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Will The Execution Of Saddam Heal Iraq

To be sure, few Iraqis will shed tears for Saddam. But the timing chosen to execute him could not have been more poorly chosen. As was the lynch-mob manner in which he was executed. If that was not bad enough, allowing his body to be returned to his hometown of Tikrit will prove to be another monumental mistake.
by Claude Salhani
UPI International Editor
Washington (UPI) Jan 02, 2007
Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging early Saturday morning in a Baghdad security facility where, ironically, many of his opponents were put to death during his rule, The former dictator walked his final steps escorted by several masked men who placed a hangman's noose around his neck, while some made references to Moqtada Sadr, the Shiite cleric who had numerous members of his family, including his father, killed by Saddam.

Some jaunted him, others derided him.

The scene of Saddam's hanging, captured on a videophone and show around the world gave the impression of a lynching, rather than an execution carried out by the state. This will further reinforce in the minds of the Sunnis the persisting fear of a Shiite dominated Iraq.

Saddam looked shaken but offered no resistance. He refused a hood to cover his face. He started reciting the Muslim prayer, saying, "I bear witness that Mohammad..." but before he could complete the verse, one of his executioners shouted, "Go to Hell." The trap door was opened and Saddam Hussein, once the most feared man in Iraq, fell a short distance to his death.

Saddam's death turns the page on one of Iraq's most brutal rulers and without a doubt the bloodiest Arab head of state in the modern era. He was responsible for the deaths of almost two million people. Many killed after being tortured in the most horrific way.

Regrettably though, Saddam's death does not close the chapter on violence. In fact, the very next day a series of bombs killed scores of people in Baghdad and other cities and the death toll among U.S. service personnel reached the 3,000 mark.

Executing Saddam as they did on Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice, traditionally a time when leaders in the Muslim world pardon prisoners, rather than pass sentence on them, the authorities in Iraq run the risk of turning Saddam into a "martyr," and tying-in his death to the Eid al-Adha. His sympathizers could misinterpret the symbol of the Adha sacrifice and come to believe that Saddam was "sacrificed."

To be sure, few Iraqis will shed tears for Saddam. But the timing chosen to execute him could not have been more poorly chosen. As was the lynch-mob manner in which he was executed. If that was not bad enough, allowing his body to be returned to his hometown of Tikrit will prove to be another monumental mistake. Saddam's followers will turn his gravesite into a lieu of pilgrimage, something that has already begun with thousands of people pouring into Tikrit to pay their respect. It would have proven smarter in the long run to bury the body in an undisclosed location.

Saddam's final advice to the Iraqis, words he spoke from the gallows moments before he died, was a warning about Iran and the United States. "Beware of the Persians and of the Americans. They are not to be trusted," Saddam said.

Saddam has long regarded Iran as an archenemy. He did not hesitate to deploy chemical weapons against them during the eight-year war he initiated. But he also did not hesitate to use chemical weapons against Kurdish villages in Iraq.

By 1990 the war with Iran had emptied his state coffers and the oil-rich Gulf countries had cut back their financial support. Strapped for cash, Saddam invaded neighboring Kuwait, looking to grab their oil wells and the millions of dollars they generate.

Saddam accused the Kuwaitis of drilling perpendicularly under the border into Iraqi land. He also used the pretext that Kuwait was Iraq's 19th province -- and invaded. Saddam ransacked the tiny oil-rich emirate. His soldiers stole everything they could, from fancy European cars to the gold and currency reserves in Kuwait's Central Bank. Then, as the Iraqi Army began to retreat in the face of the rapidly advancing U.S.-led coalition, they set fire to close to 550 oil well, causing an environmental disaster of gargantuan proportions.

The burning oil fields produced clouds of black smoke so dense that in entire fields, day was literally turned into night.

Looking back at the atrocities committed by Saddam, there is little doubt that he was guilty of a multitude of crimes. The evidence stacked against him would have been enough to find him guilty in more than one court. But will Saddam Hussein's execution help put an end to the sectarian violence currently ripping the county apart, or instead, will it feed the flames, pushing the country closer to civil war?

With the tyrant dead what follows next could be the beginning of a new chapter for Iraq where Iraqis learn to put their differences aside and begin to rebuild. But the odds are more likely that Iraq will continue to be a violent place for a long while.

Source: United Press International

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Another Year In Iraq
Washington (UPI) Jan 02, 2007
There was a grim, ironic symmetry to the execution of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein at the end of 2006. Saddam's execution symbolized the past year in Iraq -- it was all about death. For 2006 was the year when the Bush administration's vision of democracy failed in Iraq. Far from ushering in a new era of peace, stability and security, the parliamentary elections a year ago created a new political dynamic that within little more than two months unleashed a sectarian civil war on Iraq far worse than anything the country had known in modern times.







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