The War Profiteers - War Crimes, Kidnappings, Torture and Big Money
December 30th, 2006 - Saddam Hanged at Dawn
Saddam was executed at an Iraqi military base in northern Baghdad
December 30, 2006
Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi president, has been hanged, Iraqi officials have said.
The execution took place shortly before 6am (03:00 GMT) on Saturday at an Iraqi miltary facility in northern Baghdad.
Iraqi television later showed footage of Saddam being placed in a noose by hangmen, cutting away just before his execution.
The 69-year-old appeared calm, chatting to his hangmen as they wrapped his neck in black cloth and steered him towards the gallows.
Iraqi television later showed footage of his body.
Saddam was convicted last month of the killings of 148 Shias after a failed assassination attempt in 1982.
Late on Saturday, a defence lawyer said Saddam's body was flown on board a US plane to his family hometown of Tikrit for burial.
Lawyer Bushra al-Khalil told Reuters the body of the former leader was now in Tikrit.
Sources told Al Jazeera that Saddam would be buried at his family burial ground in the village of al-Oja near Tikrit on Sunday morning.
After the execution, the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, urged Saddam's fellow Baathists to reconsider their tactics and join the political process.
"I urged followers of the ousted regime to reconsider their stance as the door is still open to anyone who has no innocent blood on his hands, to help in rebuilding an Iraq for all Iraqis," he said.
In Sadr City, a Shia area of Baghdad, people danced in the streets while others fired guns in the air to celebrate the former leader's death.
Kurds also welcomed the hanging and the office of the Kurdish regional president, Massud Barzani, issued a statement saying: "We hope that Saddam Hussein's execution will open a new chapter among Iraqis and the end of using violence against civilians."
Violence in Iraq continued on Saturday after Saddam's death and at least 30 people were killed when a bomb exploded in a fish market south of Baghdad in the first.
George Bush said that the execution was an important milestone on the country's path to democracy.
"Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, but it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself," the US president said in a statement.
An appeals court had upheld the death penalty on Tuesday and the Iraqi government rushed through the procedures to hang Saddam by the end of the year and before the Eid al-Adha holiday that starts on Saturday.
Saddam's half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, and a former judge, Awad al-Bander, also sentenced to death for their roles in the killings of the villagers in Dujail, will be hanged after Eid, officials said on Saturday.
The execution took place at an Iraqi army base in Kadhimiya.
The base was the former headquarters for Saddam's military intelligence where many of his victims were tortured and executed in the same gallows.
The northern Baghdad district is also home to one of Shia Islam's holiest shrines.
The government had kept details of the execution plan secret amid concerns that it may provoke a violent backlash from Saddam's supporters with Iraq on the brink of civil war.
"It was very quick. He died right away," an official Iraqi witnesses told the Reuters news agency.
"We heard his neck snap," said Sami al-Askari, a political ally of al-Maliki.
Another witness said: "He seemed very calm. He did not tremble."
As guards took him to the scaffold, according to witnesses, Saddam said: "There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet."
During his three decades in power, Saddam was accused of widespread oppression of political opponents and genocide against Kurds in northern Iraq. His execution means that he will never face justice on those charges.
Others have questioned the timing of the killing, coming at the beginning of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Saddam insisted during his trial that he was still the president of Iraq. He said in a letter written after his conviction that he offered himself as a "sacrifice".
"If my soul goes down this path [of martyrdom] it will face God in serenity," he wrote in the letter.
Saddam's defence team and human rights groups complained that the former Iraqi leader had not recieved a fair trial.
Najeeb Al-Nuaimi, one of the defence lawyers, told Al Jazeera: "There was bias, the prosecution sided with their politicians, it was an ethnically established court with three Shia and one Sunni."
The US-based rights group Human Rights Watch condemned the hanging, saying history would judge his trial and execution harshly.
Richard Dicker, a Human Rights Watch director, said: "Saddam Hussein was responsible for horrific, widespread human rights violations, but those acts, however brutal, cannot justify his execution, a cruel and inhuman punishment."
By Christopher Torchia & Qassim Abdul-Zahra
Associated Press Writers
Saturday December 30, 2006 7:31 PM
Baghdad, Iraq - Saddam Hussein struggled briefly after American military guards handed him over to Iraqi executioners before dawn Saturday. But as his final moments approached and masked executioners slipped a black cloth and noose around his neck, he grew calm.
