Saddam Hussein is dead at age 69.
"The Butcher of Baghdad" was hung before dawn, and will be buried next to his late, odious sons Uday and Qusay near Tikrit.
Obviously, it's difficult to think of a more fitting end to a year of dictator news in 2006 than this. Goodbye, Saddam. Let's hope civilization never sees your ilk again.
UPDATE: Professional hangmen on a closed course. Don't try this at home.
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
CNN is reporting that former Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein could possibly hang within the next 48 hours less than a week after the final appeal of the former strongman's death penalty sentence failed on Tuesday.
Saddam, whose name means "he who confronts" has crafted an image of himself as a survivor in the dictatorship business, where tenures are often short and fatal. Having survived the assassination attempt in Dujail that has now, ironically, sent him to a date with the hangman, Saddam styled himself as something of a daredevil, having courted disaster with a bloody war with Iran, and a disastrous incursion into Kuwait that saw his army cut to shreds, and nearly led to his ouster. No matter how long the odds were, or how powerful his enemies, Saddam took pride in hanging on as uncontested master of Iraq.
As they say, pride goeth before the fall, and this weekend, he could be falling a distance of about 8 or 9 feet. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: MSNBC is reporting that Saddam will hang this Sunday.
UPDATE!: It looks like tomorrow is the big day.
UPDATE!!: It looks like Saddam will be dead before midnight EST.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Saddam Hussein's desperate last ditch appeal to avoid the gallows has been rejected when Iraq's highest appeals court rejected Saddam's appeal, and confirmed that the former tyrant's death sentence must be carried out within one month. In an interesting twist, the hangmen have yet to be appointed, so the Iraqi government is offering up the position to the public. Given the countless families in Iraq devastated by Saddam's bloodthirsty police state, applications from would be volunteers have been pouring in, especially from Kurds and Shiites, two groups hit hardest by Baathist brutality.
The bleating from anti-death penalty advocates has begun, and naturally, few of them have experienced a fraction of the state sponsored horrors that were the norm (not even the aberration) of Saddam's Iraq. Iraq is not Belgium or Norway, but even the Belgians and Norwegians did not object when the Nazis who brutalized their countries, for a much shorter period of time, were marched on to the gallows. Iraq is looking to punish Saddam, not comfort flinchy European and American death penalty opponents, and in less than a month, the tyrant from Tikrit will be nothing more than a bloody smudge in the footnotes of history.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Following one of 2006's hottest trends for former dictators, the former military strongman of Uruguay, 78 year old Juan Maria Bordaberry will be tried on charges relating to the deaths of 10 political dissidents during his rule. Ousted in a coup d'etat by coup d'etat by other members of his military government, Bordaberry found himself a target of the government of Uruguay's newly elected left wing populist president, Tabare Vasquez.
Bordaberry, who is already in jail pending trial for his role in political killings and "disappearances" in neighboring Argentina, joins a list of former dictators who have found that the amnesty laws they wrote to absolve themselves for their own crimes may not, in fact, protect them into perpetuity.
Other dictators of note who have found themselves facing justice for their crimes this year, either in person or in absentia, are Iraq's Saddam Hussein, Ethiopia's Mengistu Haile Mariam, Bangladesh's Hossein Mohammed Ershad, and Serbia's Slobodan Milošević, who rather unsportingly died during his interminable war crimes trial in The Hague.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Flags in Turkmenistan were flown at half mast, and compulsory mourning was the order of the day as former dictator Saparmurat "Turkmenbashi" Niazov was laid to rest on Saturday. After an open casket viewing in the capital of Aşgabat, Niazov's body was loaded onto the trailer of a military vehicle and driven the 7 or so miles to his ancestral village, where, presumably, he be laid into the ground, never to bother Central Asia ever again.
