DAILY WAR NEWS FOR SUNDAY, DECEMBER 31, 2006
Bangladeshi activists of an Islamic group shout slogans as they protest the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2006. The banner in Bangla reads 'Hang U.S President Bush'. World political and religious leaders were divided over whether Saddam Hussein's execution Saturday would serve as a milestone toward peace or motivation for further conflict in the Middle East. (AP Photo/Pavel Rahman) Note: Such demonstrations occurred in several countries, but they received little or no attention in U.S. media.
The wreckage of a vehicle used in a bomb attack lie on a road in Baghdad, December 31, 2006. A car bomb killed one person and wounded four others in central Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said. REUTERS/Namir Noor-Eldeen(IRAQ) Note: This does not appear to be the same incident reported by Reuters elsewhere (see below), as the location and casualty toll differ, nor does it appear to be the incident reported by IRIB. Once again, we have an incident described only in a photo caption. -- C
Interior Ministry source says 12 bodies found in various places showing signs of torture.
A car bomb near a Sunni mosque killed two people and wounded eight on Saturday in al-Dhubat street in Adhamiya district in northern Baghdad, an Interior Ministry source said.
Two killed and two wounded when unknown men fired a katyusha rocket in the capital's northwest district of Kadhimiyah
One killed and six others wounded in a car bomb attack in the northern neighbourhood of Hurriyah, a day after 37 people died in a triple car bomb attack in the same area.
One person was killed and five wounded in a car bomb explosion in the Sshawaqha neighbourhood of downtown Baghdad
Police station in Garma, near Fallujah, is attacked and burned
. Attackers have portraits of Saddam in their vehicles, according to this report. (Note: This is a news service I am not familiar with, but this account seems credible. Does anyone know more about Voices of Iraq? It's predominantly Arabic but offers this English translation of one story. -- C)
U.S. military says it detained 5 suspected militants in Fallujah
, and 15 more in nearby Habaniya.
A group of gunmen in vehicles attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in Hawijah, west of Kirkuk, killing three soldiers and wounding another two, local police captain Ata'allah Mahmud said.
Note: There have been comparatively few reports of violence today, but I note that I found some incidents in Middle Eastern sources that were not mentioned by the major western wire services. It is likely that the attention of reporters and authorities is largely elsewhere today. -- C
Other News of the Day
Saddam composed, defiant, on-message to the end
By STEVEN R. HURST, Associated Press Writer
By several accounts, Saddam was calm but scornful of his captors, engaging in a give-and-take with the crowd gathered to watch him die and insisting he was Iraq's savior, not its tyrant and scourge.
"He said we are going to heaven and our enemies will rot in hell and he also called for forgiveness and love among Iraqis but also stressed that the Iraqis should fight the Americans and the Persians," Munir Haddad, an appeals court judge who witnessed the hanging, told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Another witness, national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, told The New York Times that one of the guards shouted at Saddam: "You have destroyed us. You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution."
"I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persian and Americans," Saddam responded, al-Rubaie told the Times.
"God damn you," the guard said. "God damn you," responded Saddam.
New video, first broadcast by Al-Jazeera satellite television early Sunday, had sound of someone in the group praising the founder of the Shiite Dawa Party, who was executed in 1980 along with his sister by Saddam.
Saddam appeared to smile at those taunting him from below the gallows. He said they were not showing manhood. Then Saddam began reciting the "Shahada," a Muslim prayer that says there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger, according to an unabridged copy of the same tape, apparently shot with a camera phone and posted on a Web site. Saddam made it to midway through his second recitation of the verse. His last word was Muhammad.
The floor dropped out of the gallows.
"The tyrant has fallen," someone in the group of onlookers shouted. The video showed a close-up of Saddam's face as he swung from the rope.
Then came another voice: "Let him swing for three minutes."
Read in Full (This article also has some accounts of reaction in Iraq. The account of Saddam's last moments is about halfway down.)
The AFP account adds some very interesting details about the comportment of the executioners. (Now remind me -- who is it the U.S. is gearing up to kill next? I seem to remember a lot of talk in D.C. about some guy named Muqtada . . . --C)
During the final minutes of his hanging the executioners sent Saddam to the gallows with mocking taunts, chanting the name of one of his most bitter opponents as they readied his noose and filmed the scene.
