Saddam’s execution

It is an execution that underscores an impression of the death penalty as being about vengeance rather than justice. It seems the Iraqi government, dominated by Shi’ites, had little trouble finding Shi’ites to participate in hanging Saddam Hussein. The Guardian reports:

As he stood at the gallows, he was tormented by the hooded executioners or witnesses shouting at him to “Go to hell” and chanting the name “Moqtada”, the radical Shia Muslim cleric and leader of the Mahdi army militia, Moqtada al-Sadr, and his family. . . .

Saddam’s team of defence lawyers claimed that the hanging had been simply “victors’ justice”.

The unruly scenes will also dismay the US and British governments, that are also privately alarmed at the sectarian bias of the government, led by the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. The US and Britain believe at least some members of the Iraqi government are complicit in sectarian killings, particularly by members of the police force.

Moqtada al-Sadr is reportedly a major force behind the sectarian violence in Iraq, which has exploded into a civil war. This spectacle will support an earlier reported Bush administration tilt in favor of the Sunnis.

The New York Times reported:

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. . . .

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. . . .

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.