Try Hussein -- And His Accomplices

Christmas is almost here -- the symbolic birthday of President Bush's favorite political philosopher. I was in D.C. when news first broke that "the Butcher of Baghdad" had been captured. I could picture Saddam with a bow on his head -- To: Dubya. From: Santa. And I had a vision of the president in the White House, his humble head bowed in prayer, asking himself: What Would Jesus Do?

Now, in our own legal system, accomplices can be held legally responsible for their role in the commission of a crime, before and after the fact, and in some cases be meted a penalty nearly as harsh as the sentence given the guilty defendant. What are the chances that'll happen in Saddam's trial?

William Blum, author of "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II," reminds us how "in 1963, the U.S. played a key role in the overthrow of Iraqi leader Gen. Abdul Karim Kassem, after an unsuccessful CIA assassination attempt against him. This led to the Ba'ath Party coming to power and eventually Saddam Hussein's control of the country."

Then, years later, during the Iraq-Iran war, the U.S. supplied Iraq not only with the ingredients to create biological and chemical weapons, but as the Washington Post reported at the time, with military intelligence that helped "calibrate" attacks against Iranian positions.

And don't forget that in 1983, Donald Rumsfeld went to Iraq where he publicly expressed Reagan administration support of Saddam's government -- and this at a time when reports began to surface that Saddam was engaging in chemical warfare.

Anas Shallal, co-founder of Iraqi Americans for Peaceful Alternatives and founder of the Mesopotamia Cultural Society, said last week that Saddam Hussein has come to symbolize many things in the Arab and Muslim world.
"He is seen as a hero, which speaks volumes about the deficit of leaders we have in the Arab world." But, she said, Saddam is "someone who has defied the U.S. and the West and their superior military. Photos of where he was hiding or with his mouth gaping open -- the image of vulnerability is eerie - belied that image that most have of Saddam."

And for these reasons, "it is critical that his trial be open, public and transparent. I am troubled that the U.S. government just got the right to edit Wesley Clark's testimony at The Hague. Getting the whole truth out in a trial of Hussein could mark the beginning of a solid healing process."

But as Marjorie Cohn, associate professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, points out, the new Iraqi tribunal was established with $75 million of U.S. money by the United States' handpicked Iraqi Governing Council. "Since the statute for the new Iraqi court was passed in secret, we do not know if it contains the due process guarantees enshrined in the International Criminal Court's statute," Cohn said.

And don't forget the economic post-war reality. Rania Masri, co-director of the Campaign to Stop the War Profiteers and End the Corporate Invasion of Iraq at the Institute for Southern Studies, reports: Wolfowitz's decree forces us all to ask the question again: Are these construction contracts for the benefit of Iraq, or are they political rewards, handed out to 'friends'? Is the reconstruction of Iraq the main objective at all?"

Masri also noted that weeks into the occupation of Iraq, while the Iraqi infrastructure was still in ruins, Paul Bremer removed all tariffs and trade restrictions, which directly undermined the Iraqi textile and poultry industries. Bremer has also imposed a 15 percent flat tax, and allowed 100 percent foreign ownership of nearly all Iraqi industries. "These economic structural changes, that are being imposed on the Iraqi population in violation of international law (namely, the Hague Regulation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions), reveal -- as did Wolfowitz's announcement -- that real reconstruction of Iraq is not the objective. Transforming the Iraqi economy for foreign ownership and foreign plunder is the main goal," Masri says.

I'm fairly certain that if Bush could speak to his favorite political philosopher, Jesus would voice reservations about the prospect of secret death tribunals and war profiteering.

All I want for Christmas is a fair and open trial for "the Butcher of Baghdad" and the thugs in D.C. who helped create him.
Sean Gonsalves wrote this column originally for the Cape Cod Times.

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