After starting out with the usual hems and haws in the very first sentences of his article in Le Monde's TV guide (of course the "vast majority of Iraqis" agree that the "ignoble and bloody character … deserves the rope or the shooting squad 1,000 times over"), Patrice Claude tempers the description with the information that Iraqis are
submerged in the chaos of a brutal military occupation, of a barbaric state of terrorism, and of a coming bloody civil war.(This state of affairs, by contrast, was neither barbaric nor bloody nor a state of chaos.) By the fourth sentence Claude (who wears his initials well) is in full BUT mode and will continue that way for the next page and a half, saying basically (if not outright) that, as bad as Saddam was, his dictatorship was nothing in comparison with the terrible injustices and the mess created by the Americans. (In that the article is in full symbiosis with the independent daily's usual Iraq coverage.)
Except for a handful of irreductible "Saddamists", and part of his enlarged family, the tyrant's announced death will disturb noone. Many, however, will feel a profound sadness [une immense tristesse] regarding the coming kangaroo trial(Note that the all-wise, paternalistic French are still speaking for the Iraqis, as France 2 did after Saddam's arrest, when it said that his treatment amounted to a humiliation for every Iraqi citizen.) While Americans are referred to as "the occupier"; while various Iraqis (Ahmad Chalabi, Iyad Allawi) are referred to by such descriptions as "a 'client' of the CIA" and "another patented Iraqi 'client' of the CIA"; while the 2003 invasion is presented as "illegal … in view of international law", we are informed that the trial to take place "won't be any less so".
Kofi Annan is praised for refusing to let the UN's "judicial experts legitimize the all too 'special' court" and scorn is heaped on the Bush administration for not sending the prisoner to that "indisputable international" court in the Hague ("whose very existence it still is fighting", obviously another infamy).
Indeed, we are informed that the Iraqi court planning to try Saddam is "that judicial UFO"; that its 49 members are filled with politicians and with lawyers "often" (nice specifics, n'est-ce pas?) without the necessary experience, some of whom, "in their career", have had "the experience of a theft, maybe of a murder" (more nice specifics); and that it is preparing a "ridiculous spectacle" (spectacle grand-guignolesque), in "the shadows" of which Americans (who "neither speak nor read Arabic") are depicted as pulling all the strings in secret. ("But they are the true masters of the trial".)
The Jean-Pierre Krief "documentary" continues with a long line of legal experts, American and other (Cherif Bassiouni, Michael Scharf), who cast doubt and/or scorn upon the proceedings. (The legal line of "indisputable masters of international law" who got together to form and advise the court after Kofi's refusal do not seem to realize, Claude intones, that after 30 years of dictatorship, the "Iraqi judicial system … has lost the habit of justice and lost any spirit of independence". Good thing they have a French member of the élite to tell them that.)
By the last column, Claude has managed to find a character to show some empathy with: This man is now "a weakened man. At 69, the former dictator seems resigned". One thing the reporter seems to find impressive is "Saddam Hussein's surprising combativity", pointing out that "the former dictator has a law degree" and "he knows how to fight".
The bottom line? Once more, French people claim the objectivity and the lucidity and the amplified "vigilance" and the appropriate distance ("un étonnant travail de mise à distance", crows Catherine Humblot) to be able to judge and to condemn and to paternalize.
Oh, one more thing: a disgusted Claude says that one reason that the trial is to take place in Iraq is that "America's new Iraqi allies" did not want their dirty laundry unfolded in the Hague or in front of the world's cameras.
Of course, not a word about food-for-oil or France's participation in the greatest scam of all time. In fact… hmmmm… Mightn't this be a reason that the French-and-German-state-owned TV channel, in conjunction with France's independent newspaper, is pulling out all the stops to demonize the Americans and the Iraqi democrats? That is not anything the average Frenchman will think much about when faced with so much evidence of Yankee knavery…
Update: Nostalgia for a poor old man named Hussein (the documentary described)