Friday, January 05, 2007

Saddam Hussein's death takes on a life of its own.

At the time I wrote my last post I was thinking the media dust would settle over Saddam Hussein's execution within a few days. I was expecting the execution to be a straightforward, if somewhat distasteful, procedure.

I was not expecting the execution itself to be so badly handled as to become a media issue in its own right.

An unofficial filming of the execution has reportedly surfaced, recorded on a mobile phone, in which I'm told the whole affair looks more like a lynching than a dispensation of justice (I have not seen this film and have no desire to see it unless absolutely necessary - snuff films are so not my thing). Even the local Murdoch press, hardly given to worrying about standing up for justice over vengeance when reporting punishment of people who are "pure evil", has registered a story which shows some concern in its own way when the truth about the execution came out: Jeers nearly stopped Saddam hanging".

I've spent an entertaining few days watching the fall-out, and especially watching the fledgling democratic government of Iraq falteringly try to emulate the example of the proud US democracy in dealing with events that reflect badly on the government in power: shovel as much bullshit at the public as you can.

From Yahoo News on Wednesday we have:"BAGHDAD, Iraq - The person believed to have recorded
Saddam Hussein's raucous execution on a cell phone camera was arrested Wednesday, an adviser to
Iraq's prime minister said."

From the Irish Examiner on Thursday we have
:"Earlier, it was reported a man had been detained over making the video, but an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, Sami al-Askari, denied this."

Do these advisors even know the truth themselves?

Never fear, the Iraqi government is definitely investigating (at least until someone else in the government denies it I guess). Although, to hear that "the Shi'ite-led government, embarrassed by images that show a composed-looking Saddam subjected to sectarian taunts as a noose is put around his neck, has set up a committee to investigate who filmed and leaked the video" doesn't really bode well for me. The main problem from the government's perspective was.....that people got to see what really happened?

The official spin at the moment for the actual taunting and shouting that went on is that (a) Shi'ite militias infiltrated the execution and it was they, not government officials, who are to blame for what went on in the execution chamber:

"There was an infiltration at the execution chamber."

Echoing those accusations, a senior Interior Ministry official said the hanging was supposed to be carried out by hangmen employed by the Interior Ministry but that "militias" had managed to infiltrate the executioners' team.

"The execution was carried out by militias and outsiders. They put aside the team from the Interior Ministry that was supposed to carry it out," the official said.

An official execution video, which had no sound and ended before Saddam falls through the trapdoor, boosted Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's authority among his fractious Shi'ite allies.

and (b) the shouts and insults didn't occur in the execution chamber at all:
Prosecutor Munkith al-Faroon, who also attended the execution and told Reuters he saw two senior government officials film the hanging with their mobiles, said on Wednesday the taunts came from guards who were outside the chamber.

"These shouts were spontaneous. The guards who called out were outside the chamber," he told Al Jazeera.

Hmmmm. The blog Talking Points Memo is doing a far better job of tracking the confused and conflicting statements coming from Iraqi government officials than I can.

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