|December 31, 2006||Sunday||Zilhaj 09, 1427|
WASHINGTON, Dec 30: US President George Bush acknowledged on Saturday that Saddam Hussein’s execution would not end the deadly violence in Iraq while the Pentagon alerted American troops in that country for a possible backlash.
The State Department also braced itself for a violent reaction, urging American embassies around the world to increase security.
“Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq,” said Mr Bush. “But it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself, and be an ally in the War on Terror.”“US forces in Iraq are obviously at a high state of alert anytime because of the environment that they operate in and because of the current security situation," Defence Department spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.
In Washington, the FBI and the Homeland Security Department issued an advisory, warning Americans to be vigilant about a possible terror attack.
Mr Bush, who is crafting a new policy for Iraq, warned of more challenges for US troops. "Many difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead," he said.
"Yet the safety and security of the American people require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq's young democracy continues to progress,” he said.
Reports in the US media warned that although Iraqi judges handed down the death sentence against Saddam Hussein, the Muslim world will see the execution as a US decision.
The reports noted that the US government spent more than $128 million building the courthouse, exhuming mass graves, gathering evidence and training Iraqi judges. The Iraq government only spent $9 million spent on the whole process.
President Bush met his national security team at his Texas ranch on Thursday, a day before officials in Washington starting telling various US newspapers that Saddam will be hanged on Saturday.
The new US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who returned from his first visit to Iraq last Saturday, is believed to have discussed the arrangement for the execution with senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad.
After returning from Iraq, Mr Gates went straight to the Camp David presidential resort and briefed President Bush. He also attended the security meeting in Texas on Thursday.
“It was American by default," Pierre-Richard Prosper, former US assistant secretary of state for war crimes who played a key role in setting up the tribunal, told reporters. “It would look like we were the puppeteers instead of a noble effort to help the Iraqis administer justice."
Analysts and pollsters talking to various US media outlets warned that Saddam’s execution will do little or nothing to bolster President Bush's weak public approval ratings or to improve a devolving security situation in Iraq.
Commenting on President Bush’s description of the hanging as “an important milestone,” Ray Tanter, a national security professor at Georgetown University and a National Security Council member under President Reagan, said: "Anytime the White House uses the term `milestone' it's a stone around the president's neck.”
He said the situation in Iraq cannot be changed “by capturing Saddam, convicting Saddam and executing Saddam. Nothing changes the insurgency except a political deal. The president may get a little bump from this, but it will quickly go down because the situation on the ground hasn't changed."
But a poll this week showed 82 percent of Americans supported the execution, the highest support of six nations surveyed. The Harris Interactive online poll, conducted Nov. 30 to Dec. 9, found 69 percent support for the execution in Britain, 58 percent in France and 53 percent in Germany.
Some commentators told US media outlets that Saddam's execution could even do Mr Bush political harm if it sparks more sectarian violence at a time when the president is preparing to embark on a new effort to try to secure Iraq.
"Things could get a little crazier in Iraq short term, and that's no help as the president tries to find a way forward in Iraq," said Frederick Barton, a member of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that authored a report on how to proceed in Iraq. "I can only see this as a source of agitation. It will cause celebration in some parts of the country and be seen as a symbol of oppression in other parts."
One of Washington’s major pollsters, John Zogby, doubted that President Bush’s approval rates will go up at all unless there's a drastic turnaround in Iraq on the ground. “Executing Saddam Hussein is not sufficient. It's all about the war in Iraq,” he said.
The US Congress, which returns next week under the control of Democrats, emphasized on the need for reconciliation among Iraqis.
"Now it is time for the people of Iraq to work to reconcile their differences and to heal the wounds of the past. Only that process will end the violence that has prevented Iraq from moving forward," said Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat from Massachusetts.
Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, the incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a potential 2008 presidential candidate, said the execution had closed "one of the darkest chapters" in Iraq's history.
In Crawford, Texas, President Bush said that Saddam's execution marks the "end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops" and cautioned that his death will not halt the violence in Iraq.
In a message of assurance to the people of Iraq, Mr Bush said the execution was a reminder of how far the Iraqi people have come since the end of Saddam's rule.
"The progress they have made would not have been possible without the continued service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform," he said.
In Michigan, hundreds of Iraqi-Americans cheered outside a Detroit-area mosque as drivers honked horns in jubilation. The north-western state has the largest Arab population in the United States.
"I've been praying for this all my life," said a teenager Ali Al-Najjar. His father, Imam Husham Al-Husainy, the director of the Karbalaa Islamic Educational Centre mosque, had gathered some of the men earlier in the night, praying for the death of the former Iraqi dictator.
In Dearborn, which is home to thousands of Iraqi-Americans, people danced and sang in the streets while others fell to their knees and cried with joy. Many draped Iraqi and American flags on their heads, shoulders and car hoods.
© DAWN Group of Newspapers, 2006