Upon being sentenced to death, Saddam Hussein played to both his key constituencies. Militant Islamists heard him shout: “Allahu Akbar!" (“God is Greatest.”). For the benefit of his Baathist followers, he added: “Long live the glorious nation!”
One might have expected that Saddam's conviction would have been an occasion for the media to remind people of his crimes and cruelty. But if the major media this weekend were featuring footage of Saddam's mass graves and rape rooms, if they were conducting interviews with innocent Iraqis whose arms and ears he ordered amputated, or survivors of his poison gas attacks, I missed it.
In any event, there was something anti-climactic about a jury now, finally, coming to the conclusion that Saddam was indeed a mass murderer. Perhaps that's because the trial has dragged on so long (about as long as World War II, no?) and because it became such a circus, with Saddam blowing whistles and cracking whips in the center ring.
There also is the hard fact that Saddam's defeat remains incomplete. His legacy endures in the violence televised nightly on Baghdad's streets. Day after day, innocent Iraqis are slaughtered, as are Americans attempting to defend them. A growing body of opinion responds by demanding that America abandon Iraq to those dispatching the killers.
For these and other reasons, I'd be surprised if Saddam's conviction has a discernable impact at the polls on Tuesday. Minds will be changed when it becomes clear that America has the will and the means to defend itself and defeat its enemies; or when it becomes apparent that America is no longer equal to such a task.