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Saddam, Ford, and the Passing of an Era

Author: Amity Shlaes, Former Hayek Senior Fellow for Political Economy
January 2, 2007


"Nothing is more annoying than to be obscurely hanged," Voltaire once wrote. By that measure, Saddam Hussein would have been satisfied with his own death.

As the weekend passed, millions of Americans downloaded the images of his execution from a wobbling cell phone video. The room looked disturbingly dim. Viewers saw Saddam on the scaffolding, calling out, then his neck snapping like a gunshot amid a cacophony of voices that arose as the living in the room shouted over what to do next.

Saddam had been sentenced for the 1982 killing of Shiites in Dujail after an assassination attempt upon him. But he had also been on trial for the massacre of some 100,000 Kurds in the 1988 Anfal campaign. The undignified video of his death made a lot of us uneasy, especially because we watched it between views of the most dignified images of former U.S. President Gerald Ford, lying in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

The fact that the intentional murderer and the accidental president died in the same week gives us cause to reflect on some other aspects of the period in which both began to lead their countries. These aspects put the image of the bearded man at the end of a noose in a new perspective.

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