Remarkably, they get it exactly right:
The important question was never really about whether Saddam Hussein was guilty of crimes against humanity. The public record is bulging with the lengthy litany of his vile and unforgivable atrocities....
What really mattered was whether an Iraq freed from his death grip could hold him accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future. A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness. It could have fostered a new national unity in an Iraq long manipulated through its religious and ethnic divisions.
It could have, but it didn’t. After a flawed, politicized and divisive trial, Mr. Hussein was handed his sentence: death by hanging. This week, in a cursory 15-minute proceeding, an appeals court upheld that sentence and ordered that it be carried out posthaste....
What might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity. After nearly four years of war and thousands of American and Iraqi deaths, it is ever harder to be sure whether anything fundamental has changed for the better in Iraq.
This week began with a story of British and Iraqi soldiers storming a police station that hid a secret dungeon in Basra....It might have been a story from the final days of Baathist rule in March 2003...But it was December 2006, and the wretched men being liberated were prisoners of the new Iraqi Shiite authorities.
Toppling Saddam Hussein did not automatically create a new and better Iraq. Executing him won’t either.
[Cross-posted at If I Ran the Zoo]