Showtrial in Baghdad

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Saddam Hussein’s trial in Baghdad has become a circus. The presiding judge refuses to return to court, and defense lawyers have been murdered.

What to make of this spectacle? Emotionally, it’s good to see the tyrant who terrorized so many on trial for his life. But morally and legally, Saddam’s trial is a travesty of justice. This is an old-fashioned Soviet-style show trial set up by U.S. occupation authorities.

Its goal is not to determine Saddam’s guilt or innocence, but to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq — which, by the way, was a blatant violation of international law.

The court lacks any legal basis, being created by the puppet regime installed by the U.S. after the invasion.

Saddam has no proper legal defense. Witnesses remain secret and beyond cross-examination. Defense witnesses risk murder by Shia hit squads.

Pre-trial publicity — the vast propaganda campaign by the U.S. to demonize Saddam — and Iraqi TV programs (controlled by U.S. authorities) about Saddam’s alleged crimes, would trigger a mistrial in any proper legal system.

In short, a kangaroo court, designed to find Saddam guilty and probably order his execution.

Dead dictators tell no tales. If allowed to fully testify, Saddam would reveal the whole sordid story of America’s long, intimate collaboration with his regime, and how the U.S. and British governments of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher encouraged, armed and financed Iraq to invade Iran.

Saddam is being tried for ordering a massacre in a small Shia village where he narrowly escaped assassination. He will not be tried for his worst crime, the invasion of Iran, that caused 1.5 million casualties on both sides.

Saddam’s regime ferociously repressed Kurdish tribes, and used poison gas against them — as it did against Iranian troops. But these attacks occurred while Iraq was fighting to the death against Iran, and its chronically rebellious Kurdish tribes had defected to the Iranian invaders.

Similarly, Saddam’s forces killed many Shia after George Bush Sr. called on them to rebel against Baghdad. Israel and Iran had been stirring up, arming and financing Kurdish rebels in Iraq for decades.

Under international law, Saddam had every right to fight rebels seeking to either overthrow Iraq’s government, or trying to secede. Across the border, Turkey waged similar war against its Kurdish rebels.

Recall that when Imperial Britain ruled Iraq, which it created to grab Mesopotamian oil, that saint of neoconservatives, Winston Churchill, ordered the RAF to use poison gas against "Kurds, Pathans, and other primitive tribesmen." When Iraqis rose in the 1920s against British rule, Her Majesty’s soldiers gunned down some 20,000.

Ironically, U.S. forces in Iraq are doing the same things Saddam’s thuggish regime did: Bombing and blasting rebels (this time Sunnis); holding 18,000 political prisoners; torturing and executing suspects. Uncle Sam is the new Saddam.

Saddam should face trial for his many crimes, but in a proper legal venue, under full western and international law. The trial should be moved at once to the UN tribunal at the Hague. A fair trial will establish an important international legal precedent.

Those citing the World War II Nuremberg trials as precedent for Baghdad’s kangaroo court should read the magisterial words of that court’s Chief Justice, Robert Jackson: "No political or economic situation can justify the crime of aggression." Please take note, President Cheney and VP Bush.

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada, is the author of War at the Top of the World. See his website.

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