December 30th, 2006



Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging at an unspecified location in Baghdad.
Iraqi TV said the execution took place just before 0600 local time (0300GMT).

Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by an Iraqi court on 5 November after a year-long trial over the 1982 killings of 148 Shias in the town of Dujail.

Two co-defendants, Saddam Hussein's half-brother Barzan al-Tikriti and former Iraqi chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar, were also executed.

"Criminal Saddam was hanged to death," state-run Iraqiya television announced, as patriotic music and images of national monuments were broadcast.

A scrolling headline read: "Saddam's execution marks the end of a dark period of Iraq's history."

The TV station said Saddam Hussein's half-brother and the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court were also hanged.

US troops and Iraqi security forces are on high alert for any violent backlash. The US State Department has urged all its embassies to increase security.

The BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington says the Bush administration will see the act as turning a page in Iraq - a demonstration that Iraq has a sovereign and democratic government.

Because nothing says freedom and democracy like killing the last dictator.

I had just posted an entry about the possibility of Hussein being executed, and then, of course, it was done. It's sad, I think, because I happen to think executing anyone is a rather barbaric and horrible thing to do, and also because in this, there's a lot of hypocrisy going round. Did I like Hussein? No, not in any particular way, but there are very few leaders, past and present, in the world without any blood on their hands, and the dog and pony show that's been served since his capture has been an unpleasant one to see.

Worse, now that he is dead, the American administration (and many others) will claim that something good has been done, as if, suddenly, one man coldly murdered could justify what has happened in Iraq and around the world.

The Day I Found A Naked Child

The Day I Found A Naked Child - In the afternoons, I like to go for a walk, for I am now old and must keep active. The World Health Draconians say walk, so I walk. Actually, I enjoy it, since for the most part it gives me time to think, and I put on my Ipod, plug in the headphones, and I stroll through the streets, and out the back to a park, which has a large soccer oval and a creek snaking along beside. Which is what I was doing today: walking, listening to music, thinking, and, as I do so, I notice a pale, fleshy blur ahead of me, playing in the dirty water. I'm not wearing my glasses, but near as I can tell, that blur is playing by his/herself. There's no one else round. I keep looking from some kind of parental figure as I draw closer and it comes into focus and turn from a pale fleshy blur to a pale, completely naked child. Maybe five, maybe six, or maybe even seven years old. He--for he is a he--is slipping and sliding and playing in the brown, slimy water, which, as brown slimy water, isn't terribly healthy.

"Hey, kid," I say. "Hey?"

The kid continues playing in the water.

"Kid, you got any parents?"

No answer.

"A name?"

He looks up at me, grins, and says something that I can't make out. Not because he's far away, or soft, but just because I can't.

"Clothes, maybe?"

But he's back playing in the water, slipping and sliding and screeching and having a good, naked time.

Clearly, though, the kid is kinda fucked. He's either disabled, fucked up, or doesn't speak English, and there's no one round for me to palm him off onto to. So I pull out my mobile, dial 000, and ask for the Police, because who else do you call when there is a naked kid who is kinda fucked up? The kid doesn't seem to understand that standing still would be helpful, so he continues down the creek, jumping and diving, and I follow, talking to the emergency operator. ("He's Caucasian. Maybe seven or eight. I dunno--he could be disabled. I can't understand a word he says. It could be another language. Yeah, I can hang round till the cops arrive, if you want. I'd kinda feel bad just leaving him here.") Eventually, a guy who is jogging comes buy, and since I'm done with the emergency operator, and I want to share my social responsibility, I call out, "Yo, man, you know this kid?"

He stops. "He isn't yours?"

I wonder, briefly, how many parents are letting their kids play naked in a creek round my neighbourhood. "No."

Meanwhile, the kid has kept running long, and he's found a big pool of water to dance and splash around in. It's not real good water, but I'm thinking the last thing I should be doing is picking him up and pulling him out. Besides, whatever shit he's rolled round in, he's done it, and a little more isn't likely to hurt. The other guy, J, who has joined me in waiting for the cops (whose sirens we can hear tearing through the streets, way back where I was, originally, before the kid started running) agrees with me. As he points out, the kids doesn't seem afraid of anything, and he's not going anywhere now, so we just wait, until the cops arrive, of which four do. They see the kid in the water and then one of them takes off his gun belt, his notebook, and another says, "Damn, man, I gotta share a van with you." The other two laugh.

Lucky for Heroic Cop, the kid gets out of the water. When he catches him, the kid starts screaming. The Detail Cop next to me says, "We're not getting anything out of him. Better call an Ambulance to get him checked out," and he begins speaking into his little radio. A minute later he takes down my details (hence the name), and J's, which is how I learnt his name, and then we take off, leaving the naked little boy to the authorities and, no doubt, the child welfare people. As I make my way out of the park, however, I spot the cops up where I first found the kid, looking for any sign of clothes, or so Cop Three told me. An old couple is standing on their back porch, watching.

"Is this about that naked boy?" the old woman asks.

"Yeah." I pause. "You saw him?"

"He ran right past. Came from across the road."

"You didn't you do something?"

"I was just shocked. A naked little boy. What was I to do?"

"Well, I called the cops."


"Anyhow, you have a nice new year."

And I put my headphones back on and continued on my way. It was Tom Waits, incidentally. Song 843.