Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein, the son of a landless peasant, was born in Tikrit in 1937. His father died before his birth and the family lived in extreme poverty until his mother, Sabha, took a third husband, Hassan Ibrahim. His step-father was extremely stick and he was regularly beaten with an asphalt-covered stick. In turn, Saddam also became very cruel. At first to animals but in his teens he murdered a shepherd from a nearby tribe.

Tikrit was an area controlled by Sunni Muslems. Orthodox Sunni Arabs are only about 15% of Itaq's population and are completely outnumbered by the Shias in the south (approximately 60%) and the Kurds in the north. However, the Sunnis dominated Iraq's political life. The Sunnis also provided a disproportionate number of the country's military officers.

In 1955, Saddam went to live with his uncle in Baghdad and was educated at Karkh High School. in 1957 joined the Ba'ath Party, a radical, pan-Arab nationalist doctrine. During this period he became a street-gang leader that was opposed the British-created Hashemite monarchy.

In July 1958, King Faisal II and his entire household were assassinated during a military coup. Nuri es-Said attempted to escape from Baghdad disguised as a woman but he was captured and executed on 14th July, 1958.

As a result of the Iraqi Revolution, the Arab nationalist, Abdul Karim Kassem, became the country's new leader and in 1959 Iraq withdrew from the Baghdad Pact. Later that year Saddam Hussein was forced to flee to Egypt after being implicated in the attempted assassination of Kassem.

Kassem's moderate policies lost him the support of the Ba'ath Party and he was executed after a military coup in February 1963. Colonel Abd al-Salam Aref became the new president and Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr served as prime minister. As well as nationalizing the oil industry the new government developed close links with Gamal Abdel Nasser and his government in Egypt. Ahmad Hasan al Bakr left the government later that year when right-wing military leaders ousted the Ba'ath Party from power. Saddam Hussein, who was by this time the leader of Jihaz al-Hunein, was imprisoned and was not released until 1966.

When Abd al-Salam Aref was killed in an air crash on 13th April 1966 he was replaced by his brother General Abdul Rahman. Another military coup on 17th July 1968 brought to power Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr. He quickly nationalized the Iraq Petroleum Company and introduced wide-ranging social and economic reforms.

Over the next ten years Saddam Hussein held several important political posts in the government. This included Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (1968-1979). The Ba'ath Party government ruthlessly suppressed opposition but it did agree to enter negotiations with the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP). In March 1970 the government promised to grant the Kurds a degree of autonomy.

On 6th October 1973, Egyptian and Syrian forces launched a surprise attack on Israel. Two days later the Egyptian Army crossed the Suez Canal while Syrian troops entered the Golan Heights. Iraq joined in the Arab-Israeli War but was defeated when Israeli troops counter-attacked on 8th October. Iraq was able to hurt the Western economy when it participated in the oil boycott against Israel's supporters.

It now became clear to the Kurdish Democratic Party that Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr was not going to keep his promises about Kurdish autonomy. In the spring 1974 fighting broke out between the Kurds and the government's armed forces. In March 1975 Iran closed its border with Iraq which led to the collapse of the Kurdish military force. Kurdish villages were destroyed and their inhabitants resettled in specially constructed villages surrounded by barbed wire and fortified posts.

Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr also suppressed non-Kurds in Iraq. In July 1978 a decree was passed which made all non-Ba'thist political activity illegal and membership of any other political party punishable by death for all those who were members or former members of the armed forces.

Saddam Hussein gradually increased his power in the Ba'ath Party and when Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr retired in July 1979, he became the new president. In the next few months Saddam Hussein swiftly executed his political rivals. Increasing oil revenues allowed him to increase spending on the building of schools, hospitals and clinics. He also established a literacy project that won him a Unesco award.

Another important reform was a massive programme to bring electricity to Iraq. This was followed by a huge nationwide distribution of free fridges and television sets. He also improved the status of women and by the late 1970s they were a major part of the workforce.

A student of dictators such as Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein arranged for portraits and statues to be placed all over the country. He also created the Republican Guard, an elite presidential security force.

In 1980 Saddam Hussein launched a war against Iran in an attempt to gain control of the Shatt al Arab Waterway, that runs along the border of both countries. During the war Iraq received support from the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and France.

