- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Don’t be fooled: Saddam’s death is not the end.

It is not over yet. The trial in Iraq is still ongoing, even though Saddam was hanged on Dec. 30.

The genocide trial of six former officials accused of slaughtering 182,000 Kurdish villagers in the 1980s has resumed. “Despite his execution, the ousted despot’s presence loomed large at the trial, with his seat at the front of the dock conspicuously empty and his voice booming from the audiotape,” wrote the Middle East Times.

Saddam had been accused in the genocide trial, but the Iraqi High Tribunal dropped all legal proceedings against him and dismissed the rest of the charges. It is unfortunate that the Kurds were not given the chance to face Saddam in court.

“Saddam was found guilty of one of his ‘lesser crimes,’” wrote Claude Salhani in the Khaleej Times. “Meanwhile, far larger crimes such as the Iraq-Iran war, where nearly a million people lost their lives, will ‘conveniently’ disappear.”

The problem here is not why Saddam was executed, but how and when it was done. The execution was rushed. The court’s decision not to wait for the trial to end before hanging him is questionable.

For many Sunnis, the timing is also an issue because it was the first day of their Eid al-Adha holiday, but not of the Shi’ite Eid, which started on Sunday. Eid is one of the holiest days for Muslims, when sheep are slaughtered commemorating Abraham’s decision to sacrifice his son for God. The similarities here are hard to ignore.

Saddam’s half brother and former intelligence chief and the former head of Iraq’s Revolutionary Court were sentenced to hang along with Saddam because of their involvement in the killings of nearly 150 Shi’ites.

Curiously, their executions were postponed until after the Muslim holiday, which ended five days ago. Why the same consideration was not given to Saddam is dubious. “The manner of Saddam’s execution made it clear that Iraq’s Shi’ite leaders — and in particular Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki — were more interested in revenge than justice,” wrote the Daily Star.

Many Arabs believe that the way the execution was handled was not an oversight and the timing not a coincidence. Political analyst Diaa Rashwan said the problem with the trial and the final verdict was its apparent exhibit of sectarianism, as exemplified by the choice of the date of the execution, its location, and the witnesses present in the final moments, reported the Daily Star Egypt.

Egyptian President Mubarak was quoted as saying “Carrying out the execution in Eid Al-Adha is a matter that is unreasonable and unacceptable … images of the execution were barbaric and disgusting … as for the trial, as all legal experts in international law said, it is an illegal court because it is under an occupation,” reported the Daily Star Egypt.

It is true that most Iraqis and Arabs are happy to see Saddam gone. But the manner in which it was done (the shouting, the cursing, the broadcasting of the footage) might have defeated the purpose and turned him into a martyr for many Muslims and Arabs.

“Mourners walked through the streets of Tikrit carrying posters bearing Saddam’s image and chanting ‘Hero and Martyr Saddam Hussein,’” according to the Middle East Times.

Saddam’s execution should not be considered a victory. It is a wasted chance for justice and democracy to take place. If anything, the manner of the execution was a trap to divide Muslims and Arabs further and they walked right into it. This act will have serious repercussions for Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds in the entire region. This is far from being over.

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