On this date in 2006, three years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, its former dictator, Saddam Hussein, was executed just before dawn at the joint Iraqi-American military base called Camp Justice. The official reason given for Saddam’s death sentence was 148 murders of Iraqi Shiites that he ordered committed in Dujail in response to an assassination attempt.
Hussein’s request to be killed by firing squad was rejected and he was hung instead. There were reports of jeering from the onlookers and some minor mutilation of the corpse, but the scene was unsensational by the standards, for instance, of lynchings in the American South. It’s important to keep these things in perspective.
Saddam Hussein was a bad and brutal man. Very few people, including me, shed tears at his demise. But he had been sold to the American people by our government as the world’s number one threat, a potential nuclear terrorist, and somehow responsible – in spirit if not deed – for the 9/11 attacks. We were told it would be a relatively safe war with relatively few casualties on both sides. And, with the achievement of a greatly stabilized Middle East, the war would practically pay for itself.
As of today, 4,495 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq and more than 30,000 have been wounded while estimates of Iraqi deaths go as high as 1.5 million. A study released in March of 2013 concluded that the Iraq War has cost the American people $2 trillion already and that the total bill – with interest and continued albeit diminished involvement – could top $6 trillion. Oh, and that greatly stabilized Middle East has, among other things, produced ISIS.
The execution of Saddam Hussein – carried out eleven years ago today – just might be the most expensive hanging in history.