How is the world press remembering the man who ran roughshod over his nation for 21 years? Mostly with disinterest, disdain, or total ambivalence. Not so the Russian periodical Kommersant who eulogized the former tyrant in an article that remembers Niazov as "odious" , a "dictator" and "the most unsociable president in the CIS". I recommend reading it, which you can do right here.
Friday, December 22, 2006
The Minneapolis based superstore chain Target has agreed to stop selling a CD case bearing the image of Fidelista revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara (seen above at left, pushing up daisies) at their stores after a critical editorial at Investor's Business Daily derided commercializing the late Guevara's image as "tyrant chic".
"What's next?" the editorial thundered "Hitler backpacks? Pol Pot cookware? Pinochet pantyhose?"
We at Dictators of the World say yes, yes, and more yes. Bring it all on. If a thug like Che can be turned into a cuddly marketing gimmick on a t-shirt, why can't the recently deceased Turkmenbashi grace an elegant, sensibly priced embroidered throw pillow? Am I the only one who would enjoy decorative ceramic housewares with the sly image of Josef Stalin?
Come on, Target. Don't leave us in the lurch.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
The dictator of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niazov, has died at age 66 of a heart attack. May there be no successor like him to stain central Asia.
I profiled the eccentric "Turkmenbashi" here for my top 10 list back in October. While any news involving him was invariably made into fodder for laughs in the Western press, his bizarre rule was decidedly less funny among the people of Turkmenistan. So who's laughing now that he's gone?
There has been no immediate word of succession, but details are very sparse. Regarding his death, a television presenter in Turkmenistan said only "Turkmenbashi the great has died". Whether this turns out to be a boon for the country's hapless political opposition, or a prelude to yet even more authoritarian rule, remains to be seen.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
If 2006 marked the year of the "comeback dictator", it also appears to have been the year when the little people struck back at their former tyrants.
The latest former dictator to land in hot water? None other than the former dictator of Bangladesh, General Hossein Mohammed Ershad (pictured above at left), who has been sentenced to two years in prison on corruption charges. To provide an analogy for American readers, this is a bit like Al Capone getting in trouble for tax evasion.
Ershad, who remained active in national politics after stepping down as Bangladesh's chief executive, has never faced trial for numerous political killings committed in the process of taking power in a classic military coup d'etat, nor for any of the killings or tortures committed while in power. In a deft touch, Ershad graciously granted himself complete immunity for all crimes undertaken in his ascent to power in a hasty re-write of Bangladesh's constitution.
The 77 year old Ershad has every reason to suspect that his conviction is political in nature. With elections coming up, the Ershad led Jatiya Party has joined 13 others to form a massive coalition opposition party to challenge the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party. It remains to be seen whether or not his party can carry on without him, and whether or not he will ever emerge from prison, let alone resume political activity when he's free.
UPDATE: Ershad has apparently been hospitalized in Dhaka. It looks like he'll stay out of jail until he's discharged.
Monday, December 18, 2006
What's wrong with Fidel, how long does he have to live, and will he be returning to power? Contradicting earlier reports leaked from Brazil, the Cuban government has broken their silence - somewhat - on the state of their sickly dictator, Fidel Castro.
Unnamed "Cuban officials" have now told members of a US trade delgation in Havana flat out that "does not have cancer" and "is not terminally ill". They have also declined to comment publicly on just what has kept the planet's longest reigning dictator out of public view (and out of power) since late July of this year. Fidel's homie Hugo has his back, but it's unclear whether or not Cuba's official statement, like so many others, is strategic disinformation, and whether or not there is a struggle for power going on behind the scenes.
I'll personally go out on a limb predict that the cancer prediction is not only accurate, but that Fidel will be leaving his hospital bed in a casket sometime before summer of 2007. After that? All hell will break loose.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
We'd hate to call it a foregone conclusion, but the trial of former Ethiopian dictator Haile Mengistu Meriam in Addis Ababa has concluded, with the former leader being found guilty of crimes against humanity. As I've noted earlier, Mengistu remains safely ensconced in Zimbabwe as a guest of fellow despot Robert Mugabe.
