Current Events

Reactions to Saddam Hussein’s Death

Germany and Europe, as well as the Catholic Church stand united against the United States’ support of Saddam Hussein’s execution. And even many Arabs are upset about the timing and a perception that the trial against Saddam was unfair. All seem to agree that Saddam’s death will increase the violence in Iraq.

European and American Reactions

Der Spiegel Online reported on December 30:

“Saddam Hussein has been executed by hanging in Baghdad. Shiites danced in the street to celebrate while Sunnis mourned the dictator’s death…

“US President George W. Bush issued a statement from his Texan ranch welcoming the execution. Bringing Saddam to justice was ‘an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain and defend itself,’ the statement read. Bush added that the execution marks the ‘end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops’. However he cautioned that Saddam’s death will not halt the violence in Iraq. “German politicians criticized the death penalty after hearing the news. ‘The federal government, like the European Union, rejects the death penalty on principle, irrespective of the circumstances,’ the Foreign Ministry said in a statement..'”

Austria’s Networld reported on December 30 that the European Union condemned Saddam’s execution as “barbaric.”

How the Vatican Sees It

The Associated Press reported on December 30:

“The Vatican spokesman on Saturday denounced Saddam Hussein’s execution as ‘tragic’ and expressed worry it might fuel revenge and new violence… In separate comments to the station’s English program, Lombardi said that capital punishment cannot be justified ‘even when the person put to death is one guilty of grave crimes,’ and he reiterated the Catholic Church’s overall opposition to the death penalty. Executing Saddam ‘is not a way to reconstruct justice’ in Iraqi society, the spokesman said. ‘It might fuel the spirit of revenge and sow seeds of new violence.’… In an interview published in an Italian daily earlier in the week, the Vatican’s top prelate for justice issues, Cardinal Renato Martino, said executing Saddam would mean punishing ‘a crime with another crime.'”

The Associated Press added on January 3:

“The Vatican’s official newspaper on Tuesday decried media images of Saddam Hussein’s hanging as a ‘spectacle’ violating human rights and harming efforts to promote reconciliation in Iraq… The paper added that: ‘in a country ever more disfigured by every kind of violence, you don’t need arrogant gestures…'”

Arab Reactions

Reuters reported on December 30:

“Saddam Hussein’s execution on Saturday angered many Arabs, but even some who felt the former Iraqi leader deserved to die voiced a sense of justice denied. Many said his hanging for crimes against humanity, on the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha, would worsen violence in Iraq…Abdel-Bari Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, told Al Jazeera television: ‘Arab public opinion wonders who deserves to be tried and executed: Saddam Hussein who preserved the unity of Iraq, its Arab and Islamic identity and the coexistence of its different communities such as Shi’ites and Sunnis … or those who engulfed the country in this bloody civil war?’…

“In Afghanistan, which preceded Iraq as the first target in the U.S.-declared ‘war on terror,’ a top commander of the resurgent Islamist Taliban movement said Saddam’s death would galvanize Muslim opposition to the United States… In Mecca, Sunni Arab pilgrims voiced outrage that Iraqi authorities had executed Saddam on a major religious holiday… Beyond the Arab world, few Muslims seemed ready to defend Saddam, but many doubted that full justice had been done.  In Pakistan, Liaqat Baluch, a leader of a six-party opposition alliance of conservative religious parties, said Saddam was a ‘bad guy’ but his trial had been unfair.”

America’s Destroyed Dictator

On December 30, the British daily, The Independent, published the following editorial by Robert Fisk, titled: “A dictator created then destroyed by America”:

“Saddam to the gallows. It was an easy equation. Who could be more deserving of that last walk to the scaffold – that crack of the neck at the end of a rope – than the Beast of Baghdad, the Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying chemical weapons over his enemies? Our masters will tell us in a few hours that it is a ‘great day’ for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that his death sentence was signed – by the Iraqi ‘government’, but on behalf of the Americans – on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world. “But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question this weekend, a question that will not be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for us by our presidents and prime ministers – what about the other guilty men?

“No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don’t gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn’t invade Iran or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead – and thousands of Western troops are dead – because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality.

“In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent – we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam’s shame at Abu Ghraib – and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.

“Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam’s weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.

