Saddam Hussein repeat? Two more hanged

January 15, 2007

As a result of the contentious Dujail Trial, Iraq has gone ahead with two more hangings. This time, state television is not broadcasting the executions, one of which ended in an accidental decapitation.

Journalists were shown a silent video recording of the process which took place overnight.

In late December, Saddam Hussein’s execution was broadcast on state television; the video was also silent. It was later revealed that the former Iraqi President was taunted and insulted as he was hanged. The revelation came from a rogue video with audio recorded on a cellphone and leaked onto the internet.

Iraqi officials are saying that these hangings were carried out appropriately and that the video will not be made public. Keeping it private makes some sense, but it also negates the necessity of showing a silent video to journalists. If Iraq’s executioners and officials have really learnt their lesson after hanging Saddam Hussein, shouldn’t members of the media be able to verify that?

Once again, Iraq is showing to not be as transparent a society as is expected from a democracy. There is no free media in Iraq and the government expects its story to be broadcast and not challenged. This is precisely why the official who leaked the video of Saddam Hussein’s hanging was arrested.

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One Response to “Saddam Hussein repeat? Two more hanged”

  1. Quran Bible Says:

    Dmitri

    John Burns who has watched three minutes video tell this to Wolf Blitzer.

    A botched execution. The hanging of Saddam Hussein’s half- brother on the left turning into a beheading. Iraqi officials insist it was an accident. They’ve been showing video to a very small group of reporters, including the “New York Times'” John Burns.

    BLITZER: I know you saw this videotape. Walk us through what you saw.

    JOHN BURNS, “NEW YORK TIMES”: Well, first of all, this videotape we were told a one time only showing I am told. After the disaster of the illicit filming on a call phone camera of the Saddam Hussein hanging, Iraqi officials are absolutely determined that this is a botched hanging is not going to get on the Internet and be replayed a million times, especially across the Middle East.

    So we were given a one-time showing, three-minute video, very grim, as of course any execution is. Two frightened men — two deeply frightened men in orange jumpsuits, Guantanamo-style, standing on the trap doors, black hoods being put over their heads as they intoned the muthrad jihada (ph), the prayer before death — “There is no god but God.”

    And then the drop. And as Mr. Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, the former head of Mukhabarat Secret Police and Mr. Hussein, his younger half-brother dropped the eight feet that was allowed by coiled rope at his feet, his head just snapped off just like that in an instant.

    The camera then — movie camera moves forward and looks into the pit beneath the gallows, where we saw him lying face down, headless, a pool of blood accumulating around his neck, and his head still in the black hood about five feet behind him in the pit.

    It seems what happened was that the Iraqi officials who had worked hard to try and get this one right just got it wrong. When it came to their drop charts, as the hangmen call them — and this man of medium build, medium height was just dropped too far and too fast.

    BLITZER: As you know, John, there’s going to be skepticism, especially among Sunni Arabs, that this was an accident. Did it look like an accident based on the video that you saw?

    BURNS: It did look like an accident. And the pains to which Mr. Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister’s officials went to lead us through this step by step, and what they described as intensive consultations with Western humanitarian organizations after the Saddam hanging to make sure that this one was done with dignity, respect for the condemned men.

    I must say, left me feeling that these people — this is a blighted government. It just seems like everything they touch somehow goes awry. So I don’t think this was intentional. I think it was botched. And to be fair, they did tell us that in making their calculation, the hangmen’s calculations, what they wanted to do is to make sure these two men died instantly.

    Now this is a pretty, macabre science, but you only have to go to the Internet and look at the “American Military Handbook For Executions”, signed by Dwight Eisenhower when he was chief of staff of the Army in 1947 to look at the drop charts. And you’ll that a man about five foot eight, five foot nine, as Mr. Tikriti was, about 170, 175 pounds by American military calculations needed a good deal less than eight feet of free rope for the hanging.

    In other words, they gave him too much rope, he accumulated too much speed and momentum, and it just ripped his head right off his body.

    BLITZER: Was there audio on the videotape that you saw? The three minutes of this execution? Did you hear anything in that room?

    BURNS: That’s a reporter’s question, Wolf. Coming from you it doesn’t surprise me. Of course, it’s a crucial question because it was the audio on the illicit camera phone recordings of Saddam’s execution that told us all we now know about the sectarian taunting and mockery of Mr. Hussein.

    No, there was no audio. And it was a point that we pressed on the prime minister’s officials. But they did say that the execution party had been reduced severely from about 25 who attended Saddam’s execution, many of them just sightseers, to tell you the truth, down to about ten or 12.

    And the prosecutor in the trial that sent these men to the gallows, Jafaar al-Mousawi, who wasn’t here in Iraq at the time of the Saddam execution — and is a rather superior individual, I have to say. He attended the press conference. And he seemed quite distressed about this. But he did say that every precaution had been taken to deal with this execution with dignity and with respect.

    It only goes to show that, you know, when things go wrong, they go very badly wrong indeed in Iraq.

    BLITZER: We saw Saddam Hussein. He was wearing an overcoat when he was executed. He didn’t want the hood put over him. I take it these two, they did want the hood, or at least they accepted the hood being placed on their heads. They were wearing these orange jumpsuits. And, unlike Saddam Hussein, based on your eyewitness account of this video, they were certainly nervous and scared and cowering, fearful. Saddam put out that very stoic, almost courageous attitude when he was about to be killed. BURNS: Yes, you know, courage before death is an elusive thing. My guess is psychoanalysts would say that Saddam Hussein’s lack of conscience was in some way related also to his lack of fear at the end.

    But these two were distinctly frightened men. You couldn’t feel — help feeling, despite all we know about their own brutalities — and they were very brutal. I mean Mr. Bandar, the one who did get hanged in the, if you will, the appropriate way, he was the head of the Revolutionary Court who sent 148 men and boys to their deaths on the gallows in the events that occurred at Dujail in 1982 after there was a failed assassination attempt against Saddam.

    His trial was a mockery. There was no defense, no opportunity for these people to argue and make any kind of argument.

    Tikriti, who was decapitated, was head of Mukhabarat Secret Intelligence Service. And the evidence at the trial against him was that he had personally supervised torture, including hanging one naked woman upside down and beating her personally. So it’s hard on that basis to feel too sorry for them.

    But they were frightened men, and I would say particularly Mr. Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, the half-brother, who had shaved his head and his mustache. And he looked just scared half to death standing there, as well he might have been, especially if he had any sense at all of how it was going to end.

    BLITZER: One final question, John, before I let you go. In your front page dispatch in today’s “New York Times”, you quote one U.S. official as saying, regarding the Iraqi government’s reaction to President Bush’s latest Iraq strategy — and I’ll quote it now — “We are being played like a pawn.”

    “We are being played like a pawn.”


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