This morning's "Today" show characterized the execution of Saddam Hussein with a multiplicity of negative terms. According to NBC reporter Richard Engel, reporting from Baghdad:
"The Iraqi government is now going to great lengths to say that this execution was carried out with the utmost respect for human rights; that it was a very organized, precise event. However, interviews that we've conducted with witnesses, judges and other people who attended and followed all the proceedings say it was much more emotional and chaotic."
Continued Engel: "The execution was primitive and vindictive. "
Engel stated that the site of the execution was one of Saddam's most notorious intelligence headquarters in Baghdad, where Shia radicals were executed, "Shia from the same party now leading the Iraqi government." As video of Prime Minister Maliki, a Shia, flashed on the screen, Engel concluded: "today was their revenge."
View video of Engel here.
Host Lester Holt then interviewed NBC consultant retired Lt. Col Rick Francona, who began by unwittingly refuting Engel's claim that the execution was "primitive." Francona noted that the gallows were newly-constructed in the western "drop" style, causing instantaneous death, in contrast with the traditional "hoist" method employed in the Middle East causing a slower death by asphyxiation.
But Francona then claimed that the execution would be viewed as vindictive and that "the timing is now suspect." He pointed out that others had been sentenced to death with Saddam but that he had been the only one executed yesterday, prior to the Muslim holiday. Asked Francona: "So what was the rush to judgment?" Note: according to Captain's Quarters: "the Iraqi government executed Barzan al-Tikriti and Awad al-Bandar after hanging Saddam. The three were sentenced to death together, and they have now been put to death at essentially the same time." (H/T FReeper Bahbah)
Francona actually went on to answer his own question: "I think everybody was concerned that this tension was building. It was getting worse ever since the appeal was denied. So they wanted to get this over with."
View video of Francona here.
Makes sense. And that being so, in what sense was the timing "suspect" and "a rush to judgment"?
Finkelstein was in Iraq last month. Contact him at email@example.com