Should Iraq Hang Saddam Hussein?

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

Jerusalem----December 29...... Should Saddam Hussein die by hanging? This is a question that each and every one of us should ask.

First, should Saddam die? According to a senior Vatican official, the Pope has condemned the death sentence against Saddam Hussein reiterating that capital punishment goes against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Renato Martino, Pope Benedict XVI’s top prelate for justice issues and a former Vatican envoy to the United Nations, said that Hussein’s execution would punish “a crime with another crime” and expressed hope that the sentence would not be carried out. “The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the State,” he said.

On Tuesday, Iraq’s highest court rejected Saddam's Hussein’s appeal against a conviction and death sentence for the killing of 148 people in Dujail, in northern Iraq, in 1982. The court said the former president should be hanged within 30 days.

In Jewish law, we do not believe in capital punishment. The death penalty does not exist in Israel. Only once was it ever exercised and that was for Adolph Eichmann who engineered the Holocaust in Europe.

Former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark denounced the Iraq Special Tribunal's death sentences against Saddam Hussein and two co-defendants in a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on December 20. Clark served on Hussein’s defense team during the trial.

"The consequences of execution will be greater violence." Clark warned, "I don't think you can rationally expect anything else." Hussein and the co-defendants have been held in American custody at Camp Cropper, an American military prison near the Baghdad airport. Clark charged that if they were turned over to Iraqi authorities they faced torture and death. Noting the biased nature of the trial, which was roundly condemned by human rights groups, foreign offices of several countries, U.N. observers and others, Clark questioned the speed with which the court is moving to execute the defendants.

"Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly said the execution should take place this year," Clark said. "Iraq law seems to provide that the sentence of death is to be carried out mandatory within fifteen days of the final judgment." In addition to Saddam, the court also imposed death sentences on Awad Hamed al-Bandar and Barzan al-Tikriti. Further, near the end of the recent trial, an Iraqi puppet judge told one of the defendants, "You had blood on your hands since you were a child." There was no attempt to prove that the recent trial was anything other than a rigged show trial. As Clark said, it represented "victor's injustice, victor's justice being an oxymoron." The implications of execution are dire. Clark noted that "The Pentagon [had] announced that violence in Iraq was at an all time high." Clark also commented on the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. He observed that long many knew that the U.S. government’s war of aggression against Vietnam was doomed to failure, the war dragged on with massive casualties mounting.

Hussein collaborated with the United States in launching the 1980 war with Iran. But the Iraqi regime was never a comprador, puppet government of U.S. interests in the same way as the client regimes in Jordan, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. When Hussein began to assert Iraqi national interests independent of U.S. interests—for example, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait— was his regime then targeted for destruction? Is the real reason Hussein and members of his government face execution is because they stood up to U.S.? Many claim that the U.S. occupation regime was illegal and had no authority to try or convict Hussein or any of his co-defendants. Some argue that real trials for "crimes against humanity" would have Bush administration officials and Pentagon generals as the defendants. No different than charges that Ariel Sharon and today Ehud Olmert face in Israel.

Ken Joseph Jr. reports from Iraq stating a different perspective: "As an Assyrian Christian, the indigenous people of Iraq, with family who were terrorized and imprisoned by Saddam Hussein, hate is a mild word when asked how one feels towards Saddam Hussein." Joseph Jr. continues: "I cannot erase from my memory the terror in our family. The sheer horror when there was an unexpected knock on the door or an unknown telephone call. The family members and for that matter nearly one million Iraqis he killed and the countless million lives he destroyed."

"How do you forgive this? First of all it is important to never forget. One of the true dangers outside of Iraq is that somehow in all that has transpired in Iraq ; the sheer evil of Saddam has been forgotten. I remember! The biggest lesson Saddam taught me concerned the existence of evil. For those who live in democratic and free countries, the concept of evil has gone somewhere. In a world of political correctness, much of the world is unable to understand because they have never experienced sheer evil. This was Saddam. His face was everywhere. From the moment you woke up to the time you went to bed he was everywhere. He was on the money, his three pictures - one in Arab Headdress, one with his rifle and the other, the old black and white picture in every office - was always somewhere. Driving, his statues were everywhere. He was in your dreams."

