This past weekend, just as the world was preparing to ring in the New Year, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was executed. Three years after being captured by US forces, Saddam was hanged early on Saturday morning, the event broadcast worldwide with almost as much fervor and anticipation as the dawn of the New Year.
Whether or not Saddam received a fair trial and questions regarding the speed and timeliness of his execution will forever accompany the legacy of the infamous ruler.
In one of the many stories relating to the execution, a quotation from the Reverend Jesse Jackson has stuck with me. After preaching at a church in New York, the civil rights leader and former presidential candidate suggested that "killing him reduces our moral authority in the world."
I find myself questioning the Reverend's claim: When did we ever have moral authority?
Forget, for a moment, the fact that from the very beginning, the decision to attack Iraq was considered illegal by most of the international community. Forget the fact that the reason for going to war in the first place -- to rid Saddam of weapons of mass destruction -- has proven fallacious. Forget that despite all the bombs dropped and destruction caused by US-led forces, it is US companies who are now being awarded billion dollar contracts to rebuild the devastated country.
Forget the loss of life; the thousands of US and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Ignore, for an instant, all those obvious flaws with our presence in Iraq, and I still find it hard to comprehend how US leaders can talk about having "moral authority in the world."
Where does this "authority" come from and who bestowed it upon us? Are we to enforce our "authority" only when other nations ask for our assistance, or, as in the case of Iraq, when we deem necessary? And if our commitment to a moral standard is so great, why didn't we show some authority in Rwanda in 1994? Or in Sudan nowadays?
A country's size, wealth and influence in the world does not give it "moral authority" over anyone else. Nor should its faith mislead its people into thinking that they are morally superior to any other. Rather, it is a nation's policies, both domestic and international, that determine a country's decency.
I look forward to the day when US leaders understand that basic principle. For now, talk as they do about US "moral authority in the world," US policymakers have shown little regard for the fundamentally just principles upon which their country was founded.
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