Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Dredging from the archives:

Sure, I wasn't right about everything, but the things that I wasn't not right about I stand by 100%.


...Okay, we got him. Now what do we do with him? The good folks at the CIA will eventually tire of flogging Saddam with the proverbial rubber hose, and the question of bringing Saddam to justice--where, how, by whom, and for whom--will lurch to the forefront of public intrigue.

It seems there are three options: Try him in Iraq, try him in the United States, or try him at the international court. There is a fourth scenario, too. Saddam could suffer congenital heart failure, fall down a flight of stairs, commit suicide, and so on. I would not rule this out, given what Saddam knows about the involvement of President Reagan, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and a myriad of other Republican hawks in Saddam's rise to power, war against Iran, business deals with U.S. firms to extract oil and develop chemical weapons.

Here we must recall the "logic of the triad." Courts essentially derive their legitimacy from this triad--it??the idea that two parties in conflict refer their dispute to a third, neutral party for resolution. We can see right away that there are many more than two parties at play in this conflict. Here is an inexhaustive listing: the Iraqi people (subjected citizenry), the Kurds (genocidal victims), the Americans (colonial overlords), and the Kuwaitis, Israelis and Iranians (victims of war crimes).

There is a fourth, oft overlooked component to the triad (probably omitted so they wouldn't have to call it logic of the "quad"): the general public who decide on the legitimacy of the third party and the judicial process.

It would seem the international court would be best suited to deal justice to such a diverse group of parties. But that raises the risk for the Bush Administration that information Saddam potentially could divulge would come back to bite them (and previous Republican administrations--including Daddy Bush) in the ass. An American trial would reek of impartiality (and an improper fit to redress the broad breach of justice waged under Saddam's regime). It's safe to say that putting Saddam on trial in the U.S. would evoke outrage from much of the world, particularly in regions where the Bush administration would like to usher an era of democratic enlightenment.

A trial in Iraq, while shunning all other injured parties from the process of justice, would ring most true to the average American. Conveniently for the Bush administration, Iraqi civil society is in such shambles that there is no way a judicial system capable of ruling on international human rights and war crimes laws could be up and running in any foreseeable length of time. Most of the country still has no electricity, let alone the litigation and jurisprudence skills necessary for such an undertaking. "Have I got the solution for you," Paul Bremer is thinking. While a trial by Iraqis would likely earn Bush considerable political capital domestically, in reality it could be no more than a kangaroo court orchestrated by the heavy, invisible hand of the U.S. potentate, which would ensure Bush of the appropriate outcome: Saddam guilty, dirty little Republican secrets stay under wraps.


Yesterday I wrote that the U.S. would likely move to try Saddam in Iraq for a couple of key reasons. First, viewed from within the United States, the semblance of Iraqis standing up to pursue their own justice for Saddam, most Americans will see it only as a rounding of the circle in Iraq: closure on Saddam, a return to normalcy in Iraqi society, and the roots of democracy taking hold. This story seems to be the most appealing one from the media's perspective, a heart-warming allegory of Iraq's first baby steps on the path to liberalism. Spun this way, the media will confer sufficient legitimacy on the working of the triad, however it will exclude the Kurds, Israelis, Iranians, Kuwaitis, and others from receiving justice for their sufferings under the hand of Saddam. Not to mention justice for the American people who deserve to know how the Reagan and Bush I administrations (and many actors recycled into the current Bush administration) helped Saddam rise to power, gas the Kurds, and acquire and deploy chemical weapons.

The Bush administration/Iraqi governing council yesterday expressed its desire to bring Saddam to trial by next spring. Let's do some math. Next spring falls approximately April 21-June 21. Iraq's first democratic elections are tentatively scheduled for next July. So, Saddam's trial would begin anywhere from one to three months before the Iraqi people have any opportunity to cast votes in a national election. This means that justice will not be apportioned by the Iraqi people, but by the Iraqi governing council, established and loaded with hand picked overseas Iraqis by the U.S. occupational administration.

(Side note: general elections in Iraq will not mean that Iraq has acheived democracy. In the election (if we ever progess that far), the Iraqi people will be asked to choose leaders to fill a political framework engineered by the non-democratic Iraqi council and the U.S. to entrench power in a new Iraqi state in ways favorable to the U.S. and their Iraqi lackeys. Going by political scientist Albert O. Hirschman's astute observation of individuals' options in any given political regime: exit, voice, or loyalty--sometimes also portrayed as disloyalty."

Exit does not appear a viable alternative for the downtrodden and impoverished majority of Iraqis. If they could get out, they would have previously. In fact, now those who had the resources and connections to get out are coming back to carpet bag. Iraqis have as much voice under the American occupation as they did under Saddam. That leaves us with the options of loyalty to/disloyal resistance to the American tailored regime.)

The second key point is that a trial in Iraq will be a de facto trial by the United States, orchestrated by the U.S. occupation to ensure no juicy, dammaging information is revealed about Saddam's connections with (and potential war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by) Republican officials and operatives.


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