Saddam’s hanging turns him into new Arab hero

Saddam Hussein’s brutal hanging has not only turned into a public relations nightmare for the Bush Administration but has morphed the former Iraq dictator into a hero of the Arab world.

Throughout muslim nations, Hussein is now admired as a martyr who faced death with dignity and stood up to a bullying United States that has become a symbol of hatred for Arabs.

Writes Hussan M. Fattah in The New York Times:

In the week since Saddam Hussein 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.

On the streets, in newspapers and over the Internet, Mr. Hussein has emerged as a Sunni Arab hero who stood calm and composed as his Shiite executioners tormented and abused him.

“No one will ever forget the way in which Saddam was executed,” President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt remarked in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot published Friday and distributed by the official Egyptian news agency. “They turned him into a martyr.”

In Libya, which canceled celebrations of the feast of Id al-Adha after the execution, a government statement said a statue depicting Mr. Hussein in the gallows would be erected, along with a monument to Omar al-Mukhtar, who resisted the Italian invasion of Libya and was hanged by the Italians in 1931.

In Morocco and the Palestinian territories, demonstrators held aloft photographs of Mr. Hussein and condemned the United States.

Here in Beirut, hundreds of members of the Lebanese Baath Party and Palestinian activists marched Friday in a predominantly Sunni neighborhood behind a symbolic coffin representing that of Mr. Hussein and later offered a funeral prayer. Photographs of Mr. Hussein standing up in court, against a backdrop of the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem, were pasted on city walls near Palestinian refugee camps, praising “Saddam the martyr.”

“God damn America and its spies,” a banner across one major Beirut thoroughfare read. “Our condolences to the nation for the assassination of Saddam, and victory to the Iraqi resistance.”

By standing up to the United States and its client government in Baghdad and dying with seeming dignity, Mr. Hussein appears to have been virtually cleansed of his past.

“Suddenly we forgot that he was a dictator and that he killed thousands of people,” said Roula Haddad, 33, a Lebanese Christian. “All our hatred for him suddenly turned into sympathy, sympathy with someone who was treated unjustly by an occupation force and its collaborators.”

Even worse, the Saddam hanging is turning into yet another example of the Bush Administration’s failure in Iraq and a symbol of how the United States just can’t get anything right in that war-ravaged nation.

Writes Matt Taibbi from RollingStone.Com:

“The president’s view is that in the absence of a U.N. endorsement, this war will become ‘self-legitimating’ when the world sees most Iraqis greet U.S. troops as liberators. I think there is a good chance that will play out.” — Thomas Friedman, New York Times, March 2003

I thought of Thomas Friedman over the weekend as I watched the United States proudly gallop into its 9,598th consecutive gargantuan p.r. fuckup in Iraq, better known to the rest of the world as the execution of Saddam Hussein. In fact, I thought specifically of the above-mentioned column of Friedman’s, written right on the eve of

the initial invasion almost four years ago.

It was in that particular column (“D-Day,” March 19, 2003) that Friedman long-windedly lamented President Bush’s failure to secure broader international support for his invasion, which he feared would detract from the legitimacy of the operation. This was a blow to the Iraq war effort, in Friedman’s mind (excuse me: in what passes for Friedman’s mind), but in that “D-Day” piece of his he said that we could all still make things work in Iraq — all we had to do, he said, was to “turn these lemons into lemonade.”

Lemons into lemonade! That line has been stuck in my head throughout this war. It would be absolutely impossible to find a better example of just exactly why we should never have gone into Iraq.