WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Friday that U.S. forces in Iraq are ready for any escalation of violence associated with the execution of former President Saddam Hussein.
Saddam was hanged Friday night, Iraqi state-run television reported.
"U.S. forces in Iraq are obviously at a high state of alert anytime because of the environment that they operate in and because of the current security situation," Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said Friday, hours before Saddam was hanged.
U.S. forces will take into account "social dimensions that could potentially led to an increase in violence, which certainly would include carrying out the sentence of Saddam Hussein," Whitman said.
Closer to home, Americans were warned to be vigilant about the possibility of a terror attack. But an advisory that the FBI and the Homeland Security Department sent to local law enforcement agencies and intelligence community figures on Friday was routine and did not cite a specific threat.
Saddam has been in U.S. custody since he was captured in December 2003. As his execution drew near, Saddam's lawyers filed an appeal trying to stave it off.
However, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who heard arguments from attorneys by phone, rejected the challenge Friday night. She said U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to interfere in another country's judicial process.
In a 21-page request filed Friday, Saddam's attorneys argued that because Saddam also faces a civil lawsuit in Washington, he has rights as a civil defendant that would be violated if he is executed. He has not received notice of those rights and the consequences that the lawsuit would have on his estate, his attorneys said.
"To protect those rights, defendant Saddam Hussein requests an order of this court providing a stay of his execution until further notice of this court," attorney Nicholas Gilman wrote.
A similar request by the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, was denied Thursday — as was an appeal of that decision. Al-Bandar also faces execution. The Justice Department argued in that case that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction to interfere with the judicial process of another country.
The White House declined Friday to talk about the timing of Saddam's execution.
Deputy White House press secretary Scott Stanzel, talking to reporters from Crawford, Texas, where President Bush was vacationing, said the hanging of Saddam was a matter for the sovereign Iraqi government. Earlier, the White House said the appeals court decision to uphold the sentence marked an important milestone for the Iraqi people's efforts to replace the rule of a tyrant with the rule of law.
At the Pentagon, Whitman wouldn't comment on troop movements to strengthen security for the execution, but he said the commanders in Iraq have the ability to move forces as they deem appropriate based on conditions on the ground.