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Saddam Trial: Exploring the Etymology of Hate

Exploring the Etymology of Hate The Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) had little option but to oblige its masters, the Bush administration, which wanted the announcement of the final judgment in the Dujail case before the US Congressional elections of November 7. After all, that court owed its status, indeed, its very existence, to the United States of America

SADDAM TRIAL

Exploring theEtymology of Hate

T
he Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) had little option but to oblige its masters, the Bush administration, which wanted the announcement of the final judgment in the Dujail case before the US Congressional elections of November 7. After all, that court owed its status, indeed, its very existence, to the United States of America’s 2003 war of aggression against and subsequent illegal occupation of Iraq.

Prisoner-of-war former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and seven associates had been on trial since October 2005 on charges of killing 148 persons of the shia town of Dujail, close to the border with Iran, allegedly as revenge for an attempt on his life in July 1982, in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war. A fair trial was important, not merely as a matter of principle, but because it was important to establish a pattern for further trials in the future – legal, fair, independent and impartial. But how could one have even expected an instrument of contemporary US neo-con imperial policy and practice like the IST to deliver such an outcome?

Saddam Hussein has now been sentenced to death in the Dujail case, subject of course to appeal. The defence lawyers had not been allowed to get hold of important documents seized by the US, nor were they able to locate appropriate witnesses, the latter because of the atmosphere of widespread fear and violence prevailing in Iraq. It is surprising that the IST did not even order a review of the then (1982-85) court records relating to the Dujail case; nor did the defence lawyers have the opportunity to access these records. The president of the then court was also one of the defendants in the present case, but his pleas to produce those court records, which he claimed would establish the bona fides of the proceedings then, were dismissed by the IST’s chief judge.

Overall, the IST seems to have misrepresented the context, the events and the circumstances of Dujail, which need to be recalled. The Iran-Iraq war was underway; the loyalty of large sections of Iraqi people to the government was uncertain; the Dawa Party, then supported by Iran, threatened the government; the 148 persons had confessed (admitted their guilt) to either participating or providing support in the assassination attempt and related hostile acts in the Dujail area in July 1982; the offence was one of treason for which the death penalty was mandatory; Saddam, as president under Iraqi law, reviewed and approved the orders of execution; and, according to the defence lawyers, although he had ordered the investigation into the assassination attempt there was no evidence presented which proved his intervention or interference with the then investigations or in the judicial proceedings at the time.

Clearly, the judgment in the Dujail case has been inspired by the present political dispensation in Iraq. In the elections under US occupation, essentially only those opposed to the former government were in a position to seek office. The Dawa Party took full advantage of this opportunity as reflected in the member-composition of the new parliament and among those in the highest echelons of political office – three persons in the prime ministerial office since the elections, including the present one, are members of that party. That very party had been engaged in acts, which by present US definition would be deemed terrorist, against the Baathist government of president Saddam Hussein during the last decade of its rule. Now placed in power, thanks to the US aggression against and illegal occupation of Iraq, the Dawa Party is being vengeful and is exacting revenge. Concurrently, a coalition of sunni leaders considers Saddam Hussein a symbol of the resistance to the illegal occupation of Iraq and supports his reclaiming the presidential office.

In such circumstances, if Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants, who are now in appeal against their sentences, are eventually confirmed guilty and transferred to the custody of their avowed enemies in the present US-backed Iraq regime, a bloody civil war will most probably ensue, with devastating consequences for the Iraqi people. Clearly, an appropriate agency of the United Nations, like the UN Human Rights Council should be empowered to review the legality and the fairness of the IST and its actions and, simultaneously, a body like the International Court of Justice should be handed a brief to advise on the legality of the Dujail trial. After all, not only is the legality of the IST questionable; it also stands wide open to the charge that it is neither impartial nor independent. And, so far, four defence lawyers have been kidnapped, tortured and executed.

As has been commented upon, the IST verdict in the Dujail case smacks of victor’s justice for the US and its protégés. We might like to add that like Josef K in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Saddam Hussein seemed to know that the (IST) judges considered him guilty even when the trial had barely begun. Surely this calls for an exploration of the etymology of hate in the throat of the beast that is US imperialism. EPW

Economic and Political Weekly November 11, 2006

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