Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Hangs (Updated)

A broken, submissive Saddam Hussein is taken to the gallows by masked executioners at the former Iraqi Military Intelligence (5th Department) compound at Kadhimiya, Baghdad. This is the footage as aired on state-run Al-Iraqiya TV:



The fear is evident on his face as he struggles to appear calm. He reportedly tried to resist when American soldiers handed him over to Iraqi guards, but then grew quiet and calm as he accepted a fate that was expected. The last moment appeal to a U.S. judge by Saddam's lawyers to stay the execution was rejected.

Saddam shortly after he was executedThe Shi'ite executioners and witnesses were reported to have danced around Saddam's corpse after he was hanged while chanting Shi'ite religious slogans. The same situation was reported from the Green Zone by Al-Arabiya TV reporters who said members of the current Iraqi government were also celebrating. Iraqis took to the streets in Sadr City, Najaf and Basrah. Some carried portraits of Muqtada Al-Sadr and Abdul Aziz Al-Hakim, the new strongmen of Iraq.

Protests took place in Tikrit, Baiji, Fallujah, Ramadi and Garma, but so far there have been no violent reactions. Instead of visiting relatives or going out to parks, people had to stay home out of fear. According to an Iraqi law expert interviewed on Al-Arabiya TV, It is against Iraqi law to schedule an execution on an official or religious holiday, but he conceded that this was obviously a political decision.

I hope the execution of the tyrant brings relief to the families of his victims.

There are still many dark days ahead in Iraq.

UPDATE: Here is a full cell phone video recording of Saddam's execution, apparently by someone in the audience. This should dispel all rumours and conflicting media accounts about Saddam's last words and the reaction of the audience.

Saddam (as the noose is put around his neck): Ya Allah (Oh God).
Someone in the audience: Mercy be on those who pray for Mohammed and the household of Muhammed (Everyone repeats the prayer, including Saddam) -
Executioner and two people in the audience: ... And hasten his return (the Mahdi), curse his enemy and grant victory to his son, Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada! (This is a common Sadrist chant.)
Saddam (smirking): Muqtada? Is this your manhood? (unclear)
NSA Muwafaq Al-Rubai'i: To Hell!
Saddam: (laughing) ... and disgrace to you. (unintelligible)
Prosecutor Munqidh Al-Far'awn: Please, no.
Muwafaq Al-Rubai'i: Longlive Mohammed Baqir Al-Sadr!
Someone in the audience: To Hell!
Prosecutor Munqidh Al-Far'awn: No. Please, no. I beg you. The man is in an execution.
Saddam (solemnly recites the Shahada prayer): I witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Mohammed is the messenger of Allah. I witness that there is no god but Allah, and that Mohammed is the-- (trap door is opened).
Audience (in unison): Prayers for Mohammed and the household of Muhammed.
Someone: The tyrant has fell. May Allah's curse be upon him.
Someone: May Allah's curse be upon him.
(commotion in the hall)
Someone: No. No. Stay back.
Someone: Leave him for 8 minutes, boys. Don't take him down.
Someone: Everyone. Stay back. Everyone. Back.

There was no denouncing American and Persians after his last prayers, as this New York Times story says, but perhaps that was before he was led to the gallows.

It utterly disgusts me that Sadr's supporters have infiltrated every level of the state, and that the witnesses, including Iraqi government officials, have made this look like a sectarian issue. They were doomed to repeat Iraqi history by hanging their former oppressor and labeling it as justice. In a perfect situation, Saddam's execution would have united Iraqis, but thanks to the actions of the new Iraqi rulers, it will only serve to divide further. I doubt any of them will prevail as much as Saddam did, though.

UPDATE: Some Iraqis are saying this was part of the deal for the Sadrist bloc to return to parliament, that they would take care of Saddam's execution themselves. Recent statements from Sadrists demanding a swift execution of Saddam seem to support this theory. In any case, the fact that masked Sadr followers took care of the hanging follows a familiar formula in modern Iraqi history, where the victors taunt and execute whoever was in rule before them. It looks like Iraq is doomed to repeat that cycle.

UPDATE: Saddam has been buried in his hometown of Al-Ouja, south of Tikrit, before dawn Sunday, members of his Al-Bu Nasir tribe told the Aswat Al-Iraq News Agency.

A tribal delegation from Tikrit had retrieved Saddam's body from the Iraqi government earlier yesterday, after Sheikh Ali Al-Nida refused to allow Saddam's body to be buried in Baghdad or elsewhere, Al-Arabiya TV reported. Saddam's body was returned with the delegation on an American helicopter to Tikrit where it was buried in the yard of the Al-Ouja Hall for Religious Ceremonies, which was built by Saddam in the early nineties. The burial was attended by American and Iraqi troops, in addition to members of Al-Bu Nasir, Saddam's tribe, and the governor of Salah Al-Din at 4 a.m. Sunday.