WASHINGTON, DC—Calling last December's execution of Saddam Hussein "anticlimactic," White House officials announced Monday their intention to hang the late Iraqi dictator again this year in an attempt to garner a more favorable response from the public.
"We're really looking for something that will refocus the American people's attention on all the positive aspects of this war," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "We were counting on the death of this brutal despot—who, by the way, gassed his own people and was just like Hitler—to be a major media event for us. Instead, we wasted three or four great news days at a time when we really could have used a few high points."
Most observers considered Hussein's execution, which was carried out by Iraq's interim government and broadcast in grainy, amateur footage, to be creepy, gruesome, and generally lacking the sense of triumphant catharsis authorities had hoped for.
To remedy the public relations failure, Hussein's body has been dug up from its burial place near Tikrit and wired together by U.S. Army forensic experts to ensure that it holds its shape during the ceremony. The re-hanging, which will be aired on all major networks and accompanied by a 30-minute retrospective highlighting the many reasons why Hussein was a terrible person deserving of this ignoble end, will be "brighter, cheerier, and more upbeat," than the first attempt.
"We're going to have superior production values, inspiring music, and live, prime-time coverage straight from Baghdad," said the State Department's media coordinator, Ellen Grainer. "[Hussein's body] has decomposed so much that his remains will have to be wrapped in canvas and covered up, but we plan to display a full-color oversized photo of him directly behind the gallows. That should have a real impact on viewers. We're pulling out all the stops to make sure we get the feel-good media moment everyone's looking for."
Grainer echoed the sentiments of several Defense Department officials who believe the U.S. should never have handed over a high-profile hanging to the Iraqi people in the first place. According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the two biggest miscalculations were allowing such a low-quality presentation to be associated with the American military, and timing the execution to take place around Christmas.
"The thinking was that Americans who missed their loved ones overseas would appreciate an emotional boost around that time," Gates said. "But apparently, people didn't think the holiday season set an appropriate mood for a public execution."
"If we could have hanged Osama bin Laden, that would have been ideal," Gates added. "Obviously, though, you have to catch someone to be able to legally murder them, so we're just making the most of what we've got."
It remains to be seen whether public reaction will be more enthusiastic this time around.
"After watching the first hanging, I felt kind of sickened and empty inside," Iowa resident Ted Froman, 38, said. "But with all the violence that's going on over there at the moment, it would be nice to see something done right."
In the event that the execution fails to create the desired positive effect, authorities said they would not rule out hanging Hussein a third or even a fourth time, if necessary.