Good Riddance and a Good Start

|

President Bush has said that Iraqis should decide the fate of Saddam Hussein. When asked about whether he thought Saddam should get the death penalty, AP reports that Bush replied,

"I've got my own personal views. This is a brutal dictator. He's a person who killed a lot of people. But my personal views are not important in this matter. … It's going to be up to the Iraqis to make those decisions," said Bush, former governor of Texas, the leading U.S. state for executions since 1976.

Britain has said it won't participate in a trial that could lead to a death sentence and Iran and other countries are pushing for an international court. Members of the Iraqi Governing Council want a speedy trial and, apparently, an execution by end of summer 2004.

As Reason's Jeff Taylor and Michael Young have argued, it's important for all sorts of reasons that the Iraqis be the main force in prosecuting Saddam. That will that allow the Iraqi people both to confront and vent all the necessary questions that need to asked and answered in the wake of a dictatorship. As important, if they do it successfully and in a way that earns the world's respect, they will be that much farther along in setting the pace for political reform in the Middle East.

NEXT: Selling Out Freedom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I assume Saddam would be tried for using poison gas against civilians, and attempting genocide against the Marsh Arabs. Who knows, maybe even “Waging Aggressive War,” which sent not a few men to hell in the 40s. I think the Bush Doctrine (we need to invade countries that could someday become threats) is consistent with the idea of aggressive war being a crime, however.

    Fyodor, I’m not sure the Governing Council counts as “the home team.” If the “Iraqis” were a coalition of indiginous resistance fighters who overthrew the government, then your point would be inarguable (as it is, it’s a very strong point). But they are far too easily characterized as American puppets for a trial before them to be seen as legitimate.

    I’m not married to the Hague, it just seems like the best we’ve got right now. A Special War Crimes Tribunal for Iraq would work, too.

  2. “It is important to avoid setting the precedent that victor’s justice is the appropriate disposition in these circumstances.”

    Why? It is more important to keep him out of the hands of a body largely composed of dictators, I would think. (Representatives of which Arab dictators should be included on the panel?) He should be turned over to the Iraqis, who should decide what they want to do with him – give him to the Swedes, ask the Belgians to help or whatever.

    It seems typically ridiculous to argue that these people who have been tortured and derided by this monster for so long, should be made to rely on anyone else to decide what is a just end for him.

  3. Hmmm…

    How about we let Iraqis elect local representatives, say for instance, the wisest person in each village… and maybe those representatives could get together to form a national constitutional assembly… and that assembly could create the framework for a government that would operate in a manner that the Iraqi people themselves would be satisfied with… and that government could feature a judiciary that might have some responsibility for conducting criminal trials and dispensing justice to offenders… and that judiciary could be given the honour of trying the former president.

    Hmmm… maybe that might work.

  4. But is the court in Hague truly international, or is it just Europeans claiming to speak for the world?

    The Hague is something of a joke. Like the U.N., it has as much power as it is granted by its members. No more, but usually less. You’re not going to get any kind of international concord out of it, because at the end of the day the verdict is still decided by an infinitessimally small number of people. What makes it international is that those people aren’t American.

    The Europeans miss their oil-for-food money. Starving Iraqi kids was profitable for them thar uber-sensitive Europeans.

  5. fyodor: I agree; it seems vain and presumptuous for Europeans, or any subset, to claim they represent the entire world.

    Generally, all we have is victor’s justice. Nobody has moral superiority or an objective mandate to try this character. Somebody will anyway, with support and objection from all quarters. It seems another case of no clear single solution. But have fun arguing…

  6. I am also a woman. I post rarely, mostly I lurk. I haven’t the patience for participating in these discussions, although I frequently find them interesting reading.

    Myself, while I think the Iraqis deserve first dibs on Hussein, I really don’t care where he’s tried so long as the result is an execution.

    What? you ask, am I advocating a kangaroo court? You could say that. I think the mockery of justice would be any trial which is anything more than a formality. Is a “presumption of innocence” really appropriate in this context? I haven’t seen anyone arguing that Hussein *isn’t* responsible for the deaths of many thousands, even possibly hundreds of thousands. So what’s his defense? Possible criminal defenses: 1)insanity 2)innocence 3)mitigating circumstances.

    So exactly how does a trial work? Are there going to be character witnesses saying sure he committed mass murder, but he loved puppies? The purpose of a trial is to determine guilt or innocence, isn’t it? Is that in doubt here? I think gassing thousands of civilian Kurds is easily, all by itself, grounds for execution.

    If the French, German, and Russian governments had had their way, Hussein would still be in power. If those goverments believe his actions justify execution, then why should they care if we try him or the Iraqis do. If they don’t believe his actions justify execution, then to hell with them.

    And if Hussein wants to sing like a canary, great! If he wants to make singing conditional on not being executed, tough. We don’t need what he knows badly enough to let him live.

  7. Why on earth should an “internationalized” beauracratic instrument get to try him like the ICC et al.? One which is primarily run by governments that were OPPOSED to even trying to overthrow Saddam’s government. Just as you try to claim an Iraqi national trial would somehow be “unfair” because the Iraqi’s have already made it clear what their decision would be, it would also but moronic to claim that trying Saddam by the people who were assisting him by any other means less than a year ago would somehow be “fair”. Being as all these “international” trial institutions don’t have a death penalty clause, you’ll forgive me for thinking the motivation behind trying to get Saddam out of Iraq is so that he can join all the other deposed tyrants (and our dear departed Idi Imin, if there is a god I hope he’s being tortured indefinitely in hell) in the Vacation Program for Despots. And by the way, *WHAT* is there really to hold a trial over? We have a bunch of pits in Iraq that hold a third of a million corpses, which were obviously filled a good deal of time after Saddam came to power, what would these naysayers suggest? we give him 300,000 life sentences? Finally, and I know i’m being partisan here, but why should it be WE who extend the olive branch to western Europe? (that is the half of western Europe that wasn’t militarily supporting us, a fact many seem happy to forget)

  8. Actually, let me amend my earlier comments. We don’t have to have just one trial. Why not have a dozen? The UN can try him, the Hague can, the French, Brits, Germans, Russians, Chileans, and Thais can all have trials. In the U.S. we can have one by military tribunal and another one in a civilian court. When we’re all done with our trials (how about a time limit, say 5 years) then the Iraqis can have him and do whatever they want with him. This will never happen, but I don’t see any problem with it.

