Our forum spoke of the recent execution of Saddam Husayn in Baghdad. This prompted the idea to introduce  "Tales Of The Fallen"  depicting two executions of head of states. One from the West: King Charles I of England and a parallel theme from our East, that of the hanging of Saddam Husayn the late former President of Iraq.

Our first tale is from one of the most troubled periods of British history. 

Through the reigns of James I and Charles I, and culminating in the English Civil War and the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century, there were significant swings back and forth between two factions: the Evangelical Puritans ( the Puritan middle class)  who sought more far-reaching reform, and the more conservative churchmen (Catholics and English aristocracy ) who aimed to keep closer to traditional beliefs and practices.

By the time of the rein of King Charles I, the king finally clashed with the Parliament which was dominated by the Puritans. The Puritans, or "Roundheads" as they were called, challenged his attempts to augment his own power— as they were hostile to his religious policies and apparent Catholic sympathy.

Meanwhile, Cromwell's foreign policy was prompted by biased religious fervor, and under him the Commonwealth became head and protectress of Protestant Europe.  He realized the salvation of the Commonwealth lay in a strong executive  backed by an army. 

As a result, Cromwellian government has been branded as one of the first experiments in (de facto) military dictatorship; the so-called ‘Rule of the Major Generals.  Under its rule, the civil war of 1641–53 raged to imprecedent levels.  Catholic sympathy for the king had resulted in the death or exile of over 600,000 people, or around one third of Ireland's pre-war population. In the wake of the Cromwellian conquest, the public practice of Catholicism was banned and Catholic priests were executed when captured.

On December 1, 1648 Cromwell's army advanced on London and carried off the King to Hurst Castle.  Subsequently, on January the 4, 1649, the Commons invested themselves with “the Supreme Authority,” and on the 9th, the High-Court of Justice to try the King was proclaimed. When this pageant of the High Court of Justice assembled, it was discovered that in reality, two-thirds of the members had been drawn out of the Army. 

Charles I  was convicted for high treason.  In the last interview with his children, Charles told Princess Elizabeth, among other things, that his death would be glorious, for he would die for the laws and liberties of the Land.  He woudl die a Martyr.  Three days intervened between the sentence and the execution which he faced on Tuesday, January 30, 1649 at Whitehall. The weather was cold,  the King desired to wear extra shirts, as Charles thought that wearing extra shirts was enough to prevent the cold January weather causing any noticeable shivers which the crowd could have easily have mistaken for fear or weakness.   “ the season is sharp, and probably may make me shake, which some will imagine proceeds from fear."

"I would have no such imputation.  I fear not death—death is not terrible to me!  I bless my God, I am prepared.  Let the Rogues come!” 

Secret history has not revealed all that passed during those awful hours.  We know, however, that the warrant for the execution was not signed until a few minutes before the King was led to the scaffold.  Assembled in an apartment in the palace, Cromwell, with four of his Colonels were squabbling.  A Colonel named Huncks refused to sign the warrant—Cromwell would have no further delay, reproaching the Colonel as “a peevish, cowardly fellow,” while  Colonel Axtell declared that he was ashamed for his friend Huncks.

At the same time, the King being led to scaffold, looked towards St. James’ and smiled!  Curious eyes were watchful of his slightest motions; and the Commonwealth papers of the day express their surprise, perhaps their vexation, at the unaltered aspect and the firm step of the Monarch. The last triumph, at least, was not reserved for the executioners,—it was for the King.

Charles, dauntless, strode the floor of Death of the specially built scaffold, holding his head high and his countence serene.  As he faced the crowd of spectators,  soldiers were compelled by their commanders to shout insults and taunts at the King.  In response Charles said:  "I go from a corruptible to an incorruptible crown: where no disturbance can have  place.“ He was the Martyr of the People.  Thence, turning himself toward some persons in the assembly, Charles said, “There are some sitting here that well know, that if I would have forfeited or betrayed the liberties and rights of the people, I need not have come hither."

A few moments later, with one massive blow, his head was severed from his body. A man in a (mask) performed the office of executioner. Another, in like disguise, held up to the spectators the head, streaming with blood, and cried aloud "This is the head of a traitor."   The crowd groaned as the act took place. Later that day Cromwell was heard to say over the body of Charles  'cruel necessity' Charles was buried on the 7th of February, 1649.  The monarchy was then abolished, and a republic was established, called the Commonwealth of England. 

