Monday, November 06, 2006

Saddam Sentenced to Hang; Iraqis Divided over the Verdict

So the tyrant will be hanged. A moment that Iraqis awaited for years, but now that it's here, it seems to be tasteless. Not that it will fail to bring a much-deserved sense of justice to the families of his victims, but because of the unprofessional and highly politicised manner with which it was handled.

The exiles who returned to Iraq after the war and proclaimed themselves as victors and new rulers also came with a strong desire for revenge. Starting from the disbanding of the Iraqi army, de-Ba'athification, and a long series of developments, ending with Maliki's pressure on the U.S. to lift the siege on Sadr City, the U.S. has, knowingly or unknowingly, catered to that revenge.

The death sentence against Saddam Sunday - even though no one denies that Saddam deserves the most gruesome death - is the latest chapter in that series.

The following is from PM Maliki’s address to Iraqis today:
“The sentence against Saddam does not mean much to us. His execution does not equal a drop of the blood of the martyr Sayyid Mohammed Baqir Al-Sadr, the martyr Sayyid Mohammed Sadiq Al-Sadr, or the martyrs of the Al-Hakim family, the martyrs of the Islamic Da’wa [Party], the martyred clerics Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Badri, Sheikh Nadhum Al-Asi, or any other martyr from the Iraqi people, Kurds, Turkomen and Chaldo-Assyrians.”
PM Maliki is not speaking for all Iraqis here, even though he tries to. He is speaking for the returning exiles and the new rulers of Iraq.

This is the best video I could find of the moment when the verdict was given. This is the translation of Saddam’s tirade:
“Long live the people. Long live the Ummah (nation). Down with the collaborators. Down with the invaders … Allahu Akbar (God is great). Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar … Long live the people. Long live the Ummah. Down with the collaborators. Down with the invaders … (addressing the judge) Tuzz (to hell) with you and the court … We are up to it. We are up to it. Down with the villains … We are the people of humanity, and the criminal invaders are the enemies of humanity, and their collaborators are the enemies of humanity … Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar, and down with the villains … I entrust to the great Iraqi people to pardon all of those who deviated and those who retract from their stance. And I entrust to our great people not to take revenge from the peoples of the countries that attacked Iraq … (addressing the judge) You do not decide. You are servants to colonialism, to the invaders. You are servants … Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar … Life is for us and death is for our enemies. Life is for the people and death to its enemies. Life is for the glorious Ummah and death to its enemies.”

Bush hailed the conviction of the dictator as a milestone. The question really is: a milestone for whom? “It is a major achievement for Iraq’s young democracy and its constitutional government,” he said. I say it’s sad that a majority of Americans are still unaware that Iraq’s “constitutional government” is a joke, and there is nothing that resembles democracy in Iraq today. Warring factions control different parts of the country while the government is imprisoned in the Green Zone. U.S. and Iraqi forces are confined to their bases. Militias, gangs and death squads prowl at day and night unchallenged, if not abetted by Iraqi security forces. The tortured corpses of dozens of unfortunate Iraqis turn up in mass graves every morning. Services are in shambles. Reconstruction is nonexistent, not even in safe regions of Iraq, even though hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent. Administrative corruption, smuggling, nepotism and cronyism are rampant. Local councils and religious parties have become entrenched in their positions and elections in the governorates have been suspended. The government threatens the press with prosecution if they dare criticise officials. Iraqi professionals and the middle class have almost entirely left the country. 3,000 Iraqis flee to Jordan and Syria every day. 1.6 million Iraqis are refugees in their own country. Health conditions are worse than ever. The educational system has been interrupted by violence and corruption. All the previous “milestones” in Iraq were rushed to suit the purposes of American domestic politics.

Some Iraqis are saying that the timing of the sentence was intended to influence the mid-term elections in the U.S. Republicans say that’s a preposterous charge, and point to the “impartiality” and “independence” of the Iraqi court. I can’t attest to the former, but I know for a fact that describing the court as independent and impartial is preposterous. The Iraqi government has interfered with the court proceedings from day one. The first presiding judge resigned, citing “interference from governmental officials.” Another was replaced because he turned out to be a member of the Ba’ath party under Saddam, and a third was kicked out because some officials were outraged when he appeared to be a bit sympathetic to the dictator. Two members of Saddam’s defense team were assassinated by sectarian militias aligned with parties close to the government, and the court failed to provide them with the necessary documents on time over and over again. A video of the prosecutor general wearing a turban and sitting in a reception for SCIRI at Dujail was leaked to the court by Saddam’s defense team but was dismissed. One witness was shown on tape contradicting his testimony to the court at the same reception, and so on.

Anyone can point out the problems with the court, but that is not my issue here. I want to ask my American readers: will the death sentence against Saddam influence your voting choice Tuesday?

Take a look at the celebrating Iraqis on the streets: whose posters are they carrying? This is not as much a celebration of the death of Saddam as much as it’s a celebration of the birth of new tyrants and warlords. The tide has turned forever. The new victors in Iraq are the followers of Sadr and Hakim, and as the Ba’athists and Sunni insurgents and jihadists become more localised and irrelevant, the next conflict will be between those two. The way I see it now, the breakup of Iraqi is inevitable. It is already a fact on the ground and there will be nothing but bloodshed in the near future. Is that a milestone for Iraq?

This demonstrator in Sadr City brandishes a Glock handgun that was issued by Americans to Iraqi security forces. Now we know where those thousands of weapons have disappeared to:

When will we see the trial for Maliki, Sadr, Hakim and all the other exiles who are making millions from Iraq's misery today, and are part of the problem, not the solution? I hope I live to see that day.

On the other hand, I'm glad this farce is over.