“And the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our ‘bunker buster’ bombs and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of our ‘victory’ – our ‘mission accomplished’ – who will be found guilty of this? Such expiation as we might expect will come, no doubt, in the self-serving memoirs of Blair and Bush, written in comfortable and wealthy retirement…

“… But [Saddam’s] execution will go down – correctly – as an American affair and time will add its false but lasting gloss to all this – that the West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed his orders from Washington, that, for all his wrongdoing (and this will be the terrible get-out for Arab historians, this shaving away of his crimes) Saddam died a ‘martyr’ to the will of the new ‘Crusaders’.

“When he was captured in November of 2003, the insurgency against American troops increased in ferocity. After his death, it will redouble in intensity again. Freed from the remotest possibility of Saddam’s return by his execution, the West’s enemies in Iraq have no reason to fear the return of his Baathist regime…”

Sadam’s Execution “Merely an Act of Shiite Revenge”?

ABC News reported on December 30 about an uncut video of Saddam Hussein’s execution, which is being placed on the Internet and which has been broadcast on several TV stations around the world. The video, which had apparently been shot on a cell phone by one of the two dozen witnesses, shows numerous provocations of Saddam by Shiites before, during and after the hanging. ABC News stated:

“There are five men in black face masks who are visible on the gallows platform around Saddam, acting as guards. As they guide him towards the trap door and put the noose over his head, they start chanting religious slogans with the names of Moqtada al Sadr (the head of the Mahdi army, accused of organizing death squads against Sunnis) and Baqr al Sadr (the father-in-law of Moqtada). Saddam, a Sunni, is outraged at this last-minute provocation, and tells them to ‘go to hell.’…

“… the impact of this video could be quite significant. First, it will reinforce Sunni suspicions that the execution of Saddam was merely an act of Shiite revenge for decades of repression under Saddam. The building where the execution took place was expressly chosen because it was once used as a detention center by a division of Saddam’s secret police that was focused on the Shiite Dawa party. Some of the witnesses whom the government invited to the execution had themselves once been tortured in that same building. Indeed, Prime Minister Maliki, who signed the execution order the day before the hanging, is a long-term member of the Dawa party and had himself been sentenced to death by Saddam back in 1980 before fleeing the country. “Worse, it will also reinforce the fears of Sunnis that Maliki’s government is beholden to the Mahdi army, Moqtada’s militia. Executions are generally expected to be solemn affairs–certainly not opportunities for thugs to score some final sectarian points before the ‘enemy’ is disposed of. The video itself seems quite distasteful–but it is informative to the extent that it reveals the political baggage that the current government carries on its shoulders. It does not add up to a pretty picture.”

Der Spiegel Online added on January 3:

“The international community has been outraged — especially at Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose government not only let a (banned) mobile phone slip into the execution chamber, but also hurried up the hanging… German newspapers see the whole affair as a gruesome circus that either threatens western values or drives another wedge between Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites. Some even suspect Maliki of using Saddam’s execution as a sop to his Shiite supporters…

“The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

‘It would have been a miracle if Saddam’s execution had not raised new problems for the Baghdad government, the overstrained US army, or for the violence-plagued Iraqi people. But now a mobile-phone video has turned up, and the pictures and sound both show, first, just how degraded Saddam’s death was, and second how depraved a society has to be to turn the execution of a condemned thug into a cheap and coarse spectacle… The video also shows that neither the Baghdad government nor the American occupiers are in a position to control an execution… Saddam Hussein’s death won’t heal old wounds any more than it will satisfy a lust for revenge — the pictures are more likely to achieve the opposite effect. And a government that can’t even prohibit recordings of an execution will never be able to control its country.'”

Divisions Between Iraqi Shiites and Sunnites Continue

The Financial Times reported on December 30:

“Street celebrations and a handful of angry protests erupted in Iraq’s streets early this morning, as the country awoke to the news that former president Saddam Hussein, who had overshadowed Iraqi public life for over three decades, had been put to death. However, a series of blasts in mostly Shia areas left at least 68 Iraqis dead, while six US troops were reported killed, pushing the death toll for December to 109 and making it the worst month for US forces in two years…

“The different reactions and the continued sectarian violence reflect the legacy of Saddam’s regime, which was dominated by Sunni Arabs and brutally repressed Shia religious and political movements. The execution is unlikely to bridge this divide, as perceptions of Saddam’s hanging differ radically between Sunni Arab and Shia. Even the timing of his hanging seemed to reinforce the sectarian gap–although Iraqi law bans executions during religious holidays, it took place just as the Sunni’s Eid al-Adha feast was beginning. Shia begin celebrations a day later.”

