As with many major news events in the United States, it was leftto The Daily Show (a show that its host proudly calls “a fake news show”) tomake sense of it all. On Monday night, The Daily Show correspondent Rob Corddrytold host Jon Stewart that the key significance of the capture of SaddamHussein was that “after months and months of searching, we’ve finallycaptured 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. Bushwas allegedly serving to U.S. soldiers was actually fake), I’m halfexpecting to find out that it was really an actor portraying Saddam, ratherthan the leader of the Axis of Evil. But, assuming for the moment that lastweekend’s arrest was not another elaborate stunt, pulling Saddam out of hishole may raise more problems than it solves for the U.S.
Lest there be any misunderstanding, unlike the government of theUnited States, I’ve never been a fan of Saddam Hussein — not when he firstseized power in the late 1970s; not when he launched a war against Iran inthe 1980s; not when he invaded Kuwait in 1990. I think that he should bebrought before a World Criminal Court and tried for his crimes. But, thanksto the staunch opposition of the United States, the creation of the WorldCriminal Court has been stalled, so that isn’t likely to happen.
To have any credibility at all, a prosecution of Saddam Husseinwould have to be conducted under international auspices. Kenneth Roth,Executive Director of Human Rights Watch noted that, “Saddam Hussein’scapture is a welcome development and it’s important that the Iraqi peoplefeel ownership of his trial. But it’s equally important that the trial notbe perceived as vengeful justice. For that reason, international juristsmust be involved in the process.” While Bush argues that the matter shouldbe left to the Iraqi Governing Council and its new war crimes tribunal, theworld 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,” saidRoth. “International expertise in prosecuting genocide, war crimes, andcrimes against humanity cases must be utilized to ensure a fair andeffective trial.”
Roth added that “any court conducting the trial must be independent ofpolitical influence, and free of bias and partiality. The trial must givethe benefit of every protection for the rights of the accused underinternational law. Saddam Hussein must be allowed to conduct a vigorousdefense that includes the right to legal counsel at an early stage.” Ofcourse, the U.S. has already violated the Geneva Conventions through itspublic display of their prisoner. And they do know about this rule. On March23, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld protested Iraq’s treatment of fiveAmerican soldiers taken prisoner. “The Geneva Convention indicates that it’snot 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, Dick Cheney, Bush et al certainly don’t want to encourage any furtherattention on the role they played in propping up Saddam during the mostfearsome days of his iron rule. They even vetoed UN Resolutions thatcriticized his use of chemical weapons. Michael Moore makes a strongargument that the military-industrial complex (a term invented by anoutgoing Republican President) has only recently discovered its strongdistaste for Saddam. “America used to like Saddam. We loved Saddam. Wefunded him. We armed him. We helped him gas Iranian troops. But then hescrewed up. He invaded the dictatorship of Kuwait and, in doing so, did theworst thing imaginable — he threatened an even better friend of ours: thedictatorship of Saudi Arabia, and its vast oil reserves. The Bushes and theSaudi royal family were and are close business partners, and Saddam, back in1990, committed a royal blunder by getting a little too close to theirwealthy holdings. Things went downhill for Saddam from there.”
And so, things continue to go downhill for Saddam. But, hisdemise will do nothing to stop the increasingly strident resistance to theAmerican occupation of Iraq. It won’t make the region safer for Iraq’sneighbours. 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 asecond term for Bush. It remains to be seen whether the image of Saddamhaving a forced dental checkup will provide the necessary electoralstimulus, where the premature “Mission Accomplished” banner and the faketurkey have failed. Let’s hope that Americans aren’t that gullible.
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