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March 15, 2006
Saddam's Standup Routine Slays 'Em

Saddam Hussein took the stand in his own defense today, calling the trial a "comedy" while admitting most of the allegations surrounding the destruction of Dujail and the deaths of scores of its residents:

Saddam Hussein formally took the stand in his trial for the first time on Wednesday after earlier acknowledging in court that he gave orders which led to the killing of 148 Shi'ite men in the 1980s.

He called the court a "comedy against Saddam Hussein and his comrades." ...

During his last appearance on March 1, Saddam said he had ordered the 148 to be tried but justified the sentences as entirely legal, saying: "Where is the crime?."

He also acknowledged razing farmland around Dujail owned by those alleged to have carried out the attack on him.

Saddam took his comedy act on the road, however, when he tried to speak about the current wave of violence occurring in conjunction with the seating of the new National Assembly. The presiding judge cut him off, directing him to stop making political speeches. When Saddam protested that he was the head of state for Iraq, the judge curtly told Saddam that he used to be the head of state but is now a defendant in court and subject to its rules.

The new judge, Raouf Abdel-Rahman, has a much firmer grip on the trial and it shows in the actions of the defendants and their lawyers. Before, Saddam would have been allowed to pontificate at will, and if challenged would have staged a demonstration that would have quickly spread to his co-defendants and their counsel. The court would have engaged in hand-wringing about how to convince them all to return. However, under Abdel-Rahman's leadership, the court has made clear to the defense that their presence is not necessary for the continuance of the trial -- and that has them in court, working within the rules, and keeping disruptions to a minimum.

This has allowed the evidence and testimony to finally speak louder than the antics designed to distract from them. Saddam lost this trial when he lost his first, more pliable judge. He no longer controls even this aspect of his environment and must face the judgment of the new Iraq and the world -- and he obviously cannot stand that. The comedy is over for Saddam, and he knows it.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 15, 2006 6:29 AM

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