Robert Scheer / AlterNet & Patrick Wintour, Kim Willsher in Paris and Brian Whitaker / The Guardian – 2007-01-03 22:11:58
A Musical Salute to the Long History of US-Saddam Relations
Robert Scheer / AlterNet
( January 2, 2007) — It is a very frightening precedent that the United States can invade a country on false pretenses, depose its leader and summarily execute him without an international trial or appeals process. This is about vengeance, not justice, for if it were the latter the existing international norms would have been observed.
The trial should have been overseen by the World Court, in a country that could have guaranteed the safety of defense lawyers, who, in this case, were killed or otherwise intimidated.
The irony here is that the crimes for which Saddam Hussein was convicted occurred before the United States, in the form of Donald Rumsfeld, embraced him. Those crimes were well known to have occurred 15 months before Rumsfeld visited Iraq to usher in an alliance between the United States and Saddam to defeat Iran.
The fact is that Saddam Hussein knew a great deal about the United States’ role in Iraq, including deals made with Bush’s father. This rush to execute him had the feel of a gangster silencing the key witness to a crime.
At Nuremberg in the wake of World War II the U.S. set the bar very high by declaring that even the Nazis, who had committed the most heinous of crimes, should have a fair trial. The U.S. and allies insisted on this not to serve those charged, but to educate the public through a believable accounting. In the case of Saddam, the bar was lowered to the mud, with the proceedings turned into a political circus reminiscent of Stalin’s show trials.
Robert Scheer is the co-author of The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq. See more of Robert Scheer at TruthDig.
Saddam Hussein: A Monster of Our Creation
Robert Scheer / TruthDig.com
(January 2, 2007) — Someone has to say it: The hanging of Saddam Hussein was an act of barbarism that makes a mockery of President Bush’s claim it was “an important milestone on Iraq’s course to becoming a democracy.”
Instead, the rushed, illegal and unruly execution of a former U.S. ally after his conviction in a kangaroo court blurred the line between terrorist and terrorized as effectively as Saddam’s own evil propaganda ever did.
In the most generous interpretation, the frantic killing of Saddam abetted by the United States was the third act in a morality play of misplaced vengeance for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks— in which the first act was the invasion of Iraq, based on trumped-up lies linking it to al-Qaida, and the second was the killing of the tyrant’s sons, whose bloody corpses were hypocritically displayed to the world like war scalps.
At worst, the handling of Saddam is just another example of an Imperial America under President Bush that recognizes no boundaries of national sovereignty or any restraint of international law.
A nation that posed no threat to US security was conquered for a range of base motives, from oil plunder to industrial profits to naked political gain. Of course, these are the same rationales that despots always use to explain their murderous wars, such as Saddam’s genocidal invasion of Iran and greedy occupation of Kuwait.
The president says the execution was warranted because Saddam received a fair trial even after Bush decided to bypass an international tribunal designed to handle such trials of national rulers and instead turn Saddam over to Iraq’s dominant partisan faction in the midst of a nascent civil war.
While Saddam’s guilt of “crimes against humanity” may have been accurate, it was not, in fact, established by his trial, which was pushed through even as his lawyers were being assassinated. This, quite opposite to the spirit of the Nuremberg war crime trials (established by the United States but not repeated today by President Bush), where the accused had competent and unintimidated attorneys, free to make a complete case.
The trial dealt only with alleged crimes that occurred in the Shiite village of Dujail after an assassination attempt on Saddam. His bloody reprisals occurred 15 months before Donald Rumsfeld, then President Ronald Reagan’s emissary, traveled to Baghdad to initiate an alliance with Saddam. Rumsfeld conceded in classified memos that he was familiar with Saddam’s unsavory past, yet advocated forming an alliance with the dictator.
In fact, the most heinous crimes allegedly committed by Saddam, including the use of poison gas against Shiite Iraqis he suspected of being sympathetic to his Shiite enemies in Iran, were carried out during the years that he was our ally. With the United States having now put Iraqi Shiites with long political, military and ideological ties to those same Iranian ayatollahs into power in Baghdad, the bizarre circle of this foreign policy disaster is now complete, with Saddam’s broken neck a fitting coda.
The video images now broadcast widely on the Internet show, as The New York Times reported, that the execution proceedings deteriorated “into a sectarian free-for-all that had the effect . . . of making [Saddam] appear dignified and restrained, and his executioners, representing Shiites, who were his principal victims, seem like bullying street thugs.” As the executioners chanted “Moqtada! Moqtada! Moqtada!,” in reference to death squad leader Moqtada al Sadr, Saddam may have claimed for his Sunni followers an undeserved martyrdom.