  9. LOL, I guess Tsiroth beat me by a minute or two to post most of my points, oh well.

  10. Joe,

    Re: “the home team” I agree that the Governing Council is likely seen as a US puppet. But do you really doubt that’s what most Iraqis want (for Saddam to be tried there)? That said, it would be interesting to hear what Arabs in general are saying on the subject. Of course, without democratic institutions, it’s always hard to really know what folks over there are thinking if there’s not an overwhelming majority.

    I’m glad you’re not married to Hague. The problem is that any other sort of “court” would have to be setup just for this purpose. I don’t see how such a thrown together instituition would garner respect and “look” right in the way you want. Of course, the very same goes for any Iraqi tribunal.

  11. tsiroth,

    Perhaps Hussein would introduce evidence that Iran gassed the Kurds, not he. I’m not saying that’s what happened, but there’s definitely that POV out there which claims the evidence is on their side. Or maybe he would say it was an accident? (I liked the way that reads, but I’m actually referring to what we drolly refer to in our parts as “collateral damage.”) Again, not saying that’s what happened, just that it could be a real defense.

    But what you’re saying raises a good point. If we’re not prepared for Hussein to be declared innocent based on technicalities or lack of evidence, then any tribunal would be a kangaroo court, no matter where it’s held or what is done to dress it up. Perhaps there’s really nothing other than victor’s justice in cases of overthrown governments?

  12. But is the court in Hague truly international, or is it just Europeans claiming to speak for the world?

    exactly. joe, you seem to suppose he’d get a fair trial there, as opposed to one with a different politically determined outcome. i don’t need him to die, but neither do i think anyone but iraqis should stand in final judgement of the man. as to the legitimacy of such a trial — why would european legitimacy be worth any more than iraqi legitimacy?

  13. I’m not married to the Hague, it just seems like the best we’ve got right now. A Special War Crimes Tribunal for Iraq would work, too.

    ah, strike my last, then.

  14. For a body to try someone, that person must have violated the body’s laws. Whose laws did Saddam break? Certainly not the IRC’s. Certainly not the US’s. Were his actions under the jurisdiction of some UN court via a treaty he signed? I don’t know. It might be the case that, even with the mass graves et al, the man did not break any laws and, therefore, cannot be tried.

    You can imprison him, execute him, whatever. But ya can’t try him in a court of law.

  15. I’m glad tsiroth doesn’t run my local police department. “We KNOW he’s guilty, why bother with a trial?” Sheesh.

    I like the stirring cries-de-coeur from the pro-war faction suddenly supporting the notion of Iraqi sovereignty. “It seems typically ridiculous to argue that these people who have been tortured and derided by this monster for so long, should be made to rely on anyone else to decide what is a just end for him.” Um, you have read a newspaper in the past year and a half, right?

  16. “Um, you have read a newspaper in the past year and a half, right?”

    Yes, what’s your point? I would think even you could understand the connection between supporting the war, and thinking the the sovereignty of the Iraqi people was important.

  17. pro-war faction suddenly supporting the notion of Iraqi sovereignty.

    Joe, what faction have you been watching and calling mainstream pro-war? A year and a half ago the people who wanted to get Hussein didn’t have the power to do so, and now they do. We push Hussein out, a democratic government of Iraqis takes over after a period of building infrastructure and policy under an administrative framework that will dissolve. This is not a sudden change of plans. The goal was to give the power of Iraqi sovereignty to Iraqis, not Hussein. Clamor the standard “puppet” bit if you like, that there are shared goals between the states gives your notion fuel but not credence, any more than that the Hague is a puppet for the EU, or the U.N. a puppet of the U.S. He is an Iraqi, and his fate is for Iraq to decide.

  18. This fetish with “presumed innocence” for Sadaam Hussein is utterly ridiculous. The trial to come is not about determining the guilt or innocence of Hussein. How can anyone honestly argue that a presumption of innocence for this man has ANY moral value at all? Presumption of innocence only has moral value when the guilt of the accused is in doubt.

    The trial to come will be about two specific things and several tangential issues. 1) The Iraqi’s NEED a chance to vent their anger and frustration at the man who tormented them. Their suffering has earned them this right. 2) The trial will demonstrate to the world the full extent of Sadaam Hussein’s atrocities.

    Other goals will be to scare the hell out of every other despotic tyrant on the face of the earth. This will be the most watched trial in history. Every dictator will cringe as victim after victim after victim gets up on the stand, and without fear of reprisal points an accusing finger at the man responsible for their misery. Every true victim of tyranny (not the fake victims of the left who equate hurt feelings and harsh words with being brutally tortured and killed) will look on with awe as a ruthless despot is brought low before the justice of the people who suffered under his heel.

    This trial SHOULD be about propaganda. It should not be about the fragile sensitivities of civil rights absolutists. This trial should simultaneously strike fear into the hearts of every dictator, and give hope to those being oppressed. It will hopefully result in destabilizing every tyrant by scaring the tyrants and emboldening the oppressed.

    It should be done by the Iraqi’s with the security blanket provided by the only nation that has consistently and unequivically stood for freedom for over 200 years.

    Having said all that, I think we are being very short-sighted in our attempts to rebuff any French/Russian/German involvement in Iraq. The Iraqi’s need some experience in the rule of law. And one aspect of the rule of law is a fair trial with competent legal counsel for the defendent.

    I can think of no better role for the French/Germans/Russians than to act as defense counsel for Sadaam Hussein – pro bono. After all, they have been defending him for years. Surely, experience ought to count for something.

  19. OK, I was a little heavy on the smartass.

    I don’t see plans for Hussein to be tried by a democratic government of Iraqis. I see plans for him to be tried by our handpicked council, which is not democratic, and given the presence of people like Chalabi, not even particularly Iraqi.

    I can see a strong argument for turning him over to an Iraqi government that has achieved democratic legitimacy through fair elections, or even through the overthrow of the tyrant by a broad-based popular uprising. But neither has happened (in fact, we twice refuses to allow the latter to happen when our military made such an event possible).

    And I’m calling the Governing Council a puppet government because it’s a puppet government.

  20. “why would european legitimacy be worth any more than iraqi legitimacy?” asks Mark.

    It wouldn’t. But I don’t believe that our handpicked tools provide “Iraqi legitimacy.”