Mengistu's sentencing in absentia is set for December 28th, and most observers seem to believe there's a strong chance that Mengistu will be sentenced to death by hanging. All of this would naturally be very worrisome to Mengistu if he were actually in Ethiopia, and naturally, will strengthen his resolve to avoid returning home at all costs.
Then again, if the Mossad could bring Adolf Eichmann to Jerusalem, who's to say that Ethiopia couldn't retrieve Mengistu? After all, it's not as if Zimbabwe's borders are airtight - far from it.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
The former dictator of Ethiopia is finally facing judgment - albeit in absentia - by his countrymen. After a case lasting a decade, a court in Addis Ababa will render a verdict this week on whether or not the former Marxist military strongman is guilty of crimes against humanity and will likely face the gallows (as most of his co-defendants have) for his crimes.
Mengistu Hailie Mariam rose to power after his rebel army (known as The Derg) overthrew, and eventually murdered, the reigning monarch Emperor Hailie Selassie I. After consolidating power in the middle of 1977, Mengistu ordered his soldiers to use the power of the state to start a red terror that ultimately claimed the lives of countless innocent Ethiopians, and naturally, a massive purge to eliminate any intra-party political rivals. After securing military and financial aid from the Soviet Union in the 1980's, Mengistu took the offensive at rival communist groups and secessionist regions alike.
A high profile drought and famine pricked the conscience of the west, but Mengistu regarded this as an inconvenience, as most of the suffering were in regions where his armies were fighting anti-government insurgents. After some consideration, Mengistu graciously accepted the donated food and money, and promptly sent the bulk of it to his military. The Soviets also graciously looked the other way, and did not make any politically embarrassing demands to do anything about the famine in their client state.
By 1991, however, Mengistu was finished. The Soviet Union collapsed, and without military aid, the rebels gained the upper hand. Desperate to flee Ethiopia, Mengistu was granted political asylum by Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe as an honored guest of the government, where he remains to this day. As might be expected, Ethiopia is seeking his extradition from Zimbabwe rather urgently, but as long as Mugabe is alive, he won't hand over a fellow dictator to face justice at the hands of his aggrieved people. It might set a bad precedent if and when he's removed from power himself.
When the court's verdict is passed, the accused will be thousands of miles away living in relative luxury. Mengistu should not get too comfortable, however. Robert Mugabe is his only protection from extradition, and when Mugabe (who turns 83 in February) either dies or is overthrown, he will likely find himself in shackles on the first flight back to the Ethiopia. If I were him, I might start into whether or not Kim Jong-Il wants anyone to keep him company.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
His brother isn't even dead yet, and already, pro tempore Cuban dictator Raúl Castro is already sabotaging "the gains of Cuba's glorious socialist revolution". First, he announces his intentions to reach out to the United States, and now he's releasing political prisoners.
Though I have announced time and time again that I am not a cynic, I have reasons to suspect that Raúl's motives are not purely altruistic. Cuba's economy has been a shambles (to put it politely) ever since the Soviet Union, and it's ridiculous sugar price supports, went the way of the great auk. Even oil handouts from Venezuela can't prevent Cuba's moribund economy from collapsing. Has Raúl read the writing on the wall?
Naturally, it's bad for this blog to hope that Raúl undoes the enormous social, political and economic damage his brother has brought upon Cuba, but communist dictatorships went out of fashion 15 years ago, and more embarrassingly, nearly all the former Warsaw pact nations now enjoy political freedoms and their attendant economic benefits that Cubans can only envy from afar. Romania, the poorest member of the Warsaw pact at the time of the organization's collapse, has a per capita GDP nearly twice that of Cuba's.
