As I'm sure you all know by now, Saddam Hussein has been hanged to death -- executed for his role in the slaughter of 148 in the Shi'ite town of Dujail.Iraqis, according to the Times, "spent much of the day crowding around television sets to watch mesmerizing replays of a videotape that showed the 69-year-old Mr. Hussein being led to the gallows at dawn by five masked executioners, and having a noose fashioned from a thick rope of yellow hemp lowered around his neck."But, as Xeni notes in an excellent round-up of the execution coverage, "explicit images of Hussein's corpse and 'unedited' cellphone video of the hanging (which includes the moment of death) have already shown up online," on Google Video.The video is grotesque. But "I think there's a public interest in making this available for adults who choose to see it, non-passively," Xeni tells Defense Tech. I agree.UPDATE 9:26 PM: Defense Tech pal Michael Hastings has himself a scoop, interviewing Ali Al Massedy, who "was 3 feet away from Saddam Hussein when he died. The 38 year old, normally Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's official videographer, was the man responsible for filming the late dictator's execution at dawn on Saturday."UPDATE 10:24 PM: Eric Umansky has "the most telling part of the execution." Let's just say Moqtada Al-Sadr is psyched.UPDATE 12/31/06 11:49 AM: "We are seeing 21st century psychological operations," says TPM Cafe. "It can be concluded there were elements within America's government and/or military, working in concert with Iraq's current scarecrow power-holders, who wanted as many people as possible in the world to see Saddam hang." I'm not sure I buy this. And I can't get with screeching tone. But it's an interesting notion, nonetheless.UPDATE 12/31/06 11:56 AM: Juan Cole gets into the execution's religious dynamics.
The tribunal also had a unique sense of timing when choosing the day for Saddam's hanging. It was a slap in the face to Sunni Arabs. This weekend marks Eid al-Adha, the Holy Day of Sacrifice, on which Muslims commemorate the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son for God. Shiites celebrate it Sunday. Sunnis celebrate it Saturday - and Iraqi law forbids executing the condemned on a major holiday. Hanging Saddam on Saturday was perceived by Sunni Arabs as the act of a Shiite government that had accepted the Shiite ritual calendar.The timing also allowed Saddam, in his farewell address to Iraq, to pose as a sacrifice for his nation, an explicit reference to Eid al-Adha. The tribunal had given the old secular nationalist the chance to use religious language to play on the sympathies of the whole Iraqi public.The political ineptitude of the tribunal, from start to finish, was astonishing. The United States and its Iraqi allies basically gave Saddam a platform on which to make himself a martyr to Iraqi unity and independence -- even if by unity and independence Saddam was really appealing to Sunnis' nostalgia for their days of hegemony.(Big ups: Josh)