According to Khalil al-Dulaimi, who heads Saddam’s team of Arab lawyers, the fallen despot intends to cast himself in the role of “the defender of pan-Arab values”. This should be welcomed by the judges, for it would allow the exercise to assume a greater role: putting on trial the military-security model of statehood that has been the most popular in the Arab world since the Egyptian coup d’état of 1952. Far from being an aberration, Saddam Hussein was an archetypal figure of the modern Arab despotic regimes based on the military and the security services. His kind of despotism was imposed on a dozen Arab nations at different times and is still in power in Libya, Syria and Sudan. In its 50 years of existence, this form of government has provoked ten large wars, including the longest of the last century: the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88 that stole more than a million lives.
Saddam may try to present himself as the champion of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs, who account for 15 per cent of the population. The fact is that Sunni Arabs were as much a victim of his as any other community. (As far as its elite elements are concerned, Saddam was responsible for the death of more Sunni Arabs than Shia or Kurds.) Next, he may try to appear as the champion of the Baath and its claimed ideals of socialism and Arab unity. But more Baathists were killed under Saddam than any other ruler since 1947 when the party arrived in Iraq. When it seized power in 1968 the Baath had an 18-man politburo. By 1988 he was the only one still alive and in power.
Saddam’s trial should also expose the foreign powers that helped to set up and sustain his murderous regime, and the banquet of corruption at which scores of politicians, diplomats, intellectuals and businessmen, some from Europe and the United States, supped with the devil. An Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations has resigned after being charged with receiving illegal kickbacks from Saddam. One of France’s most senior diplomats is in prison on a similar charge. A former French Home Secretary, several members of the Russian parliament and a dozen Arab media figures have also been exposed.
In the three decades that Saddam dominated Iraq he had almost $200 billion in oil revenues not only to finance three large-scale wars and kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, but also to buy influence in the West. Part of that investment may be bearing fruit as the chorus of his admirers, led by the French, raises its voice.
Saddam is enjoying what he denied his victims: a public trial with defence lawyers of his choice and the rule of evidence taking into account the principle of reasonable doubt. Here a new Iraq, based on the rule of law, will be trying the old Iraq of cruelty and corruption. The Arabs will watch and decide which they would rather live under. The rest of the world should also watch to decide which side to support in the struggle for Iraq’s future.
The question is, will the judge allow Saddam to take over this trial, as Carla Ponti has allowed Milosevich to take over U.N. war crimes tribunal for the past 4 years?
Dr. Sanity gets the last word;
How often in history does a tyrant get to be confronted with his crimes by his victims? The courage of the Iraqis (particularly the judges in this case) fills me with awe. Two democratic votes while under the threat of violence by terrorists in one year; and now the courage to face the past and confront it head on.