"He is a thug," said George W. Bush on Tuesday of Saddam Hussein, explaining why he could not agree with Iyad Allawi's assertion Monday that on June 30 the U.S. would be turning over the deposed dictator to the government of Iraq, sovereignty or no sovereignty, reports the Financial Times.[1] -- The U.S. president has also called Moqtada al-Sadr a "thug." -- The Thugs were an ancient and well-organized guild of professional assassins in India who traveled in groups, gaining the confidence of victims who were later suddenly strangled, plundered, and buried. They observed special religious rites, deifying destruction itself. Thugs considered assassination for gain a holy duty, and an honorable profession. They had no idea of doing wrong; as Reinhold Rost, the secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society, once observed, "their moral feelings did not come into play." They had a special jargon of their own, and employed secrecy and an extraordinary ability to organize themselves in order to last for centuries before their system was unmasked in the 1830s and -- for a time -- ended....


By Guy Dinmore and Nicholas Pelham

Financial Times
June 15, 2004

Original source: Financial Times

WASHINGTON & BAGHDAD -- First signs of a public rift emerged on Tuesday between the US and the new Iraqi government as the two sides differed over the politically and emotionally charged issue of Saddam Hussein and other prisoners of war held by US forces.

President George W. Bush reiterated his intention to hand Mr. Hussein over for trial, but he and senior administration officials would not commit the US to doing so before the June 30 transfer of authority, as Prime Minister Iyad Allawi had stated would happen.

On Monday Mr. Allawi told Al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite television station, that Mr. Hussein and other former leaders would be transferred to the Iraqi authorities within two weeks.

But on Tuesday US officials contested this assertion, setting the stage for the first test of how much authority Iraq's interim government will exercise while more than 150,000 foreign troops remain in the country.

Human rights abuses committed by US soldiers in the Abu Ghraib prison have made the issue of detainees particularly sensitive.

Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said that under United Nations resolution 1546, the multinational force had the authority to detain individuals after June 30 where "necessary for security purposes".

Dan Senor, coalition spokesman in Baghdad, said the coalition forces had no obligation to hand over the former Iraqi leader and other prisoners of war while "a state of hostilities" persisted.

Asked by reporters for clarification, Mr. Bush said the two sides were working on the "appropriate time" and "appropriate security" for the transfer of the former president.

"He is a killer", he said. "He is a thug. He needs to be brought to trial. We want to make sure that the transfer to a sovereign government is done in a timely way and in a secure way."

Speaking of Moqtada al-Sadr -- another Iraqi he has described as a "thug" -- Mr. Bush said the caretaker government would deal with the rebellious Shia cleric, now based in Najaf, "in a way they see fit".

"When we say 'transfer full sovereignty', we mean we transfer full sovereignty," Mr. Bush said.

His comments indicated the US would not block Iraqi efforts to engage the cleric and his militia in the political process, after US forces spent six weeks trying to capture or kill him.

The disputed legal status of foreign contractors also hangs over the June 30 handover of sovereignty. Coalition officials cite a decree issued by Paul Bremer, chief US representative in Iraq, giving foreign contractors immunity when carrying out their work. Iraqis contest this.

Mr. Senor said they would have "some limited immunity" while engaged in their work, but not if involved in "criminal activity." He also sought to address Iraq's requests to hand back the Republican Palace, Saddam's former seat, where the occupation administration is based and which the US intends to use as its future embassy. The US has an outstanding legal dispute with the former regime over the status of an earlier embassy building.