Execution doesn't end Hussein's influence

Even in death, Saddam Hussein arouses fierce passions. His execution Saturday was cheered by millions of Iraqis, setting off celebration in Shiite neighborhoods across the country.

"Saddam has left life but he's still on my mind," says Mohamed Abdul Jabar, a Shiite schoolteacher in Baghdad. "I suffered a lot from his severe regime, like millions of other Iraqis.... His only achievement was the destruction of Iraq."

Many Sunnis, however, saw it as a national humiliation – a Sunni Arab leader killed by a US-backed government – and were angered by the fact that the execution took place on Eid al-Adha, Islam's most important holiday.

On Sunday, hundreds of Iraqis flocked to Mr. Hussein's birthplace to see the deposed leader buried in a religious compound.

While the US once saw the fall of Hussein as key to stabilizing the region, President Bush acknowledged Saturday that the former leader's demise alone would not bring stability.

"Bringing Saddam Hussein to justice will not end the violence in Iraq," Mr. Bush said in a statement. "But it is an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy."

The move to execute Hussein was swift, and critics – especially Kurds – say Iraq missed an opportunity to try him for his alleged role in the 1987-88 military offensive against the Kurds, in which an estimated 180,000 were killed.

The European Union condemned Hussein's execution, with one top official calling it a barbaric act that could make him an undeserved martyr.

While US advisers to the court had said that they expected the execution would be delayed to allow the justice process to go forward for other charges, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite whose popularity has flagged as Iraq's violence has deepened, grew determined to see Hussein killed without further delay.

Ahead of the execution, Mr. Maliki said the swift execution underscored his government's commitment to protecting "human rights." In a statement, he said that the carrying out of the death sentence provided a "lesson" to dictators around the world.

The demise of Hussein may be irrelevant to Iraq's future, however, as the country's sectarian violence has moved beyond camps of Hussein supporters and opponents to an internal battle for power among Iraq's major sects.

Awadh al-Taiee contributed from Baghdad. Wire reports were used in this article.

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