Monday, December 22, 2003

Time for another little rant on Dubya's latest lie--claiming he wants a "fair" trial before killing Saddam. The chance of a "fair" trial on any terms remotely acceptable to BushCo is zilch. No, I'm absolutely NOT defending Saddam as ANY kind of nice guy--though he's certainly no worse than dozens of other recognized "national leaders". However, for each possible crime, Saddam really has rational and legal defenses. Therefore, BushCo cannot permit a fair trial.

So let's pretend anyway, and lets consider the possible charges and the obvious defenses, and it will quickly become clear how flawed and distorted the "legal" situation is. Then we can consider the kangaroo court procedures that will actually be used.

First and quite unfortunately, we have to discard any charges based on violations of Iraqi national laws. Sure, lots of national laws are bad and even immoral--at least people in other countries think so. But Iraqi law is still the Iraqi law, and that's what national sovereignty is all about. At each stage, Saddam was acting in accord with Iraqi law. Even though Saddam was steadily changing that law to increase his own dictatorial powers, he was playing by the "rule of law", and there is no "fair" legal system that permits redefining crimes after the fact. No, we can't even weasel out by citing examples of negative defaults, where certain not precisely specified behaviors are illegal unless they are explicitly permitted, because in Saddam's case he could create a properly legal law to explicitly permit whatever he wanted to do. Even though most of his victims were Iraqis, the Iraqi law was permitting them to be victimized.

So if Iraqi national laws won't work, what about international laws. Actually, on first glance, this seems very promising, because some of Saddam's crimes do fit into categories where there is broad international consensus about right and wrong. There are two major areas here--wars of aggression and human rights violations. On top of that, the International Criminal Court was created to deal with exactly these sorts of situations. Even the United States accepts the ideals and originally agreed to support their pursuit--until Dubya personally decided to cancel America's participation. I guess some folks might think that BushCo could still refer this Saddam problem to that court and leave America out of it, but it won't work once you consider the kinds of charges that would need to be part of that mythical "fair trial".

For wars of aggression, there are two counts against Saddam--Iran and Kuwait. Historically bent people will already suspect there's a problem here, since the international responses were completely different. The war with Iran was internationally ignored, while the second provoked widespread reaction, with an immediate international response and ultimately led to Saddam's fall.

Actually, it's not perfectly accurate to say the war with Iran was "internationally ignored", because BushCo was NOT ignoring it, but rather actively encouraging the carnage and profiting by selling weapons to both sides. This would be a crucial part of Saddam's defense in that fair trial everyone keeps mumbling about. Saddam will say Iraq was truly threatened by Iran, which was (and still is) run by religious fanatics. In those years, Iran's leaders were even more fanatical, and quite eager to encourage their co-religionists in Iraq to rebel, and Saddam will say he was only defending his nation. His BushCo allies assured him of "America's" support, even though Iran was much stronger than Iraq and he was "forced" to use "extraordinary military weapons" for "defensive purposes". That's Bush-speak for the chemical weapons that were supplied by BushCo in the first place. Saddam would use basically the same defense as regards gassing the Kurds, though the defensive claims are weaker there. Unfortunately, those claims of "performing his presidential duty to defend Iraq" are mostly going to come back to questions of "national security" and "intelligence", and that's going to be really hard to convict Saddam for. After all, look at Dubya's defective intelligence reports claiming that Iraqi weapons were a threat. The actual aggressive invasion has since shown that no such "WMD justification" existed, which is certainly awkward, to say the least. Or a war crime, to say the most.

Time to return to Kuwait and consider the opposite international reaction to that Iraqi aggression. This one seems like it ought to be taken as a fine example of international response fully justified by the highest principles. However, if principle was the main concern, there were worse situations elsewhere in the world at the same time. No, the big difference in Kuwait was that America got upset and was willing to lead a strong response. Saddam had gotten out of hand, and something had to be done, though not quite so thoroughly done as to remove Saddam from power. However, the big question here is whether there is any defense that Saddam could put up for that fair trial thing, and it turns out that there probably is. Saddam would probably claim that it was an internal matter, not international aggression--and he would even call the US to testify on that point. The muddy truth was that our ambassador was probably officially lying to Saddam to set him up for the fall, but it's still enough to muddle the issue and drag BushCo farther into the mess. I actually do believe this count of aggressive war against Kuwait really would stick, and even though parts of it are quite embarrassing to BushCo, at least there would be little risk of becoming co-defendants there. The risky part from BushCo's perspective is that Dubya would want the trial to be strictly limited to Kuwait, while Saddam would try to expand the scope.

So if the waters have been muddied for the charges of aggressive war, what about human rights violations. Things like torture and murder of his own citizens. No question but that Saddam was up to his ears in this sort of stuff--but still awkward for that fair trial that keeps dogging us. Hard to guess exactly what tactics sharp lawyers would use, but I can think of several without too much effort. Legal acts within Iraqi law as it existed? Subordinates acting without Saddam's knowledge or approval? Required actions to prevent the kind of anarchy that now prevails in Iraq? Citing comparable or worse examples elsewhere, but which aren't being prosecuted? And last, but most importantly, that the worst crimes were with the knowledge and even encouragement of his former friends and allies, especially that selfsame United States.

The current suggestions of a fair trial in Iraq are just too ridiculous to take seriously. Sort of like the idea of Kenny Boy Lay getting a fair trial in Houston, but worse (assuming anyone ever gets tried for stealing all those billions of dollars). There were no laws on the Iraqi books, and they are just going to make them up on the fly, with the goal of executing Saddam already stated by the supreme "military" commander. Anyone who suggests there might be any merit in any defense offered by Saddam would expect to be arrested and disappeared by the occupying troops. No rational person can pretend that a American-military-sponsored trial in Iraq will be anything but a kangaroo court of victor's justice, even knowing that Saddam is a great criminal deserving the most severe penalties.

All in all, it seems there are a number of conclusions to be offered. The most obvious one is that a fair trial can NOT be one of the REAL priorities, and BushCo would have been much happier if Saddam hadn't been quick enough to manage to surrender. The original idea was clearly to get the grenade in the hole, kill Saddam immediately, and avoid any "legal" problems. They didn't really care if those soldiers got blown up in a boobytrap as long as Saddam died, too. They didn't really want to capture Saddam any more than they wanted to capture his sons--even though their live captures and interrogations might well have saved American lives.

Another conclusion is that we ALL know that many of Saddam's acts were wrong and indefensible, but we're talking about higher standards here--and what makes those higher standards important is because good people can and MUST apply them even to bad people who don't understand them and who violated those standards. Kind of the problem with being good, eh? This is a job for the International Criminal Court. No, still not a perfect solution, but the best we could do in a situation like this. Unfortunately impossible since that would include accepting the possibility that the justification for punishing Saddam is no better than the rationale for punishing Dubya and various other national leaders. Not just morally upstanding and ethical people, but even BushCo supporters should (in theory) be able to understand that situation.

It all comes back to BushCo's legal system, the "Law of the Jungle" and BushCo's golden rule, "He who has the gold makes the rules!"

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As a blogger from before there were blogs, I've concluded what I write is of little interest to the reading public. My current approach is to treat these blogs as notes, with the maturity indicated by the version number. If reader comments show interest, I will probably add some flesh to the skeletons...