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May 15, 2006
Saddam Faces More Charges

The trial of Saddam Hussein resumes today, but before the proceedings started the court charged Saddam with even more crimes stemming from his efforts against the Iraqi Shi'a in Dujail. Saddam refused to enter a plea on charges that he tortured and killed hundreds of men, women, and children in punishment for the aborted Shi'ite uprising:

Saddam Hussein refused to enter a plea at his trial on Monday after he was formally charged with ordering the killing and torture of hundreds of Shi'ite villagers, telling the judge he was still Iraq's president.

The detailed charges read out by Judge Raouf Abdel Rahman stemmed from the killing of 148 Shi'ites after an attempt on Saddam's life in 1982 in the village of Dujail.

The ousted president was accused of ordering the killing and torture of hundreds in the village, including women and children, and that he sent helicopters and planes to pound Dujail, north of Baghdad.

Wearing a dark suit and white shirt, Saddam smiled as he listened to the charges, holding a Koran in his left hand.

"This statement cannot influence me or shake a hair of my head. What matters to me is the Iraqi people and myself," Saddam said. "I am president of Iraq by the will of the Iraqi people."

Replying the judge said: "You were, but not now."

Saddam starts his defense today, and observers expect his attorneys to indulge every conspiracy theory possible in an attempt to convince the Iraqi people, if not the court, that their former oppressor has been unfairly prosecuted. Rumors have it that the defense will try to subpoena prominent Americans to testify to their relationship with the Saddam regime, including Donald Rumsfeld. None of this will have any rational connection to the murders in Dujail, one of the reasons that the court limited itself to specific charges regarding specific incidents rather than a blanket indictment for war crimes, atrocities, and genocide.

It will prove a serious test for Saddam's defense team. The court will likely put severe restrictions on the speculation and distracting topics they want to raise. Somehow they will have to make themselves entertaining enough while providing some sort of rational connection to the specific charges to keep the court from simply shutting off their microphones. During the prosecution, Saddam and his team could just be disruptive. Now they have to say something substantive other than the already-tired mantra that Saddam remains Iraq's president, a moot point for everyone else but the erstwhile dictator.

If Saddam does pursue this strategy, it will likely increase the Western media interest in this case by an order of magnitude. Given the rare opportunity to watch a formerly oppressed people put their former dictator on trial in a fair and equitable legal proceeding, the Western media has mostly yawned. It has failed to report on the witnesses and documentary evidence that has damned Saddam for his role in murders, tortures, and genocide. However, if Saddam starts talking about Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney in derogatory terms, they will be there to record every syllable for posterity.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 15, 2006 6:01 AM

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