Time will tell, but Raúl will likely not produce any drastic reforms until his brother kicks the bucket sometime in early 2007. After that, all bets are naturally off. Unless the already elderly Raúl develops a terminal illness himself, time will naturally be of the essence to act quickly before a power vacuum emerges and hard liners attempt to keep the wheezing dinosaur of Soviet style communism afloat.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
My cup runneth over! With all the news about Castro, Chavez and Pinochet, I haven't even had time to ponder Saddam Hussein's last ditch attempt to avoid the gallows. Curiously, Saddam showed poor clock management, using less than the allowable 30 days to file a formal appeal of his death sentence conviction. Could the butcher of Baghdad be looking to get it all over with?
While I was pondering this, the government of Fiji has been overthrown in a military coup d'etat, the second coup d'etat for the island nation in the past 10 years. In a move condemned (by rote) by Western politicians, the Prime Minister is under house arrest, the Fijian parliament has been dissolved, and the capital is bracing for the imposition of martial law.
Could former Fijian dictator Sitiveni Rabuka (pictured above at left) be working behind the scenes? Rabuka, who appeared to have been mulling a return to politics, had earlier expressed dissatisfaction with the present Fijian government. As 2006 proved to be a good comeback year for a number of dictators around the globe, we have no doubt that the timing is certainly right for Rabuka to entertain thoughts of a return to power.
Monday, December 04, 2006
It was all over two hours after the polls closed. Hugo Chavez (slow dancing with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at left) will be continuing his harebrained "Bolivarian Revolution" in Venezuela for another six years. While Fidel Castro has not yet made any public comments, American leftists are, predictably, creaming their jeans over the news. This is understandable considering that they don't have to live in Venezuela.
The Caracas Chronicles has the blow by blow on the triumph of the Chavistas, and the prelude to a torrent of middle class Venezuelan emigration.
Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet is at death's door. The 91 year old Pinochet suffered a heart attack in Santiago on his 91st birthday, prompting emergency surgery. While his condition is listed as "serious but stable", his family has made arrangements for him to receive the Catholic church's last rites.
Pinochet, who overthrew socialist President Salvador Allende in a 1973 military coup d'etat, is one of the last surviving South American right wing military dictators. Where once the military brasshat dominated nations like Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil and Chile, their kind has been replaced by leftist populists like Hugo Chavez or, dully enough, actual representational democracies.
Pinochet's death will doubtlessly inconvenience those looking to put him in jail, but as always, it's easy to suspect that Pinochet is being being treated as a special case. Because of Allende's unabashed socialist leanings (yay!) and Pinochet's right wing leanings and CIA support (boo! hiss!), Chile had become something of a cause celebre for chic leftists in the 1970's and 1980's. While one certainly cannot gloss over Pinochet's deplorable record on political and human rights, it is worth noting, perhaps, that there has been very little hue or cry to put his ailing Cuban counterpart on trial. A cynic might chalk it up to Pinochet's lack of a romantic revolutionary image or Che Guevara-esque sidekick, but as we all know, I'm no cynic.
Should he recover, it remains to be seen if his farcical trial will be completed, or whether or not this frail, half dead caudillo will die without ever once accounting for his brutal rule. The smart money's on the latter.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
It's all but official - Fidel Castro is a goner. After missing a rally in Havana celebrating his 80th birthday, the entire world is waiting for Cuba's longtime caudillo to hurry up and die of cancer so they can deal with Cuba's new dictator, Fidel's younger brother Raúl. As, perhaps, proof of his political ascendancy, the younger Castro has broken with his elder brother's die hard stance regarding negotiations with Washington, a move that would be unthinkable if there were any thought of Fidel recovering.
While Fidel's health is classified as a state secret in Cuba, ordinary Cubans have put two and two together and deduced that el jefe must be on his way out - permanently. Hugo Chavez (who will be re-elected today) has assured the world that Fidel is just fine - a further sign to the Cuban people that Fidel will be dead in a month. It's all over but for the grave digging, so stay tuned.