Thursday, October 20, 2005

Saddam's Trial: Justice versus Jurisprudence?

From the day Saddam Hussein was pulled out of his spider hole, there has been speculation about how, when, and where he would be tried. Austin Bay believes it may have been better to try Saddam Hussein sooner and ends his latest post (hat tip: Instapundit) on the subject with the following question:

Would trying Saddam have at least blunted some of the internationalista support for Saddam’s fascist holdouts?

The answer is no, and I'll tell you why. I was debating folks about Saddam Hussein's trial back in December 2003, and the reactionaries on the left who typically support the "freedom fighters" in Iraq were making the same arguments then as they are now. The argument generally implies that this will all be a predetermined show trial to raise the facade of fairness and legitimacy while preventing Saddam from implicating his old allies, namely George H. W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and the United States government (read Reagan Administration). Here is a sample written by Barry Lando published by Salon back in December 2003:

Instead, prominent Americans could find themselves playing a role in what may be a very long, drawn-out and embarrassing trial. Imagine, for instance, seeing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, and a parade of CIA directors and secretaries of state called as witnesses...

Saddam and his attorneys might begin with footage shot back on Dec. 20, 1983, by an official Iraqi television crew when Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad as special envoy from President Ronald Reagan. ... According to the official note taker at the meeting, Rumsfeld "conveyed the President's greetings and expressed his pleasure at being in Baghdad" to the murderous tyrant. ...

And so, over the next five years, until the conflict finally ended, the United States supplied Saddam with economic aid and such nifty items as a computerized database for his interior ministry, satellite military intelligence, tanks and cluster bombs, deadly bacteriological samples, and the very helicopters that were used by Saddam to spew poison gas over his own Kurd citizens.

Barry Lando did his research on this one, but he was sloppy. I'll briefly remind everyone that those helicopters were unarmed vehicles sold for civilian uses by a private U.S. corporation and at no time did the U.S. government sell, or permit the sale of, tanks or cluster bombs to the government of Iraq, let alone "deadly bacteriological" samples. Ken Sanders of OpEdNews has a more recent example, written yesterday, of this well-worn and thoroughly debunked argument. seems likely that the Bush administration wants to see Saddam hang while avoiding the embarrassment of airing, for all the world to see, America's complicity in Saddam's most heinous offenses. ... Accordingly, an indignant U.S. struck a deal with the devil and started selling Iraq such chemical and biological agents as anthrax and sarin gas.

Previously, in 1983, after determining that "civilian" helicopters could be weaponized in mere hours and could be used to surreptitiously provide military support disguised as civilian assistance, the U.S. sold Iraq 70 "civilian" helicopters on the pretense that they would be used for crop spraying. All-too predictably, Saddam used the helicopters in 1988 to spray chemical weapons on Halabja.

Mr. Sanders certainly applies a great deal more creative license than Lando at Salon, but the argument is the same. This is a common theme on the left because it coincides with one of their stated goals, to see the United States defeated and punished for its crimes as they see them. These arguments have remained unchanged despite research performed by Ken Guggenheim at the Associated Press who stated the following:

Iraq is believed to owe the United States about $4 billion, including interest. Most of the debt is thought to involve U.S. financing for Iraqi agriculture. Many close friends of the United States provided billions of dollars in military help to Iraq during the 1980s war, but little hard evidence has been published that the United States provided much more than technical military aid.

Keep in mind that is $4 billion out of $120 billion worth of odious debts accrued by Saddam Hussein's government. Even Paul Reynolds of the BBC downplays the significance of US support and rightfully names a couple of other nations who were more prominent in supporting Saddam Hussein's regime.

Two current Western leaders in particular might find their names in the frame - the French President Jacques Chirac and the US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But before considering their role, it is important to remember that Saddam Hussein's main supplier was the Soviet Union. He was sent its best equipment - Mig 29s, T 72 tanks, artillery, gunboats and Scud missiles.

The various manifestations of this moonbattery may be easily dismissed, which is where Austin Bay's internationalistas fallback on the human rights canard. Again, we have so-called human rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International expressing concern over the credibility and the fairness of a trial taking place in an Iraqi Tribunal. I could link article after article of general brow-furrowing and hanky-wringing over the time alotted to prepare a defense and the level of proof required for a conviction. However, it doesn't take these folks long to get to the real bone stuck in their craw.