"The message of Saddam Hussein, is to remind the world that there is evil." It exists and Saddam Hussein and his even more evil sons and all their henchmen embodied it completely. The fatal flaw following the liberation of Iraq was the clash of cultures - one who had lived under evil and knew it firsthand and the other that denied its existence. This denial of evil brought us to where we today, where the successors to Saddam Hussein in the form of Hakim, Sadr, Sistani and their bosses in Iran are viewed through the prism of situational ethics which see something "good" in all men, in spite of the simple fact that some men are evil. Second, though can Saddam be forgiven ? The real ones to ask are those whose lives were destroyed by him. For us, we need to face the uncomfortable fact that evil exists and that we must stand against it, at the same time never forgetting that there is a God and that in the end, it is He that wins."

In a Friday sermon, one preacher at a mosque in the Shiite holy city of Najaf describes the execution as "God's gift to Iraqis." He says Saddam "killed millions of Iraqis in prisons" and in wars with neighboring countries. The preacher also says the former Iraqi leader is responsible for mass graves, and prays that God will "take revenge on Saddam."

Human Rights Watch has a different take: "The Iraq government should not implement the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, which was imposed after a deeply flawed trial for crimes against humanity. The Appeals Chamber of the Iraqi High Tribunal, which was first reported by Iraq’s national security adviser to have upheld the sentence, should have conducted a thorough legal review of the verdict and then announced its findings. Imposing the death penalty, indefensible in any case, is especially wrong after such unfair proceedings. That a judicial decision was first announced by Iraq’s national security advisor underlines the political interference that marred Saddam Hussein’s trial."

So does the UN: ”The appeal judgment is a lengthy and complex decision that requires careful study. There were a number of concerns as to the fairness of the original trial, and there needs to be assurance that these issues have been comprehensively addressed. I call, therefore, on the Iraqi authorities not to act precipitately in seeking to execute the sentence in these cases."

Amnesty International says: "We are against the death penalty as a matter of principle, but particularly in this case because it comes after a flawed trial."

The Prime Minister of Italy Romano Prodi: "While I don't want to minimize the crimes committed by Saddam Hussein, and the ferocity with which he governed during his regime, and while respecting the autonomy and legitimacy of Iraq institutions, I must express the Italian government's, and my personal, firm opposition to the death sentence."

And the EU President stated: "The EU opposes capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances, and it should not be carried out in this case either." The Times of India: "One of the main criticisms of the trial was that the special court was not equipped to handle such a complex case. Questions have also been raised about timely disclosure of evidence, the rights of defendants to confront witnesses and impartiality of the judges. New Delhi has rightly condemned the trial as lacking credibility. It has also raised the issue of the effect of the death sentence on Iraq's future. There is good reason to believe that executing Saddam can only worsen the situation in Iraq. The memory of Saddam as a martyr is likely to have much more of a hold on popular imagination than a Saddam behind bars.

"If the deposed Iraqi leader is executed now, the country's Sunnis will always think of Saddam's rule as a golden era. Now is not the time to execute Saddam Hussein. With Iraq still under coalition occupation, as far as Iraqis are concerned the rope around Saddam's neck will be American. For the Sunni, Saddam will become an instant martyr."

- Robert Baer, TIME Magazine, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East.

The Asian Tribute: "The confirmation yesterday of the death sentence against Saddam Hussein is the final act in a legal charade directed from Washington. The Iraqi Appeal Court upheld the verdict against Hussein and two of his co-accused - Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti and Awad Hamed al-Bandar - brought on November 5 for the execution of 148 Shiites from the town of Dujail in 1982. With the only avenue of appeal exhausted, all three can be hanged at any time within the next 30 days. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel hailed the court decision, declaring it to be "an important milestone" in efforts "to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law." In fact, the Bush administration has repeatedly demonstrated its contempt for basic legal norms, riding roughshod over international and US law. It has pressed for the execution of Hussein as a means of demonstrating to the world that it is capable of killing its opponents with impunity."

