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Monday, January 01, 2007

They would fuck up a hamburger


(AP Photo/Hameed Rasheed)

Bush to Hang Hussein Was Questioned

By JOHN F. BURNS and MARC SANTORA

BAGHDAD, Dec. 31 — With his plain pine coffin strapped into an American military helicopter for a predawn journey across the desert, Saddam Hussein, the executed dictator who built a legend with his defiance of America, completed a turbulent passage into history on Sunday.
............................

The American role extended beyond providing the helicopter that carried Mr. Hussein home. Iraqi and American officials who have discussed the intrigue and confusion that preceded the decision late on Friday to rush Mr. Hussein to the gallows have said that it was the Americans who questioned the political wisdom — and justice — of expediting the execution, in ways that required Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to override constitutional and religious precepts that might have assured Mr. Hussein a more dignified passage to his end.

The Americans’ concerns seem certain to have been heightened by what happened at the hanging, as evidenced in video recordings made just before Mr. Hussein fell through the gallows trapdoor at 6:10 a.m. on Saturday. A new video that appeared on the Internet late Saturday, apparently made by a witness with a camera cellphone, underscored the unruly, mocking atmosphere in the execution chamber.

This continued, on the video, through the actual hanging itself, with a shout of “The tyrant has fallen! May God curse him!” as Mr. Hussein hung lifeless, his neck snapped back and his glassy eyes open.

The cacophony from those gathered before the gallows included a shout of “Go to hell!” as the former ruler stood with the noose around his neck in the final moments, and his riposte, barely audible above the bedlam, which included the words “gallows of shame.” It continued despite appeals from an official-sounding voice, possibly Munir Haddad, the judge who presided at the hanging, saying, “Please no! The man is about to die.”

The Shiites who predominated at the hanging began a refrain at one point of “Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!”— the name of a volatile cleric whose private militia has spawned death squads that have made an indiscriminate industry of killing Sunnis — appending it to a Muslim imprecation for blessings on the Prophet Muhammad. “Moktada,” Mr. Hussein replied, smiling contemptuously. “Is this how real men behave?”

American officials in Iraq have been reluctant to say much publicly about the pell-mell nature of the hanging, apparently fearful of provoking recriminations in Washington, where the Bush administration adopted a hands-off posture, saying the timing of the execution was Iraq’s to decide.

While privately incensed at the dead-of-night rush to the gallows, the Americans here have been caught in the double bind that has ensnared them over much else about the Maliki government — frustrated at what they call the government’s failure to recognize its destructive behavior, but reluctant to speak out, or sometimes to act, for fear of undermining Mr. Maliki and worsening the situation.

But a narrative assembled from accounts by various American officials, and by Iraqis present at some of the crucial meetings between the two sides, shows that it was the Americans who counseled caution in the way the Iraqis carried out the hanging. The issues uppermost in the Americans’ minds, these officials said, were a provision in Iraq’s new Constitution that required the three-man presidency council to approve hangings, and a stipulation in a longstanding Iraqi law that no executions can be carried out during the Id al-Adha holiday, which began for Iraqi Sunnis on Saturday and Shiites on Sunday.
.................................
Mr. Maliki had one major obstacle: the Hussein-era law proscribing executions during the Id holiday. This remained unresolved until late Friday, the Iraqi official said. He said he attended a late-night dinner at the prime minister’s office at which American officers and Mr. Maliki’s officials debated the issue.

One participant described the meeting this way: “The Iraqis seemed quite frustrated, saying, ‘Who is going to execute him, anyway, you or us?’ The Americans replied by saying that obviously, it was the Iraqis who would carry out the hanging. So the Iraqis said, ‘This is our problem and we will handle the consequences. If there is any damage done, it is we who will be damaged, not you.’ ”

To this, the Iraqis added what has often been their trump card in tricky political situations: they telephoned officials of the marjaiya, the supreme religious body in Iraqi Shiism, composed of ayatollahs in the holy city of Najaf. The ayatollahs approved. Mr. Maliki, at a few minutes before midnight on Friday, then signed a letter to the justice minister, “to carry out the hanging until death.”

................................
None of the Iraqi officials were able to explain why Mr. Maliki had been unwilling to allow the execution to wait. Nor would any explain why those who conducted it had allowed it to deteriorate into a sectarian free-for-all that had the effect, on the video recordings, of making Mr. Hussein, a mass murderer, appear dignified and restrained, and his executioners, representing Shiites who were his principal victims, seem like bullying street thugs.

But the explanation may have lain in something that Bassam al-Husseini, a Maliki aide closely involved in arrangements for the hanging, said to the BBC later. Mr. Husseini, who has American citizenship, described the hanging as “an Id gift to the Iraqi people.”

.....................

The leader of Mr. Hussein’s Albu-Nasir tribe, Sheik Ali al-Nida, said that before flying to Baghdad on an American helicopter, he had been so fearful for his safety that he had written a will. Bizarrely, Sheik Nida and others were shown on Iraqi television collecting the coffin from the courtyard in front of Mr. Maliki’s office, where it sat unceremoniously in a police pickup.


At the burial, several mourners threw themselves on the closed casket. One, a young man convulsed with sobs, cried: “He has not died. I can hear him speaking to me.” Another shouted, “Saddam is dead! Instead of weeping for him, think of ways we can take revenge on the Iranian enemy,” Sunni parlance for the Shiites now in power.

................


Why did Maliki rush to do this? Because his protector wanted it done. Why else?

posted by Steve @ 12:08:00 PM

12:08:00 PM

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