Thus, the execution of Saddam Hussein did mark an important turning point in establishing democracy in Iraq if only because the event was symbolically powerful. Even if the only purpose it served was to maintain American support for the war effort, then the execution can be viewed as a turning point. Even if the execution of Saddam Hussein created the illusion that democracy was budding in Iraq then it was a turning point in the war. The execution of Saddam Hussein was a turning point in Iraq also because the event signified American military prowess. As the figurehead of democracy worldwide, the United States' participation in the capture, trial, and execution of Saddam Hussein painted an attractive picture; Democracy triumphed over Tyranny.
President Bush certainly seemed to believe that the death of Saddam Hussein was a turning point in the war and in the fight for democracy in Iraq. The president was quoted as saying, "Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror," (cited by Palmer 2006). Bush also called the coalition-supported Iraqi government as a "young democracy," (cited by Democracy Now!). Saddam's death bolstered the image of that young democracy. With Saddam gone, it was possible to move on and rebuild the war-torn nation. Burns & Santora (2006) note that "high-ranking Shiite politicians represented the hanging as a turning point" just as Bush did. Even though no substantial, reliable, long-lasting democratic institutions have yet to be established in Iraq, the elimination of the ultimate icon of tyranny was an important milestone.
A blog, supposedly authored by an Iraqi citizen, claims "we are moving forward," "Iraq will be built in a democratic fashion," and "despite all the violence, carnage, and negativity, the Iraqi people continue on the path to freedom," (Husayn 2005). Indeed, freedom and democracy would not be possible if its central icon continued to hold sway over his supporters. Gerecht (2007) is equally as optimistic, noting that "politically, Iraq is coming alive again. A Shiite-led Iraqi democracy is taking root -- an astonishing achievement given the concerted efforts of the Iraqi Sunnis, and the surrounding Sunni Arab states, to attack and delegitimize the new Iraq." Even if the current and future American administration must buttress the young democracy, the emerging form of government would in theory be preferable to the brutal regime of a dictator convicted of crimes against humanity.
One of the most promising signs that democracy is taking root is Iraq's glorious past: a history of one of the world's most ancient civilizations that has at times been a bastion of democratic ideals and a powerhouse of learning. As Davis (2005) notes, "Iraq has a tradition and history of democracy that can help promote the successful establishment of a democratic form of government in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq." In fact, the roots of democracy run deep in Mesopotamian soil. Furthermore, the first half of the twentieth century promised to bring another golden age to Iraq. The clerical governments post-colonization revealed "strong democratic impulses and emphasized cultural tolerance," (Davis 2005). With democratic ideology entrenched in Iraqi culture and with the promise of continued support from the United States, Iraq does stand poised to enter a new era of freedom and democracy.
The execution of Saddam Hussein was a necessary turning point on the path toward freedom in Iraq. Although the capture, trial, and execution of the dictator was largely a propaganda ploy, its message did serve to reintroduce the Iraqi people to their roots as a democratic civilization. However, bloody the affair might be, the war in Iraq showed that the Iraqi people could depend on the support of the most powerful democracy in the world to help establish democratic institutions such as reliable legislatures, judiciaries, schools, and economic institutions. The execution's symbolism served its purpose well.
Burns, J.F. & Santora, M. (2006). The execution of Saddam Hussein: Iraqi leaders say hanging is turning point for nation. San Francisco Chronicle. Dec 31, 2006. Retrieved Jun 11, 2008 at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/12/31/MNG2ONAPS91.DTL
Chideya, F. (2007). Roundtable: Saddam Hussein's Execution, Confederate Statues. NPR. Audio retrieved Jun 11, 2008 at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6710001
Davis, E. (2005). Strategies for Promoting Democracy in Iraq. United States Institute of Peace. Oct 2005. Retrieved Jun 11, 2008 at http://www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr153.html
Gerecht, R.M. (2007). On Democracy in Iraq: It's starting to take root. The Weekly Standard. Apr 30, 2007. Retrieved Jun 11, 2008 at http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/013/552qsjit.asp
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