Trouble for Saddam's ReganBooks Deal

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On first blush, this sounds like easily pigeonholded Human Rights Watch nuttery. On another look, it sounds basically correct, doesn't it?

The trial of Saddam Hussein was so flawed that its verdict is unsound, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch says.

The former Iraqi leader was sentenced to death on 5 November after being convicted of crimes against humanity.

But HRW said it had documented "serious administrative, procedural and substantive legal defects" that meant he did not get a fair trial.

Some of that documentation:

Proceedings were marked by frequent outbursts by both judges and defendants.

Three defence lawyers were murdered, three judges left the five-member panel and the original chief judge was replaced.

Defence lawyers boycotted proceedings but HRW said court-appointed counsel that took their place lacked adequate training in international law.

In addition, important documents were not given to defence lawyers in advance, no written transcript was kept and paperwork was lost, said HRW.

The defence was also prevented from cross-examining witnesses and the judges made asides that pre-judged Saddam Hussein.

The trial was obviously a farce; it's being taken seriously in this country the same way a Ravens win that happens when the other team contracts diarrhea in the third quarter is still good enough for Ravens fans. We needed a win, damn it, and now we got one. The problem; since the unsuing trial played like a rejected episode of Night Court, the Arab world didn't take it very seriously at all.

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  1. Drastic times call for drastic measures. The Romanians did it right. You’ll note there are no calls for a retrial, no complaints about the fairness of the Ceausescus’ trial. The case was closed, the Romanians moved n.

  2. I don’t understand why American complicity in the gassing of the Kurds was never an issue in the trial. Weren’t we supplying Saddam with poison gas at the time?

  3. Why was there a trial? The United Nations tried, imprisoned and in a few cases executed Nazi war criminals based on documentary evidence alone, with no laywers, no proceding to speak of beyond giving the defendent a short time to introduce any mitigation evidence he might have on his behalf. In fact, if you held a high enough position in the Third Reich you were considered guilty by virtue of your position and nothing more. Now 60 years later, the Dave Weigals of the world knash their teeth because Saddam Huisain didn’t get to have the OJ trial.

  4. the Arab world didn’t take it very seriously at all

    Credibility is sooOOoOoOoOoooo pre-9/11.

  5. I heard that Saddam was gonna be on a reality show with the runaway bride.

  6. Like the Arabs are such sticklers for procedural due process.

    The problem with this trial is that they felt the need to try to give him a trial that would have been appropriate in the Hague. Iraq isn’t Holland, though.

    The trial should have been a two-day affair – On day one, evidence of war crimes (in documentary form) is entered into the record. On day two, Saddam’s identity and role as head of state during the war crimes is confirmed.

    We asked for this botched theater by treating this trial as something it was not – an inquiry into disputed facts. None of the relevant facts are disputed in any meaningful way, so a summary proceeding would have been appropriate.

    Really, its a shame nobody thought to toss a grenade down that spider hole back in the day.

  7. Ha! Was there ever an attempt at credibility? I wonder why they had a trial at all. I don’t care if you think he should be hanged immediately, jailed for life, set free, given back power in Iraq, etc, you have to admit that the trial was a complete farce. You knew he would be found guilty, and you knew that the U.S.’s complicity in the gas attacks would not be an issue. Why have issues when you’re going to hang the guy anyway?

  8. “you knew that the U.S.’s complicity in the gas attacks would not be an issue”

    U.S. complicity? What were they supposed to do invade and stop him?

  9. Moreover, even if they were complicit, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean, are you seriously arguing Lamar that that somehow makes Huisain less culpable for ordering them?

  10. John,

    Lay off the O’Reilly, dude. Concern over preventing cross-examination and prejudicial comments by court officials is a far cry from longing for Judge Ito.

    Lamar,

    Are you gonna bark about the French, Russian, German, and Egyptian complicity in his atrocities? If you’re going to implicate the US for selling him a weapon when he uses it against an unanticipated target, what about all those other weapons sold to him by other countries that he used on the Kurds and Shiites?

  11. “John,

    Lay off the O’Reilly, dude. Concern over preventing cross-examination and prejudicial comments by court officials is a far cry from longing for Judge Ito.”

    Historically leaders of murderous regimes have not been accorded those kinds of protections. My point is why now? No one seems to be crying over the fact that the many Nazis were convicted without anything resembling a trial, so why is Huisain somehow special?

