Friday, January 05, 2007

Lost In Translation

I was on vacation when the news of Saddam's execution hit the airwaves. The news networks showed a censored government tape with Saddam being asked by one of his executioners whether, 'for added comfort', he wanted his neck to be protected with a cloth before tying a noose around it! One of those ridiculous absurdities that the death penalty offers in its moment of cruelty - Something like applying an antiseptic swab to the condemned's arm before lethal injection.

Shortly after the initial news stories, as millions of our Gen X and Y contemporaries come to expect in this age of technology, an unedited cell-phone video hit Google video. I hesitated several times before finally deciding to watch it. When I did, I was not prepared for what was to come. To be sure, I have no sympathy for Saddam. But what transpired in that execution chamber was deeply disturbing, not only because I firmly oppose capital punishment.

The news media reported on the taunts and the sectarian slogans – so there is no need to play that record yet again. However, what the media did not report and what was lost in translation is Saddam’s own words as he awaited the fatal drop. He pronounced the shahada (a declaration of faith and redemption). Saddam pronounced it once and was dropped in the middle of the second. The absent regard for the man's religious declaration by his executioners is certainly not warranted, especially on the eve of Eid el Adha.