Hussein's Death Ends Saga with Bush Family

ByABC News
December 30, 2006, 4:27 PM

Dec. 30, 2006 — -- The White House said President Bush slept right through Saddam Hussein's execution and did not learn for sure that he had been hanged until he woke up early this morning.

But before going to bed, Bush had been told Hussein's end was near and approved a presidential statement released overnight that said, "Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial the kind of justice he denied the victims of his brutal regime."

Bush was not seen or heard from for hours afterwards, careful not to upstage a rare Iraqi success or appear to have had a role in the execution.

It may have been a surprisingly subdued reaction to the death of an ally turned arch-enemy.

The U.S. once supported Hussein to counter-balance the anti-American Iranians, but when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, Hussein became the world's outlaw and President George H. W. Bush's nemesis.

"Five months ago, Saddam Hussein started this cruel war against Kuwait," the elder President Bush said in December 1991. "Tonight, the battle has been joined."

Along the way, their dispute became personal, with Hussein taunting and then trying to assassinate President Bush.

But it was Hussein's cat-and-mouse games with weapons inspectors that prompted the current president to do what his father would not -- invade Baghdad.

"On my orders, coalition forces have begun striking selected targets of military importance to undermine Saddam Hussein's ability to wage war," Bush said at the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003.

The fall of Hussein's regime did not end America's problems in Iraq, nor did his capture, trial or conviction.

That may be why even after Hussein's death, the president appears not to be gloating, but rather warning it "will not end the violence in Iraq."

In fact, President Bush predicts that "many more difficult choices and further sacrifices lie ahead" but the "safety and security of the American people require that we not relent in ensuring that Iraq's young democracy continues to progress."