On Dec. 30, 2006, the Iraqi government executed Saddam Hussein for his role in the 1982 massacre of Shiite villagers in Dujail. However, the major controversy regarding Hussein’s execution is the cell phone video of the event, which was leaked on the Internet. Now anyone can view the explicit video by typing “Saddam execution” into any one of the major search engines, and YouTube has at least six versions of the execution, some uncut, some not.
However, cell phones were prohibited in the execution chamber. According to CNN, Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security advisor confirmed that all cell phones were supposed to have been confiscated before the execution. When asked why the cell phones were not confiscated prior to the execution, Al-Rubaie replied, “I don’t know who was in charge of the whole operation to stop it.”
The national security advisor’s comments present the disorganization in the region; there is no democracy in Iraq because it has no structure in its government. After the end of the Hussein’s reign, Iraqis elected members of government and as it stands now, it is a Shiite-majority government with a Sunni minority. Many Sunni Arabs feel that the release of the bootleg video depicting Hussein’s execution was released in an effort to intensify the sectarian divide between the Sunnis and Shiites. The sectarian divide in Iraq will not cease because Saddam Hussein was killed; the bootleg video will continue to remind everyone that it is not because of a single leader that Iraqis are divided.
Essentially, this is not about the United States. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, stated, after much criticism from the international community, that: “We consider the execution of the dictator an internal affair that only concerns the Iraqi people.” Whether the filming and distribution of Hussein’s execution was made to widen the gap between the Sunnis and Shiites may be known soon, as the three men said to be responsible for the release of the bootleg video were arrested by Iraqi authorities.
President George W. Bush stated that Hussein received “the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime.”
Nonetheless, his execution, from the standpoint of a Sunni could be perceived as martyrdom. It is not as if Hussein’s past actions did not warrant some kind of punishment; Bush was right, in fact, that Hussein did not give those under his tyranny fair and due justice. Still, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stated that the scene from the execution chamber turned Hussein into a martyr, rather than a man receiving justice: “No one will ever forget the way in which Hussein was executed-they turned him into a martyr and the problems in Iraq remained.” The scenes from the execution paint a very dark and violent picture of Iraq.
The execution of Saddam Hussein, and the taping of it is representative of the problems in Iraq: the disorganization, the dizzying and complicated roles of power that the U.S. and Iraqi governments play and the deeply violent discord between the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. It is not as if the American government could have stopped Hussein’s execution because the Iraqi government was in charge of his execution. The martyrdom that Hussein may now enjoy because of his religious affiliation was not the fault of the United States, or even the man who videotaped the execution; it is the result of sectarian divide.
The United States cannot claim this as the small victory Bush wishes it to be. Hussein’s death did not cure the ethnic divide in Iraq. Yes, he was punished for his past crime; however, as U.S. strategy analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said of the execution according to the BBC, “This is wartime, it is a situation where the Iraqi government is in considerable disarray and you are operating in a region where Western standards, to put it mildly, don’t apply.” Maybe Codesman should school President Bush on the how to put Iraq back together.