After securing the oil ﬁ elds, the search for Saddam Hussein became a top priority along with the search for WMD. Aside from the obvious political capital to be gained from the capture of Saddam Hussein, there was the matter of the incipient insurgency that was springing up against the coalition forces and the CPA.
At this early stage, Baathist cells were among the insurgent ﬁ ghters, and some of these cells were battling for the restoration of Hussein. It must be noted, though, that even then, they were a minority among the insurgents; the insurgency itself began as a Sunni attempt to retain its position in the new Iraq. Nevertheless, it was feared by some and hoped by others that Hussein might reemerge amid the chaos as a resurrected leader of all the opposition forces. In August 2003, a letter purportedly written by Hussein was broadcast by the al-Jazeera news network.
As described by Ahmed S. Hashim, it “called upon senior Shi’a clerics to declare a jihad against the foreign presence in Iraq” (Hashim 2006, 130). Was it really Hussein calling upon some of his sworn enemies to further the insurgency? Or, by this time, was he merely a symbol, and a quickly fading one, of a desperate Baathist resistance, his name being the only one some thought could rally the country? No one knows for sure, but as Hashim points out, the move seems naive. Certainly, aiding and abetting Hussein was the furthest motive possible for Shii participation in the insurgency.
Hussein managed to elude capture for another four months after the controversial letter surfaced. But on December 13, 2003, he was discovered hiding in a hole on a farm near the village of Daur. When the image of the tired, disheveled former dictator was shown worldwide, many thought the coalition had accomplished its mission, especially with growing doubt, even from believers in the United States, of the existence of WMD in Iraq. However, the Bush administration was loathe to leave the country ripe for another Baathist takeover (or worse), declaring that a democratic government must be in place before the coalition pulled out of Iraq.
This policy began to have immediate negative effects. Not only did it fuel antiwar movements in the United States and elsewhere, where Bush’s motives for the invasion were always suspect, but it provided the paramount reason for broadening the insurgency. Although some may have thought the insurgency would fall apart with the capture of Hussein, it was, in Allawi’s words, “only a blip on the insurgency’s radar screen” (Allawi 2007, 242), especially since the insurgency itself would soon devolve into a civil war in all but name.
Four days before Saddam Hussein’s capture, the Governing Council had passed the Special Tribunal law to try former regime members for their crimes. In the meantime, an interim government took over in Iraq and on June 30, 2004, took responsibility for all Baathist regime members under detention, including Hussein. Hussein languished in prison for nearly two years before he was brought to trial on October 19, 2005.
The delay was partly due to indecision among the Iraqi judiciary as to whether the machinery of justice had the ability to handle such a case. Some members of the judiciary were concerned about personal safety, while still others rejected the notion of war crimes as being a rationale for doing the bidding of the coalition. U.S. meddling in the form of assisting in the removal of the chief executive of the Special Tribunal, Salem Chalabi, on trumped up charges further delayed Hussein’s trial.
Finally, on July 17, 2005, formal charges were brought against him (and seven codefendants) in regard to the massacre of 148 people in Dujail, a town on the Tigris River in northern Iraq in 1982, following an attempted assassination of Hussein. The charges also included the torture of numerous other people and the illegal arrests of 399 people, all resulting from the same incident.
The assassinations of members of Hussein’s legal team and the attempted killings of other members offered proof of the chaos into which Iraq had fallen. The trial was, in fact, held inside the so-called Green Zone, the safe U.S.-protected area of Baghdad, which gave the Special Tribunal the aura of an American-prompted court. The trial lasted until November 5, 2006, when Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death. The verdict was upheld on appeal to the Iraqi Supreme Court of Appeals. Hussein was hanged on December 30, 2006.