The Iraqi tribunal has convicted Saddam Hussein and two of his co-defendants for crimes against humanity in the 1982 Dujail massacre, and have sentenced all three to death by hanging. Saddam refused to stand and face the court when the verdict was read, and had to be hauled to his feet by bailiffs:
As he, his half brother and another senior official in his regime were convicted and sentenced to death by the Iraqi High Tribunal, Saddam yelled out, “Long live the people and death to their enemies. Long live the glorious nation, and death to its enemies!” Later, his lawyer said the former dictator had called on Iraqis to reject sectarian violence and refrain from revenge against U.S. forces. …
Saddam and his seven co-defendants were on trial for a wave of revenge killings carried out in the city of Dujail following a 1982 assassination attempt on the former dictator. Al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa party, then an underground opposition, has claimed responsibility for organizing the attempt on Saddam’s life.
In the streets of Dujail, a Tigris River city of 84,000, people celebrated and burned pictures of their former tormentor as the verdict was read.
Saddam may not die by the rope soon. He has an automatic appeal to a nine-judge panel, which can take all the time it wants to review the case, and in the meantime Saddam will stand trial for the massacres of the Kurds during his reign. The appellate panel may choose to allow that entire trial before giving its verdict on the appeal, as Iraq would have to execute Saddam within 30 days of their decision if they uphold the verdict. The Kurds might want Saddam alive for the entirety of this next trial, although security concerns might convince them otherwise.
The normal silliness continued in the courtroom for the verdict. Ramsey Clark, who never met a dictator he didn’t like, got thrown out of the court before the verdict was read. He filed a brief with the court that called the trial a travesty. The Iraqi judges, who tend to think of Saddam’s reign as the real travesty, issued the Amityville Horror order in response to the memorandum: Get Out.
Normally I oppose the death penalty, but in cases of crimes against humanity by former tyrants, I think I have to make an exception. The Iraqi people need definitive closure on their torment and suffering, and they have chosen this path to do it. I have no complaint with the same sentence that was handed out to people like Hermann Goering, Joachim von Ribbentrop, General Jodl, and the rest of the Nazis being given to Saddam Hussein. Goering, of course, committed suicide just prior to his scheduled hanging, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Saddam didn’t try it as well. It’s the appropriate exit for cowardly, brutal tyrants when their victims finally get a measure of justice.
It’s worth reflecting that Saddam would not ever have faced justice at all had we not acted to remove him from power. He and his sons would still run Iraq as their personal abbatoir, and the sons would have been worse than Saddam given the opportunity to run the nation. Kurds and Shi’ites would still wind up in mass graves and face the rape rooms at hospitals and police stations; they would still have their tongues cut out for speaking out against tyranny and their hands chopped off for any perceived rebelliousness. Instead, Uday and Qusay have shuffled off this mortal coil for significantly warmer climes than the Iraqi desert, and Saddam will stretch a rope after having been tried in a much fairer court than Iraqis ever experienced under his rule.
That’s justice, and it was born in the rumble of American troops crossing the desert towards Baghdad.