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April 11, 2005
Saddam To Avoid Execution?

The Iraqi government will reportedly consider limiting Saddam Hussein's potential sentence to life imprisonment instead of execution in exchange for an end to the ex-Ba'athist insurgency, the London Telegraph reports this morning. The former Saddamite leaders of the native insurgency, which has lost steam and wants to fold its tents, needs a major concession to save face amongst its troops and ensure their compliance, and the new Iraqi leadership apparently considers this a reasonable request:

A reprieve is understood to be among the central demands of Sunni nationalists and former members of Saddam's Ba'ath party who have reportedly begun negotiations with the government amid the backdrop of a bloody insurgency which claimed 30 lives during the weekend.

Officials say they are looking for a way of joining the political process after January's election, which was boycotted by most of the once-powerful Sunni minority.

"We are trying to reach out to the insurgents," the source said. "We don't expect them to stop fighting unconditionally. Sending Saddam to prison for the rest of his life is not a huge price for us to pay, but it will save them a lot of face."

Such a limitation on the Special Court would certainly gain international favor. When the court first convened, the United Nations and a host of countries around the world expressed dismay when it reinstated the death penalty, which Saddam Hussein had supposedly eliminated from the Iraqi legal code, although it hardly stopped him or his henchmen from imposing it. Some countries refused to cooperate with the tribunal if execution remained one of the possible outcomes.

The new Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, is no fan of the death penalty either. Although he previously has said he would support it for Saddam's case, he has a long history of opposing executions and has now started talking about opposing it outright. His new position as President allows him (in conjunction with the two vice-presidents) to commute sentences in Iraqi courts, presumably including the Special Court. However, his fellow Kurds will no doubt be outraged if Saddam avoids the gallows, as will a large swath of Shi'ite victims of Saddam's genocides.

Is this a good trade? As an opponent of the death penalty under normal circumstances, I would say yes. If the ex-Ba'athists can meet the terms of the agreement, then sentencing Saddam to a couple of thousand years in maximum security makes sense. It saves lives and allows the Iraqis to start healing the divisions between the past and future. It would also allow them to focus on the Zarqawi network exclusively; in fact, the Iraqis could make that a condition of their own for the ex-Ba'athists to meet: bring Zarqawi with you for Saddam. As long as Saddam never sees the light of day again, he can die like Rudolf Hess -- crazy, broken, and of old age.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 11, 2005 5:42 AM

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» A Deal to Save Hussein's Life? from RightPundit
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