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Today's Big Story

Hussein To Hang

The World reacts to a well timed verdict.

By Richard Warnica 6 Nov 2006 | TheTyee.ca

Richard Warnica is a senior editor at The Tyee.

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Saddam Hussein, the Baathist strongman who ruled Iraq for more than two decades, was sentenced to hang Sunday for crimes against his own people.

The story led papers and broadcasts around the world including the Guardian, the NY Times, Al Jazeera, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Globe and Mail. According to most reports, reaction in Iraq was split along sectarian lines.

 Around the world meanwhile, leaders and opinion makers were similarly divided. Strong supporters of the war, like Australia’s John Howard, praised the verdict. While opponents such as the Finish government, and rights groups like Amnesty International, called the proceedings deeply flawed.

The trial itself was beset by chaos from its earliest days. Judges were intimidated, lawyers shot and witnesses forced into hiding. Hussein himself repeatedly disrupted the trial and refused to recognize the court’s legitimacy.

Many also questioned the timing of the tribunal’s verdict. The US mid-term elections are Tuesday and the Republicans, stewards of the invasion, were trailing badly heading into the weekend.

Plot or not, the result seems to have given the GOP a boost. President Bush wasted no time praising the verdict on the campaign trail.

From the NY Times:

"Today we witnessed a landmark event in the history of Iraq: Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal,” Mr. Bush said to roars of approval in a hockey auditorium packed with supporters in Grand Island, Neb. “Saddam Hussein’s trial is a milestone in the Iraqi people’s efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law."

There are, however, at least two prominent backers of the war who don’t want to see Hussein hang. Writing in today’s Slate Christopher Hitchens argues that Saddam still has too much to answer for to be dispatched now.

“If he is dropped through the trapdoor, we will never get to hear Saddam Hussein's response to two very important historic events,” Hitchens writes, “the Anfal campaign to exterminate the Kurds in the 1980s and the sanguinary way in which he restored himself to power after the Kuwait war.”

While Britain’s Tony Blair, after a series of acrobatic dodges, admitted the Saddam verdict didn’t change his view on capital punishment. "We are against the death penalty,” he said in today’s Guardian, “whether it's Saddam or anybody else.”

Meanwhile, also in the Guardian, journalist David Cox goes one step one further. Not only is Saddam’s death to be mourned, Cox argues, so too is his fall from power.

“Saddam offered his people a harsh deal,” Cox writes. “Yet, their lives were at risk only if they chose to challenge his authority. Now, they die because of the sect to which they happen to belong.”

From the Tyee’s Iraq file: Terry Glavin argues for a continued Western presence; Walrus managing editor Jeremy Keehn looks at how Canadian politics would be different if we’d joined the invasion; Iraqi novelist Haifa Zangana says women’s rights have been the true victims of the US adventure; and Sean Gonsalves examines possible exit strategies.

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