In the latest footage of the execution, apparently captured on a mobile phone and now spreading across the Internet, Shiite witnesses to Saddam's hanging can be heard chanting "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada!" The reference is to Moqtada al-Sadr, a radical Shiite cleric whose father and uncle were murdered by Saddam's agents, and who has risen to prominence since Saddam's fall as a politician and militia leader.
The deposed dictator appears to react angrily and sarcastically to the chants, but remains composed during his last minutes. He appears standing on a dusty steel platform in a dark hall in the north Baghdad military base, his hands bound and a rough hemp rope round his neck.
As Saddam drops through the metal trapdoor his last prayer, the "shahada" or final testimony, is caught short: "There is no God but God, and Mohammed is his prophet. There is no God but God and Mohammed..."
Noise erupts in the room as the filmmaker struggles to get a shot of Saddam's face, hanging lifeless to one side. "The tyrant has fallen, damn him!"
AFP also gives an account of Saddam's burial. The U.S. provided air transport for Saddam's body to burial place in town of Awja. (Also sometimes rendered as Ouja.)
TIKRIT, Iraq (AFP) -
Saddam Hussein, the notorious despot whose image once adorned every public building in Iraq, has been buried privately and in the dead of night, one day after swinging from the gallows.
At a covert ceremony in a village hall, tribal elders, clansmen and provincial leaders gathered in the bitter cold after hours spent slicing through red tape in Baghdad to fly their hero home on a US aircraft.
"In the presence of (Salaheddin) Governor Hamad al-Shakti, clan chief Ali al-Nada and scores of the people of Awja, we buried the body at around 3:30 in the morning," Saddam's cousin Hamid Suleiman al-Majid told AFP on Sunday.
After the burial, hundreds of grim-faced mourners from the nearby town of Tikrit sidestepped a vehicle ban to walk the four kilometres (two miles) to pay their respects at the fresh grave, which was drapped in an Iraqi flag. Hanging their heads, raising their hands in prayer and wiping away tears, men gathered in traditional dress and leather jackets around the fresh cement sealing the hole in the marble floor of a village hall.
Saddam was lowered into the ground less than 24 hours after his execution for crimes against humanity. His cousin said the Americans and US-backed Iraqi government had banned a traditional presidential-style wake. "The American forces and the Iraqi government ordered the body to be buried quickly without holding a wake," he said.
The deputy Salaheddin governor, one of three officials to escort Saddam's body back, told local television how officials had persuaded the government to release the body in accordance with the family's wishes.
Abdullah Hussein Jabara said Saddam's face was bruised but there were no traces of aggression on the body -- which had been shrouded and filmed by Iraqi television in footage beamed around the world as proof of death. Some Iraqi Sunnis had seized on the bruises to claim that Saddam had been tortured, but his cousin and officials said they were caused by the hanging.
A Sunni cleric then washed the corpse, Jabara said, put it in a coffin and prayed over it near the Iraqi prime minister's office inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, seat of the Baghdad government and the US embassy. Jabara said the delegation had needed to secure American permission, from as high up as President George W. Bush, for a US aircraft to fly Saddam home on a 180 kilometre (110-mile) journey which would be too dangerous by road.
"We went to contact the Americans to secure a plane and that took more time than expected because it needed the approval of the US State Department and even Bush personally, we were told," he said. Saddam's body was then flown out of Baghdad at 1:00 am and was met at an air base 90 minutes later by a police car that escorted the small cortege to Awja, finally arriving at 3:15 am to waiting clansmen.
A government official in Baghdad also said a US helicopter flew Saddam's body to Tikrit. There was no official comment from either the American embassy or military.
"After a cleric made sure the body was washed and coffined, we prayed on the body and buried it at around 4:00 today," Jabara said. While emotions ran high, there was no "bad behaviour that did not fit the occasion".
Read in Full
Reaction in Iraq to the execution is, of course, sharply mixed.
