Sunday, January 07, 2007

U.S. Puts The Heat On Maliki Government For Saddam's Indecorous End

The unseemly circumstances of the execution of Saddam Hussein has left the United States looking bad in the eyes of the international community.

Washington is trying to put the onus of blame squarely upon the Maliki government, via a long piece in today's New York Times.

The U.S. military clearly puts their institutional viewpoint forward in the Times article.

Some excerpts:

The hanging spread wide dismay among the Americans. Aides said American commanders were deeply upset by the way they were forced to hand Mr. Hussein over, a sequence commanders saw as motivated less by a concern for justice than for revenge. In the days following the hanging, recriminations flowed between the military command and the United States Embassy, accused by some officers of abandoning American interests at midnight Friday in favor of placating Mr. Maliki and hard-line Shiites. ...

On the Thursday before the hanging, American military officials were summoned. Both Mr. Khalilzad and General Casey were on vacation, so the American team handling negotiations with Mr. Maliki and his officials was headed by Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner, head of Task Force 134, the detainee unit, and Margaret Scobey, head of the embassy's political section.

Iraqi officials said neither carried much weight with Mr. Maliki, who had learned through bruising confrontations to be wary of alienating Mr. Khalilzad and General Casey, both of whom have direct access to President Bush. At the Thursday afternoon meeting, tempers frayed. According to an Iraqi legal expert at the meeting, Iraqi officials demanded that the Americans hand over Mr. Hussein that night, for an execution before dawn on Friday.

General Gardner responded with demands of his own, for letters affirming the legality of the execution from Mr. Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and the chief judge of the high tribunal that convicted Mr. Hussein, the Iraqi legal expert said. The focus was on two issues: a constitutional requirement that Iraq's three-man presidency council approve all executions, and a Hussein-era law forbidding executions during religious holidays. ...

An Iraqi participant who opposed the hanging said that Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Mr. Maliki's national security adviser, said angrily, "This is an Iraqi issue," and added, "Who is going to execute him anyway, you or us?" When the Americans insisted they would not hand over Mr. Hussein without the letters, another Iraqi official exploded: "Just give him to us!" ...

Negotiations resumed Friday morning. In Phoenix, 10 time zones away, General Casey was monitoring the exchanges in signals traffic from Baghdad. American military officials remained opposed to an immediate hanging, telling Mr. Maliki that beyond the legal issues, there was a question of his government's need to gain international support by carrying out the hanging in a way that could withstand any criticism. ...

The arguments continued deep into the Iraqi night. General Gardner and Ms. Scobey returned at one point to the former Republican Palace, the American headquarters in the Green Zone, seeking Washington’s advice. Workarounds for the legal problems were discussed.

At 10:30 p.m., Ambassador Khalilzad made a last-ditch call to Mr. Maliki asking him not to proceed with the hanging. When the Iraqi leader remained adamant, an American official said, the ambassador made a second call to Washington conveying "the determination of the Iraqi prime minister to go forward," and his conclusion that there was nothing more, consistent with respect for Iraqi sovereignty, that the United States could do.

Senior Bush administration officials in Washington said that Mr. Khalilzad's principal contact in Washington was Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and that she gave the green light for Mr. Hussein to be turned over, despite the reservations of the military commanders in Baghdad. One official said that Ms. Rice was supported in that view by Stephen J. Hadley, Mr. Bush's national security adviser.


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