Death for murderous dictators?

The vastly different fates of the two butchers

In May 1988, the Shias, who are in a majority in Gilgit, rose in revolt against the Sunni-dominated administration. Zia put an (Special Services Group) group commanded by Gen Musharraf in charge of suppressing the revolt. Gen Musharraf transported a large number of Wahabi Pakhtoon tribesmen from the NWFP and Afghanistan, commanded by bin Laden, to Gilgit to teach the Shias a lesson. These tribesmen under bin Laden massacred hundreds of Shias.

In its issue of May 1990, Herald the monthly journal of the Dawn group of publications of Karachi, wrote as follows: “In May,1988, low-intensity political rivalry and sectarian tension ignited into full-scale carnage as thousands of armed tribesmen from outside Gilgit district invaded Gilgit along the Karakoram Highway. Nobody stopped them. They destroyed crops and houses, lynched and burnt people to death in the villages around Gilgit town. The number of dead and injured was put in the hundreds. But numbers alone tell nothing of the savagery of the invading hordes and the chilling impact it has left on these peaceful valleys.”

Gen. Musharraf started a policy of bringing in Punjabis and Pakhtoons from outside and settling them down in Gilgit and Baltistan in order to reduce the Kashmiri Shias to a minority in their traditional land and this is continuing till today. [The Acorn]

Saddam Hussein got death, because he fell foul of the United States, lost a war, got caught, stayed alive through the legal proceedings wearing a natty suit and a personality that alarmed Iraq’s newly installed rulers. Gen Musharraf gets dinner at the White House because he knows what’s good for him (down to the bit about proper attire).

Saddam’s victims may have secured retribution or justice or whatever they prefer to call it. But let’s bin the rubbish about the America’s reasons for putting him to death (you are, of course, free to believe that the Iraqi court was independent). The most that can be said about hanging dictators and heads of state is that it serves to deter others. The clever ones know that that’s not true either. The real message is “unless you have one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council backing you, don’t mess with America”. The clever ones get it.

Update: The Times of London says as much.

23 thoughts on “Death for murderous dictators?”

  1. Good one Nitin,

    I think the Yankees have decided to leave baby mushy for us Indians. One day, allah willing, he too will be cleaned up.


  2. Pankaj,

    On the contrary, if his own people don’t get him first, I think Musharraf will live a long life; even if the last part of it as a retiree in the United States.

  3. Slightly unrelated.

    I’ve been watching IBN7 in India. Their correspondents and speakers are *extremely* worked up and upset about the execution and hyperventilating over American hegemony on air.


  4. Musharraf may not be a saint but he’s about as good as the US or India is going to get out of that pile of crap that is

    Should he fall or should one of the constant assassination attempts finally succeed both India and the US will not like
    what is likely to take his place.

    While the world, justifiably, worries over Iran getting an atomic bomb we have to remember that that so called ‘nation’
    of Pakistan already has dozens of them.

  5. Excellent Nitin,

    Only one person has the truth about Musharraf, it is Nawaz Sharif. What exactly happened in Kargil ? How many people of Pakistani infantry and loose mujahideen were led to certain death ?

    So Ramdoss, whose son is a Union Minister in the cabinet – calls Saddam a martyr. What can we make of this government ?

  6. Nitin – Would have to disagree with you. Those who live by the sword die by it too. A Saddam or a Musharraf having made enough enemies, face a bloody death one way or the other irrespective of whether they fall foul with the U.S. or have a permanent member of the UN Secy Council backing them. Castro and Pinochet have managed to defy unnatural death but I guess the others are living on borrowed time.

  7. Scott,

    That’s exactly why I say that the message tells dictators to behave in in the proper geopolitical manner. What they do to their own people is beside the point.


    Let’s see 🙂

  8. I’m quoting from today’s leading article in The Times:

    Saddam’s deposition can thus be seen as part of the intended message underlying US foreign policy: that enemies of freedom need to be deterred by seeing clearly the consequences of their behaviour. That policy is controversial. If, however, his fate acts in any way as a deterrent, then it would have a positive effect. Saddam, however, was too stupid even to understand the limits of his power in a wider world. Hafez Assad, the Syrian dictator — responsible, too, for massacres of his countrymen — handed over his tyrannical rule in a smooth transition to his son. The reason why Assad died peacefully in his bed and Saddam died at the hangman’s noose is that Assad knew how to read the West and always kept one step inside the border of realpolitik acceptability; Saddam did not.[The Times]

  9. musharaf never lost a war, so why would he face the gallows? its a bad comparison, we should remember that saddam lost a war.
    its the basic law of war that the losing leader is always killed. and i think saddam got a good deal, he got a humane death. if it was an independent iraqi court he would have been stoned to death, or the four horrors. so i don see what the noise is about.

  10. The Butcher of Baltistan certainly reads realpolitik better than Saddam. But he’s a gambler in the Saddam mode. One of these days his two-faced gambles on the Durand Line are going to land him in hot water with Uncle Sammy. Till then, take a seat and watch as his benighted ‘nation’ slowly undoes itself on his enlightened watch.

  11. Vatsan,

    musharaf never lost a war, so why would he face the gallows? its a bad comparison, we should remember that saddam lost a war.

