Bloggers react to news that Saddam may be put to death within hours. They also welcome John Edwards back into the would-be presidential spotlight and fret over Hugo Chavez's promise to kill a Venezuelan TV network hostile to his rule.
Hanging by a thread: A judge on the Iraqi High Tribunal told the New York Times that Saddam Hussein is likely to be hanged tonight or tomorrow. Such a lightning-quick resolution, coming just days after Saddam's appeals were denied, is further complicated by the approaching Muslim holiday of Eid. (According to Iraqi law, no execution can take place on an Islamic holy day.) However, no one in cyberspace mourns the loss of one of recent history's most horrific dictators.
Iraqi blogger Mohammed at Iraq The Model imparts the mood among his countrymen today: "The situation in Baghdad is tense now and US and Iraqi forces are heavily deployed on the streets… Rumors are spreading fast through phones and text messages in Baghdad, mostly saying that curfew will be imposed in the city tomorrow. No word about that from state TV though… Meanwhile lots of updates are coming through news TV here; al-Arabiya reporter said the noose is already set in a yard in the IZ. Al-Hurra reported that preparations for the execution are underway and no delay is expected. It's going to be a long night but it looks like the morning will bring the news Iraqis have long waited for."
Conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters is "opposed to the death penalty in civilian courts," however, "Saddam's execution presents an interesting challenge…The execution of spies and saboteurs, for instance, offers a deterrence to those who would commit those acts during wartime, and the elimination of that as an assured result of capture would create a flood of saboteurs and spies, especially if they received the same treatment as POWs. Similarly, genocidal tyrants tried by their own people and executed for their crimes serve as an example for other tyrants to fear -- and it removes the jailed tyrant as a focus for restoration, a situation that history has proven to be dangerous to recovering societies."
At Professor Bainbridge's Journal, UCLA law professor Steven Bainbridge scrutinizes the Catholic justifications for capital punishment, and comes out on the "hang Saddam" side: "[T]he goals of retribution and deterrence cannot be achieved in this case by imprisonment. There would be a perpetual risk that Saddam would escape. Mere imprisonment is hardly proportionate to the gravity of Saddam's crimes. Mere imprisonment would not provide a sufficiently serious example to deter future tyrants…. [E]xecuting Saddam is unlikely to make the insurgency any worse. To the contrary, one hopes it may deter some Baathist diehards."
Jules Crittenden, who covered the Iraq war for the Boston Herald and witnessed plenty of gruesome traces of the Baath regime, takes Saddam's expiry personally: "It's an odd thing, to be in your 40s, and yet to feel as though you've only just been born. Into this world of war. Saddam means a lot of things to a lot of people. To me, Saddam will always be tied to that kid in the ditch among the date palms at al-Hindiyah. A young soldier with a bullet through the side of his face, his eyes open, staring at nothing. They were Tikritis, the Nebuchadnazzer Division of the Republican Guard, and they died for Saddam. Saddam didn't have the decency to die for them, when he crawled out of his hole in December 2003, proclaiming himself the President of Iraq."
Read more about Saddam's imminent hanging.
Now, with more gravitas: Leave it to a self-styled man of the people to announce his bid for the presidency on YouTube. John Edwards vowed to seek a second run for the White House from the Katrina-ravaged 9th Ward of New Orleans Thursday. Since then, cyberspace has been adjudicating the former Democratic vice-presidential candidate's more progressive (and decidedly anti-war) style.
Brian Doherty at libertarian magazine Reason's Hit and Run writes: "Undoubtedly, a President Edwards would be an orgy of new national attempts at 'problem solving' from nationalized health care on down, and I'd guess a pretty unlikely one right now; I hold out the hope he can continue to stress the 'I was wrong about Iraq, and I'd do something about it' idea enough to drive the eventual Democratic nomination winner further in that direction."
At a town hall meeting in Des Moines, Edwards was asked about his commitment to deficit reduction and replied that he'd rather establish universal health care, reduce poverty, and fight global warming—initiatives that cannot be undertaken with an eye permanently cast on the red side of the ledger. For this, liberal blogger Ezra Klein at the American Prospect's Tapped applauds Edwards: "That's a genuinely important admission, and one that very, very few Democrats are willing to make. It's the opposite of Clintonomics, which took deficit reduction as the transcendent priority and, as Robert Reich long regretted, forsook most investment spending. It's different than most campaigners, who both promise deficit elimination and heightened spending, and so offer no real clue of how they'll conduct themselves in office."
But diarist "fas" at "people-powered" lefty blog Daily Kos thinks Edwards is not about to do his party any favors with an ultrapopulist shtick, contending that "his 'two America's' constant focusing on the poor of Society is not the best argument for Dam candidate to focus on. We should really take a slight page from Reagan (and BILL Clinton) and get the Reagan Dems back for good. Dem Presidential Candidate should focus on Soccer moms, tax breaks for working class, (wage earning), and other somewhat centrist themes slanted towards middle class If Edwards takes us into the fight as party of the poor, I fear we will lose the middle (AGAIN)."
Read more about Edwards' candidacy for president.
Short Bolivarian bandwidth: Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez said he's not going to renew the license, which may or may not be up in March, of Radio Caracas Television, one of the country's oldest broadcasting stations. RCTV supported a failed 2003 coup attempt against Chavez and he's never forgotten it, claiming the network represents a threat to the "people." But what happens to free speech under socialism?
World-history teacher Greg at Rhymes with Right fulminates: "So opposition to the government is now grounds for lifting broadcast licenses in Venezuela -- and there is no appeal from the heir-apparent to Fidel among Latin American human rights violators."
Maegan la Mala at the Chavez-sympathetic Vivirlatino is slightly disturbed by this crackdown on the opposition: "So that people don't say that I blindly support left-wing Latino leaders, I have to publically say that this is disturbing. A free press is one of the cornerstones of a free government. I would have to research more about Radio Caracas Venezuela and see how free it really is."
Read more about Hugo's kibosh on critical TV.