Monday, October 17, 2005

Nostalgia for a Poor Old Man Named Hussein

While the RTL radio station tells its listeners that more and more Iraqis are nostalgic for the Ba'athist era — this on the morning after the nation-wide referendum on the Constitution which reporter (sic) Patrick Cohen conveniently ignores — it is not unhelpful to recall the "documentary" on the Saddam trial that Arte showed three weeks ago.

To noone's surprise, the film displayed the picture of Rumsfeld's one-time lone business meeting with Saddam Hussein, but said little to nothing about the numerous friendly visits between the butcher of Baghdad and people like Chirac and Galloway. The voiceover was replete with sentences such as "Neither the United States nor any other Western power", rarely mentioning individual countries like France, Germany, or Russia.

But most of all, we heard from members of Saddam's defense team. Members of the the Comité de défense de Saddam Hussein (would-be members, sacked members, and others — both Arab and Western, such as Ramsey Clark) were interviewed throughout, with arguments such as the fact that the trial is illegal because the (Saddam-written) Iraqi constitution grants the president immunity. Whoop-de-doo. I guess the Allies were acting illegally when they set up the Nuremberg commission as well…

A lot was put into the fact that in his first appearance before a court of law, Saddam Hussein supposedly put up a spirited defense for himself. In fact, the language was so spirited, one of his lawyers says (I am pretty sure it was the talkative Emmanuel Ludot), that the CIA had no choice but to renounce its intention to have him murdered immediately thereafter. In fact, the spooks were going to use the same low tactics that they used in Romania. Oh, didn't you know? Yes, the execution of Ceaucescu (following his televised pseudo-trial) was entirely arranged by the Central Intelligence Agency (and never mind that the Romanian's firing squad took place within 24 hours or so of his and his wife's capture, while the Iraqi's appearance before a judge took place seven months after his — a capture effected by American soldiers).

Because Saddam's pronouncements in later court appearances were not as forceful, it is suggested that the poor man has been drugged by the Americans. As for the young judge seen in the first trial (he is "strangely" absent from one of the later ones), we are told that he has "his future and his ambition" in mind. He is shown laughing with an American inside one of Saddam's palaces (it is suggested that this is unbecoming behaviour), and he is shown touring the killing fields, in a JFK-conspiracy manner, with faraway photos blown up and his figure circled in black. One of the other figures (circled within a couple of seconds of the judge) is (ominously) the same American seen with the judge in the palace! He is a specialist in criminal law helping the judge get an idea of what has occurred here! Indeed, doubt is cast on the whole process of unearthing the mass graves as access thereto is (brace yourselves) under American control.

After the documentary was over, (a constantly smiling) director Jean-Pierre Krief and Robert Badinter were interviewed by Hervé Claude, who had some objective, non-partisan, nuanced questions to ask:

Vous avez l'impression que ce sont les Américains qui tirent les ficelles?
Est-ce que c'est un véritable mascarade?
The former justice minister seemed remarkably fair, except of course he had to mention the regrettable facts that the court is not an international one and that the death penalty is an option. Needless to say, Badinter ends with a typical it's-too-early-to-tell disclaimer:
J'attends de voir pour la démocratie irakienne, dont on espere qu'elle va voir le jour.
Robert Tracinski sums it up succinctly:
Like any dictator, Saddam Hussein is staging a show trial--except that this time, it is his own. If you read between the lines of this report on the antics of Saddam's legal defense team, it is easy to figure out what is happening: they are not even attempting a genuine legal defense, which they know would be doomed.

Instead, Saddam's lawyers are engaging in a propaganda campaign aimed at the conspiracy-theory-prone Arab street [just the conspiracy-theory-prone Arab street?], trying to create the illusion that Saddam is not getting a fair trial--as if anyone in the Arab world can regard a fair trial as normal! And most of all, they are trying to buy time, to keep Saddam from being executed so that--in their fantasy--the Sunni insurgents have time to restore his rule.

As for Ramsey Clark, Joel Mowbray has more about the attorney general described in an even more "inanely benign" way on French TV than in the New York Times:
Rushing to Saddam’s side after the war was par for Clark’s course. He’s defended a star-studded roster of mass-murderers: Serbian tyrant Milosevic, former Milosevic henchman Radovan Karadzic, a Rwandan pastor accused of orchestrating the slaughter of thousands of Tutsis, al Qaeda terrorist Mohamed Al-Owhali, as well as Nazi war criminals Karl Linnas and Jack Riemer.

…Kristinn Taylor, an organizer with, was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle asking an appropriate question: “If the Ku Klux Klan led an anti-war demonstration, would you march in it?”

But maybe the more appropriate question would be: If Saddam Hussein organized a human rights conference, would partake? Ramsey Clark did. In 1998. As the keynote speaker. In his speech, he identified the real human rights abusers as the United States, not the man who, by almost anyone’s account, had already slaughtered at least hundreds of thousands of his own citizens.

As the 1998 conference indicates, Clark has done so much more than just serve as defense counsel for war criminals. He supports them. He sympathizes with them. He cheers them on. He probably even loves them.

Looks like Clark would feel right at home with le Comité de Défense de Saddam Hussein…

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