“It was the most wonderful thing I’ve seen in my life. He’s a man who never surrenders. He’s a hero, and he will remain a hero.”
-- Saddam’s daughter, Raghad
That’s a question only the Bush public relations team can answer, but they seem to be doing a first-rate job.
So far, the greatly anticipated trial has been so botched up the only one looking half way decent is Saddam. He marched into the courtroom like Saladin and started barking out answers like he was still in charge.
“You know me,” Saddam bellowed, “I’m the president of Iraq.”
Yes, he is, and like him or not, he has more right to that office than proconsuls Garner, Bremer, or the puppet of choice, al-Jaafari.
What right does Bush have to impose his Texas-style justice on Iraq? Bush was appointed by a panel of five rogue judges and an army of defective voting machines; that’s even less legitimacy than the bearded man in the dock.
I’m not a fan of Saddam Hussein, and I’m ready to accept any of the horrific things that are said about him. But anyone who saw his performance in court yesterday must have marveled at his guts. He’s obviously been drugged, tortured, and abused for nearly two years and yet the eyes were shifting like a cat, the voice was still steady and deep, and the demeanor was still firm and resolute.
Would Bush have stood the pressure that well?
Not without Karen Hughes tucking in his shirttails and Rove whispering sweet nothings into his hidden earpiece.
The Saddam trial goes way beyond any humanitarian interest in bringing a ruthless despot to justice. The Bush team wants to use the trial as an object lesson for other world leaders who are thinking of straying from the neocon pathway. They want a public forum for berating Washington’s adversaries and disgracing them in front of their people. That’s why they doped up Saddam and tossed him down the spider hole (as one of the soldiers involved in the arrest later admitted). It wasn’t enough to simply take him into custody, he had to be exposed as a coward, cringing before his American overlords who would then show him mercy by allowing him access to the legal system.
Unfortunately, they’ve hit a snag with Saddam. He may be a cold-blooded tyrant, but he’s no coward. Unlike Bush, he didn’t join the Champagne Unit of the Republican Guards to avoid fighting, and he probably wouldn’t have skedaddled on Air Force One if the capital was under attack. And, he wasn’t catapulted to the Oval Office on his Daddy’s coattails. He scratched and clawed his way to the top of the political ant heap by breaking a lot of arms and killing scores of innocent people.
He built his dictatorship the old fashion way: he earned it.
Whatever the Bush administration hoped to achieve by this fiasco, it failed quite spectacularly. The chilling image of Saddam can still strike fear into the hearts of enemies and embolden friends in the resistance to fight even harder. It was pure stupidity to put him back in the spotlight.
BBC commentators said that the trial was intended to “de-legitimize” Saddam and, thereby, elevate the stature of the new constitution.
Is that it: out with the old, in with the new? Just like the sign hanging over Abu Ghraib: “Under New Management”?
Most of the Iraqis got the constitution too late to even read the bloody thing and only voted according to the directions of their tribal elders or religious leaders.
How about electricity? How about water, sewage and security?
Even the Shi’ites had it better under Saddam than Bush; at least there was food, gas, jobs, and state assistance.
Now what? 100,000 dead, 300,000 injured, 25 million traumatized with no end in sight? And Bush thinks that his phony, mock trial will lift the people’s spirits?
Who does he think he’s kidding?
Iraq is in a shambles. The Iraqis don’t need another public humiliation to add to their misery.
These people are not fools. They can see through this comic opera, this White House burlesque. They know the trial has about as much credibility as a Bush tele-videoconference. After all, no one in Abu Ghraib has even been charged with a crime, let alone tried in court. So why pretend a butcher like Saddam deserves justice when thousands of innocent Iraqis languish hopelessly behind bars? Iraq is governed by the iron fist of the occupier not the rule of law. Why not just skip the baloney and dispatch him to his immortal reward?
So far, the proceedings haven’t even met the minimal standards for a fair trial. The defense has been prevented from seeing Saddam, they don’t have a clear grasp of the charges against him, and they’ve been kept from interviewing witnesses. In other words, the process is a complete fraud.
On top of that, the only charges filed against the ex-despot are for the deaths of 143 men from the town of Dujail following an assassination attempt in 1982. Heck, that’s 13 less than the number of men Bush put to death as Governor of Texas!
Are we really expected to take this seriously?
How can Saddam’s crimes in 1982 compete with the illegal invasion of a defenseless country and the subsequent destruction of Iraqi society? Bush’s attack on Iraq was the “supreme crime” according to the Nuremburg Tribunal. The judges ruled that unprovoked aggression differs “only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” That means that if we plan to hold Saddam accountable, we’d better save a place in the dock for Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Rice.
Bush should cut his losses and forget about the trial. Nothing good can come of it. If Saddam goes to the gallows, he’ll be elevated as a martyr and fire up even greater resistance. The whole deal is a “lose-lose” situation for the administration.
The only way Bush can win public support for the trial is if he insists that Saddam be treated with justice and mercy. That might just inspire hope for the future and soften hearts to the ongoing American presence. But, as we all know, there’s no chance of that.
Mike Whitney lives in Washington state, and can be reached at: email@example.com.
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