"Amnesty International considers the trial as an important first step towards bringing justice and reparation for victims of abuses committed during Saddam Hussein regime, but we insist that the death penalty is not the solution for the problem," Nicole Choueiry, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International said in London.

That's right my friends, and Saddam's execution will not be a silent, painless departure at the point of a needle. In the sovereign nation of Iraq, it's a short drop with a sudden stop for those receiving the death penalty as retribution for their crimes. Folks like the aformentioned Ken Sanders even go further to suggest the rules for the entire Iraqi Tribunal system were established by the Bush Administration for the sole purpose of rail-roading Saddam through their little charade as quietly (for him) and expeditiously as possible. Of course, for all their accusations of hegemony and empire leveled at the US, this is just an example of imperial jurisprudence. After all, how could the filthy savages in Iraq actually administer anything resembling justice?

Our dear friends in the internationalista should heed Mark Vlasic's reminder that Iraq, unlike Afghanistan or Rwanda, is an educated society with a long history of quality jurists, including Hammurabi who authored the first written criminal legal code. Despite all of the bickering over jurisprudence, there is one legal question that only Iraqis can answer with any authority. What is justice for Saddam Hussein?

Could the United Nations or a special international tribunal in Europe answer that question? Is it justice to the victims of Slobodan Milosevic's ethnic cleansing that his trial at the Hague is approaching its fourth year and is in jeopardy of going another four to five years?

Geoffrey Nice, the lawyer prosecuting former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), on Tuesday voiced his concern that the trial against the deposed leader will take another four to five years if the court continues to provide Milosevic with further extensions to present his case.

I understand that Europeans demonstrate an unassailable mastery of judicial procedure and administration, but do they know anything about justice? Is it justice that the International Criminal Court is budgeting millions of dollars for the defense of each of the perpetrators behind the genocide in the Sudan? And that's just for the legal defense! That doesn't include guarding them, housing them, feeding them, and providing them with the best European medical and dental care available. Mohammed at IraqTheModel (hat tip: RealClearPolitics) can shed some light on how Iraqis feel about Saddam Hussein and justice.

“Does he deserve a fair trial?” this was the question that kept surfacing every five minutes…he wasn’t the least fair to his people and he literally reduced justice to verbal orders from his mouth to be carried out by his dogs.

Why do we have to listen to his anticipated rudeness and arrogant stupid defenses? We already knew he was going to try to twist things and claim that the trial lacks legitimacy or that it’s more a court of politics rather than a court of law, blah, blah, blah…

“Why do we have to listen to this bull****?” said one of my friends.
“I prefer the trial goes like this:

Q:Are you Saddam Hussein?

Then take this bullet in the head.”

Everyone could find a reason to immediately execute a criminal who never let his victims say a word to defend themselves “let’s execute him and get over this” sentiments like this were said while we watched the proceedings which were rather boring and sluggish for the first half of the session.

Even those feelings of retribution and vengeance began to give way to a credible dispensation of justice, that only Iraqis could define.

At the beginning we were displeased by the presentation of the prosecution which was more like a piece of poetry in the wrong time and place and this is what encouraged the defense to give us a worn out speech about objectivity and how the court must not go into sideways; the thing which both the prosecution and the defense were doing.

As the prosecution went deeper into details and facts, the way we viewed the trial began to change an d those among us who were demanding a bullet in Saddam’s head now seemed pleased with the proceedings “I don’t think I want to see that bullet now, I want to see justice take place as it should be”.
We were watching an example of justice in the new Iraq, a place where no one should be denied his rights, not even Saddam.

We’re drawing the outlines of a change not only for Iraq but also for the entire region and I can feel that today we have presented a unique model of justice because in spite of the cruelty of the criminal tyrant and in spite of the size of the atrocities committed against the Iraqi people, we still want to build a state of law that looks nothing like the one the tyrant wanted to create.

That, my friends, is justice! As Mark Vlasic points out, Iraqi jurists have died for this day and Iraq's people are being murdered for this privilege. I wish them good luck and Godspeed.


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