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Saddam Hussein and the Dilemma of Leontius

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Chris Vallance | 10:23 UK time, Sunday, 31 December 2006

Technorati is dominated by searches for "Saddam's Execution" and many bloggers are struggling with their consciences over whether or not to link to the unofficial footage of his execution. In times when no-one thought of making executions a private affair this struggle between fascination and revulsion was more commonly felt. There weren't blogs or picture-phones in Ancient Greece but peoples motives and reactions haven't changed much in the intervening millennia.

"The story is, that Leontius, the son of Aglaion, coming up one day from the Piraeus, under the north wall on the outside, observed some dead bodies lying on the ground at the place of execution. He felt a desire to see them, and also a dread and abhorrence of them; for a time he struggled and covered his eyes, but at length the desire got the better of him; and forcing them open, he ran up to the dead bodies, saying, Look, ye wretches, take your fill of the fair sight." (Plato's Republic Book V)

The dilemmas of a picture editor are not new. Leaving that video to one side, Iraqi bloggers have been engaged in unravelling the wider consequences. Salam Adil who writes the Iraqi blog round-up for Global Voices has an lengthy thread of reaction from across the Iraqi blogosphere to the execution. From the US Milblogs this early post by seemed to sum up the views of many

In fact, there's not a great deal to add to the pages of commentary already on the net. Beyond the fact of the event itself, we know little more than we knew before his execution.

But thumbing through the Iraqi blogs on Saturday morning, clearly too early for most to respond (and many do not have easy access to the web) the overwhelming impression was one of people struggling with the unimaginable challenges of daily life: posts like this, this, and this. Indeed Iraq was in my mind over Christmas for other reasons. Interviews can
be peculiarly intimate things, particularly when you know the interviewee is running some risk in talking to you. Zappy who writes with compelling directness about his life in Iraq on his blog Where Date Palms Grow spoke to me while in the UK. He returned over Christmas and sent an email which is largely repeated in this blog post:

"Coming back to Baghdad was difficult, the trip from Baghdad International Airport to Home was one of the spookiest experiences I have had, the Roads were deserted (8:00 p.m.) and the Taxi driver was so nervous) anyway I made it home my oldest daughter (X) was looking all the time through the taxi window telling my wife "Mummy where are all the people? why is Beautiful Baghdad so dirty?" A new trend is going around these days, Snipping people and sticking bombs under cars, the bad guys are snipping Innocent civilians all over Baghdad with concentration over bridges and the highways, they are also sticking explosives under the ordinary civil servant because they know he parks his car "inside" his office car park. Oh by the way, I returned to smoking."

If I have a New Years wish, it's that Zappy and all the other Iraqi bloggers we've spoken to stay safe in 2007 and that, however it happens, the violence in their country comes to an end.


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