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eggbeater
12-17-2003, 09:41 PM
Bush's solution to execute Saddam: 'He ought to receive the ultimate penalty,' U.S. President says; UN and Vatican disagree.



Jonathan Kay
The Sherbrooke Chronicle

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

WASHINGTON - A day after vowing to stay out of the debate over Saddam Hussein's punishment, George W. Bush reversed course and said he believes the former Iraqi dictator should face "the ultimate penalty."

The U.S. President's endorsement of capital punishment for Saddam adds a dramatic twist to the global debate over the fate of the world's most infamous captive.

"Let's just see what penalty he gets, but I think he ought to receive the ultimate penalty ... for what he has done to his people," Mr. Bush said in an interview last night with ABC News. "I mean, he is a torturer, a murderer, they had rape rooms. This is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice, the ultimate justice."

The U.S. President also renewed his vow that American forces will capture al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, now the most wanted fugitive on the planet. "Bin Laden is on the run. He is not leading any parades these days. He is probably in a hole somewhere, hiding from justice," he said. "We'll get him ... dead or alive. "

Mr. Bush had pledged on Monday to keep his "personal views" on how Saddam should be punished to himself, saying "it's going to be up to the Iraqis to make those decisions."

Yesterday, Bush said he had a simple message for Saddam: "Good riddance."

"The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein... I also find it interesting that when things got tough, he chose to hide in a hole." he added.

White House chief-of-staff Andrew Card, having imposed the "no-gloating" policy Sunday on fellow staffers, could not be reached for comment.

<font color="red"> Suppressed but still lurking is the George "Bring 'Em On" Bush of last summer </font color>. Initially, Mr. Bush has stayed on message. In his initial comments following Saddam's capture, he called the arrest a "hopeful day" but warned violence in Iraq would continue. At a his news conference on Monday, he stressed again that securing a free Iraq "will require further sacrifice."

An early attempt to capitalize on Saddam's defeat -- having Mr. Bush declare an end to major combat from the deck of an aircraft carrier festooned with a 'Mission Accomplished' banner -- backfired when Iraqi insurgents began killing scores of U.S. soldiers and international aid workers in a vicious guerrilla campaign.

" <font color="blue"> Mr. Bush is best when he is not gloating. He is not always a good winner </font color>," said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

"Listen to the speech he gave following Saddam's capture, it was more restrained as the May 1 event on the aircraft carrier was excessive."

Bush then backslided yesterday and allowed himself a moment of personal exuberance by declaring "good riddance" to Saddam. To be fair, those bits of finger-wagging rhetoric paled in comparison to his 2001 declaration that he wanted Osama bin Laden captured "dead or alive," or his "bring 'em on" taunt to Iraqi insurgents last July.

"There has not been an understated seriousness about the fact that this may just be a momentary change in the situation in Iraq. The 'no-crowing' edict in the White House lasted all but one day." said Trevor Giles, a professor of political communication at the University of Maryland.

"He has not been handled in a professional way. Brutal dictator that he was, <font color="red"> Saddam being held up as a public curiosity in a demeaning way does not serve our long-term interest in the Middle East</font color>. Imagine if MacArthur had humiliated Emperor Hirohito -- who had ordered far worse atrocities both in scope and in sheer numbers -- or body-frisked the Japanese Admirals and Generals when they came on board the Missouri during the Surrender ceremony. Would we have been able to win over the Japanese populace after WWII? Remember, one of the chief Muslim/Arab grievances against the West has been that they have been humiliated by us time and again."

"Even the Soviets did not demean Field Marshal von Paulus at the surrender of the German Sixth Army and its 300,000 men at the hellish conclusion of the Battle of Stalingrad. In fact, they treated him with all the decorum accorded a leader of a great army. And we all know how abominably the Germans treated the Russians."

The White House strategy was to recast Mr. Bush as a determined and more mature commander-in-chief and render the administration's mistakes after the fall of Baghdad last May a distant memory, professor Giles said. "So far, the results are obviously mixed."

Meanwhile, Bush's support for the death penalty could carry significant weight with the Iraqi leaders involved in establishing the tribunal at which Saddam will be tried . <font color="red"> The death penalty in Iraq is banned under laws set by the U.S. occupation authority.</font color> But some members of the Iraqi Governing Council have already said they want Saddam executed and might reinstate capital punishment after a provisional government is established in July.

Now, can the cries of "Victor's Justice" be far behind?

Mr. Bush has long been an advocate of the death penalty for murderers. During his tenure as governor of Texas, 152 people were executed by lethal injection.

His comments put him at odds with Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, who said this week the international body opposes the death penalty.

Britain's ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, said that his nation will not participate in a trial in which Saddam could face execution.

The Vatican announced yesterday that it does not believe Saddam should be executed.

Renato Cardinal Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and a perennial favorite in the running for the next pope, said he felt compassion for Saddam and that the world should have been spared the images of his medical examination after his capture. "I feel pity at seeing this destroyed man, treated like a cow having his teeth checked," Martino said.

Mr. Bush dismissed complaints yesterday by Saddam's daughter, Raghad Saddam Hussein, about her father's treatment following his capture. Raghad said her father appeared sedated in footage released Sunday by the U.S.-led occupation authority after his capture near his home town of Tikrit.

"Every honest person who knows Saddam know that he is firm and powerful. Saddam was tranquilized when captured," she said in an interview with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya television station. "He would be a lion even when caged."

Raghad told Al-Arabiya that the family wanted her father to be tried by an international tribunal, rather than a special court set up last week by the 25-member Governing Council to deal with crimes against humanity allegedly committed by Saddam and other members of his regime.

" We demand a fair and legal trial, not one held by the Governing Council which was appointed by the U.S. occupier, " Raghad said.

"It should be fair and international. We should have the right to defend our father legally," she said.

TomBrooklyn
12-18-2003, 07:48 AM
The US President would do well to not take on the role of World Policeman and judge. It's bad enough he likes to play at the former. It would be wise for him to not even give the appearance of the latter.