Today's Papers

Hanged Man

Everyone leads with the early-morning execution of Saddam Hussein. He was hanged at about 6 a.m. Iraqi time after being handed over the previous evening by U.S. forces, who were holding him. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times go with banner headlines, and the Washington Post splashes the story across the top of the front page.

The L.A. Times benefits from its time zone and has many more details of the execution from people who saw it. He didn’t wear a hood and wore all black, rather than Iraq’s customary red prison jumpsuit. He held a Quaran, and when guards shouted out the name of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, he replied, sarcastically, “Moqtada,” which was his last word.

The timing of the execution was the subject of some speculation, coming as it did at the beginning of Eid, a Muslim holiday that usually involves the sacrifice of a sheep. One of Hussein’s lawyers told the L.A. Times that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki chose the date of the execution to “make a gift during Eid to his party.” Hussein “will be the sacrificial lamb for the Shiites, and the Iranians in particular,” the lawyer said. In a separate story, the L.A. Times finds several Islamic scholars who say it was inappropriate to have an execution during Eid.

The Post notes that the hasty execution means that Hussein will not be tried for any other crimes, in particular the killings of tens of thousands of Kurds in the 1980s. He was scheduled to return to court on Jan. 8.

Anyone wondering what John Kerry thinks of the execution? Well, the NYT talks to him anyway, as part of a front-page analysis charting the evolution of Hussein’s role in American politics. The NYT also reefers an epic, 5,200-word obituary, while the Post reefers a more modest analysis. The best of the lot is the L.A. Times obituary.

The NYT speculates on what might happen to Hussein’s body. The options include “sending his body out of the country to his family in Jordan, where two of his daughters live; burying him in a secret location never to be made public; burying him in a secret location but, after a period of time, having him disinterred and sent to his family or tribe; or sending him immediately to his hometown of Tikrit to be buried with members of his tribe.” The story includes a fascinating rundown of what happened to other dictators’ bodies after their deaths.

The NYT also looks into the internal debates that were going on Friday at U.S. television networks about how much of Saddam’s execution to show. The hanging was apparently videotaped and photographed. By TP’s press time, Iraqi TV and CNN were showing video of masked men putting the noose around Hussein’s neck but not the actual execution.

Only the L.A. Times bothers to analyze the impact of the execution on the violence in Iraq. The conclusion: not much, except that it could further inflame the sectarian conflict there. Their banner headline is “HUSSEIN EXECUTED—AND IRAQ BRACES,” and the Wall Street Journal world-wide newsbox leads with U.S. soldiers bracing for reprisals in the aftermath of the execution, but neither paper much backs up the assertion that the violence will increase.

Both the Post and the NYT stuff news that two Iranians arrested last week in Iraq were released and sent back to Iran. U.S. forces arrested the men and said they were agents of Tehran who were giving support to Shiite militias. The Post emphasizes that U.S. officials were annoyed that Iraq decided to release them, while the NYT focuses on the Iraqi government’s claim that there was nothing to hold the men for and that the U.S. raid had needlessly damaged Iraq’s relations with its neighbor.

Is Steve Jobs in trouble? The Post, L.A. Times, and Journal all front the results from an internal Apple investigation that details the CEO’s involvement in some shady stock options given to other executives. However, the report also says that Jobs didn’t do anything wrong. The Journal does the best job at getting at the source of the confusion: “Some options and corporate-governance experts said yesterday that they couldn’t reconcile Apple’s statements defending Mr. Jobs with the facts the company disclosed.” The government, which is also investigating, will now no doubt look more closely at Jobs.

Inside, the Post runs an analysis of “Edwards 2.0,” the 2008 presidential campaign of John Edwards. The piece includes an interview with Edwards in which the former senator says being president is not as much about policies as about inspiring, and that foreign policy experience is overrated.

Only in Somalia is it news when the prime minister visits his own capital, but that’s what happened Friday, the LAT and NYT report. The PM showed up heavily backed by Ethiopian forces, and the NYT says there is evidence of a nascent anti-Ethiopian insurgency developing in Somalia.

The NYT gets a scoop on an investigation into the director of a multibillion-dollar Interior Department oil-trading program, who is suspected of being a paid consultant to oil companies while also determining which of those companies get government contracts. Cozy relations with Big Oil in the Bush administration? TP is shocked. Alas, none of the oil companies are named in the Times story.