    Anyway, a Hague trial is not “European legitimacy.” It’s global legitimacy.

  21. Joe,

    Who the F% cares about “legitimacy?” Shouldn’t we care more about what is right? Do you suppose that their was any doubt about the guilt of Jack Ruby, who murdered a man on live TV with several million witnesses? Do you suppose their is any doubt about Hussein’s guilt?

    The structures of a trial are NOT supposed to be impartial between justice and injustice. When guilt is foreknown, the point of a trial is to document and provide a record of the guilt of the guilty. It is pure fantasy to pretend that we do not already know the verdict. It is pure fantasy that we do not already know the fate of Sadaam Hussein – he will die at the hands of Iraqi’s.

    How is this result illegitimate in any way? This man is not a common criminal, and comparing his arrest to the arrest of a local criminal by the local sheriff is sheer madness. His crimes are well known, and affected millions, even billions of people.

    Only a trial which put on the fake garb of impartiality, and held out the possibility of acquittal would be an illegitimate trial. This man will be tried to demonstrate our and the Iraqi peoples humanity, not Sadaam Hussein’s humanity. Indeed, it is his inhumanity will that will be displayed so that all the world will know that his execution will forever be justified.

    Sheesh Indeed!!

  22. Legitimacy does not indicate justice. What concern need Iraq have with the legitimacy of its own trials vs. that of the Hague, which can’t even muster up the sack to try Sharon?

  23. As long as Mark Geragos isn’t involved in this trial I don’t really care how it’s done 😉

  24. Actually, the idea of Hussein being found innocent is so ridiculous that it never even occurred to me. Let me turn it around on you: since his guilt is so obvious, why do you feel the need to fix the court in order to assure the right verdict?

  25. joe:

    You come on a website that attracts staunch individualists and you talk about “global legitimacy”? There hasn’t been an agitator like you since Abbie Hoffman.

    We are the world, we are the children
    We are the ones who make a brighter day
    so let’s start giving

  26. Flattery will get you nowhere.

  27. It was a left-handed compliment 😉 Abbie was the man.

  28. I am opposed to a Hague trial because I am offended by the disaster that is the Milosovic trial. That man has made a mockery of the “international justice system” and continues to do so. Is his trial somehow legitimized as a result of it’s occurance at the Hague? How should we think that Saddam would be any different?

    Further, I think there is value in forbidding Saddam a platform from which to indicte every US president and their advisors since Ford (don’t think that William Jefferson gets off either) as well as a myriad of other world leaders. He does not deserve that freedom, he should not be allowed that oppertunity.

    If the Hague really does speak for international community (whatever that means) on matters of international and crimes against humainty (whatever that means), it better figure out some way to enforce it’s laws – waiting for the US to do the work just doesn’t cut it. BTW if this does go to an ICC does the US get cash compensation for doing the enforcement work? Why not?

  29. OK, so the idea of “global legitimacy” is irrelevant to staunch individualists. Fair enough.

    But the trial of Saddam Hussein resulted from the US (which describes itself as a nation of staunch individualists) invading a country on the other side of the globe with the assistance of other countries (yes, Joe, I know, the “Coalition of the Willing” only had a few real players, but let’s flatter the pro-war camp a little bit). So already this is a rather international affair.

    That doesn’t a priori mean that it’s a matter for ALL nations, but it certainly means that this isn’t just a matter of a few individuals doing their own thing. Governments from around the world are involved, since various governments concluded that the dictator of Iraq threatened their security and needed to be removed. So you can’t say that this affair has a “staunch individualist” theme to it, not when several governments are involved.

    OK, should it matter whether governments other than those in our coalition (plus the new Iraqi gov’t) view the trial as being properly conducted? Well, in some sense no. The world won’t end if France is angry. But if the trial can be conducted in a way that earns the approval of other nations but doesn’t compromise the integrity of the process and outcome, then why not get even more people on-board?

    Whether this trial is conducted by the Iraqis alone, or by the Iraqis and US, or by the Iraqis and US and Britain, or by the whole world singing Kumbaya, it will probably unfold in the same way: The prosecution (whoever it may be) will show Hussein’s many crimes for all the world to see. Hussein will offer a bunch of bluster in his own defense, and perhaps try to say “Ah, but lots of other countries were friendly to me at various points, so why are they trying me now?” The judges will be unimpressed, and hand down a verdict of “We don’t care how many friends you had, you are guilty of these crimes!” And then he’ll be either killed or imprisoned for life. Probably killed, and nobody (me included) will get too upset over it, but since I regard that as a 95% likelihood rather than 100% likelihood I include the possibility of life imprisonment.

    So, does it really matter whether a French judge sits on the bench with the others when the inevitable verdict is handed down?

  30. “I am opposed to a Hague trial because I am offended by the disaster that is the Milosovic trial. That man has made a mockery of the “international justice system” and continues to do so.”

    How so?

    But your second point – a full hearing of his crimes would look bad for the US – is entirely plausible, and the most likely reason Bush won’t let it happen.

  31. And will be even worse for the Europeans, don’t wait for them to push too hard for this.

  32. Good point, Todd. Maybe the desire to shut Saddam up will glue our alliances back together.

  33. Why don’t I want him tried in the the Hague? Simple, they won’t execute him no matter to depravity of his crimes, sorry, but he deserves death, i’m willing to concede him getting lethal injection when he should be drawn and quartered, but thats where I draw the line. I mean…you can point to few other human beings now who could possibly deserve it more. Also, Joe and Thoreau, no offense but you seem to think that some international tribunal in the Hague would be impartial in regards to politiking. I find it very likely that the anti-war nations would attempt to use it as a lever to stick it to the US, as I mentioned earlier, probably by trying to grant him exile or some such nonsense. Furthermore…how long would this take? as someone else said, it would be the new “trial of the century”, and if it took 5 years to get around to Milosevic, what would the wait be on Saddam? I think the Iraqis deserve a sense of closure, and knowing Saddam was being bandied about by a bunch of international lawyers for decades probably wouldn’t bring it.

  34. You don’t see any benefit in avoiding charges of “kangaroo court” and “victor’s justice?”

    I think anyone stupid enough to believe that Saddam is being unfairly convicted isn’t worth convincing otherwise.

