Needed perspective on the execution of Saddam Hussein

By Ambassador Robert Blake

The execution of Saddam Hussein has received world-wide attention. In Sri Lanka many political pundits and party spokesmen have criticized Saddam’s execution. The media is reporting allegations such as the United States invaded Iraq for oil; the execution was a warning for other leaders to bow to the United States; President George H.W. Bush presided over UN sanctions that killed thousands of Iraqi children, and that the United States executed Saddam Hussein.

Everyone is certainly welcome to voice his or her opinion. However, as the American statesman Bernard Baruch said, “Everyman has a right to his opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.” In this case, the misinformation is so wide of the mark, that I am compelled to set the record straight.

[Robert Orris Blake, Jr.,
Ambassador, Sri Lanka and Maldives – File Photo]

Saddam Hussein was no brother to Muslims. He was a devout secularist who wrapped himself in Islam when it suited him. In 1980, Saddam ordered the execution of the Imam Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr to protect his brutal regime. He did not hesitate to fill mass graves with tens of thousands of Shia Iraqis executed to keep himself in power. Muslim Kurds were gassed, without a second thought, to secure his control. He gladly wasted the blood and treasure of the Iraqi people by leading his country to war with his neighbors in Iran and Kuwait to capture their oil reserves.

The United States never sought oil in Iraq. One of the first priorities for the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003 was to re-build Iraq’s oil and gas infrastructure and transfer responsibility for managing Iraq’s oil wealth to the new Iraqi government for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

Saddam’s trial was an Iraqi trail that met international standards and those of Iraq’s constitution. The judges involved in the trial were all appointed to their positions during Saddam Hussein’s rule; they were not political axe men. Saddam Hussein enjoyed rights at his trial that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were never afforded by Saddam and his government. They did not have an open trial. They had no right to face their accuser. They did not enjoy the right to see the evidence presented against them. They had no right to counsel in their defense. This trial took place amidst the most difficult conditions possible where judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers faced death threats, bombings and assassination. To call his trail illegitimate in an insult to the brave Iraqis who risked their lives to carry out this trial.

Iraq’s death penalty was abolished in Iraq on June 2004 under the Coalition Provisional Authority. This penalty was re-instated by the Iraqi interim government and affirmed by the duly elected Iraqi government. A government elected by Iraqis who braved threats from B’aathists and Al-Qaeda to exercise their franchise.

The United States did not select the date, timing or method of Saddam Hussein’s execution, the Government of Iraq did. When the United States was advised of the date, our Ambassador in Iraq, Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, a fellow Muslim, raised issues over the timing and procedures. The Iraqi Government listened to our comments, but ultimately, they made their own judgments about the manner and the timing of the execution and how to comply with their own laws, as is their right.

Saddam Hussein’s murderous grip over Iraq has left deep wounds in the Iraqi people. This was evident when a witness in the crowd taunted Hussein on the gallows. As shown on the mobile phone video, Iraqi authorities rebuked the heckler and the Iraqi government has launched an investigation to identify both the covert cameraman and the verbal abuser.

The incidents that took place in the minutes before Saddam Hussein’s execution should not cloud the fact that Saddam Hussein will be remembered as one of the worst tyrants of the past 50 years. The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iraq compared Saddam Hussein’s regime to the World War II-era Soviet Union under Stalin and Nazi Germany under Hitler. Saddam Hussein is reputed to have killed more than a million Iraqis, his own people. Those are the facts that we should all remember.

[Published in Letter to the Editor section,]

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