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Hussein's Fate Undecided

After former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was captured this weekend, U.S. and Iraqi leaders have a host of new questions to answer about his fate and Iraq’s future. Baghdad.

Boston [12.15.03] When U.S. officials announced that they had taken Saddam Hussein into custody this weekend, the news quickly generated celebrations from Baghdad to Washington D.C. The former Iraqi leader's capture marked the end of a nine-month manhunt, but it also marked the start of a new round of questions about Hussein's fate and Iraq's future.

"Saddam will stand a public trial so that the Iraqi people will know his crimes," Ahmad Chalabi, a member of the Iraq's interim Governing Council, told an Iraqi television station.

However, when and where this trial will take place remain major points of debate.

Many Iraqis and some U.S. officials said Hussein should be immediately tried for war crimes by a newly created Iraqi tribunal. Most agreed he likely would be found guilty and executed in short order - some even suggested the process could take just a few months.

But speed, Tufts' Hurst Hannum told the Boston Herald, may not be the best option - particularly if the timeline of events is seen as motivated by the upcoming U.S. presidential elections.

"Justice needs to be seen as Iraqi justice rather than American justice," Hannum, a professor at the Fletcher School at Tufts, told the Herald.

Hannum also noted that Hussein may be worth more alive than dead if he reveals valuable information about his reign and the current resistance efforts in Iraq.

"The Iraqis could use him as a one-man truth commission," the Tufts expert told the Herald, referring to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission formed in South Africa after the fall of apartheid.

One thing is clear: Iraqi and U.S. leaders need to sort out their options carefully. "I don't think there's any hurry to try him," Hannum said.

While Hussein's fate may take some time to sort out, the impact of his capture will likely have immediate effects on resistance efforts in Iraq.

"He was out there evading Americans, and now, look what we see: He looks bad, he was living in a hole, and now he's going to be tried," Tufts' Richard Schultz told The Boston Globe.

Experts like Schultz - a former consultant to the Pentagon who now runs the International Studies Program at Fletcher - predict the humiliating images of Hussein will drain support among his followers in Iraq.

At the same time, the images appear to have bolstered support for the Bush administration, which was facing increased scrutiny over the last few months about its strategy in Iraq.

"It seems like all of the news coverage has been so negative lately," Tufts medical school student Anand Kenia told the Washington Post. "This is one of the first pieces of good news in months."

 

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