for a while now. The problem is that we’re Liberty and he’s the sheriff. The mob was his idea. So it goes.

  5. lina says:

    It’s just one more debased, dishonorable, degrading episode in a war conceived by a man not fit to run a hardware store. We should be used to it by now. Three thousand dead, 25 thousand wounded, and $400 billion spent. Probably hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and wounded. The country’s infrastructure destroyed.
    For what? For this disgraceful act of barbarism.
    It would be one thing if flushing America’s civility and prestige down the toilet led to some positive result. But each new segment of the George W. Bush horror movie harms us more and adds another decade to any recovery process. May we live to recover from these people.

  6. Rider says:

    Actually, if you want a Middle Eastern antecedent, the taunting and mockery was just one of quite a few details that paralleled elements of the Passion, including the move to shift responsibility from the occupying civil authority to the local religious court, the failure to use the traditional option to commute the prisoner’s sentence, the problem of the death coinciding with a holy day, etc. Kind of interesting.

  7. Chris Marlowe says:

    I never believed it could have happened, but the lynching of the Arab secular nationalist Saddam Hussein is most likely going to be the best recruiting tool al-Qaeda could have wished for.
    The lynching cellphone video is now spreading like wildfire in Muslim countries, causing intense outrage and anger against the US and Sadr’s followers. Osama bin-Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri must be laughing their heads off since in life, Saddam was their enemy. And Maliki’s thugs are so stupid and incompetent that they pulled the trapdoor lever while Saddam was in mid-sentence of reciting the shahada…
    So, in death, Saddam converted to an Islamic fundamentalist fighting foreign aggression and their Sadrist puppets and lackeys!
    Now US forces in Iraq will be attacked with renewed vigor by Sunni fundamentalists. Good reason to send more US troops to stabilize Iraq, right?
    Excuse me, what is there to stabilize?
    Sometimes I think that I’m living in a nightmare which I will awake from. Every time I think that the opinion of the US cannot get worse in the Muslim world, guess what this administration manages to do?
    Can you spell blowback?

  8. Michael says:

    Funny how clumsy some actions and decisions appear when they are wrapped (poorly) in the name of a righteous cause. As I have said before, I agree Saddam needed to be held accountable, but at the Hague – not some peanut gallery lynching mob with videophones.
    Hmm.. perhaps they wore ski masks because Bush wanted to be the guy who actually pulled the lever..

  9. soar says:

    Col. Lang,
    I would be interested in your geo-political take — and that of your other correspondents — on the reported problems the Iranians are having with their oil production
    (see The article does not explain if this problem is related to dwindling supply or mismanagement. If the former is true, then it seems to me that we should fear an attempt by Iran — recast as a pan-Shia brotherhood — to fissure Iraq and lay claim to oil fields in Shia lands. Given the present instability in Iraq, such a scenario is not hard to imagine.

  10. zanzibar says:

    I agree with Sgt. York. Saddam was captured by US forces while he was still C-in-C during a war and occupation. He should have automatically been given POW status.
    International norms and laws have been disregarded with hubris by the current US administration. What goes around comes around. The world system has been made more unstable by the Decider and the tremors of the blowback will be felt for a long time.

  11. elanecu says:

    Colonel: A Happy New Year to you, and my thanks for your consistently interesting notes.
    I understand quotation marks and thus think you should either remove those at the end of sentence one; or open another set.

  12. ked says:

    I’m beginning to agree with those who believe the Bushitburo is now engaging in highly exaggerated, extreme policies in order to assure that subsequent US admins will have little hope of correcting them for decades. It could get insane over the next 18 months.

  13. anna missed says:

    Chris Marlowe said,
    “So, in death, Saddam converted to an Islamic fundamentalist fighting foreign aggression and their Sadrist puppets and lackeys!”
    This lynching thing does have a curious bait and switch air about it. What could they be thinking, to hand Saddam over to the Sadr people — who of course reduced the entire trial and sentence down to the lowest sectarian common denomenator of lynch mob justice. Which does then beg the question, why would the U.S. allow and enable their supposed shiny new democracy and justice scheme to be so willingly trashed in front of the world — by the very same people they have been threatening to disarm by force. Unless such a cost could then be recouped by inflaming a Sunni response against the “Persians” across the ME that could in the same stroke, delegitimize the Sadrists, fracture the UIA, and ally a pan arab front against Iranian expansion. Has the U.S.A. engineered the martyrdom of Saddam to eventually serve their own interests? Or is it just more of the same old incompetance.

