President Bush said Sunday that Saddam Hussein’s conviction was a signature achievement for Iraq’s fledgling democracy.
Bush called the verdict “a milestone in the Iraqi people’s efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.”
Saddam was convicted Sunday and sentenced to hang for crimes against humanity in the 1982 killings of 148 people in a Shiite town.
“It’s a major achievement for Iraq’s young democracy and its constitutional government,” the president said at the airport before flying to Nebraska and Kansas on a campaign swing for Republican candidates two days before the election.
“The man who once struck fear in the hearts of Iraqis had to listen to free Iraqis recount the acts of torture and murder that he ordered against their families and against them,” Bush said in brief remarks.
Saddam and seven co-defendants were tried for revenge killings in the city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt on Saddam.
“Today the victims of this regime have received a measure of the justice many thought would never come,” Bush said in a brief address from Waco, Texas.
“He will continue to receive the due process he denied to the Iraqi people.”
The president also thanked U.S. servicemen and women “for their service and their sacrifice” in Iraq.
Earlier Sunday, White House spokesman Tony Snow called the Sunday verdict of death against Saddam evidence of “a good day for the Iraqi people,” and proof of an independent judiciary in Iraq.
Saddam was sentenced to death in Baghdad by hanging after being found guilty of crimes against humanity.
The sentencing came just two days before Tuesday’s congressional elections in the United States in which Bush is under fire for his handling of the Iraq war.
As a result, his Republicans are in danger of losing control of one or both houses of Congress to the Democrats.
Snow, on NBC’s “Today Show,” said the verdict was “absolute proof that you’ve got an independent judiciary in Iraq” that operates fairly and openly.
“It’s going to be interesting because in coming days the court itself is going to lay bare everything it did,” he said.