Swingin’ Saddam

Saddam Hussein may have an expedited date with the hangman. In a move that surprised no one, the highest Iraqi appellate court upheld Saddam’s conviction and death sentence in the Dujail case, forcing the Iraqi government to execute him within 30 days:

Iraq’s highest appeals court on Tuesday upheld Saddam Hussein’s death sentence and said he must be hanged within 30 days for the killing of 148 Shiites in the central city of Dujail.
The sentence “must be implemented within 30 days,” chief judge Aref Shahin said. “From tomorrow, any day could be the day of implementation.” …
Under Iraqi law, the appeals court decision must be ratified by President Jalal Talabani and Iraq’s two vice presidents. Talabani opposes the death penalty but has in the past deputized a vice president to sign an execution order on his behalf _ a substitute that was legally accepted.
Raed Juhi, a spokesman for the High Tribunal court that convicted Saddam, said the judicial system would ensure that Saddam is executed even if Talabani and the two vice presidents do not ratify the decision.
“We’ll implement the verdict by the power of the law,” Juhi said. He did not elaborate.

Saddam will have company on the gallows. The same court upheld the convictions and death sentences for Saddam’s half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, his intel chief and the judge who sentenced the Dujail victims to death, respectively. The court also emphasized its outlook on genocide by sending the life sentence of Saddam’s “vice president”, Taha Yassin Ramadan, back to the tribunal with a note saying it was not enough. They insisted that he get the death penalty, too.
So far, it looks like Mitch Berg won the betting pool; he alone put in January 2007 as the probable date for Saddam’s execution. Not too many others thought it would take this long to put Saddam to death for his genocides. The instability of the Iraqi government and the inconsistency of his tribunal accounts for the delay, and that delay has fed the Sunni insurgencies to some extent, making matters even worse.
Will his execution help matters? It might, at least to the extent that it will eliminate the silly rumors that the US would cut a deal with Saddam to take over the country once again to quell the Shi’ite militias. One of the people who believed that silly rumor was apparently Saddam himself, who might only stop believing it as the rope jerks to a stop.
I suspect that the Maliki government will actually execute Saddam within 72 hours, before the protests can gather steam. I also predict that they will televise it, just to ensure that the Iraqis don’t fall into a new conspiracy theory that they executed someone else as a stand-in for Saddam. (via Memeorandum)

The, Er, Dramatic Return Of Saddam

Saddam Hussein has ended his boycott of his trial for genocide against the Kurds of Iraq. However, people can be forgiven if they had not heard of his extended absence from the courtroom, because it started the day before his return. One day after announcing he would not attend the proceedings because of repeated “insults”, the former dictator surprised everyone by dutifully taking his place in the dock:

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has appeared in court, despite saying a day earlier that he would refuse to attend further hearings of his genocide trial.
On Tuesday, he had said he could no longer put up with “continued insults” by the chief judge and prosecutors. …
He entered the courtroom smiling, and took his place to hear a Kurdish medical worker describe how he treated victims of gas attacks in 1987.

Of course he was smiling. He can’t pass up an opportunity to put himself at the center of attention, nor can he allow the testimony in the trial to grab all the headlines. He complained in his letter announcing his boycott that he hadn’t had an opportunity to defend himself regarding the Anfal campaign against the Kurds — but the prosecution hadn’t yet ended its case against him. His turn still awaits, as he well knows.
The testimony has thus far been devastating. Saddam left enough people alive to testify to the atrocities in the north, including the infamous and cowardly chemical-weapons attack at Halabja that left thousands of women and children dead, and thousands more disfigured and sickened for life. Saddam wants to avert attention from the witnesses, so just as in his first trial, he conjures up a few antics to make his sideshow the big news instead of his victims.
Sadly, it’s not really necessary. The only headlines the trials get any more is from Saddam’s antics. The Western media lost interest long ago, well before Saddam got the death penalty in the first trial. They have treated the trial of one of the worst dictators in modern times — the only one who used WMD on his own people — into a footnote instead of the opportunity to reveal the depredations of a brutal, murderous tyranny that it is.

Swingin’ Saddam

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.

Saddam’s Trial Resumes

The trial of Saddam Hussein continued today, and the testimony painted a grim picture of life and death under his regime’s grip:

Prison guards under Saddam Hussein used to bury detainees alive and watch women as they bathed, occasionally shooting over their heads, a former female prisoner testified Monday in the genocide trial of the ex-president.
Speaking in Kurdish through an Arabic interpreter, the 31-year-old witness recalled what she saw as a 13-year-old girl who was detained during Saddam’s offensive against the Kurds in the late 1980s. …
A prison warden she identified as Hajaj – whose name has been given by earlier witnesses in the trial – “used to drag women, their hands and feet shackled, and leave them in a scorching sun for several hours.”
“Soldiers used to watch us bathe,” said the woman. The guards also fired over the women’s heads as they washed.
The woman said several relatives disappeared during the offensive against the Kurds. “I know the fate of my family (members). They were buried alive,” she testified.
The prosecution presented the court with documents showing that remains of the women’s relatives turned up in a mass grave.