In a final moment of defiance, he refused a hood to cover his eyes.
Hours after Saddam faced the same fate he was accused of inflicting on countless thousands during a quarter-century of ruthless power, Iraqi state television showed grainy video of what it said was his body, the head uncovered and the neck twisted at a sharp angle.
A man whose testimony helped lead to Saddam's conviction and execution before sunrise said he was shown the body because “everybody wanted to make sure that he was really executed.”
“Now, he is in the garbage of history,” said Jawad Abdul-Aziz, who lost his father, three brothers and 22 cousins in the reprisal killings that followed a botched 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam in the Shiite town of Dujail.
The post-execution footage showed the man identified as Saddam lying on a stretcher, covered in a white shroud. His neck and part of the shroud have what appear to be bloodstains. His eyes are closed.
Al-Arabiya satellite television reported Saturday night that a delegation including the governor of Salahuddin Province and the head of Saddam's clan retrieved his body from Baghdad and took it for burial near the executed dictator's hometown of Tikrit. The broadcaster reported the burial would take place Sunday. The report could not immediately be verified.
Earlier, in Baghdad's Shiite enclave of Sadr City, hundreds of people danced in the streets while others fired guns in the air to celebrate. Some hanged an effigy of Saddam. The government did not impose a round-the-clock curfew as it did last month when Saddam was convicted to thwart any surge in retaliatory violence.
It was a grim end for the 69-year-old leader who had vexed three U.S. presidents. Despite his ouster, Washington, its allies and the new Iraqi leaders remain mired in a fight to quell a stubborn insurgency by Saddam loyalists and a vicious sectarian conflict.
The execution took place during the year's deadliest month for U.S. troops, with the toll reaching 109. At least 2,998 members of the U.S. military have been killed since the Iraq war began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
President Bush said in a statement issued from his ranch in Texas that bringing Saddam to justice “is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.”
He said that the execution marks the “end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops” and cautioned that Saddam's death will not halt the violence in Iraq.
Within hours of his death, bombings killed at least 68 people in Iraq, including one planted on a minibus that exploded in a fish market in a mostly Shiite town south of Baghdad.
Ali Hamza, a 30-year-old university professor, said he went outside to shoot his gun into the air after he learned of Saddam's death.
“Now all the victims' families will be happy because Saddam got his just sentence,” said Hamza, who lives in Diwaniyah, a Shiite town 80 miles south of Baghdad.
But people in the Sunni-dominated city of Tikrit, once a power base of Saddam, lamented his death.
“The president, the leader Saddam Hussein is a martyr and God will put him along with other martyrs. Do not be sad nor complain because he has died the death of a holy warrior,” said Sheik Yahya al-Attawi, a cleric at the Saddam Big Mosque.
Police blocked the entrances to Tikrit and said nobody was allowed to leave or enter the city for four days. Despite the security precaution, gunmen took to the streets of Tikrit, carrying pictures of Saddam, shooting into the air, and calling for vengeance.
Security forces also set up roadblocks at the entrance to another Sunni stronghold, Samarra, and a curfew was imposed after about 500 people took to the streets protesting the execution of Saddam.
A couple hundred people also protested the execution just outside the Anbar capital of Ramadi, and more than 2,000 people demonstrated in Adwar, the village south of Tikrit where Saddam was captured by U.S. troops hiding in an underground bunker.
In a statement, Saddam's lawyers said that in the aftermath of his death, “the world will know that Saddam Hussein lived honestly, died honestly, and maintained his principles.”
“He did not lie when he declared his trial null,” they said.
Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, were not hanged along with their former leader as originally planned. Officials wanted to reserve the occasion for Saddam alone.
“We wanted him to be executed on a special day,” National Security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie told state-run al-Iraqiya television.
Sami al-Askari, the political adviser of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told the AP that Saddam initially resisted when he was taken by Iraqi guards but was composed in his final moments.
He said Saddam was clad in a black suit, hat and shoes, rather than prison garb. His hat was removed and his hands tied shortly before the noose was slipped around his neck.
Saddam repeated a prayer after a Sunni Muslim cleric who was present.
“Saddam later was taken to the gallows and refused to have his head covered with a hood,” al-Askari said. “Before the rope was put around his neck, Saddam shouted: ‘God is great. The nation will be victorious and Palestine is Arab.’”