“Is that how real men behave?” Saddam asked, smiling contemptuously. In the end, Sadr was presented figuratively with the head of Saddam by reluctant US officials—the former dictator was in US custody, after all — in order to placate the Shiite radicals running Iraq, even though Iraqi law bans executions on this past weekend’s religious holiday and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani refused to sign a decree upholding the death sentence, as is required by the country’s new constitution.
Fittingly, US officials appeared in this spectacle as hapless Keystone Kops, morally implicated by their tepid support of a lynch mob. It perfectly mirrors decades of US meddling in the history of Iraq, beginning with US support for Saddam’s Baath Party when it overthrew Iraqi nationalist Abdul Karim Qassem because we feared he was tilting ever so slightly to the Soviets. In fact, Saddam, like Osama bin Laden and the other Islamist fanatics our CIA recruited and helped to wage holy war against the Soviets, was a monster at least partially of our creation.
Those deeply unsavory connections between Saddam and the United States would have been exposed in any honest trial. Presumably, this is the real reason why the Bush administration so assiduously undermined any equitable judicial accounting of Saddam’s criminality, right through his shamefully and illegally rushed execution.
A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
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Britain’s Deputy PM Attacks ‘Deplorable’ Saddam Execution Scene
Patrick Wintour, Kim Willsher in Paris and Brian Whitaker / The Guardian
LONDON (January 3, 2007) — The manner of Saddam Hussein’s execution was “deplorable” and could not be endorsed, the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, said yesterday, breaking the British government’s silence over the insults and sectarian chants heard as the former Iraqi leader went to the gallows.
Mr Prescott — in charge of the government while Tony Blair is on holiday — admitted that his condemnation of the manner of the hanging would prove controversial. He was speaking on BBC radio after a grainy video of the execution, apparently filmed on a mobile phone, revealed verbal exchanges between Saddam, witnesses and guards, including people chanting the name of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and telling Saddam to “go to hell”.
The Iraqi government had previously released soundless film suggesting the execution had been dignified and had not involved any humiliation or sectarian insults. It has since launched an inquiry into how the hanging came to be unofficially filmed by someone among the 20-or-so people present, turning it into a gruesome spectacle that has inflamed sectarian anger.
Mr Prescott said: “I think the manner was quite deplorable really. I don’t think one can endorse in any way that, whatever your views about capital punishment.” He added: “Frankly, to get the kind of recorded messages coming out is totally unacceptable and I think whoever is involved and responsible for it should be ashamed of themselves.”
Challenged that the Iraqi government was responsible, he replied: “If they are responsible, I pass my comment and that’s where I stand.” He said he did not know if the British government had formally protested to the Iraqi government over the hanging.
Mr Blair has said nothing about the death of Saddam, and the foreign secretary Margaret Beckett, before the mobile phone version was circulated, simply said Saddam has suffered for his crimes. Privately the Foreign Office is keenly aware that the insults will be seen as another sign that the Iraqi state is now run by Shia Muslims who have little interest in national reconciliation with the Sunni community.
Several Iraqi bloggers who are unsympathetic to Saddam have complained that the execution looked more like political vengeance than state-administered justice.
Most complaints, though, have focused on the rush to execute Saddam before sunrise on Eid al-Adha, one of the holiest days in the Muslim calendar. It has emerged from Washington that the Americans pressed the Iraqi government to delay the hanging to a less sensitive time but were spurned by the Iraqis.
A spokesman for the Iraqi government in London denied that Saddam had been humiliated, and pointed out that Saddam had shown no respect to his victims.
Mr Prescott’s remarks are likely to be welcomed inside the Labour party. The anti-war MP Peter Kilfoyle said Mr Blair’s silence was yet another error in a long list.
In France, both frontrunners in the coming presidential election condemned the execution. Nicolas Sarkozy, currently interior minister, described it as a “mistake” and said it would not help efforts to build a democratic Iraq. “The execution of Saddam Hussein, the worst of men, is a mistake,” he wrote in Le Monde newspaper, while stressing his opposition to the death penalty. “I wish I could have hailed Saddam Hussein’s trial as a landmark in the process of bringing democracy to Iraq.
“I deeply regret that Saddam Hussein, the dictator who had more blood on his hands than anyone in the world, was not made to stand trial for his other crimes.”
Socialist Ségolène Royal had already expressed her “disgust” at the execution. “I am opposed to the death penalty even for an abominable dictator,” she said. France’s foreign ministry said only that it “took note” of the execution while reiterating its opposition to capital punishment, abolished in France in 1981.
Italy will campaign at the United Nations for a global ban on the death penalty, the prime minister, Romano Prodi, said yesterday, responding to the graphic images of Saddam’s hanging.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007
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