31 December 2006

2006 in Review

Israeli soldiers stand behind a mobile artillery piece firing from the Zaura area across the Lebanese frontier July 13, 2006. Gil Cohen Magen

A Congolese soldier rests in a cemetery near the office of Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba in Kinshasa November 12, 2006. Goran Tomasevic

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (front row C) sits with commanders from the Basij Militia in Tehran May 7, 2006. Stringer

A would-be immigrant crawls after his arrival on a makeshift boat on the Gran Tarajal beach in Spain's Canary Island, May 5, 2006. The scene on Gran Tarajal beach was a stark, unforgiving reminder of the desperation that drives people to leave their homes and loved ones and cross dangerous seas for unknown shores. Nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants from Africa have arrived this year in the Canary Islands -- a palm-fringed sunseekers' haven and outpost of Europe off Africa's coast. That's already twice as many as last year. Around 1,000 have died on the way. Picture taken May 5, 2006. To match feature IMMIGRATION SPAIN CANARIES REUTERS/Juan Medina

Cuban President Fidel Castro addresses the audience during an event with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez on Havana's Revolution Square February 3, 2006. Chavez arrived in Cuba on Friday for a 24-hour visit to accept an international award from UNESCO and open the Havana international book fair honoring Venezuela. Picture taken February 3, 2006 REUTERS/Stringer

A Maasai man passes near a zebra carcass near Isinya in Kenya, March 7, 2006. Hundreds of people and tens of thousands of livestock have died from hunger and thirst across a vast region in east Africa, encompassing some of Africa's poorest and most arid zones. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

A man throws a trash bag holder as cars burn at the end of a student demonstration in Paris March 23, 2006. Rampaging French youths set fire to cars and looted shops in Paris on Thursday, marring protests against a youth jobs law, also known as the CPE, that Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, in a conciliatory move, agreed to discuss with unions. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

A worker at a printing house prepares a photo of former Kosovo president Ibrahim Rugova for the front page of a special edition of a daily publication being printed in tribute to him in Pristina January 22, 2006. Kosovo Albanians began the search on Sunday for a new president to lead the disputed Serbian province into independence negotiations after Rugova died aged 61, leaving no clear successor. PICTURES OF THE MONTH JANUARY 2006 REUTERS/Hazir Reka

A burning Danish flag held by a Palestinian a in front of the Church of Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem February 6, 2006. Fresh protests erupted across Asia and the Middle East over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad on Monday, despite calls by world leaders for calm after Danish diplomatic missions were set ablaze in Lebanon and Syria. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

A dead swan is recovered from the river Mur at a hydroelectric power plant in Mellach in Austria's southern province of Styria February 15, 2006. Two swans found dead on this very spot on February 12 were infected with the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus, an official at the government Agency for Health and Food Safety said. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

Andriy Zubenko, an eleven-year-old Ukrainian boy suffering from cancer, wears a mask in a children's hospital in Kiev April 4, 2006. Ukraine prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster, when the fourth reactor at the Chernobyl plant exploded, spreading a radioactive cloud across Europe and the Soviet Union. Thousands of people died from the effects of the radiation and millions more in the region and across Europe have suffered health problems, many of them children. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Nepali riot policemen beat pro-democracy activists after they were fired upon with tear gas for defying a curfew in Nepal's capital Kathmandu, April 22, 2006. Riot police clubbed and threw tear gas at tens of thousands of protesters as they shouted anti-monarch slogans while attempting to march towards the royal palace in protest of King Gyanendra. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

A Chilean student is detained by riot police during a protest in Santiago May 10, 2006. Hundreds of students took to the streets to protest against the fare of their annual bus passes. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair leave the East Room of the White House after speaking to reporters about Iraq in Washington May 25, 2006. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday it was the duty of the entire international community, as well as Britain and the United States, to support the new Iraqi government. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President George W. Bush hands back a crying baby that was handed to him from the crowd as he arrived for an outdoor dinner with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Trinwillershagen, Germany, July 13, 2006. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (GERMANY)

