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May 30, 2006
Saddam's Kelo

The trial of Saddam Hussein resumed last night, and Saddam and his co-defendants continued presenting their defense witnesses. The new strategy for the defense is to transform the seizure and destruction of farms and orchards in Dujail not as an attempt at genocide, but instead as an economic redevelopment plan:

Witnesses for two Saddam Hussein co-defendants accused of taking part in a 1982 massacre of 148 people from Dujayl described the men as fair and merciful, and dismissed destruction of the village's fields and orchards as an economic redevelopment project.

Defense witnesses denied that the defendants, former spy chief Barzan Ibrahim Hasan and Awad Hamed Bandar, former head of Hussein's Revolutionary Court, took part in the massacre — even as they acknowledged that they had little direct information about the Dujayl incident.

Prosecutors say the two defendants led a retaliatory purge against the predominantly Shiite Muslim residents of Dujayl after an assassination attempt on Hussein during a visit there.

The witnesses failed to impress, on many levels. They could not remember key details of the supposed project, nor could they identify the people who ran it. None of them could substantiate how they came across this information, most of which was hearsay. However, a couple of them made sure to announce their fealty to Saddam Hussein, toadying up to the former dictator by offering greetings to his family. One of them announced during his testimony that "I would die for you! I would die for you, president!"

Credibility, one must presume, was not high on the list of qualifications for defense witnesses.

This does give a peek into the twisted mindset of a brutal dictatorship. In the culture Saddam imposed, where 148 people (including children) could be executed in reprisal for one attempted assassination, the genocidal act of destroying the means of subsistence for an entire community might look like economic development. At least, if the dictator calls it that, few people would have dared to disagree after seeing what happened in Dujail .... which was the entire point of the exercise.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 30, 2006 5:50 AM

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