Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sentenced to death for his role in 148 killings in 1982, will have his sentence carried out by Sunday, NBC News reported Thursday. According to a U.S. military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, Saddam will be hanged before the start of the Eid religious holiday, which begins at sundown Saturday.
The hanging could take place as early as Friday, NBC's Richard Engel reported.
The U.S. military received a formal request from the Iraqi government to transfer Saddam to Iraqi authorities, NBC reported on Thursday, which is one of the final steps required before his execution. His sentence, handed down last month, ordered that he be hanged within 30 days.
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Earlier Thursday, Saddam's chief lawyer implored world leaders to prevent the United States from handing over the ousted leader to Iraqi authorities for execution, saying the former dictator should enjoy protection from his enemies as a "prisoner of war."
I'm not Muslim, but it seems to me that hanging Saddam on the eve of a major religious holiday might be problematic, especially if you don't want him to appear to be a martyr to the insurgents. Saddam is certainly taking up the cloak of martyrdom in his letter to Iraqis:
"Here I offer myself in sacrifice," Saddam said in a letter obtained from his defence lawyers in Jordan on Wednesday. "If my soul goes down this path (of martyrdom) it will face God in serenity."
It would hardly be the first time that we've been completely oblivious to the symbolism and cultural understanding of the region. I just hope that this does not unleash even more violence directed at our troops.