Saddam Hussein is gone. He got his, the just deserts for 30 years of brutality and tyranny, violence and oppression unleashed against his own people and anyone else within reach. By this point, everyone knows the big irony: The tyrant brought low by us, the nation that once upon a time saw fit to encourage his designs–as long as those designs injured a common enemy and didn’t rebound against us.

Ancient history. And now, the morbid fascination of Saddam’s departure. The New York Times says that part of the pre-hanging procedure involved preparing a “red card” to inform the condemned man he was about to be executed. The red card is part of the vengeance exacted on Saddam, as his regime reportedly invented the practice of presenting the notices to the thousands it condemned to death.

So Saddam hangs. Surely, there’s some kind of justice in that–even if only the score-settling kind that Iraqi Shiites and others Saddam suppressed will savor. But after Saddam? It’s difficult to believe his execution matters much in a large sense; that it will end extinguish a dire threat to the world or bring peace or freedom to Iraq or do much to assuage the victims of his crimes.

And his crimes: Beyond ruling by fear and murder, he launched wars that visited untold suffering on people inside and outside Iraq. He aspired to the part of regional power broker, and player on the world stage, and in a sense got his wish. He became our president’s Public Enemy No. 1, and Bush is said to have the pistol Saddam was carrying when he was captured, mounted and on display in his private White House office. And look at the headlines now: Not just any two-bit gangster gets this kind of attention when he takes a fall.

The one thing you can say for Saddam at the end, though: He was held to account for his crimes and paid the price. Not to equate the actions of Bush & Co. to Saddam’s; I can express my opinion and go to sleep without fearing much what the next day may bring. But I wonder whether Bush and the people around him–those who led us into a war that has little to show for it beyond hanging Saddam Hussein–will ever be held to account for their deceit, for their violation of trust, for the lives and treasure they’ve thrown away,

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