For those seeking omens on Saddam Hussein’s day of judgment, Mother Nature obliged: Sunday dawned wet, cool and clean in Baghdad after overnight showers rinsed the city of several layers of desert sand. Late in the morning, Ahmed Hussein, a government-employed street sweeper, looked up into the overcast and still-rumbling skies and nodded approvingly. “This is the right weather for a day like this,” he said. “The rain is God’s blessing upon the verdict.”
But for many Iraqis, the death sentence passed on their former dictator Sunday was not so much a cleansing autumnal rain as just another thunderclap — albeit a particularly loud one — in the middle of a terrible and unending storm.
Once the clatter of celebratory gunfire that greeted the verdict had died down, Iraqis’ thoughts returned to their own future, and the depressing realization that it is no less bleak than it was yesterday. “Whether Saddam lives or dies is not important to me,” shrugs Imad Mohammed, a computer technician. “I’m not even sure whether my family and I will live or die.”
This isn’t how the trial of Saddam Hussein was meant to turn out in the imagination of U.S. officials back in the winter of 2003, when he was found in that Tikrit spider-hole. J. Paul Bremmer, the American administrator of Iraq, had hoped seeing Saddam on the dock would allow Iraqis to exorcise the demons he had unleashed upon them during his long reign.
More recently, as the country descended into a sectarian war, some U.S. and Iraqi officials clung to the hope that the trial would remind Shi’ites and Sunnis how they had once been unified in misery under his rule.