The Australian: "The Iraq Government should have spared Saddam the death penalty."

Ray Hanania, who was named 2006/2007 best ethnic American columnist by the New America Media, says: "I don’t sympathize with Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein, but I do hold sacred the international rule of law and the principle that justice must be blind. That’s why I oppose the execution of Saddam Hussein."

Hanania continues: "It’s also why I believe that Saddam Hussein did not receive a fair trial. His execution is a war crime and an act of murder. Why should I believe any of the claims made against Saddam Hussein when nearly every claim used to justify the invasion of Iraq have all proven to be false? There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Saddam Hussein never conspired with the al-Qaeda terrorists who planned the World Trade Center attacks. Iraq was never a threat to America. I also do not believe that Americans who backed the war above and beyond the lies that justified the war really cared about freeing the Iraqi people. The court established by the United States military occupation of Iraq is also illegal and has no jurisdiction to prosecute anyone. It’s a sham, so much so that everyone knew Saddam Hussein would be convicted and sentenced to death."

"When the judge at the court expressed sympathies for Saddam Hussein, he was immediately removed, which also proves that the purpose of the court, like the purpose of the Iraq invasion, was never about justice or rights, but about politics. Saddam Hussein should be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court in the Hague where other international leaders have been charged, prosecuted and convicted on the powerful foundation of the International Rule of Law. Or, brought before an International Tribunal set up under the auspice of the United Nations as was Slobodan Milosevic."

"Saddam Hussein was not sent to the Hague, nor was an International tribunal convened because Bush cannot guarantee a conviction or death sentence there," says Hanania. "It might also open questions about Bush’s conduct in Iraq. If Saddam Hussein can be prosecuted for quelling a rebellion against his regime, cannot President Bush therefore be prosecuted for violating international law? Why should American soldiers in Iraq facing war crimes charges be held accountable but not Bush? I believe far more war crimes have been committed in Iraq, but we have only chosen to prosecute those that are unavoidable and clear for all to see. There is also one more legal issue that is being ignored by the kangaroo court in Baghdad. If we accept the assertions that the war in Iraq is legal, then Saddam Hussein is a prisoner of war. His murder is a violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, that we have already ignored in our conduct in torturing and mistreatment other prisoners. Regardless, sentencing Saddam Hussein to death is a violation of international law. But killing him is an immoral act tantamount to murder exposing Bush administration hypocrisies. All of these violated principles and laws may one day come back to haunt us as Americans," says Hanania.

At the time of this writing I suspect that Saddam has already been hung. "The execution could occur in "another day or so" - before the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha," said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Iraq officials have said their government would be loath to carry out an execution during the Eid festival, and have suggested that it would not take place until the holiday ends next week. The U.S. official noted that the Bush administration had been "in close contact with the government of Iraq" on Hussein's fate.

According to Iraq law the convicted person has the right to see family 24 hours before the death sentence is carried out. Yesterday, Saddam said good-bye to his two brothers. And a top Iraq official said Saddam Hussein would be executed before six am. Saturday, Baghdad time, that's tonight at 10 PM Eastern/7 PM Pacific.

That would make sense from a security perspective. Hang Saddam before the Eid al-Adha holiday begins. Under the cover of darkness and then announce it at dawn. With daylight US troops would have a better idea as to what would be coming at them.

This writer has had his own personal experiences with Saddam Hussein. I watched from the roof of the Tel Aviv Hilton in 1991 as Iraq scuds slowly hovered over and fell onto Israel soil. One missed my home in Ramat Gan by only 200 meters. I have no sympathy for Saddam Hussein. But nor do I care to see Saddam turned into a martyr.

