When do they hang?

A T-shirt to end small talk? Impossible! A friend of mine once mooted getting such a shirt. The T-shirt would read ‘see website’ and she would point to it every time somebody asked what kind of music she liked or where she worked.

In the age of Myspace this may seem obvious, but at the time it was an awfully clever idea. Today, personal profile sites, photo sites and social networking sites like Myspace, Xanga, Facebook and the rest of them now seem to be proliferating at such a rate that one day they may even challenge pornography for domination of the world-wide web. I come from a generation and subculture where you discovered almosteverything you needed to know about a person by what band was on their T-shirt, so I’m afraid much of this side of the web holds limited appeal for me.

But last week I discovered an amazing website. Its address is www.theyworkforyou.co.uk and it is like a political Myspace for MPs and peers, the people who ‘work for you’ in the government (even if you do have to get off the road when the more important ones’ motorcades drive past).

On it, you can search for your local MP or a Cabinet Minister of interest and check things like their parliamentary voting record and speeches on various subjects. So, as my friend puts it, ‘you can find out who was vehemently against t he war in Iraq, who was for it, who was strongly for it and who is over there right now, shooting people.’ This is useful.

And I wonder if it would have helped Saddam Hussein. Of course my initial thought is that a website that helps you email members of government about policy could have helped him divine the will of his people while he was in power and might have prevented the rather sticky position he now occupies.

I do realise however, that he would probably have used the ‘From’ section of the emails to find out who to execute. Either way, the news last week was full of discussions about whether the decision to execute Saddam was right. I remember hearing far fewer discussions about whether it was correct to find him guilty, but I’m sure there is a good reason for this. Perhaps it is because people have far too much respect for the process of law and the verdicts given? It can’t be because the verdict was a forgone conclusion. That would have made the trial not only a colossal waste of time and money but also something of a show trial, the western democratic equivalent of a kangaroo court (I find you, Skippy, guilty…).

Saddam will apparently be executed before the end of the year and I guess he must be guilty of the things he is accused of. A tyrant will pay for a massacre.

British and American politicians and commentators have had much to say on the subject of Saddam. Admitting responsibility and paying for mistakes have very much been the flavour of the week. But in this instance I have to take the line that the fantastically unpopular Jacques Verges would take, which is to postulate not that Saddam is innocent, but that he is by no means the only guilty party.

There are respected leaders walking around free today who have been responsible for extrajudicial deaths and torture. When do they hang? Actions taken by our own government and those of our allies (or countries who have not sufficiently annoyed us), if undertaken by our enemies would be denounced. When do war-crimes proceedings begin? I’ll go check that website, shall I?

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