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Jan 5, 2007 4:35 am

Saddam Hussein's Execution -- The Presiding Genius

Many US comments on certain of the circumstances of Saddam Hussein’s execution, have failed to appreciate the role of Iraqi political history. Thus Christopher Hitchens refers to “Muqtada Sadr's riffraff taunting their defenseless former tyrant….While Saddam Hussein was alive, they cringed.” He ends: “To know that the U. S. government had even a silent, shamefaced part in it is to feel something well beyond embarrassment.”

Why _were_ members of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army there? And earlier, Nuri al-Maliki, the PM, was shown on television, signing the warrant (in red ink.) Why?

Why _were_ members of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army there? And earlier, Nuri al-Maliki, the PM, was shown on television, signing the warrant (in red ink.) Why?

Saddam’s brutal repression of his political rivals has to be remembered here. Al-Maliki is a member of the Dawa (Islamic Call) party. This party was founded around 1958 by the Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. It gained followers especially amongst poorer & less-educated Shias, & openly &violently opposed Saddam’s rule in the 1970s. Saddam imprisoned & executed many leading members of the party, then, at the end of March 1980, sentenced its members & affiliates to death. Many more members were executed. Others fled to Iran & Syria. At the beginning of April 1980, Dawa members attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate Saddam’s Foreign Minister. Saddam had Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr & his sister killed a few days later. In 1982 Dawa then attempted to assassinate Saddam, who retaliated by killing people from Dujail, the town concerned. -- It was for this that he was executed. -- Dawa attempted another assassination in 1987, & violently opposed the war with Iran.

Ayatollah Sadiq al-Sadr, Baqir’s cousin, hesitated to undertake political activity. But he eventually took over the Sadrist organisation, & obtained a mass of followers. He was assassinated, together with two of his sons, by Saddam’s agents in February 1999. Moqtada al-Sadr is his youngest son, & also the son-in-law of Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr.

When Saddam eventually went on ‘trial’, many Iraqis saw the whole thing as a show with a foregone conclusion.

The above provides some context for assessing American influence in Saddam’s execution. True, American officials & officers _did_ try

the scenes to mitigate the haste with which he was executed. True, Americans _did _ imprison Saddam -- & then released him to Iraqi officials. He _was_ transported by an American helicopter to the site of his hanging, & an American helicopter did take his body to Tikrit. And no doubt US govt officials had helped him in many ways throughout his brutal career. But _which_ set of influences played the _major_ role here? _Which_ ghosts were most prominent at the execution -- Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr, his sister Amina, Ayatollah Sadiq al-Sadr & his two sons, the hundreds of Dawa party members executed, the young men killed in retaliation (above), etc., etc.? Or was George II the presiding genius?

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