Sunday, April 30, 2006

Yes, but he's our bastard

Today is the fourth anniversary of a referendum approving another five year term for Pakistani dictator Lt. General Pervez Musharraf.

Musharraf is the latest in a long line of Pakistani dictators, having seized power in a classic bloodless military coup d'etat in 1999. Since then, Musharraf has run roughshod over Pakistan's constitution by retaining his military and political titles and has made some very determined enemies in the process.

Unlike some of his of predecessors, Musharraf has paid some lip service to stepping down and restoring democracy ... eventually, but he's in no hurry. And why should he be? Washington is firmly on his side, and astoundingly enough, he may have actually made some progress in dealing with Pakistan's biggest problem during his tenure.

Musharraf has repeatedly promised to step down when he's finished "stabilizing" Pakistan, but we will do it? History says "probably not", but we shall certainly see.

At any rate, I certainly have to love a dictator who not only keeps a web page, but offers such a frank assesment of his life and career as seen here.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The ultimate mob trial

While watching re-runs of The Sopranos, I reflected briefly on the nature of organized crime. Very few leaders of La Cosa Nostra die old or rich, and even fewer die old, rich, and in charge.

So it is with the world's dictators. The trial of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad resembles, at least superficially, the trial of a gangland boss. There are the kickbacks, internal power struggles, and worst of all, the inevitable incriminating tapes chock full of damning evidence. Part of what made Saddam's Iraq so dangerous is that his family ran the country like an organized crime cartel, and like the mafioso of old, Saddam has run out of options. Saddam was so brazen that he made absolutely no attempts to cover up his brutality, insisting that his authority as President of Iraq granted absolute impunity. As such, there are tens of thousands of hours of tapes, warehouses full of documents, and tens of thousands of material witnesses to help indict Saddam Hussein. If each evil act of Saddam's rule were brought under seperate indictments, his trial would likely last for a thousand years. Thankfully, the prosecutors are bringing on indictments singly at first, knowing that if they fail to convict on the Dujail massacre, they can move on the poison gas attack on Halabja until they get their man. Saddam authorized (and in many cases, performed with his own hands) acts that caused an impressive number of Germans to go to the gallows 60 years ago.

Unlike the pathetic "international war crimes tribunal" that ineptly set out to prosecute the late Yugoslav dictator Slobodan Milosevic, the Iraqi authorities have wisely decided to deal with Saddam themselves - in house. Given that Saddam's brutality and capriciousness were extreme, even in the context of a Middle Eastern absolute dictatorship, the government Iraq is either to be lauded (or ridiculed) for their dogged insistence on giving Saddam a fair trial before sending him to the gallows - especially given that most Iraqis have vivid memories of what the Iraqi justice system was like during Saddam's rule.

Will Saddam be hung? Shot? Die of old age during his trial? I don't know, but I do take enormous satisfaction that another capo di tutti capi won't be dying rich, comfortable or free.

Welcome, Comrades!

Welcome, comrades, to the Dictators of the World - a blog devoted to news, history, and images of the world's most infamous tyrants, both present and former.

Currently, the world is awash in dictators, yet for some reason, we have stopped identifying them as such. Some people have noted the curious tendency to abandon the word "dictator" in favor of the more diplomatic word "leader".

For example, a Google search reveals that most western press outlets prefer referring to Saddam Hussein - one of the 20th century's most notorious dictators - as the "former Iraqi leader" (255,000 hits) instead of the "former Iraqi dictator" (152,000 hits). Granted, in his capacity as head of state, Saddam Hussein certainly was the "leader" of Iraq. However, the Prime Minister of Canada is also the "leader" of Canada. The usage of such a neutral term flattens any distinction between Steven Harper and Saddam Hussein, and frankly, we're no better off for being less candid.

This blog will celebrate the world's nastiest autocrats. It will take time to profile up and comers like Venezuela's populist despot-in-training Hugo Chávez, seasoned veterans like Cuba's completely intractable caudillo Fidel Castro, while taking a look back at the late greats, like Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin and Generalissimo Francsico Franco.

From Belarus to Zimbabwe - no corner of the earth governed by autocratic despots should be beneath our notice. I only hope our interest coincides with the unhealthy curiousities of readers.