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Saddam's arrested development

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

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Written by Scott Piatkowski

As with many major news events in the United States, it was left to The Daily Show (a show that its host proudly calls “a fake news show”) to make sense of it all. On Monday night, Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddry told host Jon Stewart that the key significance of the capture of Saddam Hussein was that “after months and months of searching, we’ve finally captured the guy who had nothing at all to do with September 11.”

Based on the aftermath of the last White House photo-opportunity (wherein it was revealed that the Thanksgiving turkey that George W. Bush was allegedly serving to U.S. soldiers was actually fake), I’m half expecting to find out that it was really an actor portraying Saddam, rather than the leader of the Axis of Evil. But, assuming for the moment that last weekend’s arrest was not another elaborate stunt, pulling Saddam out of his hole may raise more problems than it solves for the U.S.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, unlike the government of the United States, I’ve never been a fan of Saddam Hussein – not when he first seized power in the late 1970s; not when he launched a war against Iran in the 1980s, and not when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. I think that he should be brought before a World Criminal Court and tried for his crimes. But, thanks to the staunch opposition of the United States, the creation of the World Criminal Court has been stalled, so that isn’t likely to happen.

To have any credibility at all, a prosecution of Saddam Hussein would have to be conducted under international auspices. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch noted that “Saddam Hussein’s capture is a welcome development and it’s important that the Iraqi people feel ownership of his trial. But it's equally important that the trial not be perceived as vengeful justice. For that reason, international jurists must be involved in the process.” While Bush argues that the matter should be left to the Iraqi Governing Council and its new war crimes tribunal, the world is not likely to be fooled by any actions of the puppet government. “Iraq has no experience with trials lasting more than a few days,” said Roth. “International expertise in prosecuting genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity cases must be utilized to ensure a fair and effective trial.”

Roth added that “any court conducting the trial must be independent of political influence, and free of bias and partiality. The trial must give the benefit of every protection for the rights of the accused under international law. Saddam Hussein must be allowed to conduct a vigorous defense that includes the right to legal counsel at an early stage.” Of course, the U.S. has already violated the Geneva Conventions through its public display of their prisoner. And they do know about this rule. On March 23, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld protested Iraq’s treatment of five American soldiers taken prisoner. “The Geneva Convention indicates that it's not permitted to photograph and embarrass or humiliate prisoners of war,” Rumsfeld told Face The Nation.

Iraq’s occupiers have good reason to avoid a proper trial. Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush et al certainly don’t want to encourage any further attention on the role they played in propping up Saddam during the most fearsome days of his iron rule. They even vetoed U.N. Resolutions that criticized his use of chemical weapons. Michael Moore makes a strong argument that the military-industrial complex (a term invented by an outgoing Republic President) have only recently discovered their strong distaste for Saddam. “America used to like Saddam. We LOVED Saddam. We funded him. We armed him. We helped him gas Iranian troops. But then he screwed up. He invaded the dictatorship of Kuwait and, in doing so, did the worst thing imaginable -- he threatened an even BETTER friend of ours: the dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, and its vast oil reserves. The Bushes and the Saudi royal family were and are close business partners, and Saddam, back in 1990, committed a royal blunder by getting a little too close to their wealthy holdings. Things went downhill for Saddam from there.”

And so, things continue to go downhill for Saddam. But, his demise will do nothing to stop the increasingly strident resistance to the American occupation of Iraq. It won’t make the region safer for Iraq’s neighbours. And, it won’t make Americans safer from the threat of terrorism. But, that’s never been the goal of the invasion. It’s all about winning a second term for Bush. It remains to be seen whether the image of Saddam having a forced dental checkup will provide the necessary electoral stimulus, where the premature “Mission Accomplished” banner and the fake turkey have failed. Let’s hope that Americans aren’t that gullible.

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