The decision of the Iraqi war crimes tribunal to sentence Tariq Aziz to death is one that needs to be vigorously opposed for several reasons. Although it is true that, as Saddam Hussein’s longtime henchman and deputy, he is morally tainted with some of the most appalling crimes in modern history, Aziz was not, in fact, condemned to execution for his part in the annexation of Kuwait, the destruction of the Marsh Arabs, or the attempted genocide against Iraq’s Kurdish minority. (Indeed, there is some evidence that he advised his boss against the insane attack on Kuwait in 1990.) For his relatively minor role in those and other events, he has in any case already been sentenced to terms of imprisonment that would keep him in jail until he died—old and infirm as he now is—of natural causes. No, Aziz has been ordered to hang because of his long-ago role in repressing the Dawa movement, a Shiite religious faction with ties to Iran, which under the Baathist dictatorship conducted armed resistance and which is now a political party. Its leader, Nuri al-Maliki, is currently—or should one say nominally?—the prime minister of Iraq…

At least we can say with certainty that the proposed execution of Tariq Aziz, like the awful circus that accompanied the hanging of Saddam Hussein, cannot play any role in the upholding of a new model of society. As well as being part of a religious vendetta, his death would have too much in common with past bloody “transitions” from one Iraqi regime to another. Aziz was until not long ago a surrendered prisoner in U.S. custody, which makes it all the more important that Americans make themselves heard on this question.