January 02, 2007
Eid 'Em & Weep: Was Saddam's Death-Timing Sectarian?
Nir Rosen suggests that the timing of Saddam's death on the Sunni Eid was a sectarian message: as there are no lawful executions on Eid, therefore legally the true Iraqi Eid must be the Shiite one. Is there any merit to this implication, O informed readers? Was it clearly a gottersaddamerung message for the Sunni side of the street? A look and listen at the lynch-mobbish hanging of Saddam (sensitive readers, don't go there) suggests a very sectarian sendoff. Faithful Aqoulite MSK has helpfully made note in comments of one blog and one NY Times account.
Meanwhile, Rosen writes:
The important Muslim holiday of Eid al Adha was due to begin over the weekend. For Sunnis it began on Saturday the 30th of December. For Shias it begins on Sunday the 31st. According to tradition in Mecca, battles are suspended during the Hajj period so that pilgrims can safely march to Mecca. This practice even predated Islam and Muslims preserved this tradition, calling this period 'Al Ashur al Hurm,' or the months of truce. By hanging Saddam on the Sunni Eid the Americans and the Iraqi government were in effect saying that only the Shia Eid had legitimacy. Sunnis were irate that Shia traditions were given primacy (as they are more and more in Iraq these days) and that Shias disrespected the tradition and killed Saddam on this day. Because the Iraqi constitution itself prohibits executions from being carried out on Eid, the Iraqi government had to officially declare that Eid did not begin until Sunday the 31st. It was a striking decision, virtually declaring that Iraq is now a Shia state. Eid al Adha is the festival of the sacrifice of the sheep. Some may perceive it as the day Saddam was sacrificed.
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I've read too many things on this, details are all mixed up in my head.
Timing is interesting, but the rapid scheduling of the execution may have been a demand by Sadrist factions in return for cooperation with the gov't. I recall an article (perhaps NYT) where the execution followed some last-minute desperate negotiations between the Iraqi gov't and US officials (who weren't happy at all).
It does of course underscore the sectarian/ethnic bent of the current government, and the ability of extremist groups to dominate the agenda.
Posted by: eerie at January 2, 2007 01:25 PM
Yes, that's pretty much it. Nir's account jives with what others - in the Arab/Muslim world and the West - are arriving at.
There are all sorts of rumors/stories floating about as well: From Muqtada's Sadrists having demanded to get to execute Saddam to the U.S. officials in Baghdad having tried (in vain) to delay the execution for another week or two.
Posted by: MSK at January 2, 2007 01:32 PM
PS - Didn't I give you a personal journal to cut down on the number of egregious pun titles appearing on the main site?
MSK, that was one of Matt's trademark puns, Göttersaddamerung. He is hard to keep up with.
In any case, the execution can't be anything but a finger in the eye of the Sunnis. Cole reports the Jordanian MB is calling for the closure of the Iranian embassy in Amman, that's a major sign. So the Saddam execution did change things...
Posted by: Klaus at January 2, 2007 02:10 PM
Judgements are not executed against Muslims, Christians and Jews on, respectively, Fridays, Sundays and Saturdays or their respective holidays in traditional Muslim law. That law is still applied in most Arab countries, Iraq included, AFAIK.
So there are many possible interpretations, pick your favorite:
1) Iraq doesn't apply that law anymore.
2) Some or all in the Iraqi government/administration consider that the only valid Muslim sect is the Shia and that Sunni holidays are not Muslim holidays (or are not holidays reckognized by the state).
3) This was a lynching and those who wanted to lynch Saddam didn't give a hoot about this law.
4) They did it on purpose to stick a finger in the eyes of Sunnis.
(my personal favorite are 2 and 3).
Posted by: Shaheen at January 2, 2007 04:14 PM
you don't suppose they did 2 to better do 4?
From the Independent: ...But an execution which vied in barbarity with a sectarian lynching in the backstreets of Belfast 30 years ago.
Anyone knows what he's talking about?
Posted by: Klaus at January 4, 2007 02:05 AM
I still have a hard time swallowing the idea that the US didn't have the power to stop this execution if they really wanted to... I mean come on.. really? Are we to believe they have no influence at all in the area? None? Not even a little?
Would it follow that if the PM of Iraq said he didn't want a surge of troops that the US would HAVE to comply?
Posted by: Iwasawa at January 5, 2007 04:05 AM
Define "if they really wanted to."
Certainly the US could have stopped the execution. Send in troops, obviously, in the extreme.
Was it worth expending the political capital, possible blood shed, and clearly upping confrontation with the dwindling "partners" or not-yet-enemies the US has?
Perhaps in retrospect, but given the unstable situation it is not clear that the US could have changed the decision of the Shia parties at an acceptable price (leaving aside what the cost-benefit would be with the retrospective on the bungling by the Shia of the execution).
In short, your last question is idiotic. It's an utterly different issue.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at January 5, 2007 10:22 AM
I would say there certainly is legitimacy there. The U.S. specifically asked them to wait ,the executioners wore masks and screamed Pro shia chants, they damned him to hell and drop the floor out from under him before he could complete the profession of faith. I would say it was low and sectarian without any question. Despite the fact that he deserved to die of course.
Posted by: D.B. Shobrawy at January 5, 2007 12:20 PM
the Saddam trial wasn't quite the "U.S. puppet show" that many portray it to have been.
The main role that the U.S. played was to guard Saddam and his co-defendants. The rest was quite an Iraqi affair. And it was seen by the current Iraqi government as such.
So ... as L pointed out, since the Iraqi gov't (i.e. Al-Maliki and colleagues) pushed for a speedy execution of Saddam, the U.S. officials in Baghdad and D.C. would've had to risk a big spat with their allies (who the U.S. admin believes to really, desparately need) in order to postpone the execution.
Now, I do not know if anyone among those U.S. officials who dealt with this issue had any idea about Islamic holidays, i.e. the significance of Eid al-Adha and the traditions associated with it. I would like to think that, had I been there, I would've said "Letting you execute Saddam on the first day of Sunni Eid al-Adha? I don't think so." ... but then, we don't know if there were any U.S. officials who DID try to stall the process and whether or not they were overruled by their superiors.
In the end, I find it entirely plausible that the Americans, faced with Al-Maliki's signature and his "It's none of your business" attitude, just gave up. Also, please keep in mind that pretty much none of the U.S. officials have any personal stake in Iraq and many will have by now become quite cynical about the whole situation.
I'd be very curious about the percentage of "I don't give a s***" among the embassy staff in Baghdad. And ditto for the U.S. forces.
Posted by: MSK at January 5, 2007 01:59 PM