President Bush has not seen the illicit video of Saddam Hussein’s execution because he is focused on the “way forward” in Iraq, the White House said on Wednesday.
Iraqi officials are facing criticism over a video of Saddam’s hanging, apparently filmed on a mobile phone, that shows Shi’ite officials mocking the former Iraqi leader on the gallows. It angered Saddam’s fellow Sunni Arabs and sparked international condemnation.
The controversy over the execution video erupted as Bush is preparing to unveil a new strategy on Iraq that could come as early as Tuesday.
“I think the most important thing to realize is that Saddam Hussein was executed after a long trial, a long and public trial that met international standards,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.
“It’s interesting because there seems to be a lot of concern about the last two minutes of Saddam Hussein’s life and less about the first 69 (years) in which he murdered hundreds of thousands of people, that’s why he was executed,” he said.
Bush had been focused on the judicial process that was followed in Iraq and “the way forward,” and had not seen the video, “because that’s not his focus,” another White House spokesman, Scott Stanzel, said earlier.
An Iraqi official said on Wednesday a number of guards had been taken in for questioning and that one person had been identified as a suspect in filming the illicit video.
The White House said U.S. concerns about the way Saddam’s execution was carried out were expressed to the Iraqi government through the U.S. Embassy and military officials in Baghdad.
Bush had been “briefed fully” on U.S. Embassy efforts to delay Saddam’s execution, Snow said. The execution went ahead just four days after Saddam’s appeal failed and at the start of the Eid religious holiday, over the reservations of the U.S. ambassador who had urged a two-week delay.
“The American government made known to the Iraqi government its thoughts on it. The Iraqi government took that into account and proceeded as it saw fit,” he said. “The president knew about that and knew what the plans of the Iraqi government were on the day the execution took place.”
Pondering a new strategy for Iraq, Bush was “narrowing the choices” and wanted to announce the package of options — on the military, economic and political fronts — as a whole, Stanzel said.
About Bush’s announcement of a new Iraq policy, Snow said, “The speech isn’t written” but the theme will be “victory, winning.”
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