Saddam: One War Criminal Down, One to Go
As the rule of law goes, Saddam's trial was a modest if wobbly triumph. He should have faced justice in The Hague, but the U.S. not incorrectly insisted that he be tried in an Iraqi court. As symbols go, that was huge, despite the repeated efforts of the dominant Shiites to manipulate the proceedings as Saddam himself might have had he still been in power.Saddam's duck walk to the gallows will give Prime Minister Al-Maliki a temporary boost but it will not slow Iraq's slide from civil war into anarchy, let alone revive a stillborn reconciliation process that was the best hope for averting a national collapse.
And the timing of the reading out of the death sentence two days before a do-or-die mid-term election in the U.S. for the Republican Party was suspect in the extreme since it originally had been scheduled for last month and there was a rushed element in the whole affair. (A full verdict wasn't even ready on Sunday.) Al-Jazeera and other Arab media certainly played it in red, white and blue terms.
If you're a U.S. voter, do Sunday's events change anything for you? Of course not.Still, Shiites had every reason to celebrate justice for the deaths of 148 of their brethern nearly a quarter century ago, and the Kurdish people can look forward to a second trial on more recent massacres. The Sunnis, as has become the norm, are somewhere in between. More here on what happens next.
All that said, this Time.com headline speaks volumes:
SADDAM SENTENCED TO DEATH
AND IRAQ SHRUGS
One war criminal down and one to go.
The man who should now be in the dock is, of course, George Walker Bush.Let's take a deep breath here and acknowledge that calling the president of the United States a war criminal is an extremely serious allegation. I do not do so lightly. Let's also acknowledge that the likelihood of him being tried as a war criminal is zero to none. That is the reality.
But let's also note, in the context of the conviction, sentencing and presumed forthcoming execution of Saddam after the appeals process plays out, that The Decider fits the war-criminal profile quite neatly:
* He not only condones but encourages torture by U.S. agents and troops, including "waterboarding," placing prisoners in painful physical positions, sexual humiliation and extreme sleep deprivation.
* As was seen in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, he refuses to hold accountable the officers who ordered those awful procedures.
* As commander in chief, he does not abide by the Geneva Conventions.
* He approved a secret CIA "rendition" program involving a network of secret prisons, some of them in countries in which torture such as electric shocks to genitals and dismemberment is standard fare.
* He has repeatedly bypassed legal procedures to prosecute alleged terrorists, including suspending habeas corpus and refusing them legal counsel or even bringing them to trial.
Saddam was a strongman who relied on nothing and nobody beyond his own megalomaniacal instincts.What's my point?
He took over the Baath Party and then Iraq, supplicating its proud people. He became a war criminal the old fashioned way: He earned it.
All of that came to a symbolic end on Sunday.
The Decider is a child of privilege who always has relied on others to tell him what to do. Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, among others, channeled their agendas -- include going to war against Saddam without seriously considering the ramifications -- through this Pinocchio.
He took over the Republican Party and then America, supplicating its unwitting people. He became a war criminal because, in part, he willingly allowed that mantle to be foisted on him.
That will come to a symbolic end on Tuesday.
As different as they may appear to be, The Decider's crimes are no less heinous than Saddam's. They are, in fact, arguably worse because of the oath he took to uphold the Constitution and the core values of a country that he has led into darkness.(Photograph by Reuters)