IN OTHER WORDS: Ugly death

Saddam Hussein deserves no one’s pity. But as anyone who has seen the graphic cellphone video of his hanging can testify, his execution bore little resemblance to dispassionate, state-administered justice. The condemned dictator appeared to have been delivered from US military custody into the hands of a Shiite lynch mob. For the Bush administration, which insists it went to war in Iraq to implant democracy and justice, those globally viewed images were a shaming embarrassment. Unfortunately, all Americans will be blamed, while the Iraqi people are now likely to suffer still more. What should have been a symbolic passage out of Iraq’s darkest era will instead fuel a grim new era of spiraling sectarian vengeance. The ugly episode shows why PM Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is never likely to produce a national unity government.

The Bush administration again finds that it has little credibility to lecture anyone on the basic dignity due to detainees. Most Americans, whatever their view of the war, understand that the rule of Saddam Hussein brought a murderous curse and untold suffering upon the Iraqi people. Hussein has now gone to his grave. But the outrageous manner of his killing, deliberately mimicking his own depraved methods, assures that his cruelty will outlive him.