Iraqi state television showed footage of guards in ski masks placing a noose around Saddam's neck. Saddam appeared calm as he stood on the metal framework of the gallows. The footage cuts off just before the execution.
Saddam was executed at a former military intelligence headquarters in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, al-Askari said. During his regime, Saddam had numerous dissidents executed in the facility, located in a neighborhood that is home to the Iraqi capital's most important Shiite shrine - the Imam Kazim shrine.
The Iraqi prime minister's office released a statement that said Saddam's execution was a “strong lesson” to ruthless leaders who commit crimes against their own people.
“We strongly reject considering Saddam as a representative of any sect in Iraq because the tyrant only represented his evil soul,” the statement said. “The door is still open for those whose hands are not tainted with the blood of innocent people to take part in the political process and work on rebuilding Iraq.”
The execution came 56 days after a court convicted Saddam and sentenced him to death for his role in the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from Dujail. Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam's appeal Monday and ordered him executed within 30 days.
A U.S. judge on Friday refused to stop Saddam's execution, rejecting a last-minute court challenge.
U.S. troops cheered as news of Saddam's execution appeared on television at the mess hall at Forward Operating Base Loyalty in eastern Baghdad. But some soldiers expressed doubt that Saddam's death would be a significant turning point for Iraq.
“First it was weapons of mass destruction. Then when there were none, it was that we had to find Saddam. We did that, but then it was that we had to put him on trial,” said Spc. Thomas Sheck, 25, who is on his second tour in Iraq. “So now, what will be the next story they tell us to keep us over here?”
At his death, he was in the midst of a second trial, charged with genocide and other crimes for a 1987-88 military crackdown that killed an estimated 180,000 Kurds in northern Iraq. Experts said the trial of his co-defendants was likely to continue despite his execution.
Many people in Iraq's Shiite majority were eager to see the execution of a man whose Sunni Arab-dominated regime oppressed them and Kurds. Before the hanging, a mosque preacher in the Shiite holy city of Najaf on Friday called Saddam's execution “God's gift to Iraqis.”
In a farewell message to Iraqis posted Wednesday on the Internet, Saddam said he was giving his life for his country as part of the struggle against the U.S. “Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if he wants, he will send it to heaven with the martyrs,” he said.
One of Saddam's lawyers, Issam Ghazzawi, said the letter was written by Saddam on Nov. 5, the day he was convicted by an Iraqi tribunal in the Dujail killings.
Najeeb al-Nauimi, a member of Saddam's legal team, said U.S. authorities maintained physical custody of Saddam until the execution to prevent him being humiliated publicly or his corpse being mutilated, as has happened to previous Iraqi leaders deposed by force. He said they didn't want anything to happen to further inflame Sunni Arabs.
“This is the end of an era in Iraq,” al-Nauimi said from Doha, Qatar. “The Baath regime ruled for 35 years. Saddam was vice president or president of Iraq during those years. For Iraqis, he will be very well remembered. Like a martyr, he died for the sake of his country.''
Iraq's death penalty was suspended by the U.S. military after it toppled Saddam in 2003, but the new Iraqi government reinstated it two years later, saying executions would deter criminals.
Saddam's own regime used executions and extrajudicial killings as a tool of political repression, both to eliminate real or suspected political opponents and to maintain a reign of terror.
In the months after he seized power on July 16, 1979, he had hundreds of members of his own party and army officers slain. In 1996, he ordered the slaying of two sons-in-law who had defected to Jordan but returned to Baghdad after receiving guarantees of safety.
Saddam built Iraq into a one of the Arab world's most modern societies, but then plunged the country into an eight-year war with neighboring Iran that killed hundreds of thousands of people on both sides and wrecked Iraq's economy.
When the U.S. invaded in 2003, Iraqis had been transformed from among the region's most prosperous people to some of its most impoverished.
Associated Press Writer Will Weissert contributed to this report.
By Steven R. Hurst
December 30, 2006, 1:49 AM EST
Baghdad, Iraq - Iraqis awoke Saturday to television images of a noose being slipped over Saddam Hussein's neck and his white-shrouded body, the pre-dawn work of black-hooded hangmen. They went to bed as new video emerged showing Saddam exchanging taunts with onlookers before the gallows floor dropped away and the former dictator swung from the rope.
