BAGHDAD, Iraq, (AP) – In a farewell letter to the Iraqi people, Saddam Hussein urged his countrymen not to hate the people of the nations that toppled his regime nearly four years ago and said he was offering “my soul to God as a sacrifice.”
The letter was posted on a Web site Wednesday, a day after Iraq’s highest court upheld his death sentence and ordered him hanged within 30 days.
A top government official, meanwhile, said Saddam’s execution could proceed without the approval of Iraq’s president, meaning there were no more legal obstacles to sending the deposed dictator to the gallows.
One of Saddam’s attorneys, Issam Ghazzawi, confirmed to The Associated Press in Jordan that the Internet letter was authentic, saying it was written by Saddam on Nov. 5 — the day he was convicted by an Iraqi tribunal for ordering the 1982 killings of 148 Shiite Muslims in Dujail.
“I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking,” said the letter, which was written in Arabic and translated by the AP.
“I also call on you not to hate the people of the other countries that attacked us,” it added, referring to the invasion that toppled his regime.
Despite his calls for conciliation among Iraqis, Saddam’s legacy is brutal. He put suspected foes to death without trial, oppressed Kurds and Shiites, waged war on Iran and twice fought U.S.-led armies. He left an impoverished nation now gripped by sectarian bloodshed and an insurgency against the U.S. presence.
On Thursday, three bombs killed 23 Iraqis in Baghdad, and the U.S. military announced the deaths of three American soldiers.
Against the backdrop of sectarian killings that have dragged Sunni Arabs and Shiite Muslims into civil warfare over the past year, Saddam urged his countrymen to “remember that God has enabled you to become an example of love, forgiveness and brotherly coexistence.”
But he also voiced support for the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency, saying: “Long live jihad and the mujahedeen.” He urged Iraqis to be patient and rely on God’s help in fighting “against the unjust nations.”
Saddam said he was giving his life for his country as part of that struggle. “Here, I offer my soul to God as a sacrifice, and if he wants, he will send it to heaven with the martyrs,” he said.
An official from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said that “the government wants Saddam executed as soon as possible.”
Another official close to al-Maliki, who also refused to be quoted by name, said the execution would take place before the end of the 30-day period.
Ghazzawi, the defense lawyer, said the letter by Saddam was released Tuesday and published Wednesday on the Web site of Saddam’s former Baath Party.
Some Saddam loyalists threatened to retaliate if he is executed, warning in a posting on the same Web site that they would target U.S. interests.
“The Baath and the resistance are determined to retaliate, with all means and everywhere, to harm America and its interests if it commits this crime,” the statement said, referring to Baath fighters as “the resistance.”
The Baath Party was disbanded after U.S.-led forces overthrew Saddam in 2003. The Web site is believed to be run from Yemen, where a number of exiled members of the party are based.
Some Iraqis said Saddam should be hanged immediately, but others feared Iraq’s bloodletting could escalate if the former dictator is executed at a time when sectarian attacks are already on the rise.
“Executing him now is dangerous. The situation is very bad. Things need to be calmer,” said Saadia Mohamed Majed, a 60-year-old Shiite in Baghdad who wants the penalty to be postponed for at least three years.
Saddam is in the midst of another trial, charged with genocide and other crimes during a 1987-88 military crackdown on Kurds in northern Iraq. An estimated 180,000 Kurds died during the operation. That trial was adjourned until Jan. 8, but experts have said the trial of Saddam’s co-defendants is likely to continue even if he is executed.