Ensign Says Saddam Should Face Death Penalty

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A member of Congress who was visiting Iraq when Saddam Hussein was captured said Tuesday that the deposed Iraqi leader should be tried by his own people and face the threat of death.

"I don't think he should be tried in an international court because they don't have the death penalty," Ensign said a day after returning from Baghdad. "I think he should be tried in an Iraqi court, maybe with some international help."

The 45-year-old freshman senator and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee was blunt about what he thought when an aide to U.S. administrator for Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, whispered that U.S. troops found Saddam hiding in a hole in the ground on a farm in the town of Adwar.

"As badly as I'd like to put a bullet between his eyes, I was glad he was taken alive," Ensign told The Associated Press. "The man was evil. He killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and hundreds of Americans."

Ensign was the only one of a six-member congressional delegation to the country to learn of Saddam's capture during the tour. Others in the delegation led by Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, were in Iraq at the time but didn't learn of the capture until they had left.

Ensign said command officials let him quietly share the news during lunch with about eight Nevada soldiers and a civilian contractor from the state. Public announcements came less than three hours later.

"The tears, I will tell you unashamedly, I had tears with them," Ensign said. "It was almost surreal. We couldn't shout about it, but around the table there were smiles."

Ensign's official trip started in secret last week, but became public after an aide said he was unavailable to comment on another story.

The senator described harrowing flights into and out of Baghdad on a C-130 military transport plane, and avoiding ground fire during swift Blackhawk helicopter flights between the Iraq capital and Tikrit.

Ensign talked with Iraqi civil defense force trainees, but did not visit the site where Saddam was found, about 10 miles south of Tikrit. He also visited hospitalized service members.

Ensign said he could provide no new information about Saddam's capture. He said he was not told where the former Iraqi leader was being kept or questioned.

He said he was struck by the contrast between the opulence of Saddam's former palaces - including one being used as a military command post in Tikrit - and the dirt hole where Saddam was found.

"It showed him for the coward he is," Ensign said. "He didn't go down in a blaze of guns or anything. He looked pathetic."