Nuns talk to Spanish assistant bullfighters before the start of a bullfight at Pamplona's bullring on the last day of the San Fermin festival July 14, 2006. REUTERS/Susana Vera (SPAIN)

A Greek soldier stands guard as Greek nationals board the Greek frigate Psara? during a massive evacuation operation in Beirut port July 18, 2006. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis (LEBANON)

Women dressed in ethnic costumes perform in an outdoor production called Impression Lijiang, held on a manmade stage on the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, 3,100m (10,170 feet) above sea level, near Lijiang city in southwestern China's Yunnan province July 23, 2006. About 500 amateur performers from 10 ethnic minority groups took part in the $31-million production by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou. REUTERS/Jason Lee (CHINA)

Lebanese displaced by the conflict between Israel and Lebanon's Hizbollah cross a damaged bridge by bus on their way to south Lebanon August 15, 2006. Thousands of Lebanese refugees headed home to south Lebanon on Tuesday as a U.N. truce between Israel and Hizbollah held on into a second day and planning got under way for a beefed up U.N. force to deploy in the area. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir (LEBANON)

The 'Tribute in Lights' shines on the skyline of lower Manhattan in New York, September 11, 2006, as the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center is observed. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn (UNITED STATES)

An unexploded grenade lies next to the body of a suspected militant during a shootout in Srinagar October 5, 2006. Police on Thursday shot dead two Islamic militants holed up in a hotel in the heart of Kashmir's main city after a 20-hour gunbattle, police and witnesses said. REUTERS/Danish Ismail (INDIAN-ADMINISTERED KASHMIR)

A North Korean soldier guards an army installation on the banks of the Yalu River at the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, October 10, 2006. With world leaders roundly condemning North Korea's announcement it had carried out a nuclear test, U.N. Security Council members weighed an arms embargo and financial sanctions on Pyongyang. REUTERS/Reinhard Krause (NORTH KOREA)

Palestinians climb up a ladder placed on the controversial Israeli barrier, as they try to bypass the Aram checkpoint, on the edge of Jerusalem, October 20, 2006. REUTERS/Eliana Aponte (JERUSALEM)

(Courtsey Reuters)

30 December 2006

Saddam Slaughtered on “Corban” Day

IT'S HARD to imagine anyone looking at the images of Saddam Hussein standing on the gallows with a hangman's noose around his neck and agreeing with George Bush's crass observation that the execution of the former dictator was an "important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy". The Irony is that When Saddam Hussein looked in disbelief at the over-sized noose that was fitted by masked volunteers around his neck, the man who helped to put it there by invading Iraq and toppling the dictator was soundly asleep at his ranch in Texas. Presidential spokesman Scott Stanzel said Bush was informed of the impending hanging Friday afternoon and went to bed shortly before it took place at 9 p.m. Washington time, with instructions not to be woken up.

Bush stated: “Hussein received fair trial”, then the White House issued a statement praising the Iraqi people for giving Hussein a fair trial. Fair trial?

Human Rights Watch, who observed every day of the process along with another NGO concluded that this was not a fair trial, and the soundness of the verdict is questionable. In this case, they say "the imposition of the death penalty - an inherently cruel and inhumane punishment - in the wake of an unfair trial is indefensible". They criticized the management of the trial, protection given to witnesses, the lack of material given to the defense (making this a "trial by ambush"), and prejudicial comments made by Iraqi politicians.

How can nation building begin at the end of the hangman's rope? Ask most ordinary Iraqis what they thought of Saddam's execution, for the vast majority of people in the country, Shia, Sunni and Kurd alike now themselves too preoccupied with personal survival to care much about his ultimate fate. Since when did execution become synonymous with peace and liberty?

A witness, Iraqi Judge Munir Haddad, said Hussein appeared "totally oblivious to what was going on around him. I was very surprised. He was not afraid of death." The former dictator refused to wear a hood as he was hanged Iraqi national security adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said. Hussein's death came in "a blink of the eye" after his executioner activated the gallows just after 6 a.m. (10 p.m. Friday ET), said al-Rubaie.

