The hanging of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad just before 6:00 a.m. brought the former dictator to a sorry end – one justly deserved for three decades of atrocities committed against opponents in his own country, many of them defenseless civilians.
Hussein was executed following his conviction for the deaths of some 140 villagers in Dujail, north of Baghdad, after a failed assassination attempt 23 years ago. His other crimes against humanity were far greater, however. Among the 1.5 million deaths he caused were thousands of Shiites massacred following an uprising in 1991. Far more appalling was the murder of 5,000 Kurds in 1988, using some of the nerve gas stockpile that later became the rationale for deposing him.
Hussein reportedly ordered his troops to kill every Kurdish male in northern Iraq between the ages of 18 and 55. During that campaign, more than 100,000 men disappeared, 4,000 villages were destroyed, and 60 more villages were attacked with chemical weapons. Those who survived continue to suffer birth defects, cancers, respiratory problems, and infertility.
The dictator’s execution at the start of the Muslim Eid holiday was highly symbolic – and could prove problematic. The feast commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command. Many Shi’ites would see Saddam’s death as a gift from God, but that same symbolism could enrage Sunnis, some of whom still see the dictator as one of their own, in spite of his brutality. Some Iraqi Sunnis, who feel disenfranchised under the Shiite-dominated government, will see him as a martyr.
Many Kurds opposed Hussein’s execution, insisting that he ought to stand trial for the atrocities he committed against their people. We hope they can accept his death for the Dujail murders as justice for their loved ones as well.
CNN has video of Saddam’s final moments.