In an effort to gain their independence from Iraq, the Kurds supported Iran during the war. Saddam Hussein retaliated and in the spring of 1988 the Iraq air force responded with poison gas, causing 5,000 deaths. As a result of these raids thousands fled to Turkey.

Iran gradually gained the upper-hand and recovered all its conquered territory and moved into Iraq and attempted to turn it into the world's second "Islamic Republic". Fearing that Iran would now dominate the region, the United States provided Saddam Hussein with conventional weapons, and the means to manufacture nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Iraq agreed to a cease-fire in July 1988. It is estimated that the Iraq-Iran War caused the deaths of 400,000 deaths and around 750,000 seriously injured. Of these casualties, three-quarters were Iranian.

Disillusioned by his rule, a group of soldiers in the Iraq Army attempted to overthrow Saddam Hussein in December 1989. The military coup failed and Saddam Hussein ordered the execution of 19 senior army officers.

It is estimated that Saddam Hussein spent around $5 billion a year on military rearmament. This created serious economic problems and began to consider the possibility of capturing the Rumaila oilfield in northern Kuwait. On 2nd August 1990 he ordered an invasion of Kuwait.

The United Nations immediately impose economic sanctions on Iraq and demanded an immediate withdrawal from Kuwait. In January 1991 a United States led coalition of 32 countries launch an attack on Iraq. Operation Desert Storm is a great success and after Iraq left Kuwait President George H. W. Bush was able to declare a cease-fire on 28th February.

In April 1991 Saddam Hussein agreed to accept the UN resolution calling on him to destroy weapons of mass destruction. He was also forced to allow UN inspectors into his country to monitor the disarmament. A no-fly zone was established in Northern Iraq to protect the Kurds from Saddam Hussein. The following year a no-fly zone was also created to protect the Shiite population living near Kuwait and Iran.

In April 1995, the UN Security Council passed an "oil-for-food" resolution. This allowed Iraq to export oil in exchange for humanitarian aid. However, this resolution was not accepted by Saddam Hussein until 1996.

The UN disarmament commission reported in October 1996 that Iraq continued to conceal information on biological and chemical weapons and missiles. Two months later Iraq suspended all cooperation with the UN inspectors.

In December 1998 the United States and Britain launched Operation Desert Fox, a four day intensive air strike that attempted to destroy Iraq command centres, missile factories and airfields. The following month U.S. and British bombers begin regular bombing attacks on Iraq. Over a 100 air strikes took place in 1999 and continued regularly over the next few years.

President George W. Bush described Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "axis of evil" and made it clear that he intended to remove the governments of these three countries. In March 2003, Bush, with the support of Tony Blair, ordered the invasion of Iraq.

In December, 2003, following a tip-off from an intelligence source, US forces found Saddam Hussein hiding in an underground refuge on a farm near Tikrit. It was decided that Saddam should be charged with the massacre in the small town of Dujail in 1982. The trial began in October, 2005, but the proceedings were immediately adjourned.

A second trial on war crimes relating to the 1988 Anfal campaign opened in August, 2006. On 5th November, he was found guilty and the court sentenced him to death by hanging. The sentence was confirmed by Iraq's highest court and he was executed on 30th December, 2006.

Primary Sources

(1) David Hirst, The Guardian (30th December, 2006)

The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was executed this morning at the age of 69, may not yield many general biographies - he was personally too uninteresting for that - but he will be a case study for political scientists for years to come. For he was the model of a certain type of developing world despot, who was, for over three decades, as successful in his main ambition, which was taking and keeping total power, as he was destructive in exercising it.

Yet at the same time, he was commonplace and derivative. Stalin was his exemplar. The likeness came from more than conscious emulation: he already resembled him in origin, temperament and method. Like him, he was unique less in kind than in degree, in the extraordinary extent to which, if the more squalid forms of human villainy are the sine qua non of the successful tyrant, he embodied them. Like Stalin, too, he had little of the flair or colour of other 20th-century despots, little mental brilliance, less charisma, no redeeming passion or messianic fervour; he was only exceptional in the magnitude of his thuggery, the brutality, opportunism and cunning of the otherwise dull, grey apparatchik.

His rise to power was no more accidental than Stalin's. If he had not mastered Iraq as he did, someone very similar probably would have, and very probably also from Tikrit. Saddam's peculiar fortune was that, on his political majority, this small, drab town, on the Tigris upstream from Baghdad, was already poised to wrest a very special role in Iraqi history.

