By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 3, 2007 – U.S. involvement in the Dec. 29 execution of Saddam Hussein amounted to providing helicopter transport at the request of the Iraqi government, a U.S. military spokesman said in Baghdad today. Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV emphasized to reporters that all aspects of the execution were a sovereign Iraqi matter.
Caldwell explained that while the U.S. military had maintained physical control over Saddam during his incarceration, the Iraqi government had legal custody of the deposed dictator throughout that time. Whenever transport was required - to bring Saddam to his courtroom appearances, for example - the U.S. military provided the transport at the request of the Iraqi government.
When the Iraqi government asked that Saddam be transported to his execution site, the general said, normal transport procedures were followed.
"I guess the most important thing to know is that we continued operating just as we always have, dealing with the logistics, specifically both the security and the transportation of Saddam; that is, the routine matter that we've been doing ever since we took physical control of him," Caldwell said.
After U.S. military police delivered Saddam to a holding room near the execution site at a Baghdad prison and appropriate legal paperwork was signed, American authorities "had absolutely nothing to do with any of the (execution) procedures or any of the control mechanisms or anything from that point forward," Caldwell said.
News reports say Saddam was taunted by some observers just before he was hanged and that others present may have taken cell-phone-video images of the execution. Some of that purported video has circulated on the Internet and portions of it have been broadcast by media outlets. The Iraqi government has called for an investigation of the matter, Caldwell said. News reports today say an Iraqi official has been arrested for allegedly taking images of the execution with a cell phone camera.
"We had absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with the facility where the execution took place," Caldwell emphasized. "We were not involved in any search of any people, we had nobody present, we did not dictate any requirements that had to be followed. ... The multinational force had absolutely no direct involvement with that whatsoever."
After the execution, Caldwell said, the Iraqi government requested U.S. helicopter support to fly some Iraqis from Baghdad to Tikrit. The Iraqis loaded Saddam's body into a helicopter, he said, and the former dictator's remains and they were transported north.
Caldwell acknowledged that coalition officials would not have made all the same decisions regarding the execution, but pointed out that those decisions were the Iraqi government's to make. "This is a sovereign nation; they made the decisions they made," he said. "But we, as a coalition force, would have done it differently."
Saddam was tried and found guilty of crimes against humanity by an Iraqi court. An appeals court upheld the former dictator's conviction and death sentence for his complicity in the murder of 148 people living in the Iraqi city of Dujail in 1982.
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