    Saddam committed crimes, in Iraq, under Iraqi law. He’ll be tried by Iraqis and executed for his crimes. The UN is welcome to put him on trial too, for “crimes against humanity” or whatever other imaginary laws it wants to invent this week. However, that in no way changes the fact that Saddam committed crimes, in Iraq, that he has to answer for, in Iraq.

    The rule for extradition has always been that if the accused has committed crimes in the “host” country, they have the right to try and convict him for those crimes prior to handing him over to a foreign country to answer for foreign crimes. If you murder a man in France and a man in Texas, and get caught in Texas, you fry, in Texas. You don’t get sent to France so they can lock you up and shield you from those nasty Texas folks.

    It takes a particularly sick mind, in my opinion, to think that international bodies should be allowed to override a country’s laws in order to impose *lesser* penalties on torturers, rapists, and murderers.

  35. Joe,

    Your cynicism concerning the ability of the American military, the American government, and American and Iraqi citizens is breathtaking. Is there anything our government, in its present form, could unilaterally do that would be worthy of your approval and support?

    Simultaneously, your unblinkered willingness to ascribe pure motives to the cynics of European countries is astonishing. Is there anything they could do that would earn your scorn (apart from supporting the USA?)

    If lack of perfection in the past, present, or future disqualifies the USA, its government and its citizens and renders our motives eternally suspect, then we should all just shut up and shoot ourselves in the head. Then the tyrants of the earth could roam free without fear of reprisal.

    Long live Sadaam! Long live Stalin! Down with the imperalists capitalist denizens of freedom and human dignity! Down with the USA!

  36. Matt-

    First, I never said anything about the Hague. Joe mentioned the Hague, but even he made it pretty clear that he’d be just as happy with a tribunal convened in Iraq that included some amount of non-Iraqi and non-American (and non-British or other coalition nation) participants.

    Second, what do you mean by politicking? Do you really think there’s any chance that any court not convened by the Baath party would acquit Hussein? OK, they might not hand down the death penalty if it was done by Europeans, but the Europeans won’t hand down the death penalty to anyone these days. A life sentence wouldn’t have anything to do with anti-American sentiment or whatever you’re worried about.

    So, do you really believe that there’s a chance Hussein could be acquitted if there was too much international involvement? I don’t. Although I often have a bleak view of human nature, there are limits to my pessimism, and this is one of those limits.

    Yes, I know, many countries conducted trade with Iraq and ignored the embargo. I’ve got news for you: I oppose ALL embargoes (they hurt ordinary citizens while the dictators continue to enjoy a plush life) and yet I most definitely want Hussein (and other dictators like him) punished. Does that make me just as bad as those darn Europeans in your view?

    So, here’s what it comes down to: The Iraqis should have the dominant presence on the court, but there should be non-Iraqi participants on the court so that when the evidence is aired and the ruling is handed down, people around the world will know that this was not a lynch mob or “victor’s justice”, rather it was simply the right and just decision.

  37. This whole kowtowing to the Europeans is really starting to irk me.

    Who give a fuck what the French, Germans, and other continentals think about Saddam now? They obviously didn’t care about him 10 months ago.

    If the Euro-volk want their corporations to be cut into the reconstruction bonanza, why don’t they suck a few billion out of their own taxpayers and do whatever the hell they please with it?

    In fact, why bother building stuff in Iraq with the loot… rebuild the plumbing in Paris or the autobahns or some other equally asinine public works project. Let them eat their g?teaux and have them too.

  38. Joe,

    Your pre-emptive accusation of a stacked court reveals only your bias. It has no basis in fact. Nor could it. A court to try him is not yet even in existence. Your accusation only reveals that any court the USA or Iraq sets up is already prejudged by you as unworthy. In the face of such prejudice, no amount of facts can overcome your desire to cast aspersions on the USA. So just as we told the French. GO FUCK YOURSELF!

  39. Matt W, I don’t think your desire to see blood spilled (understandable though it is), your impatience, and the hurt feelings American politicians might suffer at the hands of lawyers from antiwar nations outweigh the political benefits of keeping our hands off the trial. Try to be practical here. Governments and courts don’t exist to make you feel warm and fuzzy. It is good for us, and for the families of his victims, for there to be no doubt that Saddam is being convicted for his crimes, not for making trouble with Uncle Sam.

    It is simply insane to think than any court, anywhere, would acquit Saddam, or that any nation is going to work to defend him, so put that out of your mind. He’s going to be found guilty, regardless of the circumstances of the trial. A fair trial will find him guilty on the merits, a kangaroo court will find him guilty by design. Acquittal is a non-issue.

    Dan, the right of the Iraqi people to have first crack at him is a valid point. But if a group of Pentagon and Foggy Bottom tools who happen to be Iraqi are given the task of trying him, it will be the same as having him tried by an American court martial, politically. In fact, it could be worse, if the Iraqi judges are people who stood to gain wealth and influence from Saddam’s downfall. Remember, Ahmed Chalabi is a “victor,” too.

    Maybe the best answer is a trial by the judicial branch a genuine, democratic, constitutional, free Iraqi government. But how far away is that?

  40. Thoreau,

    Ideally, the majority of any tribunal for Saddam must be Iraqis, but it should also include Iranians (a whole shitload of killed and maimed 1980-88), Kuwaitis (obviously), Americans (it was OUR president he conspired to assasinate, after all), Israelis (scud attacks in 1991, nuke plans a decade earlier), and a Saudi or two (they probably were next on his post-Kuwait list).

    There is nothing wrong with “victor’s justice” if the victors happen to be the aggrieved parties.

  41. If legal officials from other nations want to be observers, good, I would recommend that anyhow. But I can’t imagine thats what you mean because as I recall the very day we captured him it was either Bremer or Sanchez that was saying it would be a public trial, maybe they didn’t have the authority to say so, i’m not sure but it seems too late to but that back in the bag. But as for Jurisdiction? again, these nations that fought tooth and nail to make sure he stayed in power, *WHY* on earth should they have any say at all in his fate now? Why not just hold him until such time as Iraq does have a functional legal system, and that system is administered by Iraqis. BTW, I never said I thought he’d be acquitted, of course not, i’m just concerned he’ll be squirreled away without facing real punishment.

  42. It’s a pretty good sign you’re winning an argument when the opposition resorts to “You just hate America!”

    Scott you pinhead, my take on this is not about a stacked court, it’s about the appearance of a stacked court. Clearly, you are not someone who gives a great deal of thought to the appearance of credibility.

