Saddam's Verdict

Saddam Hussein has, of course, been found guilty of genocide by an Iraqi court and will be hanged (assuming the automatic appeals process required under Iraqi law goes as it should). I frankly don't much care about complaints about the trial procedure, or conspiracy theories about the process being rigged; the man was afforded far more protections than the thousands of people he had slaughtered while he ruled Iraq as a brutal dictator. I can muster up no sympathy for the man, nor will I try.

But one of the comments I saw yesterday left me shaking my head. Someone said, "Ramsey Clark should not be let back in the country." Clark is a former Attorney General of the United States who actually went to Iraq to serve as a member of the defense team for Hussein and the right has made him out to be a horrible person for doing so. But this strikes me as absurd and far from the mark. Clark may well believe that everyone, even Saddam Hussein, should get a vigorous defense in court; most attorneys have that concept drilled into them (and they're probably right). There's nothing wrong with that.

And I would argue that, if you're going to criticize Clark for defending Hussein in court now, you ought to really be angry at our own government for helping put Hussein into power and keep him there for so long. Even more, you ought to be angry about the immense amount of military aid we gave to Hussein throughout the 80s, including transferring weapons-grade bochulism and other biological and chemical agents to him, CIA help in targetting his chemical weapons attacks on Iran, and diplomatic cover for his atrocities. Up until the invasion of Kuwait, Hussein was a paid lapdog of the US foreign policy establishment, doing our bidding in exchange for billions in aid and support. Put your anger where it belongs.

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Remember, this is the same right that has somehow and sadly come around to the idea that conservative philosophy means elimiating due process for anybody the president wants to call due process. It defends secret prisons and indefinite detainment. It supports summary trials and racial profiling. It calls anybody who criticizes any of these things people who are weak on terrorism and unwiling to do what is necessary to do.

Demonizing the individual who participated in the defense of a criminal is 100% consistent with the rest of their behavior.

One comment on what you said:

Clark may well believe that everyone, even Saddam Hussein, should get a vigorous defense in court; most attorneys have that concept drilled into them (and they're probably right).

I'd say they're definitely right. In any event, it's one of the founding principles of our country (the whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing, with the word "proven" in there presumably having some force to it). Yeah, often real criminals get off on BS defenses and loopholes in the technicalities. But even the really horrible criminals should have a defense, becuase once they don't it sets the precent for pretty much anybody else going down without a vigorous defense.

We all know that there are corrupt attorneys for the mob and so forth. I'm still idealistic enough to believe that that is the exception rather than the rule. (Indeed, my cynicism about lawyers focus on those who are shameless profiteers on civil law, rather than those who defend high-profile criminals.) If we refuse that guy re-entry into the USA, then, well, I dunno, but it says terrible things about our country (which are consistent with lots of other terrible things we're saying all the time nowadays).

-Rob

Well I think we should look to our founding fathers for guidance in this issue. I am sure John Adams would say to just hang him, we know he is guilty. Why spend time and money on a trial. After all look at what Adams did after the Boston Massacre.

Even more, you ought to be angry about the immense amount of military aid we gave to Hussein throughout the 80s, including transferring weapons-grade bochulism and other biological and chemical agents to him, CIA help in targetting his chemical weapons attacks on Iran, and diplomatic cover for his atrocities.

Besides the botulism, "other biological" would include the Maryland lab of American Type Culture Collection shipping off several (7) vials of weapons grade anthrax and culturing media to Baghdad with the assent of the Bush (I) administration.

You know what they say...we knew he had weapons of mass destruction, because we kept the receipts.

I have a bit of a problem that the method is hanging. He was a brutal dictator but show a little bit of humanity here and give him the lethal injection. Hangings are barbaric.

Saddam Hussein has, of course, been found guilty of genocide...

I'd be interested in your source for this. What I've read is something like -

...found guilty of crimes against humanity on Sunday and sentenced to hang for the 1982 killing of 148 Shia Muslims in a town north of Baghdad.

I believe the charge of genocide has yet to be tried.

By Scott Belyea (not verified) on 06 Nov 2006 #permalink

I have a bit of a problem that the method is hanging. He was a brutal dictator but show a little bit of humanity here and give him the lethal injection. Hangings are barbaric.

Anyone know the particular hanging method employed in Iraq? In Iran, they use the slow method of tying the noose and then hoisting the perdon aloft using a telescoping crane. That's a slow way to go. Other places use the drop technique, which severs the spinal cord high and presumable results in quick and relatively painless death.

