The execution of Saddam Hussein was a crude, bizarre spectacle, following a deeply flawed trial process interrupted before this mass murderer’s crimes, and the ugly role of the U.S. in aiding him, could be laid bare to the world.

The execution was both a mirror image of the lawless viciousness of Hussein’s rule and a sordid byproduct of shameful U.S. foreign policy, up to and including the invasion and occupation.

Now this ugly episode provides a convenient excuse for the Bush administration to try to justify staying in Iraq long-term, and for reactionary forces in the region, allied with the U.S., to pursue their own proxy war on the backs of the Iraqi people.

Hussein was no anti-imperialist hero. He ordered the torture and killing of hundreds of thousands, including communists and trade unionists, with CIA assistance, and personally killed scores himself. His hasty execution saved him from trial for the genocidal 1986-89 Anfal massacres that killed 180,000 Kurds, including many communist partisans, using chemical weapons supplied by the U.S.

The brutal sectarianism displayed in Hussein’s execution and in much of the violence afflicting Iraq only underscores the importance of solidarity with the democratic Iraqi movements struggling, under the most difficult circumstances, for a just, peaceful society — the trade unionists, communists, women, students and others whose opinions and activities are seldom reported by the corporate media.

We applaud the initiatives of U.S. Labor Against the War and the AFL-CIO to support Iraq’s labor movement fighting to keep public control over their country’s oil wealth and for workers’ rights. Individual U.S. unions should also consider reaching out to their Iraqi counterparts.

The sectarian violence is a legacy not only of the U.S.-backed Hussein regime but also of the shock and awe brutality of Bush’s war. Thus it also underscores the importance of the upcoming Jan. 27-29 march and lobbying in Washington and other activities around the nation pressing Congress to put an end to the disastrous U.S. occupation.

Finally, we oppose the death penalty anywhere, and all of us need to work harder to ban it in our own country. In a system riddled with racial and class injustice, 38 states have this barbaric penalty, many times putting to death people who are later proved innocent. It’s a crime.