I have no comment, save for thankfulness that this group of butchers find themselves in the dock instead of in palaces. I’m just going to let the victims speak for themselves.

Bad Judgment

The Iraqi Prime Minister fired the judge at Saddam Hussein’s trial that refused to control the defendant and then assured the man who wielded absolute power until his 2003 fall that he was not a dictator. Predictably, a number of human-rights activists have erupted in outrage at this “interference” in the trial of the genocidal tyrant:

The firing was condemned by human rights advocates as improper political interference by Mr. Maliki’s government, which is dominated by Shiites and Kurds persecuted during Mr. Hussein’s rule. Human Rights Watch said the firing “sends a chilling message to all judges: toe the line or risk removal.” …
But international human rights groups said the firing undermines the tribunal’s credibility and could influence other judges to favor the prosecution. They also questioned whether the tribunal’s procedures for handling allegations of judicial bias and misconduct were followed.
“This shows the court is not immune from political interference and may be open to being manipulated by public opinion or politicians,” said Hanny Megally, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the International Center for Transitional Justice, which is an observer in the tribunal.

What the human-rights advocates fail to mention is that Judge Abdullah al-Amiri owes his job to Saddam and his regime, and probably should not have been on the panel at all. Amiri was one of the judges used by Saddam to dictate his rough brand of justice, but apparently Amiri must have convinced the new Iraqi government of his rehabilitation. That dissipated in the bright lights of the most important trials in the Middle East, and his bias towards his previous employer became too obvious to ignore.
Under Iraqi law, the government can remove a judge for any reason it sees fit. Unlike the previous regime, however, the government actually accounts to the people for its actions, and Iraqis can vote them out if they feel Maliki abused this privilege. For the vast majority of voters in the new Iraq, little fault will be found in the expulsion of any jurist who smiles deferentially at their former oppressor and assures him that his bad reputation came from hanging out with the wrong kind of friends.
Why this has human-rights activists tied in knots is beyond me. In any fair trial, both parties should have judges who enter the case with no bias towards either in the case and at least a passing connection to reality. Amiri’s big wet kiss to Saddam showed that he had neither, and he deserved to be ejected. Maybe these activists can save some of their outrage for Saddam instead of the democratically elected government that managed to refrain from finding the nearest high tree when this bloodthirty monster came into their custody.

Maybe They Should Get A Room

Yesterday, the prosecutor in the trial of Saddam Hussein demanded that the chief judge step down for refusing to stop Saddam from ranting in out-of-order outbursts. The judge demurred, stating that he had no bias towards Saddam and that he merely wanted to ensure that the record showed the defendant received a fair hearing. Today, however, the judge managed to make the prosecutor appear prescient in an exchange that had everything but flowers:

Questioning a Kurdish witness Thursday, Saddam said, “I wonder why this man wanted to meet with me, if I am a dictator?”
The judge interrupted: “You were not a dictator. People around you made you (look like) a dictator.”
“Thank you,” Saddam responded, bowing his head in respect.

Awwww. Poor Saddam meant to rule as a benevolent father to his subjects, but it was those meanies he hired to cut people’s tongues out, chop off their hands, rape women in their cells, drop chemical weapons on the Kurds, bulldoze 3800 of their villages, put hundreds of thousands of Iraqis into mass graves with coup de grace bullet holes in their skulls, invade Kuwait and destroy their oil wells on the way out, develop nuclear and biological weapons, pull a Lidice on Dujail, assassinate critics at home and abroad, murder his sons-in-law, and unleash his spawn-of-Satan sons onto the Iraqi people that made him look like a dictator.
Well, that explains it. How could the prosecutor have ever thought this judge was biased?

