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Analysis: Saddam's execution badly timed

By CLAUDE SALHANI, UPI International Editor   |   Dec. 30, 2006 at 3:36 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging early Saturday morning. Few Iraqis will shed any tears for him, or for his half-brother, who was executed a few minutes after him. But the timing could not be worse and the situation more precarious.

The former Iraqi dictator was by no means a nice person. He was in fact quite evil. He enjoyed torturing his opponents and would take his two sons, Uday and Qasay, to torture sessions while they were still young boys.

Saddam terrorized his own people, getting rid of anyone he suspected of disloyalty or who might have gotten in his way, or that was not 100 percent behind him. After the failed uprising by the Shiites in the southern part of the country in the aftermath of the invasion of Kuwait in 1991, Saddam's henchmen killed close to 270,000 Shiites. Earlier, he had waged an eight-year war against Iran during which time close to one million people died on both side of the Shat al-Arab waterway separating the two countries.

He did not shy away from using chemical weapons against the Iranians and then against his own Kurds. Then in 1990, strapped for cash by the devastating war against Iran, he invaded neighboring Kuwait, wanting to grab their oil wells and the revenue derived from its oil.

Accusing the Kuwaitis of drilling perpendicularly under the border into Iraqi land, he used the pretext that Kuwait was Iraq's 19th province -- and he invaded. He ransacked the tiny oil-rich emirate. His men stole the country clean, taking everything they could get their hands on, from fancy European cars to the gold and currency reserves held in the safe rooms of Kuwait's Central Bank. Not satisfied, retreating Iraqi troops even stole the water cups and other paraphernalia from Kuwait Airways, to doorknobs, which they removed from every room of the city's luxurious hotels. When they ran out of time, out of shear spite, they shot at the doorknobs. What the Iraqis, under the leadership of Saddam Hussein did to Kuwait and its citizens was beyond the wildest imagination.

But if his neighbors today are not about to lament Saddam Hussein's execution, the are nevertheless, worried by the fallout his death will stir up trouble.

One reader e-mailed a reply to an earlier version of this report, before Saddam was executed, saying: "Any time the world can take out a sorry bastard like Saddam is the right time."

This reporter entered Kuwait the day it was liberated and saw what Saddam's men did to the tiny emirate. And this reporter covered the Iraq-Iran war and has no illusions about the man's evilness. What is worrisome is the timing chosen for the execution.

Saddam's execution comes as millions of Muslims around the world begin Saturday celebrating Eid al Ahda, or the feast of the sacrifice. This holiday commemorates the time when God told Abraham -- who is also revered by Muslims -- to spare his son Isaac and to slaughter a sheep instead.

The death by hanging sentence on Saddam Hussein, carried out during this period of holy feast in the Muslim world could be seen by millions of Muslims as making a Martyr out of the former Iraqi dictator.

Additionally, this would all be taking place at the same time when several tens of millions of Muslims converge on Saudi Arabia to perform one of the five pillars of Islam, the sacred pilgrimage -- or the hajj -- to Mecca. The news of Saddam's hanging could stir emotions among the large numbers of worshipers gathered in the Saudi Arabian holy city. It wouldn't take much of a spark to ignite a riot among the millions of pilgrims gathered in Islam's holiest of cities.

It's hard to imagine that the powers that be in Iraq, both Iraqis and Americans failed to take into account the Hajj and the Eid. If they did take the feast of Ahda into consideration and still chose to proceed with the execution, then they are either completely ignorant of local customs and norms, or if they did not consider the potent mixture of the Hajj, the Eid and the sentencing, then they are total fools. And fools can be dangerous.

What follows next would be the beginning of a new and more violent chapter in Iraq's history.

--

(Comments may be sent to Claude@upi.com.)

© 2006 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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