Feature

Botching Saddam’s Execution

Firestorm erupts over American handling of Hussein’s execution.

Why the rush to execute Saddam Hussein? asked Ghada Karmi in Britain's The Guardian. The 'œunseemly haste' to get rid of the former Iraqi dictator made the judges look 'œbloodthirsty.' Compared with the 'œvengeful Shiite mob' that lynched him, taunting him as he prayed, the old tyrant himself came off as statesman-like. There can be only one reason the Americans allowed the execution now, after a trial for one of his lesser crimes: 'œto stop him revealing secrets about the West's past enthusiasm in supporting and arming his regime.' Saddam's next trial, remember, was to be about the gassing of the Kurds'”a crime that the U.S. knew about. But that didn't stop the U.S. from supporting Saddam in his 1980'“88 war on Iran. The American pretense that the sentence was an Iraqi decision is transparently false. Iraq is not sovereign; it is under foreign occupation. Saddam was 'œheld in U.S. custody right up to the end,' and his body carried away by an American helicopter.

The execution will go down in history 'œas an American affair,' said Robert Fisk in Britain's Independent. That means that Arab historians will be able to play down Saddam's 'œmonstrous crimes' and paint him instead as a martyr. They will assert '”wrongly, but plausibly'”that 'œthe West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed his orders from Washington.' Moreover, Saddam was killed on the Sunni Eid al-Adha, the day that Allah had mercy on Abraham and spared the life of his son Ishmael. It is a day devoted to mercy and forgiveness, when 'œeven the ghastly Saddam' used to release prisoners. The bad timing will only add to Saddam's reputation as a martyr. His countless victims deserved better.

How can we see the timing of the killing as anything but intentional? asked the pan-Arab Al Quds al-Arabi in an editorial. Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador in Baghdad, 'œwho is reportedly a Sunni,' knows exactly how holy Eid al-Adha is. The U.S. government 'œdeliberately insulted and humiliated more than 1.5 billion Muslims.' Just as bad were the 'œbarbaric' taunts and shouts of the Shiite lynch mob. We owe thanks to the Iraqi official who filmed the hanging, because he undermined the American propaganda effort. So much for the halfhearted effort to 'œwin Muslim hearts and minds.'

At least the Americans aren't being hypocrites about the death penalty, said Iraqi writer Ali al-Zahid in Austria's Die Presse. The Europeans, though, have been piously complaining that execution is immoral. 'œIt would have been helpful if they'd been half as concerned about the suffering of the Iraqi people during Saddam's bloody dictatorship as they are about the death of a dictator.' Iraqis were terrorized during the decades of Saddam's reign. We will sleep easier knowing that the man who oppressed us is dead.

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