Saddam’s Death Personal Vindication?

The New York Times wrote on December 30:

“The capture of Saddam Hussein three years ago was a jubilant moment for the White House, hailed by President Bush in a televised address from the Cabinet Room. The execution of Mr. Hussein, though, seemed hardly to inspire the same sentiment… After Mr. Hussein was arrested Dec. 13, 2003, he gradually faded from view, save for his courtroom outbursts and writings from prison. The growing chaos and violence in Iraq has steadily overshadowed the torturous rule of Mr. Hussein, who for more than two decades held a unique place in the politics and psyche of the United States, a symbol of the manifestation of evil in the Middle East.

“Now, what could have been a triumphal bookend to the American invasion of Iraq has instead been dampened by the grim reality of conditions on the ground there. Mr. Hussein’s hanging means that the ousted leader has been held accountable for his misdeeds, fulfilling the American war aim most cited by the White House after Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction proved nonexistent.

“But that war is now edging toward its fifth year, and the sectarian violence that has surged independent of any old Sunni or Baathist allegiances to Mr. Hussein has raised questions about what change, if any, his death might bring.

“’Saddam’s face has been on this process from the beginning and here goes that face,’ said Bruce Buchanan, a professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin… the specter of Mr. Hussein remained intimately entwined with Mr. Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush. Two years after the Persian Gulf war, Mr. Hussein ordered an assassination attempt on the elder Bush, an act of spite that the 43rd president would never forget… Mr. Buchanan, a longtime observer of the Bush political family in Texas, said that these were no ordinary archenemies and that setting aside personal views entirely seemed impossible. ‘I think the president will see this as justice done and may well feel some sense of vindication, in part because of the attempt on his father’s life,’ he said. ‘It’s definitely part of the drama.'”

Italy Wants Worldwide Moratorium on Death Penalty

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 3:

“Rome is calling on European Union member states and the United Nations to push for an international moratorium on capital punishment. The move follows the controversial execution this weekend of Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein, who was sentenced to death for committing crimes against humanity… Rome is hoping to gain the support of the 85 UN member states who recently joined a non-binding declaration against the death penalty…

“… the Italians are also seeking to get the European Union — which makes a ban on capital punishment a precondition for membership — to promote a global moratorium. Rome has also asked Germany to add the issue to the agenda at an upcoming meeting of justice ministers in Dresden.

“In Iraq, the government deflected the criticism, noting that the Italians themselves had executed former fascist leader Benito Mussolini during World War II. ‘They have no right interfering with the affairs of another country,’ Iraqi government official Yaseen Majeed told the Italian daily La Repubblica. ‘Mussolini’s trial only lasted one minute.” The dictator was executed by partisans and strung up in a square in Milan in April 1945. Mussolini’s granddaughter and European Parliament member Alessandra Mussolini said her ‘blood ran cold’ as she viewed the images of Saddam’s execution. ‘My mind immediately flicked to pictures of my grandfather, who also had his uncovered face exposed to the public for ridicule,’ she said.”

War Has Returned to Somalia

Der Spiegel Online reported on January 2, 2007:

“Ethiopia has driven the Islamists out of Mogadishu. Now the region is threatened with a new East African front in the clash of civilizations. The radical Somalis are looking for support from the Middle East, and Ethiopia has turned to the US government for support in its fight against the Taliban-like Islamists… War has returned to the Horn of Africa, and the outcome is unclear. With tanks and many thousands of soldiers, the Ethiopian Army moved into the Somali capital of Mogadishu last Thursday, taking control of airports and the presidential palace…

“‘Somalia is at risk of becoming the battlefield of a global war between an Islamist international force and Western anti-terrorism forces,’ warns Hamburg-based Somalia expert Volker Matthies. ‘While the Islamists receive sufficient support from fundamentalists from the Arab world, the weaker government of President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, recognized by the West, gets its support from Addis Ababa. So Ethiopia is turning into an east African bridgehead for the Americans in their war against terror.’…

“Still, the unsuccessful debate in the UN Security Council has made it clear that Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is now officially an ally of America. No one fears a bridgehead of the Islamists in East Africa more than the US, whose embassies in Nairobi and Darussalam were blown up in 1998 by Osama Bin Laden’s terrorists…

“… there are now renewed threats of war with Eritrea, which is among Ethiopia’s enemies and will not hesitate to arm the Islamists or even to send its own soldiers off to the fight. Ethiopia and Eritrea are extremely poor states, but each country nevertheless maintains an army of more than 180,000 very well prepared soldiers.