REACTION

The King's execution shocked the whole of Europe. He was buried at Windsor rather than Westminster Abbey to avoid the possibility of public disorder. Charles' personal dignity during his trial and execution had won him much sympathy. His death created a cult of martyrdom around him, which was encouraged by the publication of a book of his supposed meditations during his final months, Eikon Basilike. The ideal of Charles the Martyr helped to sustain the Royalist cause throughout  the Commonwealth and Protectorate years which lasted until 1660, two years after Cromwell's death in 1658. The Restoration of King Charles II in May 1660 was at the invitation of Parliament, and followed the abdication of Cromwell's son Richard.   In an act of of retribution, Cromwell's corpse was dug up,  hung in chains, and beheaded. 
 
 

Our second tale is from Iraq, where dark forces have invaded the country and occupied it for the last 4 years.  A defiant Saddam Husayn is put on trial. All along he challenged the legality of the proceedings, which he said were brought about by the "invasion forces".   This is his story as it unraveled in the last moments of his life.

In the predawn hours of Saturday 30 December 2006, Saddam Husayn received the grim news of his impending execution scheduled for the start of `iyd al-Adha. Before he left the camp, Saddam from went man to man, thanking each of the guards for looking after him during the latter stages of his 1,110 days in solitary confinement. 

U.S. military officials then took Saddam from his prison cell near the Baghdad airport, and flew him in a Black Hawk helicopter to the Green Zone. At 5:15 a.m., Saddam landed at Mu`askar al-`adalah (Camp Justice), the American military post in the Kazimiyah district of northern Baghdad.  There, they handed Saddam over to the Iraqis. 

Meanwhile two additional American helicopters flew 14 witnesses from the Green Zone to the execution site.

To protect himself from the before dawn bitter cold during the short trip, Saddam wore a 1940s-style wool cap, a scarf and a long black coat over a white dress shirt.  His hands and legs were shackled.  Saddam was holding a Qur'an in his hands.  When the general prosecutor asked him to whom he wanted to give his Qur'an, he replied: Bandar, the son of Awad al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court who was also to be executed soon.

As Saddam was taken upstairs to the gallows, he was reciting, as it was his custom, "God is great" and also some political slogans such as down with the Americans and down with the invaders.

Saddam mounted the gallows calmly, without saying a word. He was resolute and courageous.   At one point, he turned his head toward the prosecutor as if to say ''don't be afraid''. 

He said: we are going to Heaven, our enemies will rot in hell, and he called for forgiveness and love amongst Iraqis but also stressed that the Iraqis should fight the Americans and the Iranians. 

Before the rope was put around his neck, Saddam shouted one more time, “God is great!” The nation will be victorious and Palestine is forever Arab. Saddam showed no fear or remorse.  He held his head high refusing to allow a guard to place a hood over his head. They stared at each other briefly as the executioners explained to him that the thick rope could cut through his neck. Saddam suggested using the scarf he had worn earlier to keep that from happening. 

The 69-year-old leader appeared calm as he stood on the high platform, with a deep hole beneath it. He was chatting to his burly, leather-jacketed executioners as they wrapped his neck first in black cloth then a thick hemp rope and steered him forward on a metal platform. 

Muwaffaq al-Ruba`iy, Iraq’s national security adviser, asked then Saddam if he had any remorse or fear. 

No,” he said bluntly. “I am a militant and I have no fear for myself. I have spent my life in jihad and fighting aggression. Anyone who takes this route should not be afraid.”  He said: this is my end, this is the end of my life, but I started my life as a fighter and as a political militant so death does not frighten me. 

Judge Muniyr Haddad, who witnessed Saddam's execution, said that Saddam was not afraid of anyone.  In fact Saddam was in full control, aware of his fate and he knew he was about to face death.

After Saddam offered prayers, the guards shouted praise for Muqtada al-Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric whose father is believed to have been murdered by Saddam's regime. They chanted, "Muqtada! Muqtada! Muqtada!

Muqtada?” Saddam mixing sarcasm and disbelief, swung his head in their direction and spat at them. He was outraged at this last-minute provocation, and told them to go to hell. 