    “There is nothing wrong with “victor’s justice” if the victors happen to be the aggrieved parties.” I’m sure the Muslim people of world will be similarly willing to assume our bona fides. Not.

  43. joe-
    What I mean by Milosovic mocking the Hague is this: he has rejected his US counsel and instead been allowed to speak for himself. As a result he has elected to ignore the charges he is accused of and instead chooses to assault the trial itself. He repeatedly argued against the authority for the tribunal to even exist. He repeatedly fought the issue of his isolation, monitoring of conversations with family members, accused the tribunal of shutting off his microphone as means of silencing him. He repeatedly argued against what he called an assination attempt by NATO and chose to level charges against NATO. The bottom line is, he refused to acknowledge the court’s authority and the charges (even refusing to enter a plea at all at the charge of genocide).

    His behavior has called into question whether or not it was right to remove the prosecutionary power from Serbs. And it has further called into question the efficacy if not also the legitimacy of a Hague tribunal.

    And you want to start over again with another? No thanks.

  44. i hope to god that five minutes after he’s handed over they stand his ass in front of a wall.

  45. Citizen-

    OK, so Milosevic is ranting against the US. Bully for him. Is anybody actually paying attention to him?

    I really fail to see what the big deal is if a court is assembled with a strong Iraqi presence but also a handful of judges from the US, Middle East, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

    As to the complaint that the French wanted him in power, what could be more powerful of an indictment than even the French judge voting to convict? And if the French judge voted to acquit but everybody else voted to convict, what could be worse PR for the French? Seems to me like the French judge would have 2 choices: Do the right thing and vote to convict, or do the wrong thing and make his country look even worse in the eyes of the world while Hussein is convicted anyway.

    Or are people here afraid that if the French judge votes to convict it will make the French look good? Well, we can’t have that!

  46. Joe,

    Appearance of credibility to WHO? Who is the audience you are so concerned about appearing credible to? Is it the American people? Is it the families of victims of Islamic terrorism over the last, say 35 years? Who is it that you are trying to impress with your appearance of credibility?

    Obviously, YOU don’t think the USA or the Iraqi’a can do a credible job. So this is simply a revelation of YOUR prejudice. It is the only reasonable explanation. Why pretend that is is “world opinion” or “Muslim opinion” that you are worried about? Are you God? Can you read the minds of the “world” and “Muslims?” Why not simply do what is right, and opinion be damned? Or is that too straight forward for you?

  47. Dan,

    Are you sure Hussein broke Iraqi laws? Since Hussein was in charge at the time, and since the awful deeds were generally part of military or security operations, I don’t know if that’s so clear.

  48. Thoreau, you seem willing to admit that the trial is merely a formality, that his conviction is inevitable, i’d agree, and even in an international court for mostly the reason you gave. The only point then would seem to be sentence Saddam to a European type of punishment, or would the Iraqi’s get to choose? This is what I don’t get, we all agree there’s not a snowballs chance in hell of him being acquitted, so aside from how much television airtime it gets what difference does it make? What would the international judges be there to do, determine how many feet of rope they want to use? Seems like a simple argument between the anti-death penalty people and the pro-death penalty. (and to throw in my two bits, if killing hundreds of thousands of people doesn’t earn you a bullet in the head or 6 feet of rope, I don’t know what does.)

  49. Scott Harris,

    Actually, I think there’s a few other people in the world besides Joe who are skeptical of American intentions. Yeah, really.

    Snarkiness aside, I do wonder what the Moslem/Arab world is saying on this subject. Anyone know?

  50. the Palestinians are wailing and nashing their teeth that their heroic patron has been captured and humiliated, the Iranians are almost as happy as the Iraqis thanks to the Iran-Iraq war. I heard the Afghanis were happy, at least from polls taken. Everyone else seems to be saying in the same sentence that: They’re happy such a horrible tyrant was captured, They feel angered and humiliated that he was caught in the manner that he was, that America is horrible and disgusting for deposing Saddam to begin with. Consistency doesn’t seem to be an Arab virtue.

  51. Matt W.-

    The international judges would be there to prove to skeptical international audiences that Saddam Hussein is getting exactly what he deserves.

    I know, I know, it ought to be obvious. But if for some reason it isn’t obvious to everybody around the world (perhaps because some people are letting anti-American zeal cloud their judgement), some of them might be persuaded if the sentence is ratified by a few representatives from governments that opposed the war.

    I know, I know, we shouldn’t care what America-haters think. Fine. We certainly shouldn’t go out of our way for them. But if the French government pays the airfare and hotel expenses for their judge, and he supplies his own black robe, and all we have to do is buy an extra chair for the panel of judges, I’d say that’s a pretty good deal. In fact, I will personally go to Staples and buy the chair myself if necessary (anybody here want to chip in on shipping costs?). If the cost of a chair changes a few minds and maybe wins us some more respect, what’s there to complain about?

  52. LOL, OK, I’ll pitch in $3.50 so we can get them some plastic gavels, hehe.

  53. By the logic of Joe, the War against Nazi Germany was illegitimate. After all, even though Nazi Germany was allied with Japan, it was Japan that attacked us, not the Germans. So we should have restricted our efforts to defeating Japan alone, and left Europe alone.

    Also, we had established diplomatic ties with Nazi Germany, and (Gasp) even done business with them. By virtue of our diplomatic ties and business connections, you could even argue that we were responsible for propping up the Nazi dictator. Therefore, any attempt to overcome him, and his fascist thugs was illegitimate and hypocritical.

    Americans had no right to rejoice in the streets when Nazi Germany was defeated. After all, every American casualty of war in the ETO was directly attributable to the failed policies of American government. And any attempt to set up a court to try and convict Nazi leaders was totally illegitimate. After all, we should have been concerned about the sensibilities of the Facist Street.

  54. Somehow I have a feeling that if Bush was tried by the Hauge, he’d get a longer sentence than Saddam. Having Europe try Saddam is like making Louis Farrakhan the judge in the OJ Simpson trial.

  55. Matt W,

    Thanks, but what I meant is what do they think about how and where and by whom he should be “tried,” the question we’re discussing here. To wit, it would be ironic to bring in the int’l community to try Saddam if it only made Arabs and Moslems less convinced he was tried properly.