  12. Joseph,

    The issue of American complicity was not brought up because he was not being tried for gassing the Kurds. They picked a lesser charge, of having some 50 people murdered in retaliation for an attempt on his life. Plenty enough to string him up on, but does not bring up issues. Part of it obviously is that we don’t want America implicated, but I wonder if also we don’t want to implicate a larger group of Iraqi’s we may want to work with in the future.

  13. Nice to know that the search for the truth didn’t get in the way of procedure.

    Only in America.

    Oh, wait………

  14. he Arab world didn’t take it very seriously at all

    and what sort of trial would the so-called ‘arab world’ take seriously? a sharia court?

  15. Whoa, the U.S. sold Saddam weapons whose use would likely lead to war crimes (gas attacks are frowned upon). We wanted him to use the weapons, just not on the Kurds. What do you think we sold them for, our health or something? I’m not saying that our complicity (or anybody else’s) mitigates Saddam’s guilt, but any trial of a criminal would naturally cover the conspiracy to commit the crime as well as the crime itself. That’s just normal criminal law. A.B. explains it well. They didn’t go for the gas attacks charges because it was just too prickly for the U.S. One note to Rimfax: I’m not sure it matters whether the U.S. anticipated that the poison gas sold Iraq would be used on the Kurds or Iranians, i.e., I’m not sure it makes us look better that we wanted them to use it on the Iranians.

  16. I’m just curious about something. Does anyone have real evidence that the U.S. sold chemical weapons to Saddam? I don’t mean blogosphere accusations but hard credilble evidence.

    Anxiously awaiting a credible response, J sub D.

  17. While there may be plenty to criticize about the way the Nuremburg trials of 1945-46 were conducted, the idea that they were some sort of kangaroo court is preposterous. The “documentary evidence” was overwhelming (SS documents alone filled 20 boxcars!), plenty of eyewitnesses were called, and the defendents were fully represented by legal counsel. The procedings were covered under Western codes of military justice, and I don’t recall any judges or lawyers being assasinated during the trials. The people conducting the trials were very aware that they were setting international legal precedents, and conducted themselves accordingly.

    Saddam is a vicious thug, but his trial was a farce. I personally have no problem with seeing him hanged, but the shoddiness of the legal procedings reflects very badly on the US and its Iraqi clients. The trial that was supposed to show how Iraq was re-entering the community of nations instead highlighted the bankruptcy of the neocon vision for the Middle East.

  18. J sub D,

    You can check the Congressional Record.

  19. It’s interesting how so many people who argue that the US needs to be “credible” in its dealings with rogue states don’t seem to understand what being credible is. If we had said we were going to string up Saddam from the nearest lamp post the Arab world would have smiled pleasantly and wished us good day.

    But we didn’t. We made all kinds of crazy promises we really didn’t try very hard to keep. Credibility is more than simply acting tough. It is the willingness and ability to do precisely what you say you’re going to do. The Saddam trial was a farce because we were unwilling to impose discipline on the process. We could have, but we didn’t. Arabs are taking note: Americans are less devoted to liberal government and its legalisms than they claim.

    Iraq is a farce because we are simply UNABLE to impose discipline upon our clients (and this is the most common failing in US foreign policy, one that other great powers simply do not share). Arabs are taking note: US power is fundamentally limited.

    Having made the promise that Saddam would get a fair trial, we committed a first-order error in screwing it up, public and messy, for all the world to see. It makes us look weak. But the tough-talkers are too simple to understand that people place their faith in those that are reliable, not merely well-armed.

  20. I’ve wondered about that, too. I’ve read that US companies sold Iraq some of the material and/or equipment used to make some nerve agents, and that the lack of difficulty the Iraqis encountered in getting the necessary export licenses implies the Reagan administration knew about the sales, but I’ve never read that the US government directly sold the stuff to the Iraqis.

  21. Actually, Lamar, your first link only says that the US gave many dual-use items to Iraq that were likely used to make chemical weapons. Your second link appears to have nothing to do with chemical weapons at all.

    A strict answer to J sub D’s question is, “No.”

  22. Saddam should have been released.

    Outside of a Shia mosque in Basra.

    Just after Friday prayers.

    With the time and place announced in advance.

    Problem solved.

  23. “A strict answer to J sub D’s question is, ‘No.'”