  14. Eric Dönges says:

    I’ld just like to point out that handing Saddam over to the Hague was never an option, because the U.S. political establishment is not prepared to do anything to give legitimacy to the idea of an international court that has jurisdiction over (former) heads of state – would set a bad precedent and all that. What a pity – if the Nürnberg trials had been followed up on in the last 60 years the world wouldn’t be such a mess today.

  15. confusedponderer says:

    you see the legal options the US had as I do. Saddam was a POW. Just like Göring, Kaltenbrunner or Keitel before him. He was a former head of state, the Commander in Chief of the enemy army in the Iraq war, ultimately a soldier. Soldiers taken prisoner by an enemy army are POWs. What the US did with Saddam is quite a descend from the US stance at Nuremberg.
    You have it right, morally, and especially about the legal options the US had at their disposal but refused to utilise. The international court was ruled out because the Bush men already refused cooperation on the ICC, they would never legitimise it through the back-door via Hague. They think in such terms.
    It is utterly irrelevant wether anyone thinks he deserved POW status or not, Keitel certainly didn’t, as did Kaltenbrunner or Göring. Status is not a question of what you deserve. Nuremberg showed that you can execute a villain without making a thug out of yourself.
    But then, Nuremberg also called war of agression ‘the supreme crime’. Nuremberg also raises the question of universal jurisdiction. Maybe that are some of the reason why the Bush men were hesitant adopting that template.
    Call it Texan style, or maybe Bush needed to have his ‘triumph’, in the roman sense of the word. I only wonder, who’s whispering in Bush’s ear: ‘Don’t forget you’re not a god!’ Probably no one.

  16. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Thanks. pl

  17. JMeyer says:

    Vice the old Western movie analogy, my memory is more taken to the autumn of 1982 and the Sabra and Shatila massacre carried out by Lebanese Maronite Christian militias against Palestinian refugee camps. The number of victims of the massacre is estimated at 700 to possibly 3000. The southern Beirut camps were externally surrounded by Israeli Defense Forces throughout the incident, although the Israeli military personnel who were there stated that they had no idea of what was going on inside. Regardless, the incident shook the world. The degree to which the Israeli military was involved in the incident remains a matter of controversy. The fall out was obvious at the time and resonates today; a force in situational control of a potential moral disaster has the burden of retaining control and insuring the outcome is legitimate. It’s not enough to plead ignorance or innocence after the catastrophic outcome when the force should have known or could have known. One more Bush shot to the foot in a lame and self-defeating lurching policy from the pediocide-prone Beltway muppet show.

  18. arbogast says:

    I, personally, am enormously heartened by the comments to this post. There are civilized people in the United States.
    I also thank Colonel Lang for posting this piece by Sergeant York.
    2007 is shaping up to be a very, very difficult year for the United States. The United States that emerges into 2008 is going to be a very different place than what is perceived to be the nation today.
    We are led by a pathetic, combative idiot surrounded by bootlickers. Wrong guy at the wrong moment.
    I would say Happy New Year, if I felt it were possible.

  19. taters says:

    Sgt York is on the money. I agree that his comment deserved a thread of its own.

  20. semper fubar says:

    The image that goes through my head is of Bush rubbing his hands with glee as he mocks Saddam, and sneering “Please please don’t kill me” — in the same thuggish manner he mocked the death sentence of Karla Faye Tucker while he was governor of Texas.
    We are ruled by lawless, incompetant, immoral thugs.

