Saddam Hussein during his trial. (Iraq Special Tribunal-Pool/Getty Images)
Why was Saddam executed on the first day of Eid al-Fitr, a holy holiday celebrated by all of Iraq and around the world marking the end of the Muslim holy month of fasting? Was this a way to show a new era and beginning for Iraq after decades of totalitarian rule and terror?
Traditions during this holiday are similar to holy holidays all across the globe. They includes families and friends dressing their best, gathering and praying together for unity and peace, giving sweets and gifts to children, and visiting extended family members.
The answer to why Saddam was executed on the holy day is complicated. In my opinion, it was a poor leadership decision by Muslim Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
While virtually all Iraqis supported the execution of the neurotic and genocidal former ruler, I don’t believe we should execute anyone on religious holidays, and instead usher in peace and unity on these days. These days should be exempt from killing, and should be cherished as days of remembrance, celebration of faith, and family.
In American we do not conduct executions on Easter, Christmas and other Judeo-Christian holidays. This is how it should be in all God-fearing nations, to honor and preserve holy days.
On the day of Saddam’s execution, the Iraqi government released an official video showing the former president being led to the gallows, ending after the hangman’s rope was placed over his head. A mobile phone video recording of the hanging showed him surrounded by a contingent of his countrymen jeering him in Arabic and praising the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as Saddam Hussein falls through the trap door of the gallows.
Saadam was Sunni, and the way the execution was handled and on the significant day was not the end of chaos, but the beginning of sectarianism and turmoil.
This execution occurred under the leadership of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki. Maliki’s Dawa party has always been seen as an ally of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and the leader of Sadr Brigade who fought against coalition forces in Iraq. Many in Iraq see the Dawa party as a corrupt and a murderous party, which replaced one former dictator for another.
Reactions to Saddam’s rushed execution during a religious holiday varied. Some Iraqis were angry because they wanted Saddam convicted of additional crimes besides those for which he was executed, including alleged far worse crimes than the crimes against humanity of which he was convicted.
But would convicting Saddam of more crimes have comforted the many Iraqi families searching for their loved ones who disappeared in the middle of the night? I doubt it.
Some Iraqis, not to diminish Saddam’s crimes, were hoping for a more civil execution to dignify the Iraqi people. It was less about this criminal and more about bringing peace and comfort to Iraq.
The poorly planned and rushed execution of Saddam Hussein revealed the failure of new leadership under Al Maliki, and foreshadowed chaos for Iraq’s future.
A true leader strives to serve all people. Of course, it is impossible to please all people all the time. But, in retrospect, Prime Minister Maliki should have at least tried to show he was committed to the rule of law, due process and respect for the Iraqi people and their culture. Not vengeance!
Saddam’s execution could have been conducted in a way that honored the Iraqi people as a newly united, free nation — a people who had just endured a long-term dictatorship filled with murder, genocide, warfare, terror and who deserved their sovereignty restored rightfully and courageously.
To conduct a rushed and thug-style execution on the first day of Eid al-Fitr was a leadership mistake and did not display a new era of Iraq greatness.
Courage is God’s tribute to our well-being and empowers us to protect and glorify our dignity.
In any conflict resolution, a courageous leader tends to acknowledge the dignity of his country and the dignity of all of its people as well. To honor this acknowledgment, it is the responsibility of the leader to seek noble actions in order gradually to purify the process of peace restoration within his country, and among its enemies and allies alike — to be a leader like Mandela who did not seek vengeance, but peace.
To end chaos, we must not start in chaos!
For any courageous leader, the mission of peace will be clear, the purpose of any war will be dignified, and the leader will honor those who sacrifice their lives to protect their country.
I hope and pray for Iraqi leaders to have the courage to lead for the greatest good of all, not only for the cause of some. Iraqis look up to nations like America, which stands for the rule of law, dignity, honor and “We The People” above party.
Iraqis must not forget their past. They need a new era of strong and honorable leadership.
The Iraqi people need to model their future not on decades of dictatorship and sectarian separation, but on the hope of Making Iraq Great Again. The Iraqi people should learn from leadership mistakes both during and after Saddam’s murderous rule and preserve their heritage as one nation under God.
Rana Alsaadi is a refugee from Iraq and now a naturalized American citizen. Prior to co-founding PACEM Solutions International in Falls Church, Virginia, Mrs. Alsaadi held multiple Senior Executive positions and served with the U.S. Department of State as a Cultural Advisor and the U.S. Department of Defense as a Translator/Analyst in Iraq. Mrs. Alsaadi earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Baghdad University and her Executive Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University. Read Rana Al Saadi’s Reports — More Here.