  56. I find it a little insane that anyone is even talking about having SH tried in an international court.

    He belongs to the Iraqis. It’s really only fair.

  57. Actually, Scott, according to “War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race,” by Edwin Black, late 19th Century eugenics theories in America and England inspired the Germanic theories that led to the Final Solution, so to follow certain logic threads here, Nuremberg was a miscarriage of justice because we, the Americans and the Britons, were the ultimate parents of the Holocaust and the Nazis were just following through on our own plans.

  58. Yeah, master race. Right. Tell that to my Cherokee-Choctaw-Anglo-Welsh-Irish-African American niece. Or tell it to me Columbian-French-Canadian-Mexican-Spanish-German American niece and nephew. Or tell it to my own Cherokee-Choctaw-Welsh-Anglo-Irish-German-Spanish-Mexican children.

    If by master race, he means free human race, then I guess he hit American ideals right on the head.

  59. Clearly the Iraqis have the biggest set of complaints against Hussein, so an Iraqi tribunal should be the court in which he is prosecuted.

    The Iranians and Kuwaitis have complaints too,but they should rightly present their complaints in an Iraqi court. Or they can provide witnesses if the IGC prosecutes Hussein for illegally making war.

    Everyone knows about the Nuremburg trials after World War II. But there were also many trials of lower level government functionaries carried out in German courts, using the law of the Weimar Republic. These trials had somewhat more legitimacy than the specially created tribunals at Nuremburg.

    France and other antiwar countries have called for transferring sovereignty to Iraq, and have been willing to recognize the IGC to accomplish this. Trying Hussein can be the first major show of sovereignty if we want to quickly implement the transfer of sovereignty.

  60. thoreau –
    From what I hear, the people in the region are listening. People of Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo and pretty certain that justice has not been served and that’s contributing to instability in the region. Serb nationalists are pretty encouraged that their leader can still be defiant even in captivity. That has a destabilizing effect in the region.

    Justice is not being served. Just because the it’s dropped off the radar screens of the US and western Europe doesn’t mean it’s not still an issue for those in the region. Seems to me if anyone should be made to think justice is served, it should be them. Shouldn’t that be the case here in Iraq.

    BTW, I just read on CNN.com that today Gen. Clark testified against Slobodan and found his demeanor “petulant.”

  61. Gene reminded me of something, I believe it was Joe that said we wouldn’t have any “real” charges to bring against Saddam unless we took him to an international court to use a “Crimes against Humanity” argument, and thus one of Joe’s reasons for an international tribunal. However, Gene mentioned that Nazi officials were tried via the laws of the pre-Nazi Weimar republic, in which case there would be precedence for Saddam and his Cronies to be tried via pre-Ba’athist Iraqi law, really Saddam got into power in a less official manner than even Hitler did, he just has been in power longer, so it should be even easier to use that reasoning. (and no, i’m not using the cute pseudo-fallacy of Reductio ad Hilterium 🙂 ) If that position holds water it would be wrong for him to be tried in anything BUT an Iraqi court.

  62. Did I up and invoke Edwin’s Law? damn me, sorry all, I didn’t MEAN to make any real comparisons to everybodies favorite early-40’s dictator, honest to gosh.

  63. Death is too easy for him.
    The perfect punishment for Saddam would be to hand him a shovel and put him to work helping to dig up the rest of the mass graves that he created.

  64. Hmmmmm. On the one hand, Bush could display some discretion, suck up a disappointment, and make a move that would show respect for the UN, avoid a strain with our close allies, and start healing the fissures that have developed with Northern Europe over the past year.

    On the other hand, he could kill a guy and take a victory lap in front of every Bubba in America.

    Gee, whatever will he do?

  65. Why on earth should the Euros (or their tool the UN) get to try Saddam? He didn’t commit crimes in their countries; to the contrary, he enriched them with oil and arms deals. They were his allies – what kind of credibility and legitimacy would that trial have? Do we really want another extended travesty like the Milosevic trial?

    Nobody, but nobody, has a better claim on trying Saddam than the Iraqis. The current maneuvering by the Euros is just another attempt to create legitimacy for their transnational progressive project at the expense of the Iraqis.

  66. “Do we really want another extended travesty like the Milosevic trial?”

    You don’t see any benefit in avoiding charges of “kangaroo court” and “victor’s justice?” Every military dictatorship puts the guy it overthrew “on trial.”

    I want to see the French judge, the Turkish judge, the Russian judge, and the German judge declare him guitly. A trial by the American proxy government will just be an extended version of a summary execution of a political opponent.

  67. good point, joe. I’ll send a memo to Bush on your thoughts.
    Do you think they’ll do it with one of those curved arab swords in a public square?

    A coworker was trying to convince me that they should try him for stealing from the iraqi people then cut off his hands. Then try him for raping iraq and castrate. Then try him for murder.

    I figure that ought to go over real well with the int’l human rights groups. On the other hand, it does send quite the message to other local rulers.

  68. A trial by the American proxy government will just be an extended version of a summary execution of a political opponent.

    In that case the US could argue that we were being “culturally sensitive” to “longstanding Iraqi tradition”.

    As yelowd said, try him under Islamic law. ?Whoever kills a person, not in retaliation for murder or iniquity in the Earth, then it would be as if he killed all of mankind.? All you need is one murder conviction and it’s ‘chop chop’ time.

  69. Uh huh. It’s all about respecting local traditions. That’s not obvious bullshit. Sure, everyone will believe that.

    Anyway, it’s moot. They won’t send him to the Hague, because a real court might decide to indict co-conspirators.

  70. Dan, the right of the Iraqi people to have first crack at him is a valid point. But if a group of Pentagon and Foggy Bottom tools who happen to be Iraqi are given the task of trying him, it will be the same as having him tried by an American court martial, politically.

    There are three groups here.

    (1): The Iraqis.
    (2): The United States and its coalition partners
    (3): Everyone else.

    Group (3) lacks the moral or legal authority to put Hussein on trial for anything, since their actions to date ranged from “active support of Saddam” (France, Russia) to “sitting around holding their dicks while the USA, Britain, Australia, Italy, et al, did all the work” (the UN, New Zealand, Canada). Useless wankers; fuck ’em. That leaves (2) and (1).

    We’re opting to let (1) conduct the trial. Will the people conducting the trial be our “toadies”? It’s a forgone conclusion that people like you will say they were (not actively anti-American = our toady, after all), but how will the rest of us be able to tell?