New Saddam Trial Starts Today

The long wait by the Kurds for justice has ended. Today Saddam Hussein finally stands trial for the most notoriious genocidal attacks of his reign of terror. The Iraqi tribunal will begin court proceedings on another series of criminal charges arising from the brutal oppression of Saddam and his henchmen, primarily his cousin, “Chemical Ali”:

The chemical bombs were part of a 25-day siege of Sergalou and Bergalou by the Iraqi army involving jets, helicopters, rocket launchers and thousands of elite Republican Guard troops. Today, Saddam Hussein goes on trial in Baghdad charged with genocide over the siege and other military operations against the Kurds.
After holding out against vastly superior firepower, the Kurdish fighters eventually withdrew along with some 3,500 villagers. They made a hazardous trek through snow-bound mountains to safety across the Iranian border, but many were killed along the way.
As soon as they had gone, the bulldozers moved in. Crops were uprooted, and livestock slaughtered; wells were filled with concrete and every structure in Sergalou, Bergalou and at least 25 surrounding villages was razed. The pattern was to be repeated with increasing ferocity across rural Kurdistan over the next six months. The residents of Sergalou were the victims of the first phase of a campaign codenamed the Anfal, taken from the Qur’anic verse justifying the killing and looting of “infidels”.
Under the guise of counter-insurgency measures against Kurdish rebels, who were accused of aiding Tehran in its war with Iraq, the government in Baghdad designated huge swaths of Iraqi Kurdistan along the borders with Iran and Turkey as “prohibited zones”.
Thousands of villages were bombed; some were gassed. Surviving residents, including many women and children, were rounded up, taken to detention centres and eventually executed at remote sites then buried in unmarked mass graves. Human Rights Watch has estimated that during the eight stages of the Anfal operation, which lasted from February to September 1988, at least 50,000 and as many as 100,000 Kurds were systematically killed. At least 2,000 villages were destroyed.

The Iraqis may unravel over the future of their nation, but few dispute its past, and they intend to ensure it gets recorded into history properly. The Kurds have a claim on Saddam that few others can match. Saddam and his regime targeted them like no others, considering the Kurds to be too close to the West. He was determined to eliminate them, and so he gassed them, pulled down their villages, slaughtered their livestock and destroyed their farms — eliminating every possible means of subsistence. Men, women, children — all of them got targeted by the Tikriti faction, and many of them were murdered and maimed.
It is perhaps the greatest revenge of the Kurds that their areas have been rebuilt faster and better than the rest of the nation. Western-style cities have sprung up in the Kurdish region, and the local governments have even begun tourist campaigns in the West. Investment from Europe and America has flooded into these new showcases of the Iraqi embrace of open-market economics. They enjoy a better standard of living now than most Iraqis, thanks to the umbrella of Anglo-American protection during the twelve-year quagmire at the UN following the first Gulf War.
However, the Kurds want to ensure that Saddam accounts for his attempts to erase their people from the face of the Earth, regardless of whether Saddam gets the death penalty for the Dujail retribution case. That verdict will come in two months, giving the tribunal plenty of time to make its evidence public. Not everyone wants to see this, however, and some have pretty strange arguments for halting the trial.
One of the strangest comes from Human Rights Watch, the organization that has detailed many of Saddam’s atrocities. Richard Dicker twists the legal meaning of genocide to insist that the court prove that Saddam specifically wanted to kill all of the Kurds, rather than eliminate political opponents. HRW already admits that the Kurdish genocide killed women and children, so how Dicker can insist that the court should give the benefit of the doubt to Saddam that this was just a political purge beggars belief. Besides, is the specific motivation really at issue when the defendant razed over 2,000 villages and killed tens of thousands of Kurds? Does Dicker really want to argue that this may all be just a ghastly coincidence?
Saddam faces the correct tribunal in the correct venue. The Hague has no role to play; Saddam should be tried in the country he brutally tyrannized for four decades. The victims of his merciless rule have the right and the jurisdiction to try him, and they have provided a much more just environment than Saddam ever did, and more so than most of their neighbors as well. Let justice be done on Saddam, and let the people of Iraq decide how to deliver it. They’ve earned that right.

Saddam’s Lawyers Boycott Closing Arguments

Closing arguments began today in the trial of Saddam Hussein and six other regime officials, where the defendants face 148 counts of murder and other assorted crimes for the Dujail wipeout. Only one defendant and attorney attended the session, as the rest boycotted over supposed security concerns, including Saddam himself:

The defense began closing arguments in the trial of Saddam Hussein on Monday, but most of the lawyers boycotted the court because of the slaying last month of an attorney for the former Iraqi leader. …
The lawyers for Saddam and three of his top co-defendants were not present, and one of them told The Associated Press that they were boycotting the court until better security was put in place and other demands were met.
“Everyone is afraid,” Najib al-Nueimi said from Qatar. “We will not attend until our conditions are met.”
He said that besides better security, the defense wanted the trial adjourned to allow them time to prepare their final arguments, saying al-Obeidi’s death and security fears had distracted them from the case.