Dahr Jamail and Ali al-Fadhily. BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 (IPS) - New divisions appear to be opening up between Iraqi political and religious leaders following the execution of Saddam Hussein Saturday. Former president Saddam Hussein was hanged at an army base in the predominantly Shia district of Khadamiya in northern Baghdad outside of Baghdad's Green Zone just before 6am local time. The execution of the 69-year-old former dictator was witnessed by a representative of Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki and a Muslim cleric among others.
The execution appears already to be generating more sectarianism, which has already claimed tens of thousands of lives in the war-torn country. Sectarian divisions have opened up primarily between Shias and Sunnis, who follow different belief systems within Islam.
Several Shia leaders, particularly those of Iranian origin, say the execution would be a blow to resistance against the Iraqi government by Saddam loyalists. In Baghdad's sprawling Shia slum, the Sadr City, where most of the three million inhabitants are loyal to the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, people danced in the streets while others fired in the air to celebrate the execution. National security advisor Mouaffaq al-Rubaii, a Shia, declared that "we wanted him to be executed on a special day." [Apparently a reference to Eid al-Adha.]
Celebrations in Kurdish areas were no expression of unmixed joy, even though Kurds were persecuted more than any other group under Saddam's regime.
"The world ignored Saddam's crimes when he committed them," Azad Bakir, a 35-year-old engineer in the northern Kurdish city Arbil told IPS on phone. "But we are committing the same crime again by executing him like this."
And few Sunnis were cheering Saddam's death. A senior member of the Islamic Party who asked not to be named said the timing of the execution at the start of the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha would prove a grave mistake. The festival marks the end of the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Muhammad Ayash, a spokesman for the Association of Muslim Scholars, a leading Sunni group, said Saddam had served his country well, and had been punished for the wrong reasons.
"He was executed for the good things he did such as fighting the U.S. aggression against the Arab nation," Ayash told IPS. "He stopped the dark Iranian plans in the area, and helped Palestinians survive the continuous Israeli crimes."
In predominantly Sunni cities like Beji, Ramadi and Saddam's hometown Tikrit, people fired shots in protest and swore to avenge the execution of the "legitimate president" of Iraq.
The resistance to occupation is expected to continue. A spokesman for the Al-Mujahideen Army resistance group in Ramadi told IPS that his group saw Saddam Hussein simply as the leader of the Ba'ath Party who was "a helpless man in jail when we conducted our heroic operations against invaders."
The spokesman, who refused to give his name, added: "We praise his bravery in facing death, but his death will not increase or decrease our carefully planned actions until the U.S. invaders and their allies leave our country."
Across Iraq, Saddam seems to have won respect for the calm with which he went to his execution. And that could increase sympathy for him and his family.
Read in Full
Hundreds said to travel to Saddam's grave
. Unclear whether authorities are trying to enforce a travel ban to Awja, although it appears Tikrit is blockaded.
Hundreds of Iraqis have travelled to pay their respects to Saddam Hussein who was buried early Sunday in his hometown, 24 hours after his execution, The Associated Press reports. The former Iraqi dictator was buried in a religious compound in the village of Ouja, near Tikrit, close to his sons Qusay and Uday, who were killed during a gun battle with U.S. forces in 2003.
Scores of relatives and other mourners attended the burial ceremony shortly before dawn. Many of them wept and moaned, while others knelt before his flag-draped grave. A large photograph of Saddam was propped up on a nearby chair.
"I condemn the way he was executed and I consider it a crime," said 45-year-old Salam Hassan al-Nasseri, one of Saddam's clansmen who attended the interment.
Mohammed Natiq, a 24-year-old college student, said "the path of Arab nationalism must inevitably be paved with blood. God has decided that Saddam Hussein should have such an end, but his march and the course which he followed will not end."
After Saddam's execution, police blocked off the entrances to Tikrit, a Sunni Arab stronghold, and said no one would be permitted to enter or leave the city for four days. Despite the decree, armed men took to the streets, marching and firing in the air and calling for vengeance for Saddam's death. It wasn't clear whether police had lifted the Tikrit travel ban to allow people to pay their respects to Saddam.
Read in Full
WaPo's Nancy Trejos finds Iraqis she spoke with attach little importance to Saddam's demise
By Nancy Trejos, Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 31, 2006; Page A21
BAGHDAD, Dec. 30 -- Former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had been dead no more than 11 hours, but to Um Noor, he might as well have died three years ago.
