Sunday, January 7, 2007
The N.Y. Times
"BEIRUT, Lebanon — In the week since Saddam Hussein was hanged in an execution steeped in sectarian overtones, his public image in the Arab world, formerly that of a convicted dictator, has undergone a resurgence of admiration and awe.
On the streets, in newspapers and over the Internet, Mr. Hussein has emerged as a Sunni Arab hero who stood calm and composed as his Shiite executioners tormented and abused him.
“No one will ever forget the way in which Saddam was executed,” President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt remarked in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot published Friday and distributed by the official Egyptian news agency. “They turned him into a martyr.”......
By standing up to the United States and its client government in Baghdad and dying with seeming dignity, Mr. Hussein appears to have been virtually cleansed of his past.
“Suddenly we forgot that he was a dictator and that he killed thousands of people,” said Roula Haddad, 33, a Lebanese Christian. “All our hatred for him suddenly turned into sympathy, sympathy with someone who was treated unjustly by an occupation force and its collaborators.”......
But shortly after his execution last Saturday, a video emerged that showed Shiite guards taunting Mr. Hussein, who responded calmly but firmly to them. From then on, many across the region began looking at him as a martyr.
“The Arab world has been devoid of pride for a long time,” said Ahmad Mazin al-Shugairi, who hosts a television show at the Middle East Broadcasting Center that promotes a moderate version of Islam in Saudi Arabia. “The way Saddam acted in court and just before he was executed, with dignity and no fear, struck a chord with Arabs who are desperate for their own leaders to have pride too.”.......
At the heart of the sudden reversal of opinion was the symbolism of the hasty execution, now framed as an act of sectarian vengeance shrouded in political theater and overseen by the American occupation......"