Saddam was born in the nearby village of Owja, into the mud house of his uncle, Khairallah Tulfah, and into what a Tikriti contemporary of his called a world "full of evil". His father, Hussein al-Majid, a landless peasant, had died before his birth, and his mother, Sabha, could not support the orphan, until she took a third husband.

Hassan Ibrahim took to extremes local Bedouin notions of a hardy upbringing. For punishment, he beat his stepson with an asphalt-covered stick. Thus, from earliest infancy, was Saddam nurtured - like a Stalin born into very similar circumstances - in the bleak conviction that the world is a congenitally hostile place, life a ceaseless struggle for survival, and survival only achieved through total self-reliance, chronic mistrust and the imperious necessity to destroy others before they destroy you.

The sufferings visited on the child begat the sufferings the grown man, warped, paranoid, omnipotent, visited on an entire people. Like Stalin, he hid his emotions behind an impenetrable facade of impassivity; but he assuredly had emotions of a virulent kind - an insatiable thirst for vengeance on the world he hated.

To fend off attack by other boys, Saddam carried an iron bar. It became the instrument of his wanton cruelty; he would bring it to a red heat, then stab a passing animal in the stomach, splitting it in half. Killing was considered a badge of courage among his male relatives. Saddam's first murder was of a shepherd from a nearby tribe. This, and three more in his teens, were proof of manhood.

(2) The Daily Telegraph (1st January, 2007)

Saddam Hussein, who was hanged on Saturday aged 69, was as murderous a tyrant as any yet witnessed by history; for more than two decades he ruled Iraq with a contempt for humanity that made him feared and hated in equal measure.

He survived wars, uprisings, attempted coups and assassinations with all the instincts of a street fighter. A hero to some Arabs for his defiance of America and Israel, Saddam was demonised by some of the western powers that had armed and supported him in the 1980s as a bulwark against revolutionary Islamic Iran.

No ideologue, Saddam owed his popularity to crude appeals to Arab nationalism and Iraqi patriotism. Supported by a loyal band of "enforcers", including his sons Uday and Qusay, he stopped at nothing to preserve his personal power and the survival of his regime.

The name "Saddam" means "he who confronts", but his 12-year defiance of the UN and refusal to co-operate with weapons inspectors resulted in a US-led coalition invading his country. Operation Iraqi Freedom, launched on March 20 2003, was intent on achieving regime change.

After the resistance of his army collapsed Saddam fled, prompting a huge manhunt which ended with American troops finding him hiding in a foxhole near Tikrit in December 2003. A year-long trial ensued, which Saddam attempted to turn into a political platform; it ended in his being sentenced to death for the torture and execution of 148 Shias.

Before the war Saddam had consistently dared his enemies in the West to take action against him. Offered the chance to seek refuge in another Arab state, he refused to go into exile, declaring: "We will sacrifice our families and our children before we surrender Iraq."

He had already led Iraq into two disastrous conflicts: with Iran from 1980 to 1988, and with a US-led coalition that expelled Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991 after a brutal seven-month occupation. His disputes with the UN over disarmament kept crippling UN sanctions in place from 1990; but he held the UN at bay until weapons inspectors finally withdrew in December 1998.

(3) United Press International (29th December, 2006)

About 90 percent of Iraqis feel the situation in the country was better before the U.S.-led invasion than it is today, according to a new Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies poll.

The findings emerged after house-to-house interviews conducted by the ICRSS during the third week of November. About 2,000 people from Baghdad (82 percent), Anbar and Najaf (9 percent each) were randomly asked to express their opinion. Twenty-four percent of the respondents were women.

Only five percent of those questioned said Iraq is better today than in 2003. While 89 percent of the people said the political situation had deteriorated, 79 percent saw a decline in the economic situation; 12 percent felt things had improved and 9 percent said there was no change. Predictably, 95 percent felt the security situation was worse than before.

About 90 percent of Iraqis feel the situation in the country was better before the U.S.-led invasion than it is today, according to a new ICRSS poll.

The findings emerged after house-to-house interviews conducted by the ICRSS during the third week of November. About 2,000 people from Baghdad (82 percent), Anbar and Najaf (9 percent each) were randomly asked to express their opinion. Twenty-four percent of the respondents were women.

