The White House declined Wednesday to criticize the conduct of the execution of Saddam Hussein, even as State Department officials and military leaders in Baghdad raised questions about the timing of the hanging and the way the condemned dictator was taunted by Shiite guards as he stood on the gallows.Seriously, does anyone expect us to believe Dubya didn't watch the execution he's been obsessing over for the last 15+ years? Give me a break. He watched it over and over again in big-screen, hi-def slo-mo, snarfing down pretzels and pork rinds and whooping it up with his mouth full.
Spokesmen for President Bush said he had not seen the video of the execution Saturday, and Mr. Bush himself refused to answer questions about it. Appearing in the Rose Garden with his cabinet to talk about a balanced budget, the president turned his back and walked away when a reporter called out to ask whether he believed that the hanging had been handled appropriately.
The circumstances surrounding the hanging have prompted public demonstrations among Mr. Hussein’s Sunni loyalists in Iraq and outrage around the world. Yet, while Bush administration officials said in quiet background conversations that they agreed that the execution was bungled, the White House insisted in public on Wednesday that the president was concentrating on the future of Iraq and that he was content to leave the investigation to the Iraqis.Um, Mr. Tony? I think you may be missing the point just a wee tiny bit. This is about the legitimacy and credibility of both the American and Iraqi governments. When the highest-possible-profile execution is carried out in an unprofessional, sectarian manner by a ski-masked death squad, it sends the worst possible message to the Sunni Islamic world, and indeed to everyone who is not a Shi'ite extremist.
“The most important thing to keep in mind is, this is a guy who killed hundreds of thousands of people and received justice,” said Tony Snow, the White House press secretary. Mr. Snow said too much attention had been paid to “the last two minutes” of Mr. Hussein’s life and not enough to the previous 69 years.
Not only that, but as others have noted, the spectacle achieved the impossible by making Saddam look almost noble. When the condemned is orders of magnitude more dignified than the executioners (or the witnesses), you have an image problem.