A few years ago I watched a PBS show -- Frontline, maybe, or something like that -- which detailed the early years of Saddam Hussein's power in Iraq. There was one sequence that I found especially chilling: it was a moment in which Saddam cemented his power. I can't remember all of the details, but it was a large gathering in an auditorium or some such place where Saddam gathered several hundred (or maybe thousand) high-ranking people from throughout the country. As he sat at a table up on the stage, Saddam read off a list of names, one by one, and after each name, a couple of armed guards would come down the aisles, find the persons named, and escort them outside to their own executions. Some of those named shouted curses at Saddam as they were led outside; Saddam merely picked up his cigarette and took a drag and read the next name on the list.
I suspect that people like Saddam come in two basic varieties: those who believe that their reigns will be the ones that last, and that they will be the ones who will die in old age, still in power; and those who know that they will more likely meet their end in a hail of bullets fired at them while they stand blindfolded against a wall, or at the end of a hangman's rope. From all of Saddam's actions over the last few years, he seems to have been of the former variety, which makes him a lot less interesting, in my view. He's just what he always was: a deluded guy who wreaked a lot of evil in his life. Sadly, he'll manage to loom larger in history than he ever should have, because of geography and because of someone else's mistakes in dealing with him. I look at Saddam Hussein and I wonder how on Earth someone so small managed to become someone who will loom large in this particular segment of history.
I'm not wild about the way Saddam's trial was handled, but I can't say that justice wasn't done, either, so that, for me, is pretty much of a wash. And I can't say that this is a milestone one way or the other. Saddam will be a martyr for some of the violent people in Iraq, to be sure, but I strongly suspect that a lot of the other violent people in Iraq -- maybe even the majority of violent people in Iraq -- don't really give two shits about Saddam Hussein and never have. The toppling of Saddam's regime nearly four years ago, the deaths of his sons, his own capture, the "transfer of power", Saddam's trial, Zarqawi's death -- none of those events were of any larger significance in a war that continues to spiral out of control, so I see little reason to suppose Saddam's death will be one, either. The world is neither a better place nor a worse place with him gone. His days of significance are long past, and his death, while certainly deserved, is pretty meaningless.
If he really wanted to be a martyr, though, he'd have killed himself to avoid capture. So Saddam died an insignificant coward. And the war will go on just fine without him. And on. And on. And on.