  21. Babak Makkinejad says:

    From Ha’aretz:
    Better off dead
    By Yoel Marcus
    It is hard to comprehend how the execution of a cruel dictator, personally responsible for the murder of more than one million Iraqis, Iranians, Kurds and Shi’ites during his 24 years in power, came as such a shock to the high-minded souls of the world, especially those in the European Union who called the hanging of Saddam Hussein a “barbaric act.”
    It was enough to give a person apoplexy to listen to the radio debate on Sunday between those bleeding hearts who denounced the execution of one of the greatest mass murderers since World War II on the grounds of their fundamental opposition to the death penalty, and those who felt it was justified. How could anyone listen to the astounding response of one of these “men of principle” to the question of whether he would have spared Hitler, and keep quiet?
    In Israel, as in many countries around the world, there is no death penalty. Not only was Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, not sent to the gallows, but he tied the knot recently and will soon become a father. On the other hand, Israel did not hesitate to hang Adolf Eichmann.
    What does that say? That we have double standards? Not exactly. It says that we draw a line between criminal murder and genocide. A leader who doesn’t blink an eyelid at employing chemical warfare to murder thousands of Kurds and an equal number of Shi’ites, and then buries dozens, if not hundreds, of them in mass graves, who is capable of launching an eight-year war against Iran that ends up killing a million people, is not an ordinary murderer. He is a war criminal who deserves to be put to death.
    We are talking about a tyrant who controlled his people by sowing fear and acting like a barbarian. Iraq’s numerous prisons, including the one where Saddam was executed, were full of people who were brutally tortured and killed solely because they said something they shouldn’t have, or were turned in by informers.
    I was surprised to read Nahum Barnea’s column in Yedioth Ahronoth praising Saddam’s courage. “He went to his death honorably, without asking for pity, without clasping the feet of his executioners. He did not give his enemies that last bit of satisfaction.” For starters, the world only saw what the person who stage-directed the execution wanted us to see. During the trial he wasn’t such a hero. With the Koran in his hand, he tried to save his skin with all kinds of excuses, the most pathetic of them being that he was still the president of Iraq.
    Ruthless dictators of Saddam’s ilk are not afraid of death. The heads of the Nazi party – Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler and Goering – committed suicide. Other Nazi leaders, sentenced to death in the Nuremburg trials, went to the gallows with heads held high, without begging for mercy. Alfred Rosenberg, the ideologue of the Nazi race theory, shouted “Death to the Jews” before he died. Saddam, according to Al Jazeera, said “Long live Iraq” and “Long live Palestine.”
    The common denominator between the Nazi murderers and Saddam was an obsessive desire to wipe out the Jews. Saddam was a megalomaniac who pledged to burn Israel to a crisp. He began to build the first nuclear reactor in the Arab world with the express purpose of putting an end to Israel. He encouraged and financed suicide bombings and terror against Israel’s civilian population, and fired 40 Scud missiles at us to show the Palestinian terror organizations and Hezbollah that the home front was Israel’s Achilles’ heel.
    What is hard to understand is how a vicious tyrant who dunked his opponents in acid or cut off their arms and legs could remain in power for a whole generation without being challenged. In the end, he had more arrogance than brains. He didn’t prepare an escape route for himself, and was mistaken twice in not believing that America would use force against him.
    He invaded Kuwait without any justification, prompting an international coalition to attack him. He invaded Iran without any justification and pulled out eight years later without achieving anything, leaving half a million Iranians dead. He knew he had no nuclear or biological weapons, but he arrogantly chased the UN inspectors out of Iraq. His people suffered hunger and want in the wake of UN-imposed sanctions – until the occupation came and brought him down.
    Stability in Iraq is still a long way off. But if Saddam had remained alive in jail, the chances of restoring calm anytime soon would be zero. People would be afraid that sooner or later he would get out from behind those bars and return to power. Hence his execution was not a punishment. It was the end of an era. Saddam Hussein is better off dead.

  22. jonst says:

    Frankly, I don’t give a damn if SH is “better off dead”. I care about:
    a. Is America better off in the wake of his death? I doubt it. We botched it.
    b. Is Iraq any better off? I doubt it….they botched it.
    In the end, along with a dozen other reasons I could go into, incompetence, in anything, causes its own problems. It is not a good thing to be percieved as bully. But it is a terrible thing to be percieved as a weak, and ineffective bully.

