Opinion Brief

Is it right to execute Iraq's Tariq Aziz?

Russia and the Vatican lead calls for clemency for Saddam Hussein's former top aide

Tariq Aziz, the urbane PR man of Saddam Hussein's regime, has been sentenced to death by an Iraqi court for participating in the persecution of Shiites. But Russia and the Vatican are among many voices calling for clemency. Defenders point out that Aziz is in failing health and never took part in his government's worst abuses. Should Aziz be spared? (Watch Tariq Aziz's sentencing)

Executing Aziz only makes him a martyr: Tariq Aziz is a "sycophant, a fool, a criminal," say the editors of the Toronto Globe and Mail, but he still deserves mercy. Aziz is 74 years old and sick — he is no threat to anyone now. Executing people like him "does little to promote healing or reconciliation — it only "turns monsters into martyrs." The smart, and humane, course is to let them die in their cells, "denuded of power."
"Don't dispense victor's justice for Tariq Aziz"

The man deserves to die: Tariq Aziz was no innocent bystander, say the editors of the Oklahoman. With his "oversized black-rimmed glasses, snow-white hair," and flawless English he projected a calmness that "conveyed, even to a murderous thug like Saddam, a level of reasonableness — which is what good propagandists do." So Aziz was "an integral part of a dictatorship that killed its own citizens" and threatened its neighbors. His voice was a "weapon" Saddam used well — his passing will help silence "Saddam's evil" forever.
"Justice awaits Saddam mouthpiece Tariq Aziz"

The timing is certainly suspicious: This may well be politically motivated — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki could sure use a distraction from the WikiLeaks files linking his administration to secret prisons and armed Shiite militias, says Babak Dehghanpisheh in Newsweek. Aziz, who was the lone Christian in Saddam's Sunni Muslim-dominated regime, was never seen as one of its "top war criminals," and "it was widely expected that he would spend the rest of his life behind bars." But he has already "avoided the hangman's noose" longer than most of Saddam's top aides — maybe his luck just ran out.
"The push to execute Tariq Aziz"

This isn't justice: Executing Aziz isn't about justice, it's about vengeance, says Mark Seddon at Al Jazeera. He was the only Caldean Christian in Saddam's inner circle, a fact Saddam exploited to legitimize his secular Baathist dictatorship. Hussein kept Aziz in line by making "veiled threats" against his family. But the U.S. won't stand up for him now — he knows so much about the West's deep involvement in pre-war Iraq to "let him live out his days in prison."
"Tariq Aziz: Villain or victim?"

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