The Lynching of Saddam Hussein is, unsurprisingly, still dominating the news. The deeply disturbing images from both the official video and the cell phone video are causing many to ask questions both about Saddam’s execution and the wider issue of the death penalty in general. Perhaps this is one positive development to come out of this saga. More worrying is the precedent this sets for an increase in public executions. It is interesting to watch the protagonists in this sordid business either frantically try to distance themselves from the role they played in this lynching or avoid making any comment on it in the hope that it will be forgotten.
Most dishonest of all is the American position which is an attempt to fool the world into thinking that this was entirely an Iraq affair. It was America that led the invasion of Iraq, toppled Saddam’s regime, started the sectarian violence, captured Saddam and held him until he mounted the scaffold, organised and paid for the show trial, loudly called for his execution and finally, an American court dismissed the call for a postponement of the execution which took place in a prison surrounded by American troops with the witnesses and the victim transported by American helicopters. Saddam’s corpse was delivered to his family by the Americans too. It was the Americans who were in charge of confiscating mobile phones and therefore the Americans who allowed camera phones to enter the squalid execution chamber.
That of course does not absolve the puppet Iraqi government which was so desperate for revenge that it pushed for an execution as quickly as possible and on a “special day”. It was al Maliki’s regime that signed the death warrant and finally delivered Saddam into the hands of the extremist Shia lynch mob who were allowed to taunt Saddam before pulling the lever which plunged him to his death as he prayed. Saddam has now been made into a martyr, something he was intent on being as soon as his fate became obvious. But turning a monster into a martyr was foolish in the extreme as well as being very difficult considering the litany of Saddam’s crimes for which he was not even tried for.
Now despite their obvious involvement, the Americans are trying to pretend that the execution had nothing to do with them and that they actually tried to postpone it because of the sensitivity of Eid and on the grounds that it may have been illegal, but eventually relented to pressure from the Iraqi government.
As the shock of those scenes reached a new crescendo in Iraq, U.S. officials revealed that they had worked until the last hours of Hussein’s life to persuade Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to delay the execution. The officials, who spoke on condition that they not be named, said they appealed to al-Maliki not to proceed with the hanging at dawn Saturday because of the onset of a major Islamic festival and because of unresolved constitutional and legal questions that the Americans believed threw the legitimacy of the execution into doubt.
The US military is also saying that they would have handled the execution differently had it been in charge.
As the storm over the handling of the execution gained strength, Caldwell was among several U.S. officials who suggested displeasure with the conduct of the execution.
“If you are asking me: ‘Would we have done things differently?’ Yes, we would have. But that’s not our decision. That’s the government of Iraq’s decision,” Caldwell said.
Perhaps the Americans would have done things differently but America too is known for its botched executions. Also I would have thought more care would have been taken if the Americans were really concerned about the effects of another video of the lynching, seeing as they were responsible for confiscating the phones. Perhaps if this wasn’t incompetence, they actually wanted to cause further sectarian conflict or discredit the supporters of Moqtada Sadr. We already know that the Bush administration is losing patience with al Maliki’s government. Bush will soon have to justify to the new Democrat Congress the sending of thousands of extra troops into Iraq. Maybe the increased violence over this incident will help.
Britain too is guilty of hypocrisy over this lynching. It’s no good stating Britain’s opposition to the death penalty and then supporting a kangaroo court that was covened for the sole purpose of providing a semblance of legal cover for a revenge execution. Other than backing the Iraqi inquiry into the botched execution, Blair has still absolutely nothing to say about his involvement in this sordid affair. John Prescott called the filming of the execution “deplorable” but interestingly had no comment on the execution itself. Blair (like his White House masters) wouldn’t even go that far. Presumably he has no objections to the conduct of the
executioners lynch mob. I wonder if he’d have more to say if it was the image of someone else on the scaffold.
Of course this in no way is meant to encourage the execution of Tony Blair (like Tony I’m opposed to the death penalty, even for mass murderers). Saddam was executed for being responsible for the deaths of Iraqi citizens whereas George Bush and Tony Blair seem to have gotten away with the same crimes on an even larger scale and in a much shorter period of time.
Meanwhile the arguments over who it was who filmed the lynching on a camera phone and put the images on the internet goes on. According to Munkith al-Faroun a prosecutor at the trial and the one who appealed for the taunting of Saddam to stop, two government officials were filming with cell phones. One of them was Iraqi National Security Advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie. However blame has been laid with one of the guards who were apparantly under al-Faroun’s observation. A guard has now been arrested and al-Faroun is now saying that he did not see al-Rubaie taking pictures. Somehow I doubt we’ll ever know the truth. There is also confusion as to whether a date has been set for the executions of Barzan Al-Tikriti and Awad Al-Bandar. The fiasco over Saddam’s trial may have given them some more time. The UN is trying to halt the executions on the grounds that the trial was flawed. This news comes shortly after the new Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressed ambivalence over the death penalty unlike his predecessors.
It seems that recent events have proved to be too much for Nuri al-Maliki who has said that he won’t be seeking a second term as Prime Minister and wants to step down. I can’t say I blame him. Maybe there is room for him too on the lucrative lecture circuit along with Tony Blair. It’s got to be better than staying in Iraq.