Only five percent of those questioned said Iraq is better today than in 2003. While 89 percent of the people said the political situation had deteriorated, 79 percent saw a decline in the economic situation; 12 percent felt things had improved and 9 percent said there was no change. Predictably, 95 percent felt the security situation was worse than before.

The results of the poll conducted by the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies and shared with the Gulf Research Center, has a margin error of +/- 3.1 percent.

The ICRSS is an independent institution "which attempts to spread the conscious necessity of realizing basic freedoms, consolidating democratic values and foundations of civil society."

Nearly 50 percent of the respondents identified themselves only as "Muslims"; 34 percent were Shiites and 14 percent, Sunnis.

(4) Tariq Ali, The Guardian (1st January, 2007)

It was symbolic that 2006 ended with a colonial hanging - most of it shown on state television in occupied Iraq. It has been that sort of year in the Arab world. The trial was so blatantly rigged that even Human Rights Watch had to condemn it as a travesty. Judges were changed on Washington's orders, defence lawyers were killed and the whole procedure resembled a well orchestrated lynch mob. Where Nuremberg was a relatively dignified application of victor's justice, Saddam Hussein's trial was the crudest and most grotesque to date.

The great thinker-president's reference to it "as a milestone on the road to Iraqi democracy" is as clear an indication as any that Washington pressed the trigger. The leaders of the European Union, supposedly hostile to capital punishment, were passive, as usual.

Although some Shia factions celebrated in Baghdad, the figures published by a fairly independent establishment outfit, the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies, reveal that more than 80% of Iraqis feel the situation in the country was better before it was occupied. (The ICRSS research is based on detailed house-to-house interviewing carried out during the third week of November.) Only 5% of those questioned said Iraq is better today than in 2003; 12% felt things had improved and 9% said there was no change. Unsurprisingly, 95% felt the security situation was worse than before.

Add to this the figures supplied by the United Nations high commissioner for refugees: 1.6 million Iraqis (7% of the population) have fled the country since March 2003, and 100,000 leave every month - Christians, doctors, engineers, women. There are 1 million Iraqis in Syria, 750,000 in Jordan, 150,000 in Cairo. These are refugees who do not excite the sympathy of western public opinion, since the US - EU-backed - occupation is the cause. Perhaps it was these statistics, and estimates of a million Iraqi dead, that necessitated the execution of Saddam.

That Saddam was a tyrant is beyond dispute, but what is conveniently forgotten is that most of his crimes were committed when he was a staunch ally of those who are now occupying the country. It was, as he admitted in one of his trial outbursts, the approval of Washington and the poison gas supplied by what was then West Germany that gave him the confidence to douse Halabja with chemicals in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam deserved a proper trial and punishment in an independent Iraq. Not this.

The double standards applied by the west never cease to astonish. Indonesia's Suharto, who presided over a mountain of corpses, was protected by Washington. He never annoyed them as much as Saddam.

And what of those who have created the mess in Iraq today? The torturers of Abu Ghraib; the pitiless butchers of Falluja; the ethnic cleansers of Baghdad; the Kurdish prison boss who boasts that his model is Guantánamo. Will Bush and Blair ever be tried for war crimes? Doubtful. And former Spanish prime minister José María Aznar? He is currently employed as a lecturer at Georgetown University, in Washington, where the language of instruction is of course English - of which he hardly speaks a word.

Saddam's lynching might send a shiver down the spines of the Arab ruling elites. If Saddam can be hanged, so can the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, the Hashemite joker in Amman and the Saudi royals - as long as those who topple them are happy to play ball with the United States.

(5) Am Johal, The Aesthetics of Execution, AlterNet (3rd January, 2007)

It is a form of irony, that in his final moments of life, Saddam Hussein, the half-baked 'Butcher of Baghdad,' appeared more dignified than his executioners - anonymous hooded police officers, randomly chosen, hastily carrying out last minute orders while taunting him. The cell phone video that was shown with a minute of advertising preceding it on Western media websites just added to the impromptu and anti-climactic nature of the event.

They were carrying out the red card that Hussein himself had issued on many others. It was like a World Cup match and the Muslims on the Hajj were infuriated.

