Vol. 5 Num 923 Sun. December 31, 2006  

The railroading of Saddam

MANY intellectuals all over the world may agree with me that Saddam was tried in a Kangaroo court in Baghdad. Perhaps it would have been a proper thing to try him at the Hague in the International Court of Justice. However, the Bush Administration has been stage managing everything in Iraq since April 2003. Saddam's death by hanging is therefore the handiwork of Washington.

The news of Saddam's impending execution was buzzing in the news media all day today. At about 6:00 am Iraqi time on December 30, Saddam was executed by hanging. Minutes after the execution, two Iraqi television stations, Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya and the US-financed Al-Hurra, broadcasted the news. Within 30 minutes, CNN in America also carried the news. Within an hour of the execution the Yahoo news site in the Internet posted the news.

In November 2006 the court in Baghdad brought in a guilty verdict and the punishment, death by hanging, was handed down. Saddam's legal team appealed but the verdict remained. The Iraqi government, which is dominated by Shiites, wanted to execute the punishment. Hoping against hope, a lawyer for Saddam challenged the verdict in a US court, but the judge dismissed the plea by saying that the trial was conducted in an Iraqi court and that American court system has no jurisdiction over Iraqi judiciary.

The Iraqi government was making all the preparation to hang Saddam before the end of 2006. The American army took control of Saddam immediately after his arrest in December 2004. They kept him in the Green Zone inside the city of Baghdad. Therefore, the US wanted to hand over Saddam to the Iraqi authorities before the execution. The US also wanted to have the execution done outside the Green Zone by Iraqi lest the world view the hanging an act performed by the Americans. In other words, America wanted to come out clean from this messy execution.

The Iraqi government framed Saddam and few other associates of the deposed president for the killing of 148 from an Iraqi town where assassins tried to kill Saddam in 1982.

Also to be hanged were Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, the Iraqi government's spokesperson said.

The Iraqi government, which is practically run by Shiites, has decided not to bury Saddam in Iraq. The country of Yemen is mentioned as a possible place where Saddam's body will rest in peace.

Saddam was born in 1937, in Tikrit, the seat of Saladdin province. He joined Arab Baa'th Socialist Party in 1956. He was sentenced to death in absentia on February 25, 1960 for taking part in an assassination plot against the dictator Abdul Karim Qassim. He then escaped first to Syria and then to Egypt where he completed his education in 1962. A year later he returned to Iraq when he was elected as member of the Baa'th Party leadership.

In late 1969 he was elected to the post of vice-chairman of the Revolution Command Council. In 1979 he was elected secretary general of the regional leadership of the Baa'th Party in Iraq, chairman of the Revolution Command Council, and president of the Republic of Iraq.

From that period on he ruled Iraq continuously until late March 2003 when American soldiers invaded Iraq and marched into Baghdad, toppling Saddam's government. He went into hiding for 20 months but was finally arrested in December 2004. It took two years for the Iraqi government to bring Saddam to justice and the final verdict came in a month ago in November 2006.

The Bush Administration was instrumental in bringing down Saddam's government. It took almost two years to come up with a constitution based on which election was held allover Iraq. The Shiite majority has elected a parliament dominated by Shiite politician. This has led to sectarian violence with disastrous result. Will violence increase in the aftermath of Saddam's hanging? We shall have to wait and see.

Saddam's popularity among his people (read: Sunni Iraqis) and in Sunni dominated Muslim world is bound to grow. He was a hero figure among poor Arabs. In the eyes of these Muslims, Saddam will be viewed as a person who stood tall against America.

It should be pointed out that Saddam fought the Americans in January 1991 with disastrous results. In the aftermath of that war Iraq was isolated from the rest of the world and his people paid a heavy price for Saddam's misadventure into Kuwait.

President George Bush's father, President George HW Bush, ordered the US army to invade Kuwait to oust Saddam's army. After the defeat, Saddam never ventured to any other country, but he did use extreme brutality to subjugate the Iraqi Kurds.

Saddam may have been a cruel dictator but somehow he managed amity among his divided people. Ever since the US ousted him in March 2003, the country has fallen into anarchy and lawlessness. Now on the average 50-60 Iraqis are dying every day because of a civil war that is raging in the beleaguered land. Now President Bush is asking for 30,000 additional soldiers to bring a semblance of law and order in and around Baghdad. Whether he will get the funding from the Congress is not a certainty.

All eyes are going to be on Iraq in the coming days to see if violence escalates. The Sunnis will blame the ruling Shiites for railroading Saddam to the gallows. Stay tuned for more developments in the troubled land of Tigress and Euphrates.

Dr AH Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans, US.