While Saddam’s sentence was given, several mortar rounds were fired against Adhamiya from across the river in Kadhimiya. Most of them targeted the vicinity of shrine of Imam Abu Hanifa, a Muslim jurist buried in Adhamiya and revered by Sunni Muslims. Moments later, a patrol of 4wd vehicles arriving from Kasra attempted to enter the district from Antar Square and Raghiba Khatoun. Gunmen from the district immediately took to the streets and repelled the patrol. Clashes raged on for the rest of the day and well into the night, while American helicopters circled the area.

A similar development took place in Fadhl, central Baghdad. Both areas have been under constant mortar fire from neighbouring Shi’ite districts for the last few days.

These are maps of the reactions to Saddam's death sentence in Baghdad and countrywide:
Reactions to Saddam's verdict in Iraq

Reactions to Saddam's verdict in Baghdad
Just hours following the verdict, the Iraqi government decided to close the Al-Zawra and Salah Al-Din channels for “inciting violence and terrorism.” A spokesman for the Interior Ministry confirmed and added that this was part of the government’s “anti-terror legislation to take legal action against media outlets that incite and call for violence.” The Iraq News Network reported that police forces arrested both engineer Abdul Rahman Al-Dahash, the manager of Salah Al-Din, and Hassan Al-Jubouri, the programme editor.

The local channels, which are based in the volatile Salah Al-Din governorate north of Baghdad, had aired scenes from the protests in Tikrit against Saddam’s sentence, as part of the “Iraqi Street” programme, as well as interviews with protestors.

Salah Al-Din channel is owned and operated by two businessmen from Tikrit and most of its programmes are entertainment, while Al-Zawra is owned by MP Mish’an Al-Jubouri, head of the Reconciliation and Liberation Bloc, a Sunni bloc that has a few seats in Iraqi parliament.

The Al-Furat channel, operated by the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Shi’ite), had called on the Interior Ministry to close the two channels for broadcasting the pro-Saddam demonstrations today. Al-Furat, as well as a score of other local channels operated by Shi’ite political parties, often broadcasts religious hymns and songs that call for “revenge against the enemies of the Prophet’s household,” but it seems those channels are immune from the scrutiny of the Iraqi government, just as their militias are immune from prosecution and military action.

The government had also closed Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya, and there are increasing calls from Shi’ite MPs to close the Al-Sharqiya channel, which some argue is the only remaining Iraqi channel that does not align itself with any political party or sectarian group. The government has also prohibited the display of images of the violence in Iraq on TV stations, and has threatened media outlets and journalists with prosecution and legal action if they “criticise” Iraqi governmental officials (by reporting on corruption cases, for example).

Do any of these actions ring a bell?


I'll end with Shalash Al-Iraqi's reaction to the verdict, and I wholeheartedly agree with him:
This is Not the Problem
Shalash Al-Iraqi

Al-Salam Alaikum. The court decided to execute Saddam, and I think that you, dear readers, have conflicting emotions toward this event. I am like you. I have extremely conflicting emotions, as if I’m standing in a huge rubbish dump, and they want me to smell old rubbish. I’ve forgotten Saddam’s crimes when faced with the atrocities of brutal crimes we experience today. I am choking with death and they want me to remember the deaths of my grandfathers.

Frankly, I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the opportunists and the makers of imaginary victories. Saddam was toppled by America, captured by America, and tried and sentenced under the protection, desire and timing of America. Neither Maliki is the hero of our liberation from Saddam, nor has Hakim carried the banner of the armies that toppled his regime. If Maliki wants to become a true hero, there are other criminals that he can try and send to justice, and they are closer to him than his jugular vein.

We do not want the enemies of national unity to exploit this event by killing our people in the name of revenge for Saddam Hussein, when they are far from being his supporters, or for others to dance with joy for the sentence, when they are liars. Because there is nothing we have gained from his fall except death, death and death, and fear, fear and fear.

I do not deny that Saddam was a dictator. Show me one person in the Green Zone who is democratic, even on TV.

I do not deny that Saddam was brutal, terrifying and mystifying. Are the brothers in the Green Zone angels of mercy?

Saddam used to appoint his relatives and party members. Do you want me to bang on my head?

Saddam stole the people’s riches. Do you want me to tear off my clothes?

Saddam was a traitor. Do you want me to hurl myself on the floor?

Saddam was sectarian. No … I have to laugh at this one.

My brothers, I truly wished to see Saddam tried for his crimes. But I also wished to see him tried while the country is rebuilt, while freedom is spreading, while joy is overflowing the streets, while Iraqis stay up until morning on the banks of the Tigris, while our schools compete with those of Japan, while our streets are cleaner than a plate of cream, while our riches are evident on our faces, while our displaced brothers under God’s stars return to their families and loved ones, and while joy, joy, joy is everywhere.

Come see our schools. They are ruins and animal barns. Come see our streets. Even though there is a curfew, I don’t know who urinates on them at night. Our people are roaming on the face of earth, some in impoverished countries, and others in tattered tents that break the spirit. Beggars fill the street, and poverty has nested in ruined homes. Depression, disease, drought and horror prevail. I’m left in this wilderness alone after all my friends and relatives have left. A childish fool who doesn’t know how to write his name comes and screams at me, “Shalash! Are you not happy? Yallah, go out in the demonstration.” Wallah, I swear I’m happy, but I’m afraid I would go out and then people would envy me.

We came out of Saddam’s night, but we fell into a well … when will we come out?

Our problem is not Saddam, Barzan, or Taha Yassin Ramadan. Our problem is who is going to be dragged in the night from among his children and family to be found next morning a headless corpse. Inshallah it won’t be you, dear reader or me. Inshallah the fire of sectarians will eat their wood.


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