In Arab World, Bitterness Over Hussein Verdict
News of Saddam Hussein's death sentence has drawn mixed reaction from throughout the world. But in the so-called "Arab Street," the reaction has been a unified bitterness.
Azzaman and Al-Sabah, two of the biggest circulation papers in Baghdad, published news stories about the death penalty for the former president -- but no commentary. Inside the Green Zone, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilizad hailed "an important milestone." Outside, it is too dangerous to express a viewpoint one way or the other.
Elsewhere in the Arab online media, the sentencing of Hussein was seen less as a victory for the rule of law than a defeat for the United States. In neighboring Jordan, a commentator for Al-Rai (in Arabic), the country's largest circulation newspaper, called Hussein's sentence, a "comedy in the death's quagmire."
"The problem is not the death sentence. The US soldiers could have shot him in the first minutes of his arrest. But the American political theater, with its artists, designers and directors, decided to put on trial the Baath party, Saddam and the Arab political system since Faisal I. ... Now the entire scenario has collapsed and the author, the director, the artists find themselves caught up in the Iraqi quagmire.... If the sentence is not a comedy, what is the definition of this word?"
In Egypt, editors of the state-controlled Egypt Gazette said, "Though very few are ready to shed tears for the condemned ex-strongman, the death verdict against Saddam is unlikely to improve either the situation in Iraq or the US predicament there. The opposite is true. Saddam's supporters may exploit the perceived blunders of the US-sponsored court to add to Americans' woes."
"Once again, a false victory in Iraq is exploited by the American establishment for the internal use," a commentator said in La Presse (in French), a pro-government daily in Tunisia. "Surprisingly, the condemnation of Saddam Hussein intervened just 48 hours prior to the November 7 mid-term elections. As expected, the White House congratulated itself, calling it a "historic day for the Iraqi people.'Spokesman Tony Snow said the sentence was 'absolute proof that there is an independent judiciary system in Iraq.'"
La Presse expressed its doubt, quoting criticism of Hussein's trial from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, and observing that "neither group can be accused of sympathy toward Saddam."
In other coverage:
European leaders are calling for the commutation of Hussein's death sentence to life imprisonment. Even Tony Blair, advocate of the U.S.-led overthrow, broke with the White House in opposing the ex-dictator's execution.
Spiegel Online reported that Europe's position is both principled and pragmatic: "It is clear that the verdict and its possible application will contribute to and deepen the armed violence and the political and religious polarization in Iraq, bringing with it the almost certain risk that the crisis will spread to the entire region."
Islam Online, the news site of Egyptian scholar Yusuf Qaradawi, sees the verdict feeding sectarian violence.
"The timing while perhaps designed to serve a domestic agenda in the United States, could not be worse for Iraq," wrote Firas Al-Atraqchi, a Iraqi-Canadian correspondent. "It comes on the heels of the ever-growing civil war, the humiliation many Iraqis feel over the issue of the Iraqi flag being lowered from official buildings, the fracas over federalism, and the growing understanding that the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nur Al-Maliki has done little other than hand over the reins of security to the death squads."
Tunisian journalist Hmida Ben Romdhane contributed to this post. Romdhane is the editor-in-chief of the international desk of the Tunisian daily newspaper "La Presse." He is with washingtonpost.com for several weeks as part of a two-month fellowship sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the International Research and Exchanges Board.
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