In a letter written from his prison cell, Saddam Hussein said: "I sacrifice myself. If God wills it, he will place me among the true men and martyrs," the former leader wrote in the letter. He also urged his country men to unite against enemies.
In my opinion what happened this morning was an assassination, and I think that is how it will be viewed in most of the world. At the dame time this act has achieved the impossible; it has turned Saddam from a criminal into a martyr.

Anyone notice the irony that the US flag is flying at half-mast on the day Saddam is executed!

The White House has always maintained that personal grudges had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq. And yet in September 2002, as preparations for war were well under way, George Bush the younger told a Houston fundraiser: "This is after all the man who tried to kill my dad." Now the personal side of this bitter family saga is over. But even from his unmarked grave, Saddam Hussein will continue to haunt the Bush administration and define the legacy of the 43rd president of the United States.

To view - Saddam's Full Uncensored Hanging - WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC

Saddam Hanged

An Iraqi policeman watches TV coverage of the execution of the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The order to carry out his death by hanging was signed by Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.

But just a few hours after the execution, Iraq's insurgents struck again - at least 30 people died in a bomb attack in Kufa.

Saddam's life in Pictures

For more than 40 years the name Saddam Hussein has been inextricably linked with that of Iraq. Its president since 1979, his influence on the lives of the people of Iraq, the wider Middle East and indeed, the global stage, has been unrivalled.

Saddam Hussein grew up in the north of Iraq where he joined the Baath Party and took part in an unsuccessful coup which eventually resulted in his being imprisoned in 1963. He and fellow plotters escaped from prison (above) in 1966.

After escaping jail, he was key in bringing the Baath Party to power and by 1975 Saddam Hussein was vice-president of Iraq. Four years later he became president and within days had executed many of his rivals. He’s seen here celebrating his birthday in 1979.

After the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution, Iran-Iraq ties declined, and war began. Despite UN attempts to resolve the war, it continued for eight years. Saddam Hussein is seen here in a propaganda picture of the time, manning an RPG.

During the Iran-Iraq War Saddam Hussein enjoyed US backing from the government of Ronald Reagan. Here Saddam Hussein greets the then US envoy, Donald Rumsfeld.

Saddam Hussein's influence on daily life in Iraq could be found on every street corner as vast numbers of murals were painted and statues erected in his honour.

A number of threats to his life meant he was always accompanied by a mass of bodyguards including Irshad Yassine (above).

Away from home Saddam Hussein travelled extensively, meeting leaders such as Leonid Brezhnev, Indira Gandhi, Yasser Arafat and Cuban President Fidel Castro (above).

Nearer to home he enjoyed close ties with some other Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan. Here he watches as King Hussein of Jordan fires an AK47 assault rifle.

In 1990 he led his troops into Kuwait which plunged Iraq and the Gulf region into chaos. Saddam Hussein is seen here with British boy Stuart Lockwood, one of a number of westerners paraded on television as human shields prior to the US air assault on Baghdad.

A US-led invasion of Kuwait forced Iraq behind its borders and stripped Saddam Hussein of much of the influence he had previously enjoyed. His retreating army set fire to the Kuwaiti oilfields, resulting in a huge ecological disaster.

Throughout the 1990s he remained in power - but under the eyes of the UN inspectors who suspected him of developing weapons of mass destruction.

In 2003, after 10 years of sanctions and stop-start weapons inspections by the UN, the US decided to remove Saddam Hussein's regime from power. On the first night of military action, he narrowly escaped a targeted air strike designed to kill him.

Saddam Hussein disappeared after American forces entered Baghdad and was not seen by the world until 14 December 2003, when dramatic pictures of the aftermath of his capture were broadcast.

Post-Saddam Iraq has spiralled into increasing sectarian violence with western forces on the verge of pulling out. Here, near to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, families dig out the remains of their kin who disappeared during Saddam Hussein’s time in power.

In 2006 Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging for his role in the killing of some 140 men in the mostly Shia town of Dujail, seized after a failed assassination attempt against him in 1982

On 30 December 2006, Saddam Hussein was hanged in Baghdad for crimes against humanity. Iraqi television broadcast pictures of his last moments. The news reader said his death marked the end of a dark period in Iraq's history.

(courtesy of BBC)