Friday, December 09, 2005


The impossible we do today, The necessary will wait till manana.

The US may be about to accomplish the impossible: fail to convict Saddam Hussein of crimes against humanity, either by court verdict or by the verdict of public opinion. The case they chose to try first was inexplicably one of the weakest they could have brought. It gets worse. From Jonathan Freedland: But the law requires clear proof of a chain of command, and in Baghdad this week - even after eight witnesses have testified - it was far from certain that Saddam's responsibility, or that of his seven co-defendants, had been nailed down. And people understand that: Baghdad's liberal intelligentsia finds the court performance troubling. "I couldn't watch it. It was a catastrophe," Aida Ussayran, a feisty human rights activist who spent 27 years in exile in Britain and now serves as deputy minister of human rights, told me. "It's so unimpressive and weak. If you've got evidence, you should know how to express it properly." The US hand is so heavy that it is unmistakable that this is a show trial: The state-run and US-authorised television channel al-Iraqiya was taking no chances. Whenever the courtroom had a break, the screen was filled with a propaganda commercial showing Saddam's face. Blood slowly pours across it. Pictures of the former president in court bringing his hand down firmly to make a point are intercut with archive footage of a prisoner lying on the ground while a man uses a baseball bat to smash his wrists. In the style of Shia religious mourning a voice wails a poem that taunts Saddam with God's judgment: "Where will you hide from all your crimes?" Last, the trial doesn't bring about any sense of catharsis, any sense that things are at last resolved and getting better. Even in Saddam's time, daily life was never as insecure, violent, and close to collapsing into sectarian strife as it is today. If the US does not force a guilty verdict, Saddam may be acquitted of all of his very real crimes. And if the US forces a guilty verdict and Iraqis feel the trial was a kangaroo proceeding, the US will have lost the trial. Good grief. This was a man who personally executed people, a man who had his own son in law put to death. Only George W. Bush could succeed in convincing the Iraqi people that Saddam might be innocent.
The reason the US had Salem Chalabi (yes, he's Ahmad's son) try Saddam on those particular charges is because the alleged crimes took place before the US became Saddam's best buddy, which we were for most of the 1980s.

Remember the Republican howls that "Saddam gassed his own people" (meaning the Kurds)? What they chose not to mention was that Saddam did so with the full knowledge and tacit approval of Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

As both Steve Gilliard and I have mentioned earlier this week, that's one of the main reasons why Saddam's not being tried at The Hague. The other reason, of course, is that BushCo refuses to acknowlege the authority of any group -- especially one run by foreigners -- to tell it what to do.
I believe Salem is Ahmed's nephew, but otherwise, there's much to what you say.

I understand this case was chosen for reasons of internal Iraqi politics, to placate a particular family.

I actually have some questions about whether international courts could handle a case like this. Their case law and judicial system is not adequately developed as shown by what happened to Milosevich. However, it is possible for a nation to perform a trial under the rules of international law. Canada or Japan might have been good places to try Saddam.
Ah, you're correct, sir -- he's Ahmad's nephew, not his son.
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