    Well, there will be one easy way to tell. If Hussein is convicted after a short trial and then brutally killed in an excruciatingly painful and grotesque manner, that will be an indication that the Iraqis are not our toadies. If Hussein is convicted after a short trial and then executed in a reasonably humane manner, such as by hanging, that will be an indication that the Iraqis have caved to US pressure. 🙂

  71. I see good and bad arguments on both sides. I too would ideally like the Iraqis to be in charge, but I think it’s a bit glib to simply say, “if they do it successfully and in a way that earns the world’s respect…” when that only begs the question, and what if they don’t? And Joe, why is this a Europe thing? How about a Chilean judge, a Kenyan judge, a Thai judge? Ultimately this is a realm where justice is arbitrary and in a sense moot. I.e., what’s more important, determining Saddam’s guilt or innocence (ha-ha) via due impartial process (ha-ha again) or giving the *impression* of such when no one believes it anyway?

  72. Uh, make that “impartial due process.” You can kinda tell when someone re-writes their post! 🙂

  73. I’m just curious, if Saddam knows he’s going to get the blade, what will his defence be? Do you think he’ll try to expose the US, france, germany, Russia, and every other country that supplied WMD’s, weapons, etc to him? Do you think he’ll go back even farther and talk about the CIA involvement and how it may or not have helped the baathists seize power?

  74. yelowd,

    That’s Joe’s take on why we will allow Iraq’s “proxy government” to try him instead of turning him over to those free thinking Euros. Already my conspiracy minded roommate claims Saddam is drugged and we’ll never know what he really has to say as long as America has control of him!

  75. “And Joe, why is this a Europe thing? How about a Chilean judge, a Kenyan judge, a Thai judge?’

    Actually, I made a Northern European/Muslim thing (although I see I left out any Arab countires. Oops.) Because the Northern Europeans objected most strongly to the war, and Arab people are objecting most strongly to the occupation. Ergo, having their involvement in the trial will be the most effective in avoiding the stink of “victor’s justice” and “American pawns,” and will provide the greatest diplomatic benefit to us by mending the rifts that were created by the diplomatic errors made in the runup to the war.

    Of course, for those who think undermining the UN and humiliating the Europeans and Arabs were goals in and of themselves, the above argument is probably not very persuasive.

  76. We could just put him back in that hole, cover it with glass and make it a tourist attraction.

  77. “Of course, for those who think undermining the UN and humiliating the Europeans and Arabs were goals in and of themselves, the above argument is probably not very persuasive.”

    I seriously have never seen on any of the sites I frequent a commenter set up and knock down strawmen with such regularity.

  78. “Of course, for those who think undermining the UN and humiliating the Europeans and Arabs were goals in and of themselves, the above argument is probably not very persuasive.”

    I seriously have never seen on any of the sites I frequent a commenter set up and knock down strawmen with such regularity.

  79. Of course, for those who think undermining the UN and humiliating the Europeans and Arabs were goals in and of themselves, the above argument is probably not very persuasive.

    Consider me unpersuaded.

    Although I don’t think undermining the UN and humiliating the Europeans were so much goals as fringe benefits.

  80. Joe, I’m seeing no logic in what you have wrote in this thread. What legal or moral authority does the European Union (the “new soviet” in Putin’s words) have, in the middle east or anywhere else, that South America and Africa do not have? And what makes the Hague a real court? By what authority? There own?

  81. Josh, you could try searching National Review Online. Or maybe reading the comment immediately below your own. Or maybe just making sure you know what the hell you’re talking about before you hit the Post button.

  82. Wait, I think I understand now. You don’t legitimize until you internationalize. Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And if it rhymes it must be true.

  83. joe asks “You don’t see any benefit in avoiding charges of “kangaroo court” and “victor’s justice?”

    Such charges will be levelled by certain parties, who are enemies of the US and the Iraqi people, regardless how an Iraqi trial goes. I don’t care about avoiding baseless charges, joe. I care about giving the Iraqi people what is theirs by right – the opportunity to hold their oppressor accountable.

    The precedent set by forcing a dictator to answer directly to his victims will do far more to deter future dictators than the prospect of being handled by kid gloves at the Hague.

    You still haven’t told me why the Euros have a better claim on trying Saddam than his victims do.

  84. I don’t see what’s wrong with a stern warning. It’s a first offense. Community service might be appropriate too. Anger management counseling as well. Let’s see, what else can be piled on. Remedial driver education.

    Kant said it was a bad idea to kill the former head of state. It sets a bad precedent.

  85. BTW, joe, since Saddam’s co-conspirators are primarily French, German, and Russian, I fail to see how a Euro-dominated court is more likely to indict them than an Iraqi/American court.

  86. This seems to be a males-only issue. Where are the women-folk? Is Reason too demanding for the gentle sex?

  87. Okay slacker, I should have been clearer: I’m not saying that only the Europeans and UN leadership should be on board with the trial. I’m saying the entire world should be on board with the trial. I raised the European and Muslim countries in particular, because of the concrete advantages to be gained by having them involved.

    But you’re right, there’s no special legitimacy, or appearance of legitimacy, to be gained from having European countries on board. The legitimacy comes from having a global imprimatur on the proceedings.

    Good point about the right of the Iraqi people to administer justice to their oppressor. Maybe an Iraqi government should serve as prosecutor?

    RC, whether YOU think they’re anti-American, and whether YOU think the charges are baseless, isn’t the point. It is important to avoid setting the precedent that victor’s justice is the appropriate disposition in these circumstances, and there are concrete advantages to be gained by 1) improving our strained relations with other democratic republics and 2) having the verdict seen, even by lowly America-hating Frenchmen and Muslims, as legitimate.

  88. So it was the Russians helping Saddam target his chemical weapons in the Iran/Iraq war. Got it.

  89. I haven’t heard Kant brought into an argument for a long time.

  90. Hey joe,

    The reason they won’t send him to the Hague is because the Hague has been known to give 20-year sentences for genocide.

    Defend *that*

  91. Not to the top people, they didn’t. It’s called a plea bargain, in which a guilty party gets a lesser sentence, in exchange for testimony necessary to convict the top guy. If letting some army major get out of jail as a old man is the price we have to pay to get a conviction for the genocide’s architects, it might not be such a bad thing.

