Saddam not long for this world

SADDAM NOT LONG FOR THIS WORLD…. There are some competing reports that differ on details, but MSNBC reports that Saddam Hussein will be executed sometime over the next couple of days, possibly as early as today.

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sentenced to death for his role in 148 killings in 1982, will have his sentence carried out by Sunday, NBC News reported Thursday. According to a U.S. military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, Saddam will be hanged before the start of the Eid religious holiday, which begins at sundown Saturday.

The hanging could take place as early as Friday, NBC’s Richard Engel reported.

The U.S. military received a formal request from the Iraqi government to transfer Saddam to Iraqi authorities, NBC reported on Thursday, which is one of the final steps required before his execution. His sentence, handed down last month, ordered that he be hanged within 30 days.

Saddam’s chief lawyer, Khalil al-Dulaimi, asked that the former dictator receive the protections afforded a “prisoner of war,” but the appeals appear to have been rejected. CNN noted that under Iraqi law, Saddam’s defense lawyers and family would be notified before the death sentence is carried out, and “there has apparently been no such notification.” That said, the MSNBC report added that Saddam met with two of his half-brothers on Thursday, and al-Dulaimi has apparently been notified that Saddam is not long for this world.

And then, of course, there’s the question of whether the execution will be televised. Reuters has an interesting piece on the subject, noting that the networks are torn but will likely err on the side of good taste. Iraqi National Security adviser Mouffak al Rubaie told CBS News that officials will “video everything,” and networks began making editorial decisions yesterday. ABC and CBS said they wouldn’t air the full execution; NBC said it would not air anything graphic but might use some footage; while CNN and Fox News had not yet come to any conclusions.

According to the Reuters report, the airing of an execution is “unprecedented” in the history of U.S. television.

Whether the networks broadcast footage or not, one has to assume the video will appear online fairly quickly.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.