“The government in Addis Ababa already views itself as being in a bind… Now Ethiopian soldiers have crossed into the neighboring country, and the Islamists are calling up their allies in the Middle East to a ‘holy war’ against the invaders. They could now face a similar debacle as did the Americans in 1992, when they came to Somalia to combat a famine — and withdrew in humiliation after the desecrated body of a GI was dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. There already is a similar photo on display today on the Internet. It shows an Ethiopian soldier, hands tied behind his back, his throat slit.”

Will Dollar’s Decline Prompt War with Iran?

WorldNetDaily wrote on January 2:

“Economists anticipate that the fall of the U.S dollar in world currency markets that began in 2006 will accelerate in 2007.

“‘The dollar could lose as much as 30 percent of its value in 2007,’ econometrician John Williams… told WND. ‘In 2007, we are likely to see the economic downturn of 2006 develop into a structural recession and yet we have international trade and federal budged deficits careening out of control.’… Bob Chapman… told WND, ‘Central bankers in 2007 will begin to move away from the dollar in their foreign reserve holdings.’…”Iran’s decision to hold only Euros may prompt a U.S. decision to launch a pre-emptive attack, Chapman speculated, with the public argument being Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of the U.N. Security Council. ‘Saddam Hussein signed his death warrant,’ Chapman argued, ‘when he got the U.N. to agree that he could hold [his] oil-for-food reserves in euros. Ahmadinejad appears determined to go down the same path.'”

Dangerous Religious Deception in Iran…

ynetnew reported on December 31:

“A triumphal religious prophecy has appeared on an Iranian official state media website, heralding the return of the Shiite messiah. According to the website, ‘Imam Mahdi (may God hasten his reappearance) will appear all of a sudden on the world scene with a voice from the skies announcing his reappearance at the holy Ka’ba in Mecca.’…

“The Mahdi’s far sightedness and firmness in the face of mischievous elements will strike awe. After his uprising from Mecca all of Arabia will be submit to him and then other parts of the world as he marches upon Iraq and established his seat of global government in the city of Kufa.

‘Then the Imam will send 10 thousand of his forces to the east and west to uproot the oppressors. At this time God will facilitate things for him and lands will come under his control one after the other,’ the website declared. ‘After his appearance the Imam would remain in Mecca for some time, and then go to Medina… a descendant of the Prophet’s archenemy Abu Sofyan will seize Syria and attack Iraq and the Hejaz with the ferocity of a beast… finally Imam Mahdi sends troops who kill the Sofyani in Beit ol-Moqaddas (Jerusalem), the Islamic holy city in Palestine that is currently under occupation of the Zionists,’ the IRIB added…

“According to the Iranian series, the Mahdi will reappear on earth with Jesus: ‘We read in the book Tazkarat ol-Olia, ‘the Mahdi will come with Jesus son of Mary accompanying him.’ …Imam Mahdi will be the leader while Prophet Jesus will act as his lieutenant in the struggle against oppression and establishment of justice in the world. Jesus had himself given the tidings of the coming of God’s last messenger and will see Mohammad’s ideals materialize in the time of the Mahdi.'”

… And in the United States

The Associated Press reported on January 3:

“In what has become an annual tradition of prognostications, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson predicted Tuesday that a terrorist attack on the United States would result in ‘mass killing’ late in 2007. ‘I’m not necessarily saying it’s going to be nuclear,’ he said during his news-and-talk television show ‘The 700 Club’… The Lord didn’t say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that.’ “Robertson said God told him during a recent prayer retreat that major cities and possibly millions of people will be affected by the attack, which should take place sometime after September…

“In May, Robertson said God told him that storms and possibly a tsunami were to crash into America’s coastline in 2006. Even though the U.S. was not hit with a tsunami, Robertson on Tuesday cited last spring’s heavy rains and flooding in New England as partly fulfilling the prediction.”

