Saddam Hussein made his first appearance in court yesterday, jauntily in some reports while coming across confused in others, to face charges of genocide and other assorted war crimes. The former dictator has lost weight and cleaned up since his capture, the AP notes, but has lost none of his arrogance:
A defiant Saddam Hussein rejected charges of war crimes and genocide against him in a court appearance Thursday, telling a judge “this is all theater, the real criminal is Bush,” according to a reporter in an official media pool. … “I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq,” Saddam said, according to the CNN reporter.
In his first public appearance since he was captured seven months ago, Saddam refused to sign a list of charges against him and questioned the court’s jurisdiction, according to a CNN reporter who was in the courtroom as part of a pool arrangement. He defended the invasion of Kuwait, saying Saddam said he invaded Kuwait “for the Iraqi people.”
It will come as no surprise if Saddam attempts to hijack his trial to turn it into a showcase for his political viewpoints, to the extent they exist beyond his threadbare rationalizations for his personality cult. I doubt it would have much affect on the tribunal, as they had all been victimized by that cult in the past, but I don’t think Saddam’s terribly concerned about working towards an acquittal.
Hermann Goering used the Nuremberg tribunal as a means of projecting the Nazi political message to the world, expecting fully to be executed, and more importantly taking most of his fellow Nazis in the dock with him. Goering figured he had nothing to lose and surely had nothing to gain by trying any other strategy, and he was right. Only a few other primary Nuremberg defendants rebelled against Goering, notably Albert Speer, who saved his life by his calculated strategy of dispassionate self-incrimination, acknowledging his culpability up front while offering no excuses for it.
Expect Saddam to follow Goering’s example. I doubt that there will be an Albert Speer in the entire Ba’athist bunch.