    He did lose a war. But not to the right adversary.

  12. Saddam can be compared to Pol pot and Idi Amin, and did not everybody worry about the fact that these leaders were not brought to justice. Even, Pinochet, who did not do mass murder on this scale, in death lead to a lot of regret about his not having faced justice.
    In this case, I think that all the issue is about the US having brought him down; if the Iranians had brought him down, then nobody would have said a thing.

  13. nithin, when i meant he lost a war, i dont indicate modern wars, when losing a war is signing a peace treaty and letting the leader off, this is all the civility bullshit. historically, the losing leader has had to give up claims on his land, or submit to be a vassal. if the hatred was high enough, the leader was usually jailed or killed in public view. that is the kind of loss in war im speaking of, saddam lost such a war, mushraf din. it is not about the adversary, but the terms of defeat.

  14. even if saddam lost to the iranians in the 1980s, i doubt his fate would have been different, iraq would have been split between the kurds and iranians and saddam hanged. the adversary doesnt matter, its the terms of defeat which matter. mushraf lost a modern war where the victor was happy with a peace treaty.

  15. nithin, the iraq war compares with the civil wars in africa rather than conventional war between to states, because saddam’s government was over thrown and the occupying forces are pretty much supporting a faction that is saddams opponents, just like the african civil wars. losing such a war leads to death, and mushraf never lost such a war, but rather just a stupid small scale war (kargil) fought over worthless pieces of land, which has more internal significance for both the parties involved rather than victory. kargil just hyped up nationalism in india and helped BJP rise to power, while in pakistan it helped mushraf seize power. victory nor loss has little military significance.

  16. The degree of Musharraf’s dictator status is open for debate. He certainly isn’t a de facto CIA creation from start to finish in the way Saddam was, as this video neatly points out. If you wish to compare a dictator with Saddam, you’d be talking about Assad, Mugabe etc. But Musharraf? Not so sure. From what I can see, Musharraf operates with far more consensus than your average bona fide dictator.

  17. nithin, in a situation similar to iraq, the somali govt backed by ethopia regained control of the last major stronghold of the islamists, and the government leader has offered amnesty for the islamic fighters, but none for the leaders of the movement. in this case the ethopians replaced the americans.

    in all likelihood, they will be captured so that they dont regroup and fight again, and if captured killed. this is the kind of war that saddam lost. musharraf never lost such a war. which is why i think ur entire comparison is utter nonsense, and ur conclusion even more stupid.

    its the basic rule of war, that you kill your enemy if he even has the slightest chance to regroup and attack you.

  18. Vatsan,

    which is why i think ur entire comparison is utter nonsense, and ur conclusion even more stupid.

    First of all, there’s no reason to abandon civility while making your point.

    As to the point you seem to be making—the kill your enemy expedient may have applied at certain times among certain nations; but by no means is it universal enough to be called a “rule”. And Saddam Hussein lost the war itself to the United States, not some equivalent of a Somali militia supported by Ethiopia supported by United States. So with “terms of defeat”, that too is hardly a “rule”. Remember Saddam lost the first Gulf war to the same adversary and survived. Nor do all modern wars that end with peace treaties result in the leader being “let off”. So much for the basic rules of war.

  19. B Raman’s take:

    That was why I was hoping and praying for the success of the US forces in their brave campaign against the global jihadi terrorists spearheaded by Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front. I am doubtful over the chances of this happening now.

    There are increasing numbers of Muslims in the world, who are burning inside their hearts against the US—- each for his or her own reason.

    They will be asking themselves—it is more than three years since the US captured Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, who orchestrated, on behalf of Osama bin Laden, the massacre of nearly 3,000 innocent civilians in the US on 9/11. He has not been tried so far, not to talk of being executed. Why the hurry in the case of Saddam? Abu Zubaidah, Ramzi Binalshibh, Hambali, Abu Faraj al-Libbi and many others involved in the most cruel acts of terrorism killing hundreds of civilians have not even been tried so far. Why the hurry in the case of Saddam?

    Rightly or wrongly, they will come to the conclusion that in the US analysis if they try and execute these terrorist leaders, there could be more acts of mass casualty terrorism directed against the US and its nationals.

    I weep for Saddam. He was a good friend of India and its people. He always stood by us in the best of times and in the worst of times. I remember the days after the Mumbai blasts of March,1993, in which nearly 300 innocent Indian civilians were killed by terrorists trained by the ISI. We went from one intelligence agency to another asking for help in investigating the role of Pakistan. The Americans rebuffed us. Protecting Pakistan and its ISI was more important for them than grieving for the Indians killed and helping India to bring to book those responsible. Saddam rushed to our assistance and helped us in whatever little way he (could). [Outlook]

  20. I wonder how some people still find it hard to believe America’s imperialistic and hegemonistic ambitions. I don’t know what proof they would need. While I don’t have a problem with Saddam’s death, I do have a BIG problem with criminals trying criminals.

    Saddam was finally put to death for the Dujail killings of 148 young men and even if he had escaped that, he would have been put to death for the Kurdish genocide using nerve gas. This happened when Rummy was shaking hands with Saddam. I wonder how was put on trial or executed when America used Agent Orange killing thousands of hapless Vietnamese.

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