According to an independent, non-governmental witness, Saddam Hussein bravely met the gallows, Koran in hand, mocking his masked executioners to the end, one of whom shouted out "long live Muqtada al-Sadr" just prior to Saddam's execution.
The witness, a judge, said Hussein appeared "totally oblivious to what was going on around him. I was very surprised. He was not afraid of death." The account is supported by this video, taken before the execution, which shows Saddam accepting his fate in a surprisingly calm manner, as unafraid of death as could reasonably be expected. Saddam refused to wear a hood as he was hanged. Before the noose was put around his neck the deposed leader shouted: "God is great! The nation will be victorious and Palestine is Arab!"
The witness' description of Hussein's demeanor before his execution contrasts markedly with another witness, Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie. "He was a broken man," al-Rubaie said. "He was afraid. You could see fear in his face."
What the press aren't saying is that al-Rubaie, who they are quoting so widely, was once the spokesman for a terrorist organization ideologically allied with Hezbollah and the Iranian government, the Islamic Dawa Party, which was responsible for the bombing of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait back in 1983. The Dawa Party was founded by Muhammad Baqr al-Sadr, the uncle of Muqtada al-Sadr.
And, indeed, nobody in the press seems to be touching upon the fact that the real power players on the streets of Iraq are the Iraqi militia groups, and that Saddam's execution was a symbolic victory for Moqtada al-Sadr in their attempt to control the streets, neighborhoods, and mosques of Iraq, establishing de facto control over much of the country.
By most accounts, SCIRI and their militias have been losing the battle of public support to Sadr's militias, in no small part because SCIRI's political leaders have been both ineffective in stopping the violence, and have made odious compromises with Iraq's occupiers. Many Iraqis have backed Sadr where it really matters, in their own neighborhoods, because Sadr's thugs have not only taken it on themselves to form armed "neighborhood watch" gangs, but have also agressively driven out Sunnis from their turf. The Sadr supporters are also responsible for imposing fundamentalist Shi'a morality on these neighborhoods, however, forcing Iraqi women back behind the veil.
Regardless of the larger humanitarian rationale, Saddam's trial was a legal fiasco, with his defence denied some of the most basic elements of legal procedure, such as the obligation of the prosecution to provide exculpatory evidence, and the right of the defence to crossexamine witnesses. Saddam's death can also be seen, in part, as a vendetta killing in the midst of a civil war... one which can and most likely will provoke numerous acts of retaliation.
Clearly, the parties in Iraq most in favor of Saddam's execution also have the deaths of many of their fellow Iraqis on their hands. One has to wonder whether the masked, pro-Sadr Iraqi security members involved in Saddam's execution may have also been involved in some of the anonymous "disappearings" and executions committed by the Sadr and SCIRI militia-infiltrated Iraqi security services.
Blood vendetta appears to be pretty much everywhere in Iraq if you look for it. All you have to do is scratch the surface.
UPDATE: A series of revenge bombings in mostly Shia areas has left at least 68 Iraqis dead, while six US troops were reported killed, pushing the death toll for December to 109, just a few deaths shy of the 3,000th confirmed U.S. military fatality in Iraq.