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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

World Leaders

It's weird to see the country swoon over the death of former US President Gerald Ford, who's legacy (I had always thought) was pardoning Nixon, falling down some stairs and quickly being ushered out of office and out of the limelight forever. Has there ever been a less publicly active ex-president? Given that most Americans under 40 actually remember Chevy Chase's stumblebum impersonation better than Ford himself, it's interesting to see the honors and respects being paid to him post mortem. I'm not trying to attack the man. I think he inherited a pretty crappy situation, tried to make the best of it, and (along with Jimmy Carter) was part of the last generation of presidents that actually tried to tell the truth. My Dad always had some respect for Ford, probably because of that humble, honest affect. He certainly didn't fit in with the GOP's other icons: the egomaniacal Nixon or the smarmy Reagan. Mostly though, I'll remember Ford as a man who didn't try to do much... which America apparently respects.

Meanwhile, a man who probably did a little too much during his time in office also just died. Hearing that Saddam Hussein was hanged seems like the season finale of some bizarre reality television show. I still can't quite believe Saddam was tried and convicted and executed. At some level I guess I thought I was going to wake up and read the news that the jury had found that the most suitable punishment for Hussein was to be reinstalled as President of Iraq. He probably thought that too. I guess the joke was on him. Now that he's dead, and apparently the execution was a mockery, complete with chants of derision by certain attendees (all of which was secretly videotaped and leaked to Al Jazeera,) we'll find out if the Sunnis make a martyr of him and the sectarian violence escalates. Apparently you can get the video on the internet and see his actual hanging. I have no interest in watching it though. Al Jazeera's homepage featured this poll. Interesting to see how close the results are.

Should Saddam Hussein have been hanged?
Yes : 38.4 %
No : 46.9 %
I don't know : 14.6 %
Number of votes: 38444


I wonder, if human lives are the ultimate currency, if Saddam's reign will be remembered as a Stallinesque horror show, or if the instability and chaos born of his overthrow will seem far worse.

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