Saddam smiled, "Is this how you show your bravery as men?" he asked. Straight to hell, someone shouted back at him. "Is this the bravery of Arabs?" Saddam said in defiance. A sole voice was heard trying to silence the taunts. "Please, I am begging you not to...," the unknown man said. "The man is being executed." 

The taunt was a last stab at Malikiy's Shiite-led ruling coalition, which many Iraqi Sunnis accuse of being a front for Iranian influence.

Before the guard stepped away, granting Saddam's wish to leave his face uncovered, Saddam had a last opportunity to speak his final words.  He said. "I hope you will be united, and I warn you not to trust the Iranian coalition, because they are dangerous." 

He said a last prayer. Then, with his eyes wide open, no stutter or choke in his throat, he said his final words cursing the Americans and the Iranians. 

The rope was then wrapped around his neck, his hands were tied, Saddam prayed, got halfway through the shihadah.  “There is no God but God, and Muhammad...” The trapdoor swung open. He seemed to fall a good distance, but he died swiftly. After just a minute, his body was still. His eyes still were open as death came rapidly. Despite the scarf, the rope cut a gash into his neck.  It was 6:10 a.m. 

Saddam's hangmen made no effort to hide their allegiance, taunting the deposed Iraqi leader with the name of radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Afterwards, they danced around Saddam's corpse. 

Shortly after the execution, the state-run television channel, Iraqiyah, began to run edited video, without sound, of the run-up to the hanging.  The video showed  Saddam being guided up the steps to the top of the gallows, a scarf being put around his neck and then the noose placed over his head and tightened on his neck.  Then it stopped. 

Later in the evening, another video of the hanging popped up, this time being shown on Al-Jazeera and Arabiyah. The new video shot on a cell phone gave of Saddam’s last moments a very different account from the edited, silent version that the Iraqi government had released earlier.

We now know that the Iraqi National Police unit the Americans turned Saddam over to was in fact a Shiy'ah lynch mob headed by Iraq’s national security adviser Muwaffaq al-Rabiy`iy AKA (Kariym Shahbuwriy) an Iranian national masquerading as an Iraqi.

REACTION

Altogether, the execution as we now see it, was shown to be an ugly, degrading business, which was more reminiscent of a public hanging in the 17th Century than a considered act of 21st Century official justice. Saddam was executed 56 days after the death sentence was passed, after Iraq's highest court rejected an appeal on 25 December.

While the balance sheet of Saddam legacy still awaits to be clarified by history yet to come, Saddam died convinced in his last stand, that his courage and defiant soul will fire a legend that will burn brightly in a future Arab-centered world.

The week since Saddam Husayn was hanged in an execution steeped in sectarian overtones, his public image in the Arab world, formerly that of a convicted dictator, has undergone a resurgence of admiration and awe. There has been revulsion around the world, with many leaders condemning the way in which the sentence was carried out. 

Libya canceled celebrations of the feast of `Iyd al-Adha after the execution.  A government statement said a statue depicting Saddam in the gallows would be erected, along with a monument to `Umar Mukhtar, who resisted the Italian invasion of Libya and was hanged by the Italians in 1931. 

On the Arab streets, in newspapers and over the Internet, Saddam emerged as an Arab hero who stood calm and composed as his Shiite executioners harassed, tormented and abused him. 

"No one will ever forget the way in which Saddam was executed,” President Husniy Mubarak remarked, they turned him into a martyr. 

Following the bungled hanging of Saddam Husayn, an initiative by the Italian capital’s left-wing mayor Walter Veltroni, the arches of the world-famous 2,000-year-old Roman era stadium were lit up in protest as night fell. 

The more the American's reveled in Saddam's humiliation, the more surely they set in motion the process of his ennoblement. 

He stood as strong as a mountain while he was being hanged,” said Ahmad al-Ghamrawiy, the former Egyptian ambassador to Iraq. “He died a strong president and lived as a strong president. This is the image people were left with.” 