Saddam should rot in jail but should not be hanged. What would his hanging serve? He was not responsible for 9/11, no weapons of mass destruction were found (though I suspect they did exist earlier) and it was rumored his administration had met with the US Embassy the day before invading Kuwait and was given a green light by the US. And the war crimes that Saddam is accused of occured in 1982.
Why didn't the international community take action then? Why only after 2001?

If Saddam Hussein murdered civilians in 1982, then why is Donald Rumsfeld, representing President Reagan, shaking hands with Saddam in 1983? Shaking Hands: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld, then special envoy of President Ronald Reagan, in Baghdad on December 20, 1983. The Reagan administration and its special Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld, did little to stop Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s, even though they knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons "almost daily" against Iran.

US support for Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq war as a bulwark against Shi'ite militancy has been well known for some time, but using declassified government documents, the Washington Post provided details in 2002 about Mr Rumsfeld's role, and about the extent of the Reagan administration's knowledge of the use of chemical weapons. Furthermore, in 1988, the Dow Chemical company sold $1.5m-worth (£930,000) of pesticides to Iraq despite suspicions they would be used for chemical warfare.
Hyprocrisy at its best?

Saddam's death will only serve to polarize more moderate Muslims. It will not make them fear the US, England or Israel even more so.

Islamic terrorists embrace death. They do not fear it. So who is the US punishing?

Robert Baer of TIME Magazine states: "If the deposed Iraqi leader is executed now, the country's Sunnis will always think of Saddam's rule as a golden era. Now is not the time to execute Saddam Hussein. With Iraq still under coalition occupation, as far as Iraqis are concerned the rope around Saddam's neck will be American. The Shi'a and the Kurds may not care whose rope it is - they just want the man dead and their pound of revenge. But for the Sunni, Saddam will become an instant martyr." Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, could not be more correct.

Many news media are now reporting on the fine details of what is a hanging. Providing minute by minute accounts of what would happen if the rope was too short or too long. Are we as a civilized Western world any different from the crowds that gathered to watch the French Guillotine at work or the hangman's noose in the old US West?

What distinguishes us from the Islamic terrorists that we fight is that we cherish life.
Yes, in war we can be more barbaric using pyschops as good if not better than the enemy by hanging blood dripping heads on wooden sticks. But do we need now to place Saddam's head on a wooden stick? Will video of his hanging decrease conflict or increase it in the Middle-East?

Attorneys for former Iraq president Saddam Hussein, who could be hanged within hours, today asked a US court to order a halt to his execution. In a last-minute filing to the US District Court of Washington, Hussein's lawyers asked for a temporary stay of execution because Saddam is a defendant in a civil case in the same court and he has been prevented from being able to defend himself.

"People ought to come, have a good time, they ought to feel confident," White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend said in a nationally broadcast television interview. Asked specifically if people should be concerned about threats by Saddam Hussein loyalists in Iraq to attack U.S. interests, Townsend said Saddam had "the kind of legal due process that many of his victims were denied." She added: "We don't see any specific uptick in threats."

I trust the White House will use this legal stay as a last minute face saving gesture for themselves to avoid deepening the mud for which brave US troops presently stand on. To lessen the reality of Sunni Islamic suicide bombers visiting shopping centers in New York, Washington, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Let Saddam die of a heart attack, AIDS, a stroke or other "natural causes" in jail. It worked for Yasser Arafat, it can work for Saddam Hussein.

America represents life. So does Israel. It's time for us to illustrate what kind of society we live in.
What our values are. Yes, fight for freedom, but remember we are Christians and Jews.
We are not the people who beheaded Daniel Pearl and celebrated.


Update July 2007 -
Has hanging Saddam brought peace to Iraq?
How many car bombs, how many US troops, how many Iraqi civilians have died since?
The US should have kept the oil and kept Saddam in power against Iran.




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