  23. pbrownlee says:

    Saddam could not have wished for a better “martyrdom” had he scripted it — and his opponents have been shown once again to be clowns who could not go two rounds with a revolving door. Saddam was a POW and his captors did not behave with propriety or with any understanding of the rule of law.
    I would be wary of citing Ha’aretz’s apoplectic Yoel Marcus who seems to be a rather noxious symptom of the disease he is pretending to diagnose. By his own admission he struggles to understand “how a vicious tyrant who dunked his opponents in acid or cut off their arms and legs could remain in power for a whole generation”. Clearly he should get out more.
    This is the same Mr Marcus who believes, apparently without difficulty, that “a Qassam that is fired into the heart of a population center, even if it does not kill anyone, is tantamount to a Qassam that has hit the target and caused a mass slaughter of civilians, and it demands a strong response. The Palestinians should know that if our civilians continue to be targeted indiscriminately, their civilians, too, are liable to become a target. Not in the Peres-Shmeres method, but in the eye for an eye method”
    “BECOME a target”? Mr Marcus has not seen the casualty lists if he really believes absurdities of this rather high order.
    Perhaps he and other madcap Zionists should try harder to understand or even perceive the realities that surround them. In Saddam’s fate there may be one or two lessons for Israel as it is currently constituted and bankrolled. (I hope their escape routes are better prepared than SH’s — and it is a rather strange sneer at an enemy that he did not try to escape.)
    The punditocracy seems to be saying SH’s death is insignificant; they err.

  24. Babak Makkinejad says:

    There is a story about a holy man that was taken to a tyrant. The tyrant said: “Make a prayer for me.” The holy man said: “God, take away his life.” The tyrant said: “What the hell kind of prayer was that?” And the holy man replied: “It is the best prayer for you; for when dead you will not commit any more sinful acts and make things worse for yourself in the hereafter and, in the meantime, people are rid of you.”

  25. bh says:

    I don’t see how the Bush administration could have allowed Saddam to have what would have been accepted internationally as a fair trial in the Hague. A minimally competent legal team given an opportunity to mount a real defense would have presented extensive testimony about US support for Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war and earlier as Saddam rose to power through internecine warfare in the Baath movement. I don’t think that Mr. Bush, Sr. and Mr. Rumsfeld could allow that kind of testimony to see the light of day.
    Given that so many skeletons are buried in Saddam’s closet, a lynching was probably the best that Saddam could have hoped for. Bush, Jr. was probably thrilled to let the Iraqi Shia militias do his dirty work.

  26. Rick B says:

    You and Yoel Marcus do not seem to understand the issue. There is no question that Saddam was a criminal, well-deserving the death penalty. The issue is whether it was performed under the Rule of Law with a fair, public trial in which his guilt was proven, the death penalty was proven to be appropriate according to all the evidence and the death penalty was only then conducted with the decorum which a state operating under the rule of law should give to its most extreme penalty, or whether it was done as a wild and barbaric lynching.
    No nation can be a democracy unless it operates under the Rule of Law – always – even when emotions run high. The lynching of Saddam failed to even approach the manner a state operating under the Rule of Law should conduct such a serious proceeding.
    Iraq will never become a democracy. There is no government which can control the barbaric people who would conduct such a lynching except by being as barbaric as Saddam himself was. The lynching rather strongly suggests that America has no furthur role to play in Iraq and we should get out quickly.
    Should the attitude of the article above become policy of the Israeli government, then it will be clear that Israel has also sunk to depths well below those of civilized democratic nations.

  27. marcus says:

    I just read the account, written by an English journalist, on the execution of the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg. The difference is startling as to how those were carried out and how Saddam Husseins’ was.
    What an immeasurable distance we have fallen from then to now.

  28. Chris Marlowe says:

    Saddam has won victory in the battle over his memory: he has been turned into a martyr in the struggle against the Sadrists, Iranians and the Americans.
    I can see him laughing now with his shoulder-shaking laugh and holding his cigar and saying: “Now Muslims all over the world will sing songs of praise to me for the next thousand years! The people I killed will be seen as traitors and deserving scoundrels, and I have become the symbol of the Iraqi nation.”
    The old fox outsmarted everyone else.
    Was it that Saddam was so smart, or his opponents so stupid?

