In my country…

A former dictator was executed the other day. I wonder if dictators around the world – if they do indeed realise that is what they are – trembled on that day. If they didn’t, they should have. The junior Bush, current president of the United States, made it clear that this was a new era that would not tolerate selfish and irresponsible leadership when his family finally brought down the Hussein family, with Saddam Hussein as its head. Barely any of us knew the man – we saw soundbites of him and we heard all of the stories that the media delivered. Even the Economist said that he needed to go! But now that he’s gone, our eyes turn inevitably to all of the other dictators that the world could do well without.

And if his death heralds a new era, it should be the one of good government through absolute accountability. Even Augusto Pinochet, who ruled Chile for many years with an iron fist, was made accountable for misdeeds in office, although it seems he died a natural death before the legal system he was subject to could arrive at an appropriate sentence.

But we hope that, with this swift and brutal execution, other dictators will be eyeing their futures with more apprehension. They will know, through the actions of Mr. Bush Jr., that leaders will not be able to commit crimes without facing ultimate accountability. And if Mr. Bush Jr.’s predecessor can be punished for his inappropriate use of a cigar, a time will surely come soon when any prime minister, president, chancellor or premier can be punished for serious crimes committed during their time in power. And while these tyrants may be “untouchable” during their time in power, the wheel of history turns for them just as anybody else and there comes a time for all of them when they come under the influence of another. Either they are toppled by invaders, they are forced out of power by a coup, they come to the end of their legal time limits for power, or they are forced out of office when someone else is elected to their office. No one, after all, can withstand the march of time.

There was another death at the end of 2006 to go along with Hussein’s and Pinochet’s – Gerald Ford. President Ford was famous for giving a pardon to Richard Nixon, his president when he was vice-president and whose office he inherited when Nixon resigned. Probably these guys were close. But now with President Bush Jr. raising the bar on government governance, I wonder if future leaders will be able to grant political pardons they way they once used to?

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