- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 30, 2006

BAGHDAD — In a final act of defiance, Saddam Hussein refused a hood to cover his head as he plunged to his death yesterday.

The fallen dictator did not plead for his life, nor did he violently resist the executioners who slipped the rope around his neck.

The most striking thing about the images that were broadcast on Iraqi television was how calmly and cooperatively the tyrant faced death.

Saddam had reportedly asked that, as Iraq’s commander in chief, he be sent before a firing squad. Instead, he was condemned to die on the gallows — such as an Iraqi criminal or thug.

When the time came, before dawn in Baghdad, Saddam did not wear his familiar military uniform with its beret. Instead, he wore a black coat over a white shirt, black trousers and black shoes.

His jet black hair was carefully combed, his salt-and-pepper beard neatly clipped. He carried a Koran.

The 69-year-old Saddam was taken to a former military intelligence headquarters in Baghdad’s Shi’ite neighborhood of Kazimiyah, in northern Baghdad. During his regime, he had numerous dissidents executed in the facility.

Munir Haddad, an appeals court judge who witnessed the hanging, told the British Broadcasting Corp. that Saddam was not sedated.

“Not at all, Saddam was normal and in full control,” Mr. Haddad said. “He was aware of his fate and he knew he was about to face death.

“He said, ‘This is my end, this is the end of my life, but I started my life as a fighter and as a political militant so death does not frighten me.’ ”

After his captors brought Saddam into the execution chamber, his hands — which were tied in front of him — were untied then tied in the back, Mr. Haddad told the BBC.

“They put his feet in shackles and he was taken upstairs to the gallows,” Mr. Haddad said. “He was reciting, as it was his custom, ‘God is great’ and also some political slogans like ‘down with the Americans’ and ‘down with the invaders.’

“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.”

By the time the one-minute broadcast video was aired without sound, Saddam appeared quiet. His eyes seemed lost in a 1,000-yard stare.

Four or five burly men guided him gently but firmly toward a red-metal railing marking the trap door. A thick rope hung from the low ceiling. An unseen photographer’s flash created fleeting stark shadows.

With a blank expression, Saddam refused a black hood.

Then he appeared to agree to let one of his executioners tie a black scarf around his neck — presumably to prevent injuries that might disfigure his corpse.

In the video, Saddam appeared silent as the noose is slipped over his head.

But one witness, Sami al-Askari, a political adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said that Saddam shouted: “God is great. The nation will be victorious and Palestine is Arab.”

Iraqi TV did not broadcast the moment of Saddam’s execution but officials said his death was recorded on video.

Asked if Saddam suffered, Mr. Haddad told the BBC: “He was killed instantly, I witnessed the impact of the rope around his neck and it was a horrible sight.”

Saddam’s half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, were originally scheduled to be hanged along with the former leader.

Iraqi officials, though, decided to reserve the occasion for Saddam alone.

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