"We've forgotten about him," Noor said late Saturday afternoon, as she stood in the jeans store she owns in central Baghdad. Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death in November for his role in the 1982 execution of about 150 people in the Shiite town of Dujail. Like many Iraqis, Noor once feared Hussein, who rose to power 24 years ago by ruthlessly wiping out his enemies. When U.S. troops ousted him in 2003, many Iraqis believed their days of living in fear were over.
But three years later, Iraqis are still a terrorized people. Now, instead of Hussein, they fear the car bombs that maim and kill every day, the kidnappers who snatch people off the streets in broad daylight, the mortar shells that fall on residential neighborhoods. And they fear each other, as Shiite Muslims fight Sunni Arabs in what is spiraling into a civil war.
Despite an infusion of billions of dollars in reconstruction funds from the United States, they are watching their quality of life deteriorate. They spend hours each day with no electricity. They wait in long lines for fuel. And they pay higher prices for food while their salaries remain the same.
"Everything is worse," Noor said. "What did we gain from him being gone?"
The initial jubilation among many Iraqis following Hussein's execution Saturday morning gave way to the realization that his death would not bring an end to the daily violence that Iraqis now endure or improve the services they could once count on.
Read in Full
World Reaction to Hanging of Saddam
Demonstrators organized by Fatah protest the execution in the West Bank
. (These demonstrators reveal their sympathy for Iraqi Sunni Arabs and the former Baathist regime by including Iran in their condemnations. Iran, of course, approved of the execution. -- C
ENIN, West Bank (AFP) - Carrying a symbolic coffin for Saddam Hussein, more than 1,000 Palestinians have demonstrated in Jenin in the northern West Bank, in response to the ex-Iraqi president's execution.
Demonstrators carried pictures of Saddam and chanted slogans against Iran, the United States and Israel in a rally instigated by moderate Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party on Sunday. Some 200 Palestinians demonstrated in protest at Saddam's execution on Saturday in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
The former Iraqi dictator was one of the most popular Arab leaders among Palestinians, due in part to his payments of millions of dollars to the families of suicide bombers and anti-Israel fighters, as well as his missile attacks on Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.
Palestinians in Jordan also hold prayers and rally in memory of Saddam
Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani hails execution of Saddam as "divine justice
. However, current President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad says "the execution prevented exposure of the secrets and crimes the former dictator committed during his brutal rule," according to AP
Iraqi-Americans interviewed by IPS regret the hasty execution
, saying it aborts the opportunity for a full investigation and airing of the crimes of the former regime, including the complicity of the Reagan administration and Donald Rumsfeld specifically.
By Aaron Glantz. SAN FRANCISCO, California, Dec 30 (IPS) - Iraqi-Americans reacted with sadness to the execution of Saddam Hussein Saturday, calling the former Iraqi president's death by hanging early this morning Baghdad time a missed opportunity for justice.
An Iraqi tribunal set up by the U.S. government had convicted Hussein of murder in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from the Iraqi town of Dujail, where assassins had tried to kill Hussein in 1982.
The crime, while severe, is actually one of his smaller-scale atrocities. In 1988, Hussein's government began the Anfal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Kurds of northern Iraq. More than 100,000 Kurds were killed, many of them lined up and stripped before being machine gunned and dumped into trenches.
"As a Kurd, I don't think Saddam should have been executed right now," Kani Xulam, founder of the Washington-based American Kurdish Information Network, told IPS. "They say suffering brings about compassion," he said, "but if suffering is not validated, is not honoured, is not heard, then people turn into cynics. Those are the issues that the Kurds feel, that I as a Kurdish activist feel."
In death, Xulam said, Hussein will escape justice for gassing Kurdish civilians with chemical weapons, as well as the brutal murders of thousands of Shiites who rose up against his regime at George Bush Sr.'s urging after the 1991 Gulf War. Those killings, taken together, account for most of those buried in mass graves unearthed after the U.S. military invaded Iraq and toppled the regime in 2003.
Xulam said he was hoping that the public airing of evidence of Hussein's crimes would bring closure to his victims and greater understanding to Iraqi society as a whole. Now, he said, such closure may be impossible.