Saddam was buried shortly before dawn Sunday inside a compound for religious ceremonies in the center of Ouja, the town where he was born. Few were present for the interment, according the Salahuddin province governor.
In Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City, victims of his three decades of autocratic rule took to the streets Saturday to celebrate, dancing, beating drums and hanging Saddam in effigy. Celebratory gunfire erupted across other Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad and other predominantly Shiite regions of the country.
There was no sign of a feared Sunni uprising in retaliation for the execution, and the bloodshed from civil warfare was not far off the daily average - 92 from bombings and death squads.
Outside the Sunni insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, west of the capital, loyalists marched with Saddam pictures and waved Iraqi flags. Defying curfews, hundreds took to the streets vowing revenge in Samarra, north of Baghdad, and gunmen paraded and fired into the air in support of Saddam in Tikrit, his hometown.
Still, authorities imposed curfews sparingly in contrast to the several-day lockdown put in place after Saddam was sentenced to death Nov. 5.
By several accounts, Saddam was calm but scornful of his captors, engaging in a give-and-take with the crowd gathered to watch him die and insisting he was Iraq's savior, not its tyrant and scourge.
"He said we are going to heaven and our enemies will rot in hell and he also called for forgiveness and love among Iraqis but also stressed that the Iraqis should fight the Americans and the Persians," Munir Haddad, an appeals court judge who witnessed the hanging, told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Another witness, national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie, told The New York Times that one of the guards shouted at Saddam: "You have destroyed us. You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution."
"I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persian and Americans," Saddam responded, al-Rubaie told the Times.
"God damn you," the guard said.
"God damn you," responded Saddam.
New video, first broadcast by Al-Jazeera satellite television early Sunday, had sound of someone in the group praising the founder of the Shiite Dawa Party, who was executed in 1980 along with his sister by Saddam.
Saddam appeared to smile at those taunting him from below the gallows. He said they were not showing manhood.
Then Saddam began reciting the "Shahada," a Muslim prayer that says there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger, according to an unabridged copy of the same tape, apparently shot with a camera phone and posted on a Web site.
Saddam made it to midway through his second recitation of the verse. His last word was Muhammad.
The floor dropped out of the gallows.
"The tyrant has fallen," someone in the group of onlookers shouted. The video showed a close-up of Saddam's face as he swung from the rope.
Then came another voice: "Let him swing for three minutes."
The responses within Iraq to Saddam's death echoed the larger reaction across the Middle East, with his enemies rejoicing and his defenders proclaiming him a martyr. While Iranians and Kuwaitis welcomed the death of the leader who led wars against each of their countries, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the execution prevented exposure of the secrets and crimes the former dictator committed during his brutal rule.
Some Arab governments denounced the timing of the 69-year-old former president's hanging just before the start of the most important holiday of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha. Libya announced a three-day official mourning period and canceled all celebrations for Eid.
Within Iraq and across the world, the airwaves were alive with pictures of Saddam in death, a bruise on his cheek, his neck elongated and twisted impossibly to the right - grisly proof that the man who had tormented and killed so many during a bloody quarter-century rule was truly dead.
But some Iraqis - like 34-year-old Haider Hamed, a candy store owner in east Baghdad - wondered what would really change with the execution of Saddam, who was just four months shy of his 70th birthday.
"He's gone, but our problems continue," said the Shiite Muslim, whose uncle was killed in one of Saddam's many brutal purges. "We brought problems on ourselves after Saddam because we began fighting Shiite on Sunni and Sunni on Shiite."
At least 80 Iraqis died in bombings and other attacks Saturday, and police said 12 more tortured bodies were found dumped in Baghdad. The U.S. military announced six more service members - three soldiers and three Marines - were killed.
The execution took place on the penultimate day of the year's deadliest month for U.S. troops, with the toll reaching 109. At least 2,998 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003, according to an AP count.
On Sunday, Saddam was buried about 2 miles from the graves of his sons Odai and Qusai in the main town cemetery in Ouja, a small town outside Tikrit. The sons and a grandson were killed in a gunbattle with the American forces in Mosul in July 2003.
Um Abdullah, a Sunni and teacher in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, said she would wear black to mourn the city's favorite son.
"Saddam will be a hero in our eyes," she said. "I have five kids and I will teach them to take revenge on Americans."
Police blocked the entrances to Tikrit and said nobody was allowed to leave or enter the city for four days. Despite the security precaution, gunmen took into the streets, carrying pictures of Saddam, shooting into the air and calling for vengeance.
