Filmer of Saddam Execution Arrested

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The Iraqi government has arrested the person who used his cellphone to videotape Saddam Hussein’s execution, reports the Associated Press. The man, whose film disturbed the world and instigated Sunni protests around Iraq, “was an official who supervised the execution and now he is under investigation,” according to an anonymous key [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki adviser cited in the story.

It’s unclear what the charge or the consequences will be for the illicit taper, or why he was permitted to be there, cellphone in hand. Clearly, we haven’t yet heard the whole story behind the chaotic scene at the hasty hanging, even if we’ve seen it as it happened.

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Apprehending one person, when he is simply in with the emerging cultural changes wrought by technology, is a bit silly. I understand making an exemplar of one person in a high profile case – be it Martha Stewart in insider trading or someone like this guard – is a temptation for authorities, but they can hardly stop this trend of people shoving their phone cameras in situations where they should not.

Addressing the larger moral and political issues – whether hanging is ok, whether a person, however horrid, deserves to die with dignity, whether this makes him a martyr and does more damage than the ‘publiciser’ could envisage, whether this mockery will only serve to be grist to the mill of Iraq’s brewing civil problems – would be harder than arresting one man.

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