The lawyers have some reason for concern, obviously, but it seems a little late to request further adjournments and delays. They have already completed the evidence phases; the attorneys have only to deliver closing arguments and summations, a process that should follow naturally enough from the evidence phases. Besides, the attorneys did not get assigned to defend one of the most repugnant dictators of the last half-century against their will. They jumped at the chance, and should have understood the risks involved.
Iraqis have waited long enough to see justice prevail over their former oppressors. Judge Abdel Rahman has done a marvelous job in keeping the circus to a dull roar and ensuring that the focus stays on the real victims of Dujail and Iraq as a whole. Despite this publicity stunt and attempt to hold the court hostage, it looks like Abdel Rahman will order the trial to proceed with or without closing arguments from the defendants and their legal team. That’s the right call. The days when Saddam could hijack justice and manipulate the organs of the Iraqi government to his will died in a spider hole in December 2003, even if Saddam himself did not.

Delusions Of Grandeur Die Hard In Baghdad

Saddam Hussein has had a difficult time adjusting to life out of power and in the hands of the people he brutalized for four decades. That kind of life change can cause cognitive difficulties for someone in that position; the mind plays tricks on megalomaniacs, allowing them to believe that they still occupy the center of the universe. That would explain Saddam’s latest delusions of grandeur:

Saddam Hussein believes the United States will have to seek his help to quell the bloody insurgency in Iraq and open the way for U.S. forces to withdraw, his chief lawyer said Sunday.
Khalil al-Dulaimi argued in an interview with The Associated Press that the former leader is the key to returning stability to Iraq.
“He’s their last resort. They’re going to knock at his door eventually,” the lawyer said. Saddam is “the only person who can stop the resistance against the U.S. troops.” …
Al-Dulaimi said Saddam brought up the topic during a meeting Tuesday, and indicated he would be willing to help the United States — “for the sake of saving both peoples — the Iraqis and Americans.”
He quoted Saddam as saying:
“These puppets in the Iraqi government that the Americans brought to power are helpless. They can’t protect themselves or the Iraqi people. The Americans will certainly come to me, to Saddam Hussein’s legitimate leadership and to the Iraqi Baath Party, to rescue them from their huge quandary.”

If George Bush has already heard this, it has to have provided him with the best laugh he’s had in months. The notion that the US wants Saddam for anything other than a windchime in the courtyard of a Baghdad prison has to be the craziest idea yet from the former Iraqi dictator. However, it is exactly the kind of delusion that sociopaths often create when their deeds finally catch up to them. The world has to center on them; they cannot conceive that they do not occupy the thoughts of everyone around them.
The Americans will not soon ask Saddam for assistance in any way, shape, or form. They have almost as much use for him as the Shi’ites and the Kurds, who may want him dead a little more than Washington and for better reason. Saddam may not psychically survive the realization that he is both impotent and irrelevant to the future of Iraq, but the facts remain so.
The most humorous part of this story is the way the AP reports it. Jamal Halaby actually provides serious analysis that informs the reader that the Kurds and Shi’ites would likely “be enflamed by his presence”. No kidding; the man practiced genocide against both populations. Only an idiot or an AP reporter would take this seriously enough to spend time discussing how the Americans could throw the trial to allow him to work to restore legitimacy to Iraq.
Apparently Saddam isn’t the only one suffering delusions.

Saddam Notes Value Of His Defense Team

After proclaiming a hunger strike in honor of his slain defense attorney and in protest of a lack of sufficient security for the defense team, Saddam Hussein ended his fast — fast:

Saddam Hussein ended a brief hunger strike after missing just one meal in his U.S.-run prison, a U.S. military spokesman said on Friday.
The former Iraqi leader had refused lunch on Thursday in protest at the killing of one of his lawyers by gunmen, but the spokesman said he ate his evening meal.
Former Saddam aides being held in the same prison had refused to eat three meals since Wednesday evening but ended their fast with the ex-president.

Saddam honored Khamis al-Obeidi by skipping lunch. The international news media breathlessly reported this hunger strike in the wake of Obeidi’s assassination, but one suspects that this will drop to the bottom page of their next editions. Even Saddam’s co-defendants gave a better effort, missing three meals before digging into dinner with hungry-man stomachs.
When we pulled the dictator out of spider hole pleading for his life, we knew that like most dictators, he had no honor or courage. Now we know he has no stomach, either. Saddam has repeatedly shown himself to be nothing more than a crawling worm, a man full of bluster but utterly unconcerned about anything outside of his own comfort. He fooled everyone into thinking of him as the next Salah al-Din and following him to their destruction, and in the end he deceived even his own two monsters of sons, who died for that fantasy. Perhaps that amounts to a small bit of poetic justice. (via It Shines For All)