Le Monde:

Fièvres posthumes pour Saddam Hussein, par Mouna Naïm

De la Palestine au Cachemire, des populations musulmanes ont défilé dans les rues pour protester contre l'exécution de Saddam Hussein. De Bahreïn au Liban, des rassemblements de condoléances ont été organisés en la mémoire de l'ancien président irakien. De Riyad à Alger, des oulémas ont joint leurs voix aux protestations. Plusieurs dirigeants de pas musulmans, où la peine de mort est pourtant presque partout la règle, ont déploré la pendaison de leur ancien pair irakien. Faute de l'avoir suffisamment sanctifié de son vivant, d'aucuns l'ont fait post-mortem.
  
 
L'ancien président irakien n'a pourtant jamais été l'icône transfrontalière que furent à un moment ou un autre, en leur temps, feu les anciens présidents égyptien Gamal Abdel Nasser et palestinien Yasser Arafat. Aussi, bien plus qu'une réhabilitation de l'ancien dictateur irakien et du bilan de son long règne, l'hommage qui lui a été rendu après sa mort - "il a vécu en homme et est mort en héros" - traduisait-il un sentiment de colère contre un état des lieux arabe et musulman perçu comme désormais soumis aux diktats des Etats-Unis. Jamais bien loin, même s'ils n'ont pas toujours été montrés du doigt, une kyrielle de dirigeants arabes et musulmans n'ont pas été épargnés, jugés au mieux pusillanimes, au pis inféodés à l'hyperpuissance américaine.

Le timing de la pendaison - à l'aube du premier jour de la fête d'Al-Adha - a suscité partout une vague d'indignation, y compris de la part des gouvernements. Mais certains oulémas, tout en déplorant le choix de ce moment, ont fait valoir qu'aucun texte sacré n'interdit la mise en application de la peine de mort à pareille occasion. Partout, les images volées de l'exécution - "sauvages et répugnantes", selon les termes du président égyptien Hosni Moubarak - ont choqué, tant elles reflétaient un climat de haine et de vengeance perçues davantage comme étant intermusulmanes (chiite envers l'ancien président sunnite) que dirigées contre l'ancien tyran. 
 
 


 


FOOTNOTES


Saddam was hanged at the start of  `Iyd al-Adha, December 30, 2006 at approximately 6:00 a.m. local Baghdad time The execution was carried out at Mu`askar Banzay (Mu`askar al-`adalah) an Iraq military base in Kazimiyah,  a suburb northeast of Baghdad. Saddam was buried at his birthplace of Al-Awjah in  Tikrit, Iraq,  before the execution, Saddam's lawyers released his last letter:

To the great nation, to the people of our country, and humanity, 

Many of you have known the writer of this letter to be faithful, honest, caring for others, wise, of sound judgment, just, decisive, careful with the wealth of the people and the state ... and that his heart is big enough to embrace all without discrimination.

You have known your brother and leader very well and he never bowed to the despots and, in accordance with the wishes of those who loved him, remained a sword and a banner.

This is how you want your brother, son or leader to be ... and those who will lead you (in the future) should have the same qualifications.

Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if He wants, He will send it to heaven with the martyrs, or, He will postpone that ... so let us be patient and depend on Him against the unjust nations.

Remember that God has enabled you to become an example of love, forgiveness and brotherly coexistence ... I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave a space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking and keeps away one from balanced thinking and making the right choice.

I also call on you not to hate the peoples of the other countries that attacked us and differentiate between the decision-makers and peoples. Anyone who repents - whether in Iraq or abroad - you must forgive him.

You should know that among the aggressors, there are people who support your struggle against the invaders, and some of them volunteered for the legal defence of prisoners, including Saddam Husayn ... some of these people wept profusely when they said goodbye to me.

Dear faithful people, I say goodbye to you, but I will be with the merciful God who helps those who take refuge in him and who will never disappoint any faithful, honest believer ... God is Great ... God is great ... Long live our nation ... Long live our great struggling people ... Long live Iraq, long live Iraq ... Long live Palestine ... Long live jihad and the mujahidiyn .

Saddam Husayn President and Commander in Chief of the Iraqi Mujahed Armed Forces

Additional clarification note:

I have written this letter because the lawyers told me that the so-called criminal court — established and named by the invaders --will allow the so-called defendants the chance for a last word. But that court and its chief judge did not give us the chance to say a word, and issued its verdict without explanation and read out the sentence — dictated by the invaders — without presenting the evidence. I wanted the people to know this.
 

 


 
 
 
 

 

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