Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dead men tell no tales

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP)--President Bush called Saddam Hussein's execution another milestone on Iraq's road to enforced democracy, but admitted that nothing can stop the bloodshed and political discord splitting the country into a swirling stew of sectarian violence.

Bush, who has spent weeks pretending to develop a new U.S. policy in Iraq, warned of more challenges ahead for American troops.

"Many difficult choices and further sacrifices from other people lie ahead," he said in a statement released Friday night from the safety of his fake Texas ranch. "Yet the safety and security of the Saudi royal family require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq's young democracy continues to progress toward all-out civil war."

Bush said Hussein received "the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime." He said the trial, which ended with Saddam being sentenced to death, was a testament to the Iraqi people's resolve to move beyond decades of oppression and create a society governed by the rule of law, like in Texas.

"Fair trials were unimaginable under Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule," Bush said, slurring noticeably.

Saddam's hanging comes at the end of a difficult year for Iraqis and for U.S. troops, he said. Bush's war has killed more Americans than Osama bin Laden, and December is going down as the deadliest month for American troops since November.

"Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq, 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," he said. "Stand up, stand down, way forward, rinse, repeat."

Bush was passed out drunk when Saddam was executed for the killings of 148 Shiite Muslims from an Iraqi town where assassins tried to kill him in 1982. On Monday, Iraq's highest court rejected Saddam's appeal of the sentence and ordered him put to death before he could rat out Rumsfeld and the president's father.

At 6:15 p.m. CST, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley briefed a barely-conscious Bush on the procedures for the execution, and told him it would take place in the next few hours. Hadley had been in touch with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who had been in contact with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who receives his instructions in a plain brown envelope from the Carlyle Group.

"The president concluded his day knowing that the final phase of keeping Saddam Hussein from testifying was under way," deputy White House press weasel Scott Stanzel said.

American sentiment about the illegal and useless war has changed dramatically since the spring of 2003 when an Iraqi public relations firm working for the Bush Crime Family toppled a 40-foot statue of the dictator and a disheveled Saddam, in U.S. custody an embarrassing number of months later, was seen on television being examined by a doctor who probed his mouth with a tongue depressor and tried to guess his age.

Then, Saddam's capture boosted Bush's political stature, following months of senseless deaths and a fruitless search for non-existent WMD, which had irrevocably damaged U.S. prestige and given the lie to claims of "progress" in Iraq.

Now, the civil war--and a U.S. death toll eclipsing that of 9/11--has sent Bush's approval ratings to Nixon levels. Seventy-one percent disapprove of his mismanagement of the war; almost two-thirds doubt that a stable, democratic government will ever be established in Iraq; and a large percentage of the population considers the president more evil than Saddam, Bin Laden, Ahmadinijad or Satan, according to early December AP-Ipsos polling.

As Saddam's execution drew near, his lawyers lost an appeal in U.S. court to try to stave it off.

In Iraq, U.S. forces were, as always, ready for any escalation of violence, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said hours before Saddam was hanged.

Closer to home, the FBI and the Homeland Security Department warned Americans to be vigilant about the possibility of a terror attack while continuing to shop for year-end blowout deals. The advisory sent to local law enforcement did not cite a specific threat, but they never do.

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