"Justice is not being served as far as I can see," he said. "There's a miscarriage of justice; 142 killings is a tiny speck in the larger crimes that he has committed. Imagine if Hitler were alive to be prosecuted. A lot of details of his crimes would have come out. Hitler committed suicide, but Saddam was captured and I think this trial should have continued."
Shakir Mustafa, a Baghdad-born professor at Boston University, agreed with Xulam's analysis. "During the trial, Saddam sounded really ready to provide such details," Dr. Mustafa said. "For the Dujail case, for example, Saddam said 'Yes, I wanted these men executed because they committed a crime. They wanted to assassinate me.' He volunteered these and other details and I think the Iraqi people would be interested in hearing about what he says he had done for Iraq's security."
Another reason Hussein's hanging is unlikely to bring closure to his victims, Mustafa said, is the fact that his trial was carried out under an unpopular U.S. occupation. The trial "lacks legitimacy," he said. "[It's] being done by an occupying force and government that very much lacks legitimacy itself, so that closure, I don't think its coming," he added.
From the beginning, observers note, Hussein's trial had been directly supervised by U.S. officials. It was funded by a 138-million-dollar grant from Congress and by a large staff of foreigners working out of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad called the Regimes Crime Unit.
Previous key moments of Hussein's trial had coincided closely with the needs of the George W. Bush administration. In August, the trial recessed only to reconvene on Sep. 11, the anniversary of the al Qaeda terror attacks on the United States. And Hussein was sentenced to death shortly before the U.S. midterm congressional elections in November.
Scott Horton, the chair of the International Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association, who worked on the trial, told IPS there was little doubt that the death sentence was intentionally handed down on the eve of the elections. He said Washington exercised especially tight control over the tribunal's schedule.
"Access to the courtroom is controlled by the Americans, security is controlled by the Americans, and the Americans have custody over the defendants who must be produced before the trial can go forward, so whether they have the trial on day x or day y depends on the Americans giving their okay," he said.
"What is really being presented here is the narrative of people in power, the victors not the victims," Professor Mustafa said. "The Americans, not the Iraqis. Not people like me and my relatives who lost loved ones, but people who are deciding things in Iraq now."
Some observers believe Washington closely managed the trial in order to avoid having Hussein reveal damaging secrets about his past relations with U.S. presidents, especially Ronald Reagan.
In November 1983, Reagan removed Iraq from the U.S. government's official list of nations that "support international terrorism". That opened the door to full diplomatic and economic cooperation between Iraq and the United States. The next month, Reagan he sent an emissary to Baghdad bearing a personal letter for Hussein. That emissary was none other than recently departed Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. A declassified official note at the time read: "Saddam Hussein showed obvious pleasure with the President's letter and Rumsfeld's visits in his remarks."
Rumsfeld also met Hussein's foreign minister Tariq Aziz. According to a State Department memo made available by the non-profit National Security Archive in Washington, Rumsfeld told Aziz: "The United States and Iraq share many common interests," and the Reagan administration had a "willingness to do more" to "help Iraq".
Throughout this period, the Reagan administration largely ignored reports that Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons against the Iranian army and against domestic Kurdish insurgents.
"While condemning Iraq's resort to chemical weapons," a U.S. government press release read, "the United States finds the Iranian regime's intransigent refusal to deviate from its avowed objective of eliminating the legitimate government of Iraq to be inconsistent with accepted norms."
With Hussein's execution, his precise relationship with the United States government during the Cold War will go unexplored, as will any investigation into possible U.S. complicity with specific crimes. Companies that sold chemical weapons and other instruments of terror to Hussein are also likely off the hook with his death.
"I think there are companies that supported Saddam inside the U.S. and Europe," the American Kurdish Information Network's Kani Xulam told IPS. "My fear now is that they will go scot-free." (END/2006)
While governments around the world are reticent, the BBC audience weighs in with sharp perspectives
Some samples: (and you can add your own, BTW)
Justice has been poorly served. Saddam was not tried for many other serious crimes. Justice would have been as well served by pushing Saddam against a wall and shooting within 24 hours of his capture. He deserved no more. However it is for the rest of us that a proper trial and full facing of his crimes was due, this hasn't happened. His death will do little to heal the rifts within Iraq, mis-handling post invasion made Saddam irrelevent. This is political oppertunism not a foundation for peace.
barry b, London
Many countries speak against the execution of Saddam after his death. These countries never came forward to contain the US in its unilateral actions of imposing sanctions against Iraq or the US invading it illegally. This is hypocracy. What is so shocking is the deadly silence of the Arab League. With Saddam's execution, the US policy is given clean chit to kill any Arab ruler, any time on any pretext. The threat of the US to world peace is real with the exit of Saddam and destruction of Iraq.