    Yeah, I know. You folks will stop at nothing short of triple authenticated, time-stamped, multi-party, 35 millimeter technicolor evidence that you happened to also see with your own eyes. Sure, OK, “Dual Use.” Uses: (1) Gas Iranians and (2) gas Kurds.

  24. A strict answer to J sub D’s question is, “No.”

    Yeah, but the fact that the Reagan administration aided Saddam in the biological weapons category (WMDs) is equally criminal. Only a fool argues on technicalities while ignoring the larger issue. I will go to my room now, humbled.

    J sub D

  25. I clicked on the comments link with the intention of posting something to the effect that Saddam’s trial was a model of due process in comparison with that of Nicolae Ceau?escu, only to find that the very first comment here applauds that judicial abortion, apparently not in jest.

  26. Seamus

    Ceausescu’s trial was a farce, yes.

    The understanding I got at the time was that the people who did it wanted him dead before anyone loyal to him could rally to him and start a counter-revolt. [I can still remember my Romanian refugee friends almost singing “the anti-christ died on Christmas day!”]

    I think the point was that no-one doubts that Hussein or Ceausescu deserve to go to the wall and that the “trials” were essentially useless pieces of theater.

  27. I clicked on the comments link with the intention of posting something to the effect that Saddam’s trial was a model of due process in comparison with that of Nicolae Ceau?escu, only to find that the very first comment here applauds that judicial abortion, apparently not in jest.

    I would venture that most revolutions don’t involve a lot of legal decorum while the fighting is still going on. Can anyone name an exception that proves the rule?

  28. Whatever happened to the good old days when murderous tyrants still had the decency to commit suicide rather than let the enemy have satisfaction?

  29. the other team contracts diarrhea in the third quarter is still good enough for Ravens fans.

    Blow it out your ass, sore loser :).

  30. Whatever happened to the good old days when murderous tyrants still had the decency to commit suicide rather than let the enemy have satisfaction?

    I would settle for the kind of suicide you often see in the Middle East – several shots to the chest, followed by one to the back of the head.

  31. The gassing of the Kurds is the focus of Saddam’s second trial, which is already underway.

    Various groups that were stomped by Saddam are getting their own trials.

    Lamar, your links do not show what youpurport them to. Sorry.

  32. IMHO, the Saddam trials are for each oppressed group to get their greivances on record, sort of like SA’s “truth and reconciliation” hearings, except Saddam gets hanged at the end.

    This was also a major reason for the Nuremberg Trials.

  33. “Lamar, your links do not show what youpurport them to. Sorry.”

    They show that the US sold biological agents to Iraq, something which nobody denies. What did I “purport” them to say? And if my links don’t “say” what they should, are you denying the substance of the assertion that chemical and biological agents were sold to the Iraqi’s during the Iran-Iraq war? WTFIYPIL?

  34. Lamar: I understood you to mean that your links supported the idea that the US sold chemical weapons to Iraq, which were then used on the Kurds.

    They show that we sold germs to Iraq.

  35. “Saddam is a vicious thug, but his trial was a farce. I personally have no problem with seeing him hanged”

    I suspect it will be televised, which means that Saddam’s last moment on earth will be captured on tape — you know, when he shits his pants.

    BTW — here is why the Iraq war was and alway will be worth it: Uday and Qusay are dead and because they are, the world is and will be a much better place

  36. “Now 60 years later, the Dave Weigals of the world knash their teeth because Saddam Huisain didn’t get to have the OJ trial.”

    “The problem with this trial is that they felt the need to try to give him a trial that would have been appropriate in the Hague. Iraq isn’t Holland, though.”

    “and what sort of trial would the so-called ‘arab world’ take seriously? a sharia court?”

    “I would settle for the kind of suicide you often see in the Middle East – several shots to the chest, followed by one to the back of the head.”

    Remember when Iraq, as remade by movement conservatives, was going to serve as a model for the democratic revolution which was going to be sweeping the Middle East? John, RC, does that ring any bells?

    Here’s a thought: maybe people who don’t demonstrate the slightest concern about liberalism or democracy here in the US shouldn’t be taken terribly seriously when they proclaim themselves to be the defenders of liberalism and democracy in the Middle East.

  37. The report makes clear, if English is your first language, that the biological agents were used “to further Iraq’s production of chemical weapons.” Other reports show that we knew Saddam was using chemical weapons, we sold him the bio agents, and our military planners continued to provide him with battle plans and intelligence. Check the link to the Congressional Quarterly as well. What the hell was Reagan doing for Iraq? Providing Hello Kitty dolls to boost morale?