But it was an amateur, botched operation which reeked of incompetence on the eve of a Muslim religious holiday. Apparently the execution chamber had a foul odour. Saddam was being sacrificed, partially for the violation of human rights, but also for not being a doormat to American empire.

His last words were, "Down with the traitors, the Americans, the spies and the Persians." When he was handed over to Iraqi guards by U.S. forces, he exchanged curses with them.

In the end, Saddam Hussein was hung in an execution chamber that he had created and often used against his enemies ruthlessly.

The New York Times reported that Mr. Hussein "wore a 1940s-style wool cap, a scarf and a long black coat over a white collared shirt."

After his verdict was read to him, Saddam shouted, "Long live the nation! Long live the people! Long live the Palestinians!" He asked for his copy of the Koran to be given to Bandar, a son of a Revolutionary Court judge who was also about to be executed.

As they began to pray near the gallows, the guards taunted him by calling out the name of radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

As one of the guards became angry, they told Saddam, "You have destroyed us. You have killed us. You have made us live in destitution."

Mr. Hussein was scornful: "I have saved you from destitution and misery and destroyed your enemies, the Persians and Americans."

The guard cursed him. "God damn you."

Mr. Hussein replied back, "God damn you."

The images which emerged looked indistinguishable from Iraqi insurgents beheading foreign journalists on home video cameras.

Were these hundreds of thousands of deaths, these billions of dollars to fight this unnecessary war and the charade of judicial process worth this kind of hastily arranged 6 a.m. photo-op? Was this an act of bravado to the Arab world? Or was it to show the Americans that the new regime meant business? Did the trauma imposed upon Shiites and Kurds mean that they were somehow fit to carry out an impartial justice or was this just sweet revenge? Did international law really prevail? Who was more free and was going to live without coercion now in Iraq?

Slovenian academic Slavoj Zizek brilliantly observed recently that, "'human rights are, as such, a false ideological universality, which masks and legitimizes a concrete politics of Western imperialism, military interventions and neo-colonialism."

Saddam coined phrases like “the mother of all battles” and was relatively harmless with his cache of errant scud missiles during the first Gulf War - a kind of bumbling foe prone to hyperbole. He was, after all, actively supported by the United States, just like Osama Bin Laden, even though they knew about his human rights violations against Kurds, Shiites and his other political opponents in the 1980's. His picture with Donald Rumsfeld from that era is priceless.

The West grew up with him on their television sets. When he defended himself in court, it was a kind of belated, bloated performance of an amateur theater troupe - a simulation of legal proceeding and a gesture par excellence of democratic process. His legal training from Cairo was finally being put to use in his own defense. Even former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark raised concerns about the process in Saddam's defense.

The gun that Saddam was found with in his bunker is now sitting in a room across from the Oval Office, a spoil of war.

For the genius from Austin, Texas, this befit his idea of natural justice and complex metaphor: Daddy didn't get him, so I will.

There was an element of sympathy that the photographs conveyed of a 69-year-old man about to face a humiliating death. Just like his capture in the bunker a few years ago, where he was given a public shaving and dental exam under the din of camera lights to a rabid Western papparazzi, this elusive authoritarian found a way to ridicule his captors. Only the foreign ministers of the European Union raised concerns with the human rights implications of carrying out the death penalty. The U.S. government was clear in expressing that this was Iraqi justice carried out by the Iraqi people.

It was not that long ago, that Tony Blair landed in Iraq in a powder blue button down shirt and read stories to schoolchildren with media in tow to deflect public criticism from the Hutton Inquiry. The whole Iraq war has been fought in the realm of images and charade, rather than reality.

Susan Sontag, in writing about the photography of war, observed, "It is felt that there is something morally wrong with the abstract of reality offered by photography; that one has no right to experience the suffering of others at a distance, denuded of its raw power; that we pay too high a human (or moral) price for those hitherto admired qualities of vision - the standing back from the aggressiveness of the world which frees us for observation and for elective attention."

Perhaps, there is something riveting and obscene about seeing the passage of a life in such a public colliseum. Photography and images which capture for time immemorial such a personal moment make us all a little more primitive, more accepting of death, less able to feel, to "have our conscience pricked."

What were his private thoughts? What is the meaning of a life that passes? What is justice?