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Rick B:
    It is true that to the extent that the Western Civilization is the dominant civilization on Earth – by definition – all other civilizations are barbaric – as you say.
    Some Muslims, Chinese, Indians, South Americans, and Russians are barbarians.
    Now, that does not necessrily mean that the rule of law is exclusive to civilized nations – I fail to understand in what manner Saddam’s trial and sentencing was any more barbaric than Noriega’s or the show-trial at the Hauge for Milosovic (sic.?)?
    Iraq War has never been about democracy, by the way.
    But India is a democracy but the rule of law does not obtain there.
    On the other hand, Franco’s Spain was a dictatorship but the rule of law was respected.

  30. still working it out says:

    Killed on eid while pronouncing the shadada. They gave him a jihadi’s dream come true.
    I know it will disappoint Americans to hear it but for me the style of Saddam’s execution is what I expect from America today. For years now the Whitehouse has made it clear it abhors international law. Reading an American express the disappointment in this post is, while welcome, far more surprising than the farcical manner Saddam’s death.
    Bush has been president for six years now. He is defining all Americans to a world that is, thanks to modern media, more politically aware than its ever been.

  31. Arun says:

    Christopher Hitchens (of all people!) has written about this as a “human sacrifice”.
    “In other words, the need of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to ingratiate himself with Muqtada Sadr’s forces has been allowed to take precedence over everything else, including the stern requirements of justice that were the supposed point of the trial to begin with.”

  32. Will says:

    nur-al-cubicle who reads the french and italian press has extra info. SH was a member of the Abu-Nasser tribe who buried him in a salute of AK fire. A close relative removed his blue scarf as a rallying symbol.
    She leads to an analytical article by abu-aardvark who combs the arabic press
    his take on it is the the beginning of the Zelikow plan.
    ” All that said, the incredibly rapid pace and odd timing of the deed demands explanation. Today’s Times confirms what al-Jazeera reported yesterday, that the timing was determined with American participation – so the Shia line that they wanted Saddam’s execution to be a national holiday rings hollow. One possibility is simply security related: doing it this quickly and under cover of darkness was aimed at preventing any spectacular attack on the site or elsewhere pegged to his death. That’s possible. But my hunch is that there is something more going on.
    Saddam in custody was useful primarily as a bargaining chip with the Sunni community – a carrot to keep the ex-Baathists engaged in the process. His removal suggests that the Americans have decided to bring that effort to an end, and are indeed about to embark on the much-debated new strategy. Saddam’s extremely rapid execution strikes me as clearing the decks rather than as any kind of culmination. There was no real effort even to cash in the chip: no public ceremony, no political momentum around it. He was simply discarded. And that strikes me as the single most important political fact about these events.
    More important than the “surge” or “escalation” or “dribble” of new American troops, Saddam’s execution seems to suggest that the target will indeed be some variation of the Shia Option – aligning with Shia parties to try and crush the Sunni insurgency first. I don’t think this is a very good idea, as I’ve written before, but then I don’t think the US has any good options in Iraq anymore. ”

  33. Peter Principle says:

    Using the Geneva Conventions terminology, I think you would have to say that Saddam was “repatriated.”
    That he was repatriated to a government that exists only on paper and is controlled by militiamen and death squads may be true but is also legally irrelevant.

  34. bruce says:

    The obssession of Necons and Likudnick forebearers,since the birth of the Israeli state in 1948, to cut Arab nationalism at the knees has spwanned this virulent Islamic fundamentalism. A much more lethal foe. Israeli lust territory(less it’s non jewish inhabitants) and it’s backing the inception of Hamas(see Muslim Brotherhood) in the occupied territories,again to undercut the corrupt but secular PLO has more the opened the door for Islamic fundamentalists. Ariel Sharon’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the indiscriminate use by IDF of US made cluster bombs against civllian populations did much to radicalize Muslims in S. Lebanon.Israel killed 20,000,mostly non combattants in it’s 18 year occupation.The true underlying reason for that Israeli invasion:The waters of the Litani river.
    US TAXPAYERS have paid in spades for that one.Osama Bin Laden was said to have been inspired to plot his 911 attack on America,by the sight Lebanese buildings falling under Israeli bombardment Hizbollah did not exist prior to the brutal Israeli occupation. Ariel Sharon is the the mid wife to mid east suicide bombing.

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