  92. The reason for the loathesome comment on Saddam is clear: he’s against cloning, against drug legalization, and against the war. To top off the list of his crimes, Saddam believes in Allah. Obviously, he should be shot.

    To think that Reason once argued against the death penalty (before it fell into the hands of the Postrel/Gillespie neocons).

  93. Ed, I’m female, I’m here, I read, and often enough I post. Of late, I’ve toyed with replying to various of Justin Raimondo’s bizarre spewings. (E.g., apparently he thinks disapproving of Robert Byrd for being a gung-ho drug warrior is some sort of error of excess; perhaps if he worked in the criminal justice system and saw the vast destruction prohibition has entailed, he would be more reaonsable, but given his feverish thinking, I doubt it.) But anyway, life is short, and usually I just watch others spar with him.

  94. Ed, I’m female, I’m here, I read, and often enough I post. Of late, I’ve toyed with replying to various of Justin Raimondo’s bizarre spewings. (E.g., apparently he thinks disapproving of Robert Byrd for being a gung-ho drug warrior is some sort of error of excess; perhaps if he worked in the criminal justice system and saw the vast destruction prohibition has entailed, he would be more reaonsable, but given his feverish thinking, I doubt it.) But anyway, life is short, and usually I just watch others spar with him.

  95. What none of the warbloogers really want to admit is that Saddam (compared with Chimpy) wasn’t that bad a guy. Plus he was a bought and paid for by Rummy and Cheney, so they need to shut him up.

    Those pining to kill him are just projecting their own sick, warmongering fantasies of killing a paleocon. So we can add psychosis to the lying about WMDs and betrayal of the anti-war at all cost tradition of real libertarianism. Of course you will condemn me for standing up for a “fascist” just as you did for our alliance with ANSWER. But in today’s world, run by those with Hebrew accents, the real libertarians are those who are against this imperialism.

  96. Since he *was* the law in Iraq during his rule, he technically broke no laws there. The Iraqi council set up by the US would be writing new laws and convicting him of those. That makes no sense. The laws he broke were laws against humanity, laws covered only under an international jurisdiction. If he is to be tried, it must be there and not by people who already are planning his execution.

  97. Joe,

    You’re making some good points about internationalizing the process in order to avoid the appearance of victor’s justice, and to make that a precedent for the future. But is the court in Hague truly international, or is it just Europeans claiming to speak for the world? And if appearances are what you’re concerned with, how does it look for the US to decide to do this against the home team’s wishes? I think it matters more what the Arab world thinks about this than northern/western Europeans.

  98. Splash, good point. What are we trying Saddam for? If it was because Iraq was an emminent threat against america, then he is just a deposed leader. Nothing to try him for, he would be a POW. War crimes? nothing committed during the war. If we’re going after him because he violated UN sanctions, then the UN should try him. If its the geneva convention and humanity that he violated then the hague.

  99. Long journeys start with a single step, JAG. Wholesale conversion of the entire globe to America-worshipping is a pretty high bar to set. I’m going to go way out on a limb here, and say that better relations are preferable to worse relations, even if they aren’t perfect.

    Dan, how far back does the ban on those who “actively support(ed) Hussein” go? Not the 80s, you’d better hope.

    “By the logic of Joe, the War against Nazi Germany was illegitimate.” Say goodnight, Gracie.

    Scott asks, “Joe,

    Appearance of credibility to WHO? Who is the audience you are so concerned about appearing credible to? Is it the American people? Is it the families of victims of Islamic terrorism over the last, say 35 years? Who is it that you are trying to impress with your appearance of credibility?”

    Look, people like you are going to approve of whatever America does. People like Osama are going to disapprove of whatever America does. But there is a vast pool of people in between who are on the fence. It’s better to have them on our side. Soft power is important.

  100. Long journeys start with a single step, JAG

    Well, I guess the UN better start walking, then.

    Put simply, what is the United Nations willing to offer America and Iraq in exchange for our cooperation? What concessions is France willing to make? What wrongdoing is it willing to admit to? The answers to those questions are “nothing”, “nothing”, and “nothing”. They have no legal, moral, or actual authority over either us or Iraq, and are offering nothing to entice us to allow them to participate, so why is it in our interests to pretend that they should have any say in this matter at all?

    Oh, I get the fact that the French will like us more if we let the UN run the trial. And America will like the French more if they stop whoring themselves out to our enemies. Let’s see who gets lucky first.

    Dan, how far back does the ban on those who “actively support(ed) Hussein” go? Not the 80s, you’d better hope.

    Why had I “better hope” that? He’s going to be tried by the Iraqis, not by Russia, or France, or Denmark, or the United States, or any of the other nations who supported him at some point during the last 25 years.

    I can’t say I follow your “logic” here, though. You seem to be implying that since the United States sold Hussein 1% of his weaponry, we should let the people who sold him 90% of his weaponry help with the trial. A (weak) case could be made for excluding the United States on the grounds of “being too pro-Hussein”, but inviting in a bunch of folks who were vastly *more* pro-Hussein, and whose support continued even during the war that finally removed him from power (and which, quite frankly, continues to this day) is no way to fix that “conflict of interest”. 🙂

  101. Joe expressed points endlessly repeated elsewhere that need to be confronted:
    Somehow the US needs to:

    “1)improving our strained relations with other democratic republics and 2) having the verdict seen, even by lowly America-hating Frenchmen and Muslims, as legitimate.”

    Our relationships with France, Germany and Russia have been “strained” for the last 80 years or so, have they not? Regardless of administrations? So what, short of giving them control over all of our decisions, will miraculously convert them?
    And what form of trial can possibly be envisioned that will equally miraculously transform the opinions of the US among Muslims who hate our free (dare I say “liberal”)way of life?
    French leaders resent the US because we stand in the way of their exertion of power, no mere trial is going to change that historic fact.
    Those who resent US power and US freedom are not going to be dissuaded whether Dr. Dean, Hilary Clinton or Bush is President. To believe otherwise is to be completely ignorant of reality and history.

  102. “Put simply, what is the United Nations willing to offer America and Iraq in exchange for our cooperation? What concessions is France willing to make?”

    I don’t know. Let’s put it on the table, and start making some sausage.

    ‘I can’t say I follow your “logic” here, though.’ That’s because I’m not making an argument, just pointing out the obvious problem with the assertion that America has the right to try him, because France supported him at some point.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.