Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Hanging Saddam, Attempt #2

The New York Times leads with news that the head of Saddam Hussein's half-brother was severed from his body during yesterday's early morning execution. Although Iraqi government officials insist the decapitation was accidental, it sparked protests among Sunni loyalists who said it was a deliberate act of revenge by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government.

Iraqi officials say the decapitation happened because they made a mistake when they calculated how high the drop had to be in order to snap the prisoner's neck. The NYT notes that at least one United States Army manual reveals that Iraqis used too much rope. It's a tricky business... too much rope and the head pops off, too little rope and the guy chokes to death for 5 minutes, gurgling and struggling all the while, instead of breaking his neck.

By all accounts it seems the Iraqi government took extra measures yesterday to prevent a repeat of the sectarian taunts that met Saddam Hussein before his execution. A video shown to a small group of journalists seems to back the government's assertion that there were no outbursts from those who witnessed these hangings ("Moqtada Moqtada Moqtada!"), but the fact that officials waited almost 13 hours to show the video seems to suggest they were trying to figure out how to deal with the decapitation. The LAT says the video that was shown to Iraqi journalists did not have the entire execution and some have expressed doubts of what actually took place. The NYT, on the other hand, says, "The video showed his head being snapped off as the rope went taut."

Either way, it's gross. And capital punishment is still merely state-sanctioned revenge killing. But, hopefully we'll never have to think about this again.

"Moqtada Moqtada Moqtada!"