Vol. 5 Num 997 Wed. March 21, 2007  
Front Page

Saddam VP hanged on invasion anniversary

Saddam Hussein's former vice president was hanged for crimes against humanity early yesterday, the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein from power.

Former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan was the third of Saddam's top aides to be hanged since the ex-president was executed in December after a trial in a US-backed Iraqi tribunal that was criticised by human rights groups as unfair.

The executions have done nothing to subdue violence that has engulfed Iraq since 2003 and many in Iraq say they have exacerbated sectarian fighting that now borders on civil war.

Shortly after Ramadan was hanged in the early hours, a car bomb near a Baghdad police station killed at least five people and wounded 17. A police source said 30 bodies were found shot dead in different parts of Baghdad on Monday.

The daily bombs and shootings have led to growing calls from some in the United States to withdraw troops from Iraq.

President George W Bush on Monday warned sceptical Americans of the dire consequences of a swift troop withdrawal.

Bush defended his Iraq policy in the face of new polls showing Americans increasingly oppose the war and that Iraqis have little or no confidence in US forces.

"After four years I can say that the country is lost. We never expected this would happen. We were hoping to live like a European country, not to be living like this," said Salih Abu Mehdi, 43, a security guard and father of six children.

"I don't think any Iraqis think of the future, they stopped thinking of the future. We only think about how to get through the day," he said, adding that his family sometimes call him several times an hour to check on his safety.

"I was not one of Saddam's supporters but, as many Iraqis would say now, Saddam's days were better, at least things were more secure and calm. What shall we do with this democracy now?"

With his approval ratings near the low point of his presidency, Bush appealed for more time for his plan to send in nearly 30,000 additional troops, mostly to stabilise Baghdad.

"It can be tempting to look at the challenges in Iraq and conclude our best option is to pack up and go home. That may be satisfying in the short run, but I believe the consequences for American security would be devastating," he said.

Bush said in January he was sending 21,500 more troops to Iraq, mostly to secure Baghdad, a number that has since climbed to around 30,000 with the addition of support personnel.

A CNN poll showed US support for the war had fallen to 32 percent, with 63 percent opposing it. Another poll showed four in five Iraqis have little or no trust in US-led forces and most think their presence is making security worse. Despite that, only about a third want them to leave now.

The poll, commissioned by the BBC, ABC News, USA Today and ARD German television, also showed sharp divisions in the opinions of majority Shias, who have come to power since the war, and Sunni Arabs, the once-dominant minority who prospered under Saddam and are now left feeling marginalized.

Four in five Shias said Saddam's hanging was conducted in an appropriate manner, while 97 percent of Sunnis said it was not. Three in five Shias said it was helpful to reconciliation while 96 percent of Sunnis said it was unhelpful.

Saddam's cousin, General Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali," is among other former top aides facing charges for crimes of humanity. His trial for genocide against Kurds in the late 1980s is already underway, while others such as Tareq Aziz are in detention waiting for trials to be launched.

Taha Yassin Ramadan