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Wednesday, 26 October 2005


This is not a very good picture of a pumpkin, no matter how I take it apart and put it together again. I still have a few days to get my act together for Halloween.

There is an interesting comment in the Salt Lake City Tribune by independent journalist Gwynne Dyer, on the Saddam Hussein trial:

If they had taken Adolf Hitler alive in 1945, they would certainly have put him on trial. But what if they had ignored Hitler’s responsibility for starting World War II and his murder of 6 million Jews, and simply put him on trial for torturing and executing a couple of hundred people whom he suspected of involvement in the July 1944 plot to kill him?
  You would find that bizarre, would you not?
  Well, Saddam Hussein’s trial started Oct. 19 and that was the sort of charge chosen by the Iraqi government and its American supervisors. After only three hours the trial was adjourned until Nov. 28, mainly because most of the witnesses were too frightened to show up, but by then the prosecution strategy was entirely clear.
  The former Iraqi dictator was not being tried for invading Iran in 1980 and causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, nor for using poison gas on Iranian troops and on rebellious Kurds in Iraq itself (notably at Halabja in 1988, when at least 5,000 Iraqi Kurd civilians died). He was not facing trial for invading Kuwait in 1990, nor for slaughtering tens of thousands of Iraqi Shias in the course of putting down the revolt that followed his defeat in that war.
  He was only being tried for the deaths of 143 people from the mainly Shia town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an assassination attempt against him during a visit to that town in July, 1982. It was a very peculiar choice, and the explanation offered by one of the five judges on the Iraqi Special Tribunal - “The Dujail case is the easiest to put together as far as evidence-gathering and preparation is concerned, [because] there are documents that have been seized and verified concerning the case” - doesn’t hold water.
  The real problem is that the United States was closely allied to Saddam Hussein during the 1980s when he was committing the worst atrocities against the Iranians and the Kurds. At that time, the Reagan administration saw the revolutionary regime of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran as a far greater threat to U.S. interests, and when Saddam’s war against Iran started going badly it stepped in to save him.
  It was U.S. intelligence photos from spy satellites and AWACS reconnaissance aircraft that provided the raw information about Iranian positions, and U.S. Air Force photo interpreters seconded to Baghdad who drew Saddam the detailed maps of Iranian trenches that let him drench them in poison gas. It was the Reagan administration that stopped Congress from condemning Saddam’s use of poison gas, and that encouraged American firms and NATO allies to sell him the appropriate chemical feedstocks, plus a wide variety of other weapons.
  It was the U.S. State Department that tried to protect Saddam when he gassed his own Kurdish citizens in Halabja in 1988, spreading stories (which it knew to be false) that Iranian planes had dropped the gas. It was the U.S. that finally saved Saddam’s regime by providing escorts for tankers carrying oil from Arab Gulf states while Iraqi planes were left free to attack tankers coming from Iranian ports. Even when one of Saddam’s planes mistakenly attacked an American destroyer in 1987, killing 37 crew members, Washington forgave him. So the U.S. doesn’t want any of Saddam’s crimes that are connected with the Iran war to come up in his trial.
  Dujail, on the other hand, raises no awkward questions, so Saddam will be tried on that charge first. It is unlikely that he will ever face other charges, for the death penalty was reintroduced in Iraq last year - the first prisoners were executed just last month - and once Saddam has been condemned to death for the Dujail killings he will not live long. The new law allows him only one appeal, and after that he must be hanged within 30 days.
  Saddam could easily be convicted on the Dujail charge, exhaust his appeals and be hanged by early next year. Iraq’s Shias and Kurds will celebrate his death, but its Sunni Arabs - and a great many people elsewhere in the Arab world - will see him as a martyr to the Arab nationalist cause. He is nothing of the sort, but the hypocrisy of this trial is revolting.

I think she must be generalising that all or even most Sunni Arabs will see Saddam Hussein as a martyr to the Arab cause, but I agree that his trial has the hallmarks of a show trial. I argued back in 2003 that he should be handed over to the International Court of Justice in the Hague and I stand by that view.

Posted by bigblue on 26/10/2005 at 11:15 PM
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