An iconic moment destroyed in 2:36
Many Iraqis wanted Saddam to be executed in public. Thanks to a single cell phone, they got it.
But three words spoiled the execution the U.S. administration and Iraqi government hoped would be a unifying moment for Iraqis: "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada!"
A guard yelled Muqtada al-Sadr's name at Saddam just moments before he was hanged.
A witness recorded it on a cell phone.
Chance at unity lost
On Tuesday Iraq's chief prosecutor said the only two people with cell phones in the room during the hanging were senior Iraqi officials. Other Iraqi officials say the guards filmed it.
· Al-Sadr is a Shiite cleric who runs one of Iraq’s most violent militias, the Mahdi Army. He is also the son of one of Iraq's most revered Shiite families.
· Saddam executed al-Sadr’s father and uncle.
· The uncle who was killed founded the Dawa party.
· Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a member of the Dawa party. Al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army is seen as a powerful force behind al-Maliki’s hold on power.
To many in the Middle East who watched the video (it has spread like a pandemic on the Internet and over cell phones), the execution looked like it was more about settling of old scores than delivering justice.
It was a huge missed opportunity.
Most Iraqis truly hated Saddam. His regime massacred thousands of Shiites, Kurds AND Sunnis.
But he died looking brave and dignified. Saddam refused a hood, while his hangmen were masked (wearing a mask is seen as cowardly in Arab culture). Saddam looked calm and composed: his hair freshly dyed, beard trimmed, shoes polished.
His executioners looked more like a reveling lynch mob.
The video of Saddam on the gallows has quickly become one of the iconic images of the war, joining "Shock and Awe," the toppling of the Saddam's statue and the photos of prisoner torture from Abu Ghraib.
It could have been a moment for Iraqis to reflect on their independence, instead it only reminded them of their divisions and the civil war.
'Nothing to do' with it
Al-Sadr's militia blew it… and knows it.
The Mahdi Army acts and then denies. On Tuesday, one of their representatives told us the group had "nothing to do" with the guard who shouted al-Sadr’s name during the execution. And they are covering it up in other ways.
Twice yesterday Shiite militiamen intimidated our crews trying to cover this story. At one point, gunmen demanded that our crew handover an interview with a young man who was proudly distributing the video to his friends on his cell phone.
Militia justice now rules much of the Iraqi streets, and some now claim, militia justice influenced Saddam's execution.
- Life beyond the violence
Suicide attacks and murders due to sectarian conflict continue around Iraq. See how residents live their lives amid the attacks.