Security forces also set up roadblocks at the entrance to another Sunni stronghold, Samarra, and a curfew was imposed after about 500 went into the streets to protest the execution.
Among minority Sunnis there was deep anger, born not only of Saddam's execution but of the loss of their decades-long political and economic dominance that began with Saddam's ouster in the U.S. invasion nearly four years ago.
"The president, the leader, Saddam Hussein is a martyr and God will put him along with other martyrs," said Yahya al-Attawi, who led prayer at a towering Sunni mosque constructed by Saddam in Tikrit.
There were cheers at the cafeteria of a U.S. outpost in Baghdad as soldiers having breakfast learned Saddam had been hanged.
But members of the Army's 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, on patrol in an overwhelmingly Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, said the execution wouldn't get them home any faster - and therefore didn't make much difference.
"Nothing really changes," said Capt. Dave Eastburn, 30, of Columbus, Ohio. "The militias run everything now, not Saddam."
Staff Sgt. David Earp, who also fought in 1991's Operation Desert Storm, said the execution worried him.
"In my opinion, something big is going to happen," said Earp, of Colorado Springs, Colo. "There will be a response. Probably not today because they know we are looking for one, but soon."
Copyright 2006 Associated Press
By Souhail Karam
Sat Dec 30, 11:40 AM ET
Arab pilgrims in Mecca expressed outrage on Saturday that Iraqi authorities had chosen to execute former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on a major religious holiday, saying it was an insult to Muslims.
Sunni Arabs at the haj were shocked at Saddam's hanging which followed his conviction for crimes against humanity against Iraqi Shi'ites.
"His execution on the day of Eid ... is an insult to all Muslims," said Jordanian pilgrim Nidal Mohammad Salah. "What happened is not good because as a head of state, he should not be executed."
The Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, marks biblical patriarch Abraham's willingness to kill his son for God. Muslim countries often pardon criminals to mark the feast, and prisoners are rarely executed at that time.
The death could harden hatred for Shi'ite Muslims in Saudi Arabia, a bastion of Sunni Islam whose Islamic orthodoxy - known as Wahhabism - regards Shi'ites as virtual heretics.
"This timing was chosen to turn our joy during Eid to sadness. I don't say this for grief over Saddam ... but we must ready ourselves for a new enemy from the East," a user on an Islamist Web site said, referring to Shi'ites in Iran.
Saddam, a Sunni, was admired by many Arabs for standing up to the United States. Haj authorities fear his death could stoke tensions between Sunni and Shi'ite pilgrims.
Eid falls during the 5-day haj, when more than 2 million Muslims from around the world follow ancient rites at the Islamic Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
"I don't want to believe it. Saddam cannot die. Is this the good news we get on our Eid?" said Saudi Nawaf al-Harbi.
But many Shi'ites regard Saddam's death as a gift from God.
"Congratulations, this is like two Eids! I hope God will not have mercy on him," Iraqi Nadir Abdullah said amid a group of jubilant pilgrims.
Security was already heightened for this haj season because of sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
Haj pilgrims dress in simple white garments that can disguise differences of sect and nationality. Many come from outside the Middle East and on Saturday most were preoccupied with the next stage of the rites, the symbolic stoning of the devil at the Jamarat Bridge.
But many felt Saddam's execution would only worsen sectarian violence in Iraq.
"This is unbelievable. Things will not improve in Iraq now that Saddam is dead," said a Syrian pilgrim, Abu Mostafa. "There will be more violence and more Arab anger toward the West."
For Iraqi Kurds like Aladdin Suleiman Mohammad, the execution was a "fair decision" regardless of timing, though it dashed hopes of justice for crimes against Kurds.
Saddam's second trial on charges of war crimes against Iraqi Kurds in what is known as the "Anfal" or "Spoils of War" campaign, had been due to resume next month.
But many Arabs said if anyone should be put on trial it was the Shi'ite-led Iraqi government that backed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, which overthrew Saddam.
"They are American collaborators, those in Iraq. They should be executed, not Saddam Hussein." said Mohammad Mousa, on haj from Lebanon. "Saddam Hussein is the most honorable of all of them. He is the most honorable Arab. They will go to hell, he will go to heaven."
Copyright © 2006 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
External link: http://tinyurl.com/yhsmbl