Why would someone with a ruthless persona like Saddam Hussein evoke a kind of confused sympathy around the world? Why was the propaganda not working? Had we reached our saturation point with war?

(6) Robert Scheer, Saddam: A Monster of Our Creation, Truth Dig (3rd January, 2007)

Someone has to say it: The hanging of Saddam Hussein was an act of barbarism that makes a mockery of President Bush's claim it was "an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy."

Instead, the rushed, illegal and unruly execution of a former U.S. ally after his conviction in a kangaroo court blurred the line between terrorist and terrorized as effectively as Saddam's own evil propaganda ever did.

In the most generous interpretation, the frantic killing of Saddam abetted by the United States was the third act in a morality play of misplaced vengeance for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - in which the first act was the invasion of Iraq, based on trumped-up lies linking it to al-Qaida, and the second was the killing of the tyrant's sons, whose bloody corpses were hypocritically displayed to the world like war scalps.

At worst, the handling of Saddam is just another example of an Imperial America under President Bush that recognizes no boundaries of national sovereignty or any restraint of international law. A nation that posed no threat to U.S. security was conquered for a range of base motives, from oil plunder to industrial profits to naked political gain. Of course, these are the same rationales that despots always use to explain their murderous wars, such as Saddam's genocidal invasion of Iran and greedy occupation of Kuwait.

The president says the execution was warranted because Saddam received a fair trial even after Bush decided to bypass an international tribunal designed to handle such trials of national rulers and instead turn Saddam over to Iraq's dominant partisan faction in the midst of a nascent civil war. While Saddam's guilt of "crimes against humanity" may have been accurate, it was not, in fact, established by his trial, which was pushed through even as his lawyers were being assassinated. This, quite opposite to the spirit of the Nuremberg war crime trials (established by the United States but not repeated today by President Bush), where the accused had competent and unintimidated attorneys, free to make a complete case.

The trial dealt only with alleged crimes that occurred in the Shiite village of Dujail after an assassination attempt on Saddam. His bloody reprisals occurred 15 months before Donald Rumsfeld, then President Ronald Reagan's emissary, traveled to Baghdad to initiate an alliance with Saddam. Rumsfeld conceded in classified memos that he was familiar with Saddam's unsavory past, yet advocated forming an alliance with the dictator.

In fact, the most heinous crimes allegedly committed by Saddam, including the use of poison gas against Shiite Iraqis he suspected of being sympathetic to his Shiite enemies in Iran, were carried out during the years that he was our ally. With the United States having now put Iraqi Shiites with long political, military and ideological ties to those same Iranian ayatollahs into power in Baghdad, the bizarre circle of this foreign policy disaster is now complete, with Saddam's broken neck a fitting coda.

The video images now broadcast widely on the Internet show, as The New York Times reported, that the execution proceedings deteriorated "into a sectarian free-for-all that had the effect . . . of making [Saddam] appear dignified and restrained, and his executioners, representing Shiites, who were his principal victims, seem like bullying street thugs." As the executioners chanted "Moqtada! Moqtada! Moqtada!," in reference to death squad leader Moqtada al Sadr, Saddam may have claimed for his Sunni followers an undeserved martyrdom.

"Is that how real men behave?" Saddam asked, smiling contemptuously. In the end, Sadr was presented figuratively with the head of Saddam by reluctant U.S. officials -- the former dictator was in U.S. custody, after all - in order to placate the Shiite radicals running Iraq, even though Iraqi law bans executions on this past weekend's religious holiday and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani refused to sign a decree upholding the death sentence, as is required by the country's new constitution.

Fittingly, U.S. officials appeared in this spectacle as hapless Keystone Kops, morally implicated by their tepid support of a lynch mob. It perfectly mirrors decades of U.S. meddling in the history of Iraq, beginning with U.S. support for Saddam's Baath Party when it overthrew Iraqi nationalist Abdul Karim Qassem because we feared he was tilting ever so slightly to the Soviets. In fact, Saddam, like Osama bin Laden and the other Islamist fanatics our CIA recruited and helped to wage holy war against the Soviets, was a monster at least partially of our creation.

Those deeply unsavory connections between Saddam and the United States would have been exposed in any honest trial. Presumably, this is the real reason why the Bush administration so assiduously undermined any equitable judicial accounting of Saddam's criminality, right through his shamefully and illegally rushed execution.