Even though Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq, is on trial at the moment for war crimes against the Kurds, he will be dead before the end of next month. All three networks made his certain execution their lead. The Iraqi high court rejected his appeal against a death sentence for a separate massacre in the Shiite village of Dujail and ordered him to be hanged within 30 days.

"No one can pardon him," declared CBS' Randall Pinkston. "Even Saddam's lawyers admit it is over." Basim al-Husseini, an aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told ABC's Terry McCarthy (subscription required) that a "surprising number of Iraqis" has petitioned his office to be appointed hangman--thousands of volunteers each month. McCarthy added that the execution will be videotaped and some portion of that tape will be broadcast.

NBC's Richard Engel followed that Death Row reporter's tradition of describing the looming death in morbid detail: "Saddam will be dressed in a green or orange jumpsuit. His hands will be bound. His feet will be chained together with only enough slack on the chain so that he can shuffle up the stairs of the steel gallows. He will be wearing a hood--as will the hangman. The hangman's hood, however, will have eye holes cut in it so that he can see the lever, releasing a trapdoor under Saddam's feet, dropping him to his death."

CBS and NBC followed up with the US military angle on Iraq. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell (at the tail of the Engel videostream) updated us on President Bush's war planning and CBS' Thalia Assuras previewed the Democrats' likely response. Sen Joe Biden opposes any reinforcement of US troops as "absolutely the wrong strategy" and has scheduled January hearings to drive that point home. Biden plans to run for President in 2008, Assuras added.


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