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Boston Herald December 27, 2006

Iraqis split on impact of Saddam's hanging

By Jules Crittenden, Boston Herald City Editor

Saddam Hussein could finally share the fate of thousands upon thousands of his own victims and hang within a month, after an Iraqi appeals court shot down the ousted dictator’s bid to overturn his death sentence.

But what Saddam’s death will mean for Iraq in its volatile state is unpredictable, observers say, and Iraqis are divided over whether Saddam should take the last drop.

“We are very happy,” said Riyah Abdul Sattar in Shiite Sadr City. “We will get rid of him for sure.” But in Saddam’s Sunni hometown of Tikrit, Saad Khelil said, “It is a political verdict that has no relation to law or justice.”

But one Boston-area Iraqi-American, requesting anonymity, said, “This cycle needs to be stopped. In what way will we be different, if we perpetuate this? It’s not going to right any wrongs.”

Saddam was condemned to hang last month for the 1982 murder of 148 Shiites in Dujail following an alleged plot to assassinate him. He is now on trial for genocide in the murder of 180,000 Kurds in the late 1980s.

Saddam’s hanging “must be implemented within 30 days,” said appellate judge Aref Shahin. “From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation.”

The White House called the ruling a milestone in Iraq’s efforts “to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.”

Iraq’s political leadership has indicated it won’t block the hanging. For security reasons, it reportedly won’t be a public event, but no plans have been released. Saddam is being held in a U.S. military prison near Baghdad’s airport. The elected Iraqi government uses one of Saddam’s old death houses in a Baghdad prison for its executions.

John Pike at GlobalSecurity.org said he is concerned about the potential for any incident such as Saddam’s execution and retaliatory attacks to cause “a generalized escalation that would put an extra zero in the death rate ... All it’s going to take is one more infamy or escalation, and it could fly off the handle.”

But Reva Bhalla of Stratfor.com, a private intelligence analysis firm, said she expects only an isolated spike in violence. “They are obviously going to react. But the purpose the attacks is not in the name of Saddam anymore.”

James Walsh of MIT’s Securities Studies Program agreed. “In some ways it’s old news,” he said about Saddam’s pending execution. “What worries Iraqis in Baghdad today is not whether Saddam is going to get executed. It’s whether they can go to the market and get home alive.”

The Associated Press and O’Ryan Johnson contributed to this report.


Copyright 2006, Boston Herald