Joy and "regret" at Saddam's execution

Houston Chronicle:

Dr. Mahdi Al-Bassam learned of Saddam Hussein's execution from news accounts.

But the Iraqi-born Sugar Land cardiologist heard a key detail about the historic death from an Iraqi government friend, who saw the execution.

"He said there was fear in his eyes, but there was no remorse," Al-Bassam said. "Even in the end."

Al-Bassam fled Iraq in 1967 and settled in the Houston area in 1971. He had uncles and cousins killed under the former dictator's regime. Saddam, he said, "brutalized the entire nation," and most of the Iraqis he spoke to back home Saturday were elated by the news of his death.

"He raped the country of its riches, and he left them starving with a $200 billion debt to the world community," he said. "He literally — not figuratively — starved his own people. To me, that's unforgivable."

The execution, announced in the United States late Friday night and near dawn in Baghdad, was greeted by cheers and celebratory gunshots in some Iraqi neighborhoods and mourning in others.

On Saturday, at Droubi's Bakery and Deli in Southwest Houston, where Iraqis are common customers, owner A.J. Droubi said there had been a lot of execution talk as people trickled in for bags of pita, jars of olives or flaky sweets.

"Some were happy," he said. "Some were not."

Intisar Alhellou, a Syrian immigrant working behind the bakery counter, counted herself in the unhappy lot. Like Al-Bassam, she made many calls back home about the execution. Those she talked to, she said, were distraught that it occurred on Eid Al-Adha, a Muslim holiday she compared to Christmas.

"Everyone is sad for what is happening, everybody in the Middle East," she said. "If they had waited, it might be different."

Even Al-Bassam, who called Saddam "an animal," had misgivings about the execution.

''Most of the Iraqi people want to see him gone, and I understand that," Al-Bassam said. ''But he has done so much harm in this world, I think he should have been made to live, and acknowledge what he did and suffer what he has done."

He said he wanted Saddam tried for more crimes, including the killing of thousands of Kurds, draining the southern marshes and the many killings whose victims are still being found in mass graves. He's infuriated by broadcasts on some Arab TV stations that portray him as a hero or martyr.

The latter regrets are understandable, but would have been meaningless to Saddam. He was a man without regret, other than being captured. History will record those atrocities and he will be found guilty.

Here is the story from Killeen, near Fort Hood, where the troops who captured Saddam are stationed. The reporterfound some guys who were pleased to see justice come to Saddam in the end.


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