Saddam Hussein is dead. After being found guilty of the deaths of 148 Shi’a Muslims from the Iraqi town of Dujail, the former Iraqi dictator and convicted mass murderer was executed by hanging. I believe in the death penalty, and I have to believe that an execution carried out less than two months after a conviction would act more as a deterrent than our current run of 20+ years on death row. But while I believe in the death penalty, I am also saddened by the death. When Odai and Qusai Hussein and later al-Zarqawi were killed, I didn’t use their deaths as an excuse to rejoice. Rather, I always feel sorrow for the lives that they could have led, and also that they have forever missed the chance to change their lives for the better.

Now that Saddam is dead, I can see Iraq actually changing for the better. Those who have dreamed of a victorious Saddam reclaiming power have had their hopes dashed, but now they can choose to work with the system rather than against it. Those who have had nightmares of Saddam returning to power may now stand up straight in the knowledge that he will never return. But now the Iraqis have no excuse not to take part in their own government. I am reminded of what Benjamin Franklin told a woman who asked him what type of government had been created by the Constitutional Convention. He replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” The Iraqis have a free country, if they can keep it. And time will tell if they are able to successfully do that, with Sunnis and Shi’as hating and killing each other, and Iran meddling.

Le roi est mort, vive Iraq!