C. Sachidananda Narayanan, Tirunelveli, India.
for all those arabs hailing saddam as the great arab hero, its quite sad that this is the best we can come up with. Bush is no better, but that does not mean we as arabs have to lower our standards and accept anyone that seems to stand up to bush as a hero, we really should think better of ourselves, after all its from our part of the world that one the greatest civilizations sprang... lets stop killing each other and stop being sheep to leaders like saddam, nasrallah or even saniora!
The timing was bad! Why did the government Of Iraq and its allies decide to hang Mr. Sadam Hussein on the Idi day? Did they want to humiliate the world moslems!!
Bachu Mubarak, Kampala Uganda
Saddam's execution came shocking to me. What he did was wrong and he should have been punished. In the end, Thanks to the US, it would only help them by widenning the SHIA/Sunni (the muslim) gap more on a broader level. The time was literally inapproproate. They attacked Afghanistan in the time of Ramadan, now Saddam's death on Bakr-Eid, what are they trying to prove? The mockery is pathetic for a man who is about to die. Our Prophet Mohammad showed respect even to his worse enemies. It is wrong
Mohammad Zohaib Kazi, Karachi
What on earth gives you the right to invade that country and kill their leader? No matter what a terrible leader he is... that is HIS country! Is that so called "human rights"???
Yihui, Oxford, Shanghai
Bush believes that Sadam is evil and that America is the axis of goodness .What a shame to hear that from the mouth of an American president! I wasn't expecting him to utter such rubbish comments .The saga of Bush as a butcher will be read by the whole Arab nation .His hawkish attitude is a common feature among the Bush's family;it has been handed from one generation to another . The execution of Saddam will plunge Irak in the depths of chaos , insecurity and sectarian war . What a shame!!!!!
behri mustapha, morocco
Or, of course, you can offer your reaction here at TiI
Commentary and Analysis
John Collins discusses U.S. complicity in the crimes of the Saddam Hussein regime, and the memory hole
An existential question: If journalism is the first draft of history, then what is journalism that denies history? Is it still journalism? The question came to mind Friday night as CNN's Anderson Cooper led Americans through the initial moments following the execution of Saddam Hussein.
Conveniently carried out just five minutes past the hour when "Anderson Cooper 360" goes on the air, the execution provided an opportunity for viewers to think about the long story of the Iraqi leader's brutal reign. Yet when it came to informing the audience about one key aspect of that history - the role of the United States in helping to create and maintain the "butcher of Baghdad" - CNN offered only amnesia. In the rush to celebrate the death of the "butcher of Baghdad," we are up to our necks in denial.
Throughout the CNN broadcast, as news gradually trickled in concerning the details of the execution, viewers were treated to a highly selective loop of stock images of the condemned: Saddam brandishing a tribal sword offered as a gift by one of his fawning subjects, Saddam firing a gun, Saddam laughing his cartoonish dictator laugh, Saddam defiantly reading a statement at the start of the U.S. invasion in 2003, Saddam smoking a cigar, Saddam being checked for lice by U.S. military doctors, Saddam wildly gesturing during his recent trial.
And the photo of Saddam shaking hands with U.S. envoy Donald Rumsfeld back in December 1983? Absent. With the inevitable headline ("Death of a Dictator") already in place, the storyline was set. This was to be about Saddam facing "justice" for crimes that he alone committed. The U.S. presence in the story was to be, at most, a ghostly one limited to providing legal and moral guidance from behind the scenes. As if to confirm this paternalistic and self-serving fiction, CNN's Elaine Quijano dutifully reported from Waco that President Bush, not wanting to appear that he was "gloating" over the final humiliation of the Iraqi leader, was keeping a low profile.
