Saddam's Final Moments

The following is a transcription of the January 6, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.

ERIC BURNS, HOST: Saddam Hussein was executed a week ago today. But because of secret cell phone video, you can still see him die on the Internet. The person who is suspected of taping the execution has been arrested.

Rich, that makes a good first question, I think: should the person who took that video be arrested?

RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: I don't know the laws of Iraq.

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: No one does, Rich!

(LAUGHTER)

BURNS: You're OK. You're OK on that.

(LAUGHTER)

LOWRY: Let's say — let me say, the media coverage here in the U.S., I think TV got it exactly right. It was newsworthy that he was taunted just prior to falling through and, you know, having his neck broken. It was not newsworthy to actually see the death itself.

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: If pictures helped Nancy Pelosi a great deal, and in that case, and pictures in that case have hurt the Iraq government and the American cause...

BURNS: Because?

PINKERTON: ...a great deal. This was a huge mistake. This was a huge blunder to let it get done this way. They should have set up some kind of image gallery of all the people that Saddam had killed, and not just the Shia in that one town, and the Kurds and everybody else across the country for 25 years. They should have said, This is your life. This is why we're hanging you.

They did the opposite. They turned him into almost a "sympathy-for-the-devil" thing. And it was a terrible blunder for...

BURNS: Which means, Jim, that you think it was probably a good idea to have this video, so we could see what you just described...

PINKERTON: No, I don't think it's probably a good idea not to have any video, just to do it in secret and to have him dead. Not...

BURNS: So if there was a blunder, we wouldn't know. The kind of blunder you described.

PINKERTON: If the tree falls in a forest and nobody hears it, it didn't fall.

GABLER: But I think as the information finds its way.

(CROSSTALK)

PINKERTON: It does. It takes enormous effort, and you got to put the effort into it. Otherwise you get a disaster like this.

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think that — you know, I actually agree with some of the people on this network who have been critical of the media commentators.

I mean, the newfound sympathy for a guy who was responsible for the torture and death of hundreds and thousands of people - I think the media should - I mean, I think the blame.

BURNS: Sympathy for the way he died.

HALL: It's seemingly blaming the United States, and you can blame the United States for the mess there.

But it was very strange — I think that people need — I mean, I'm with Tony Snow on this. People need to be reminded of this guy's legacy. If it took a video montage — I mean, it does illustrate, I think, that they could not put him to death as a country. And that point has also been somewhat loss - that they could not unite around this. And - and there were even partisans in the guy's execution. So that's a good point.

But to blame America on this? I don't get it.

GABLER: But there's a larger issue, and I think most of the media have missed it. John Burns in The New York Times I think found it when in a clear-sided way, when he said, You know, look it, this demonstrates the incompetence of the Maliki government. That's the real issue now. And the repercussions of that incompetence.

But I think, in terms of the media, there were two competing narratives this week. There was the narrative about the mystery of who took the cell phone coverage — the cell phone video. And there was the narrative of the substance of the actual execution.

And these two narratives kept on tripping over one another. So one day we get, you know, who's the mystery man who took this stuff? The other day, we get, boy, this was a really undignified way of executing Saddam Hussein. And there was no clarity in the coverage, in my estimation.

PINKERTON: The Nuremburg Trials in 1945 and 1946 made it really, really clear the Nazis were guilty, they deserved what they got. There was lots of testimony, lots of evidence, lots of everything. And nobody doubted that - that Herman Goering and all the rest of them deserved to be executed.

In this case, they didn't set it up nearly as well. It was not a success, and they should have learned from 60 years ago.

BURNS: But Rich, we have the strangest situation now in the media, don't we? No matter what -- no matter how gruesome a picture might be, no matter what the standards of broadcast and cable news, we now have a place where we know -- people know they will be able to see virtually anything.

And we didn't have that before that.

LOWRY: Right.

You know, in the scheme of things, it's probably a good thing. I have not watched the final moments of that video. I won't. But if that's your kind of thing, you can go get it. And I don't think there's anything necessarily wrong with that.

HALL: I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with it. But I think that the imagery is going to be used by people in their own causes. And that's a new factor as well.

GABLER: But here's the odd thing: if it weren't for the cell phone coverage, we wouldn't know about any of this.

LOWRY: Well, no, no, no. That's not quite true.

HALL: There was an official video, right?

LOWRY: You would have - you would have read about in the newspapers. But Jim's point, I think, earlier: it wouldn't have been as powerful if you didn't have the image. It wouldn't have been as big a deal.

BURNS: All right.

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