‘NY Times,’ After Carrying Photo of Dead Saddam on Front Page, Considers TV Holding Back Image

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By: E&P Staff

One day after becoming the only major U.S. paper to carry a graphic photo of Saddam Haddam after his execution on its front page — and above the fold, at that — The New York Times took up the question of TV networks debating whether to run a cellphone video of the dictator in his moment of death.

Bill Carter wrote on Monday, “No national American television organization has thus far allowed the moment of the drop to be shown. But the same niceties were not observed on numerous Web sites, which have posted the complete video, including the moment that Mr. Hussein, noose around his neck, falls, and a close-up of his face afterward.”

The article noted that the networks carried the footage — but cutting off before his death was show, some explaining that they did so because the accompanying audio was newsworthy. Carter did not mention his paper’s decision to run the photo above the fold on its front page the previous day.

Meanwhile, the media has belatedly covered the unseemly and possibly damaging ways the execution was carried out.

John F. Burns, reporting from Baghdad for the Times, noted on the front page today, “Iraqi and American officials who have discussed the intrigue and confusion that preceded the decision late on Friday to rush Mr. Hussein to the gallows have said that it was the Americans who questioned the political wisdom ? and justice ? of expediting the execution, in ways that required Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to override constitutional and religious precepts that might have assured Mr. Hussein a more dignified passage to his end.

“The Americans? concerns seem certain to have been heightened by what happened at the hanging, as evidenced in video recordings made just before Mr. Hussein fell through the gallows trapdoor at 6:10 a.m. on Saturday. A new video that appeared on the Internet late Saturday, apparently made by a witness with a camera cellphone, underscored the unruly, mocking atmosphere in the execution chamber. This continued, on the video, through the actual hanging itself, with a shout of ‘The tyrant has fallen! May God curse him!’ as Mr. Hussein hung lifeless, his neck snapped back and his glassy eyes open.

“The cacophony from those gathered before the gallows included a shout of ‘Go to hell!’ as the former ruler stood with the noose around his neck in the final moments, and his riposte, barely audible above the bedlam, which included the words ?’allows of shame.’ It continued despite appeals from an official-sounding voice, possibly Munir Haddad, the judge who presided at the hanging, saying, ‘Please no! The man is about to die.'”

“The Shiites who predominated at the hanging began a refrain at one point of ‘Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!’? the name of a volatile cleric whose private militia has spawned death squads that have made an indiscriminate industry of killing Sunnis ? appending it to a Muslim imprecation for blessings on the Prophet Muhammad. ‘Moktada,’ Mr. Hussein replied, smiling contemptuously. ‘Is this how real men behave?'”

But over at her well-known site, Baghdad Burning, the Iraqi blogger “Riverbend” had a different interpretation of Saddam’s closing words. She also expressed revulsion at how the execution was carried out and the likely backlash against it. Part of her report on Sunday follows.

It’s official. Maliki and his people are psychopaths. This really is a new low. It’s outrageous– an execution during Eid. Muslims all over the world (with the exception of Iran) are outraged. Eid is a time of peace, of putting aside quarrels and anger — at least for the duration of Eid.

This does not bode well for the coming year. No one imagined the madmen would actually do it during a religious holiday. It is religiously unacceptable and before, it was constitutionally illegal. We thought we’d at least get a few days of peace and some time to enjoy the Eid holiday, which coincides with the New Year this year. We’ve spent the first two days of a holy holiday watching bits and pieces of a sordid lynching.

America the savior? After nearly four years and Bush’s biggest achievement in Iraq has been a lynching. Bravo Americans.

Maliki has made the mistake of his life. His signature and unhidden glee at the whole execution, especially on the first day of Eid Al Adha (the Eid where millions of Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca), will only do more to damage his already tattered reputation. He’s like a vulture in a suit (or a balding weasel)….

And no– not the celebrations BBC are claiming. With the exception of a few areas, the streets are empty….

It’s one thing to have militias participating in killings. This is allegedly the democracy the Americans flaunt. Is this how bloodthirsty and frightening we’ve become? Is this what Iraq stands for now? Executions? I’m sure the rest of the Arab countries will be impressed.

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