    Instead of nitpicking at my points, why don’t you make your overall assertion, instead of hiding behind irrelevant distinctions? Again, the report said that the materials sold to Iraq were used in furthering it’s chemical weapons program. Your distinction is therefore irrelevant. Though giving Saddam germs is, apparently, totally cool with you.

  38. Giving Saddam germs is not cool with me. They are generally legitimate medical and agricultural items, though I would not trust many countries with them, including Iraq.

    Germs have nothing to do with the production of any of the chemical weapons Iraq used against either the Kurds or the Iranians, though. Apples and oranges.

  39. Here’s the quote: “During that hearing it was learned that U.N. inspectors identified many U.S.- manufactured items exported pursuant to licenses issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce that were used to further Iraq’s chemical and nuclear weapons development and missile delivery system development programs.”

    This doesn’t limit the inquiry to germs only. It states clearly our goods furthered Iraq’s chemical weapons development. Your focus on germs is irrelavent, as I said.

  40. I’m focussing entirely on the claim that we sold chemical weapons to Iraq, which I thought you were defending. I’m sorry if I misunderstood that.

    This is not the same as claiming that we sold industrial good to Iraq that they used in their chemical weapons program.

    Conflating the two is like saying that Granger’s Farm Supply sold a bomb to Tim McVey.

  41. Gotta call BS on that last analogy. We sold them dual purpose items with full knowledge that they were using them. They were at war, remember?

  42. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s closer to the truth than “The US sold chemical weapons to Iraq”.

    They bought fairly mundane industrial and agricultural products from many western countries, and put it all to use to make fairly simple weapons like sarin and mustard gas.

  43. for example:

    West German companies were some of the main suppliers for Iraq’s major weapons projects, including its nuclear weapons programme, chemical weapons facilities, ballistic missiles and long-range ‘supergun’ development. German companies are said to have contributed to the Iraqi government’s weapons programme since the mid-1970s. According to the 17 December 2002 edition of the German daily, Tageszeitung, some German companies continued to do business with Iraq right up until 2001. This would have been a clear breach of the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990 after it invaded Kuwait.

    According to Tageszeitung, German companies comprise more than half of the total number of institutions listed in Iraq’s 12,000-page weapons report to the UN in December 2002. The newspaper said it had seen a copy of the original Iraqi dossier that was vetted for sensitive information by US officials before being given to the five permanent Security Council members.

    http://www.janes.com/defence/news/jcbw/jcbw030417_1_n.shtml

    Before the 1991 Gulf War, at least 20 countries were accused of involvement in building up the technological basis for different Iraqi weapons programs, in particular the chemical weapons program. In December 2002, the Iraqi government submitted a 12,000-page dossier to the UN naming companies from the UK, France, Russia, the USA and China as suppliers of weapons technology to Iraq.

    http://web.amnesty.org/pages/ttt4-article_7-eng

  44. Trying to spread the blame? German companies don’t mean much when the products found were of US Manufacture. That’s sort of the point.

    We knew Saddam was using chemical weapons as our own Commerce Department licensed the sale of the goods used to make those weapons. We turned a blind eye because the enemy was Iran. So Saddam didn’t buy mustard gas off the shelf. Is it your position that this is a useful exculpation of US policy in the 1980’s?

  45. I’m not spreading the blame, the 20 countries that sold him goods spread it themselves when they did it. Even then, it is not an accurate statement to say that they sold him chemical weapons.

    Feel free to cherry pick.

  46. We knew Saddam was using chemical weapons as our own Commerce Department licensed the sale of the goods used to make those weapons.

  47. We knew Saddam was using chemical weapons when Donald Rumseld went to Iraq as Ronald Reagan’s Special Envoy.

    He brought with him targetting information for the Iraqi military, which was used to plan chemical weapons strikes on Iranian forces.

  48. U.S. complicity? What were they supposed to do invade and stop him?

    That’s what you’ve led us to believe in other situations John. That part of the reason why we had every right to invade and take him out was because he used poison gas on his own citizens. Are you really going to sit there and say that it didn’t become a legitimate justification until just a few years ago?

    Not that you’ll, y’know, respond to this. You always ignore accusations you can’t BS your way out of.

  49. The consensus seems to be that Saddam should die, but every dictator in the world holds onto power by killing people. How many innocent people is the minimum for going from exercising soverign rights to war crimes?

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