ARLINGTON, Va. — ARLINGTON, Va. -- In a final blasphemy, Saddam Hussein, who spent most of his life as a murdering secularist, went to his justified death holding a Quran and offering his soul to God, if God would accept it. If God does, He will have to commute the sentences of Mr. Hussein's mass-murdering predecessors, including Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot.
These days, not much that makes religious sense comes out of Iraq, or anywhere else in the maniacal Middle East, but one reasonable statement did pass the lips of Sheik Sadralddin al-Qubanji in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. During a Friday sermon, the sheik described Mr. Hussein's execution as "God's gift to Iraqis," and prayed, "Oh God, you know what Saddam has done. He killed millions of Iraqis in prisons, in wars with neighboring countries, and he is responsible for mass graves. Oh God, we ask you to take revenge on Saddam."
That was a shorter summation than most prosecutors deliver in court, but in the end, Mr. Hussein's execution wasn't about revenge. It was about justice. Many countries - from Britain, which has abolished capital punishment, to Russia, which has a moratorium on capital punishment - have halted executions because they believe, incorrectly, that doing so makes them more humane. It does precisely the opposite and sends the message that innocent human life has less value than the life of a killer. It is more than curious that Britain and Russia, especially, have halted the death penalty for the guilty but do nothing to restrict incredibly high abortion rates that kill the innocent. This reflects an inverted value system.
One of Mr. Hussein's lawyers, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, appeared on the BBC shortly after Mr. Hussein's hanging was confirmed and complained that the trial was a "travesty." No, the travesty would have been in not trying and executing Mr. Hussein, who mocked the innocent lives he took.
There may not be much to envy about Iraq these days, but the swiftness of Mr. Hussein's punishment is admirable. Had he been in the American legal system, lawyers might have clogged that system for years, allowing him to die a natural death in prison. Instead, on Nov. 5, Mr. Hussein was convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death. After the death order was signed, there was a 30-day window in which to carry out the execution. The Iraqis executed him within hours, and just a few days after his appeal was denied.
Mr. Hussein's hanging will not quell the violence he helped to foment in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion in 2003. This adds to the importance of the decision President Bush will announce in a few days regarding the next - and possibly final - effort to stabilize Iraq so the elected government might function.
Who will mourn Mr. Hussein's death? Probably not his family members, an estimated 40 of whom he either ordered murdered or personally dispatched. He even murdered his own son-in-law.
In a letter addressed to "the Iraqi nation" shortly after his sentencing in November, Mr. Hussein demonstrated that his self-delusion was complete: "Many of you have known the writer of this letter to be faithful, honest, caring for others, wise, of sound judgment, just, decisive, careful with the wealth of the people and of the state." That one will bring some laughs among his fellow despots in Hades, just before the letter is consumed in the fire.
Cal Thomas' syndicated column usually appears Wednesdays in The Sun. His e-mail is email@example.com.