The sad news is that the Bible predicts that the United States WILL BE experiencing man-made and natural disasters with increasing strength and frequency, as we are approaching the time of the return of Jesus Christ. But it is preposterous to claim that God “spoke” to someone to give him the precise date–especially, when that person does not teach that we must keep ALL of God’s Ten Commandments, INCLUDING the weekly Sabbath (Note our Editorial in this issue). We might also ask, HOW did God “speak” to that person?

Romania and Bulgaria Join the EU

Britain’s The Telegraph wrote the following on January 1:

“At midnight last night Romania and Bulgaria became the newest nations of the European Union, bringing with them some 30 million people from one of the poorest corners of the continent. Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to flock to street parties and concerts for the double celebration of New Year and EU entry, which they hope will… lead to greater prosperity and a final break with communism…. In both countries surveys have shown two thirds of respondents in favour of joining, despite misgivings about rises in prices and the cost of living…

“Britain [as well as most other European countries, including Ireland, Germany, Austria and The Netherlands] will not however be granting Romanians and Bulgarians the same unhindered access to its job market allowed to Poles and other eastern Europeans when they joined in 2004. In mid-December the Government launched a television, radio and poster campaign informing Bulgarians and Romanians that although they can visit Britain without a visa for three months they will need a work permit — in most cases — to gain employment.”

Reuters added on January 1:

“The accession of Romania and Bulgaria will raise the EU’s membership to 27, almost half of them former communist states cut off from the West by the Iron Curtain until 1989…”

“Angela Can Fix It…”

The BBC News published the following article on December 29:

“Chancellor Angela Merkel has chosen the motto ‘succeeding together’ for Germany’s six-month EU presidency starting on 1 January–at a time of weak morale in the EU. On the plus side, the EU is celebrating the entry of Romania and Bulgaria as new members, its economy is picking up and it claims global leadership on issues like climate change… there are widespread hopes among EU-watchers that ‘Angela can fix it’…

“Germany, as Europe’s largest nation and biggest economy, is being asked to revive the EU’s faltering sense of purpose. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says the German presidency expects to spend a lot of energy responding to unforeseen crises on the EU’s behalf…

“Mrs Merkel wants to save as much as possible of the original draft treaty, which provided for an EU president and foreign minister at the head of new structures for common European internal and foreign policies. At a special leaders’ meeting on 25 March 2007, 50 years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, she will issue a ‘Berlin Declaration’, in an attempt to re-inspire Europeans with the ideal of continent-wide integration and to map out Europe’s common challenges…

“The Germans are themselves involved in a damaging split: Poland and the Baltic states strongly oppose the strategic deal done by former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in 2005 to build a new North European gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. It will supply customers in Western Europe, bypassing Poland, the Baltic states and Ukraine. Since then Russia’s robust use of its vast energy resources as a foreign policy tool has thrown prospects for a strategic EU-Russia partnership agreement into doubt. And the unsolved murders of several high-profile opponents of Mr Putin have led the Europeans to question whether this Russian leadership is committed to respecting civil rights and the rule of law, or even wants to be a constructive partner…

“Despite the mountain of problems much of Europe looks with hope to Mrs Merkel’s lead. Not only is Germany big enough to get things moving. But Angela Merkel, in her tactful way, has also chastised other European leaders for their lack of courage in [making] decisions. ”

Jerusalem Ex-Mayor Kollek Dies at 95

Deutsche Welle reported on January 2, 2007:

“Former Jerusalem mayor Teddy Kollek, who presided over the reunification of the city after the 1967 Middle East war, has died at the age of 95. Within days of the end of the war, Kollek ordered the stone wall which had divided Jerusalem to be torn down. He preached Israeli-Palestinian coexistence while attempting to balance the national aspirations of both people during nearly three decades as mayor. The Jerusalem Foundation, a charity founded by Kollek 40 years ago, said he died of natural causes. He is expected to be buried in a state funeral in Jerusalem on Thursday.”

Church of God members will recall the close friendship that existed between Teddy Kollek and the late Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God and the Ambassador International Cultural Foundation.

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