Was it only two days ago that we read the exultant news stories and saw the frenzied TV news coverage of the execution of Saddam Hussein? I know that I had to turn off CNN in revulsion as the evening progressed.
President Bush took time off from his chainsaw assaults on the underbrush of his Crawford Ranch to commend the Maliki government for its handling of the affair.
According to the Washington Post, “Bush said Hussein received a fair trial — ‘the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.’ He said the trial, which ended with Saddam being sentenced to death, was a testament to the Iraqi people’s resolve to move beyond decades of oppression and create a society governed by the rule of law.”
A Reuters story dated December 30, 2006 was typical in its upbeat portrayal of the political meaning of the execution. In it, Mussab Al-Khairalla wrote, “After mounting political pressure on Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in the face of unrelenting bloodshed, Saturday’s execution of Saddam Hussein is seen by many as a much-needed boost to his government. Some politicians said Maliki’s actions would show him as a strong leader, not afraid of taking tough decisions. Analysts said the execution also gave Maliki the opportunity of reaching out to Baathists and other opponents.”
Iraqi people’s resolve to move beyond decades of oppression and create a society governed by the rule of law!
Opportunity of reaching out to Baathists and other opponents!
Two days later, we are in the year 2007, and the Panglossian spin of Bush and Reuters makes them sound like echoes from two years ago, when Hussein was first captured.
Thanks to video recorded by the ubiquitous cell phone, we now know that in fact the execution was nothing more than a Shiite lynching. Hussein has the makings of a Sunni martyr, as angry crowds march across the lands of Sunni Iraq.
It is clear that Bush, desperate to show “progress” in Iraq, most certainly hoping to benefit by an execution carried out before his “New Course in Iraq” speech scheduled for early January, had no problem with handing over Hussein to his opponents in the Iraqi government.
As the backlash grows in the Middle East, however, the US mass media are beginning furious backpedaling from the disaster.
The New York Times rushes out a story headlined: “U.S. Questioned Iraq on the Rush to Hang Hussein,” which purports to show that, rather than eagerly handing him over, the US did all it could to slow the rush to a lynching. According to US officials, all the blame lies with the Maliki government, which only two days ago showed such resolve and respect for the rule of law.
The new spin can be only credible to people with big memory holes for brains, since “Saddam had been in American custody and was handed over to Iraqis just before his execution. It is therefore hard to dismiss the perception that the Americans could have waited, because in the end it is they who have the final say over such events in Iraq,” as Nir Rosen sums up.
The UK Telegraph, no liberal paper that, notes, “In Washington the air is heavy with recrimination as the implications of Saddam Hussein’s grotesquely botched execution sink in. . . . When a dictator of exceptional brutality is shown dying with dignity and no little courage at the hands of hooded thugs, the martyr’s crown surely beckons.”
And the Telegraph delivers the coup de grace to Bush in its last paragraph: “Mr Bush could be forgiven for thinking that everything he touches in this ill-starred country turns to dross.”