Viewers who were dissatisfied with "Anderson Cooper 360" might have found themselves turning to the New York Times for a better sense of perspective. Yet while yesterday's obituary in the Times was impressive for its length (over 5000 words), it provided little more in terms of historical context.
Rather than offering readers a responsible assessment of their own government's role in the life and crimes of the Iraqi leader, author Neil MacFarquhar elected to repeat the kind of sensational details Americans have come to expect when the country's designated enemies are profiled: Saddam as megalomaniac (he believed "he was destined by God to rule Iraq forever" and possessed "boundless egotism and self-delusion"), Saddam as Mafioso (the "Corleone-like feuds" of his family "became the stuff of gory public soap operas"), Saddam as traumatized child ("persistent stories suggest that Mr. Hussein's stepfather delighted in humiliating the boy and forced him to tend sheep"), Saddam as sadistic murderer (while reading the names of Baath party officials allegedly involved in a supposed coup plot, "Mr. Hussein paused from reading occasionally to light his cigar, while the room erupted in almost hysterical chanting demanding death to traitors"), Saddam as narcissist ("He dyed his hair black and refused to wear his reading glasses in public, according to interviews with exiles"), Saddam as paranoid ("Delicacies like imported lobster were first dispatched to nuclear scientists to be tested for radiation and poison"), and on and on.
And the inconvenient history of U.S. support for the man now being mentioned in the same breath as Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot? Aside from a single reference to the U.S. decision to back Iraq in its war with Iran, the obituary is silent.
All other references to the U.S. cover events from 1990 onwards. The choice of verbs tells it all: Saddam, his regime, and his country are variously described as being "toppled," "routed," "penetrated," and "expelled" by U.S. military might. One has to look to the bloggers, muckrakers and scholars to find the verbs that tell the rest of the story: "installed," "provided," "enabled," "encouraged," and "sold."
Reading and watching the kind of mainstream coverage provided by CNN and the New York Times during the last 48 hours, one could be forgiven for believing that the relationship between Saddam and the U.S. had always been one of enmity and violence. Yet as Juan Cole and others have tirelessly pointed out, the U.S. government began "enabling" Saddam as early as 1959 when the CIA enlisted his help in undermining the government of Abdul Karim Qasim.
Read in Full
Juan Cole expects the hanging of Hussein will only deepen divisions
The body of Saddam, as it swung from the gallows at 6 a.m. Saturday Baghdad time, cast an ominous shadow over Iraq. The execution provoked intense questions about whether his trial was fair and about what the fallout will be. One thing is certain: The trial and execution of Saddam were about revenge, not justice. Instead of promoting national reconciliation, this act of revenge helped Saddam portray himself one last time as a symbol of Sunni Arab resistance, and became one more incitement to sectarian warfare.
Saddam Hussein was tried under the shadow of a foreign military occupation, by a government full of his personal enemies. The first judge, an ethnic Kurd, resigned because of government interference in the trial; the judge who took his place was also Kurdish and had grievances against the accused. Three of Saddam's defense lawyers were shot down in cold blood. The surviving members of his defense team went on strike to protest the lack of protection afforded them. The court then appointed new lawyers who had no expertise in international law. Most of the witnesses against Saddam gave hearsay evidence. The trial ground slowly but certainly toward the inevitable death verdict.
Read in Full Must endure annoying ad to enter Salon.
Boston Globe's Colin Nickerson tells the story of the 399th Combat Support Hospital, an Army Reserve Unit near Mosul
. (This is a pretty familiar story, that hasn't changed in fundamental ways since the days of MASH. But one important angle, that Nickerson doesn't really note, is that Iraq's health care system has collapsed, and only U.S. military hospitals can adequately care for Iraqi victims of violence. -- C)
Richard Clarke continues his rant against the Bush admin for invading Iraq
, diverting attention from major international crises, in a WaPo op-ed. (One could read one piece of his argument as being that Iraq has been bad for imperialism in the Americas and elsewhere, but you don't have to agree with all his objectives to accept the gist of the argument. -- C
QUOTE OF THE DAY
In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent - we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam's shame at Abu Ghraib - and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.
Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam's weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.