I'm a little disappointed to see Ed say that he doesn't care if the trial was unfair or the process rigged. It is important not because Hussein did or didn't "deserve" a fair trial that followed acceptable standards and the basic requirements of due process. That's a separate issue (and I would say "deserve" has nothing to do with it--you either follow the law for everyone or you admit that you administer justice on a capricious and uneven personal like/dislike basis).

The real issue here with the inarguably badly handled judicial proceeding is legitimacy. If it had been handled properly, following all the rules, using jurists whose neutrality was as close to assured as possible, and allowing for a thorough and complete investigation and trial with evidence from both sides, then there would be little for supporters of the regime or malcontents or insurgent groups to use to appeal to a wider audience.

But, as it the standard for Bush and the clowns in charge of this, we got all hat and no cattle. Mishandled evidence, judges getting tossed out and others with obvious connections to biased parties brought in, inadequate procedural due process and a hurried and cynically timed verdict, and all of it begun by a U.S.-installed occupation goverment. All was transparently designed to deliver a domestic political feather for Bush, and a perhaps a little popularity building for Maliki.

The result is to pour even more fuel on a raging sectarian fire in Iraq, hand one more piece of propaganda to extremist groups throughout the middle east, and ulitmately shed more innocent blood (I'm not referring to the hanging with that).

Stupid, unecessary, self-defeating. If they had dragged him to the Hague and tried him there, it would have avoided much of what will now follow even if it won't be as flashy a talking point before election day.

By Sinister eyebrow (not verified) on 06 Nov 2006 #permalink

I didn't say that I don't care if the trial was unfair or the process rigged. I said that I'm not able to muster up a lot of sympathy for a guy like Hussein to complain about unfair trials after slaughtering thousands based on star chamber courts. I also think the problems with the trial have been exaggerated. Was it perfect? Of course not. But there was a good deal more due process protection than our government wanted there to be and there is no question that the outcome is the right one. I think the NY Times got it about right today:

Lawyers and human rights advocates broadly agreed that the Iraqi tribunal's proceedings frequently fell short of international standards for war crimes cases. But even critics of the trial said the five Iraqi judges who heard the case had made a reasonable effort to conduct a fair trial in the face of sustained pressure from Iraqi political leaders for a swift death sentence. American lawyers pointed to substantial evidence offered by the prosecution implicating Mr. Hussein in the crimes against humanity with which he had been charged.

"Did this meet the standards of international justice?" asked Jonathan Drimmer, who teaches war crimes law at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. "The answer is no. But to look at the ultimate verdict, it certainly is consistent with the evidence presented."

Miranda Sissons, a senior associate at the International Center for Transitional Justice, a group that has severely criticized some of the trial proceedings, said, "This was not a sham trial," and added, "The judges are doing their best to try this case to an entirely new standard for Iraq."

As for the notion that this just fuels the insurgency, I think that's naive. Remember, those folks were assassinating attorneys, judges and their relatives in this case all along. It was their threats that largely prevented a more open trial because it had to be conducted under virtual lockdown. There was no possible outcome that could prevent those nuts from exploiting the situation for their own gain. Had the trial been moved to the Hague, they would be using that fact as proof that it was unfair, that Hussein was being tried in the decadent West and not in Iraq by the people there. There was no perfect solution and no way to avoid numerous negative outcomes. But the bottom line is this: Hussein deserves to die for his crimes against humanity. He is absolutely guilty of the charges against him. And perfection was never a possibility under the circumstances. So I'm not going to get all fired up over a few procedural problems that didn't affect the just result of the proceedings.

"Did this meet the standards of international justice?" asked Jonathan Drimmer, who teaches war crimes law at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington. "The answer is no. But to look at the ultimate verdict, it certainly is consistent with the evidence presented."

I wonder if our military tribunals would meet the standards of international justice. Not that it really matters as long as you get just results from the proceedings.

Re Matthew.

Hanging is much too benign for Saddam. I think burning at the stake would be more appropriate.

Re Matthew.

Hanging is much too benign for Saddam. I think burning at the stake would be more appropriate.

I'm surprised to see you using a (much toned down) version of the standard neocon argument that "At least we're not as bad as they are." And yes, it was an Iraqi court, but do you really think that they wouldn't have listened to us if we told them to do it right? He was obviously guilty of genocide - these are the kinds of trials that you want to go by the book. Not just because we are (much, much, much) better than people like Saddam, but because you don't want any irregularities in the trial to come back and bite you in the ass later.

Via Wikipedia:

Botulin toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum is often believed to be a potential bioweapon as it is so potent that it takes less than 1 microgram to kill a person.

Botulism is the medical condition one has when poisoned by botulin toxin.