The Bush Administration hoped that a guilty verdict for Saddam Hussein two days before the midterm elections would boost the electoral fortunes of sagging Republicans. It didn't. Once sentenced, they hoped that his execution would bring some much-needed good news to an Iraq policy in shambles and a country torn apart by an escalating civil war. It hasn't.
It's amazing that the death of Saddam, a man considered by pretty much everyone to have been a horrible dictator, could backfire on the Bush Administration and the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq. But the grizzly hanging--and the nasty cellphone recorded taunts that followed--can now be viewed as yet another chapter in the evolving story of "What Went Wrong."
Saddam's execution, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman noted today, "resembled a tribal revenge ritual rather than the culmination of a constitutional process in which America should be proud to have participated."
The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a man increasingly under fire, today detained one of Saddam's guards for possibly leaking the cellphone video. But the Times reported that another man present with a cellphone was Maliki's national security advisor, Mowaffak al-Rubaie. The plot thickens.
The Bush Administration is presently--and rather unconvincingly--trying to blame Maliki for rushing Saddam's execution. "American officials said that they had worked until the last hours of Mr. Hussein's life to persuade Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to delay the execution," the Times reported.
Maybe so. But the Bush Administration is to blame for botching Saddam's trial, by holding it inside Iraq and outside the jurisdiction of international law. If Saddam was given over to the International Criminal Court, there would have been no cellphone pictures, no taunting, no scandal and no execution.