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An Iraqi appeals court upheld Saddam’s death sentence, and the AP reports that he has been handed over to the Iraqi government for execution within the next 24 hours.  The inexorable slide toward execution for Saddam Hussein, and irrelevance and disgrace for George Bush, proceeds apace.  Saddam’s guilty verdict and certain execution will neither result in vindication for Bush’s policies nor "open the doors of hell" in Iraq, as Saddam’s defense attorneys claim.  The bombing of Samarra’s golden shrine blew those doors off their hinges nearly a year ago, and Bush’s ability to impact events evaporates more each day.  

I could write a scathing editorial about US manipulation of Saddam’s trial, but it’s been done.  I could write a diary on the horrors and mechanisms of the death penalty, but that's been done.  Rather, this diary is an attempt to understand the trial from the perspective of one of the appeals court judges.  This is a biased perspective to be sure, but there are no neutral perspectives in Iraq, at least when it comes to Saddam.  A few months ago, I went to Baghdad with a friend who has an interest in transitional justice and many contacts with Iraqi and US officials.  While I was there, I met with Taha Baban, one of the judges who just ruled on Saddam’s appeal.  This diary is intended to present Saddam’s trial from his perspective, examine his biases and background, and to comment a little on the uses and abuses of Iraq’s trial of the century.  This diary is based on notes I took last August.  

***

The half empty Iraqi Airlines jet landed at Baghdad International Airport, and the heat hit us like a hammer when we stepped out onto the tarmac.  The temperature would rise to 118 degrees later that day, and the low altitude and dense, dust-laden air holds the heat in at night like a blanket.  Baghdad might be the hottest capital city on earth.  How people survive a summer without electricity is beyond my comprehension.    

The terminal was cooler.  My friend is an academic who looks from a distance as if he could be Iraqi and is shockingly unconcerned with security.  All it takes to get into trouble here is one person with malevolent intent and a cell phone, but my friend claimed his luggage, and strode out in the crowd to look for his contacts as if he was at JFK.  I stood out of sight behind a column with a fluorescent sign that said "State Company for Delegates Transport (Rent Car Office)".  US based relief workers like me do not have the same access and security benefits extended to military contractors or private security firms.  This is both a curse and a blessing.  I could not function if I had to operate under the same constraints as a diplomat or contractor.  On the other hand, access to these benefits can occasionally be a good thing, as the trip from the airport to the international zone is quite unnerving.  We arranged protection through a political advisor to President Talabani, and rode in a ministry vehicle followed by a police car with sirens blaring.  Soon were at the gates of the International Zone, a.k.a. the Green Zone.  We checked in to the al-Rashid Hotel, which used to feature a mosaic of the first President Bush on the floor, placed so everyone had to step on it when entering the hotel.  The mosaic was gone, along with most of the business. Some tribal leaders were there for a meeting with al-Maliki on security, but we requested cheap rooms and were the only guests on the entire fourth floor.  Early in the war, a rocket or tank shell punctured the room down the hall.  Hot air poured in past the bent rebar and shattered concrete, and thin layer of dust covered every surface.  The hotel is under new and austere management, and the posters of Imam Ali hung discretely in the back offices are yet another sign of the winner-take-all mentality in Baghdad.  

Judge Baban came by as evening fell.  He’s a thin man in his mid-70’s, dressed formally in a suit and a tie.  He vaguely resembles Mark Twain, with his big mane of white hair and large Victorian moustache.  The judge has a similarly sly sense of humor and asked the hotel manager for a shot of whiskey.  When the hotel manager frowned and said they did not serve alcohol, the judge said "We’ll be in hell soon enough, why you make us go out and suffer the heat now?"  The manager did not laugh.  

We climbed into the Judge’s old white Fiat and drove around the Green Zone in search of the Blue Star restaurant.  In 2004, the IZ was vibrant and filled with people, and there was a sense of intense - if pointless - activity.  There were plenty of Iraqi-run businesses.  Then the US issued orders forbidding official personnel from going to local restaurants.  It was never clear whether this was a precaution against suicide bombings or food poisoning, but to the Iraqis who work and live in the Green Zone, it is one more grievance, one more insult, one more deliberate act to cut them off from their livelihoods.  

Now, nobody was walking around and the streets were nearly deserted.  We passed a few US soldiers running to stay in shape. It’s so hot that plants were turning yellow, not from lack of water, but from cell damage.   A group of Humvees came up behind us, equipped with improvised "sweepers" designed to set off detonating mechanisms a fraction of a second early.  They were either going out on patrol or returning.  Soldiers flashed their headlights and gesticulated for us to get out of the way, but the judge kept driving his fragile little car down the middle of the road.  This made me nervous; you either want to be riding with the US soldiers, or you want to be very far away from them.  You never want to be a bystander, and you especially don’t want to be a passenger in a strange car blocking their movement.  The humvees speed past us.  

We look in vain for the Blue Star restaurant, but can’t find it.  We settle instead for Chinese.  The last Chinese restaurant in Baghdad is sandwiched in between two hospitals, very near to the main US embassy.   It’s almost impossible to find the narrow walkway between the concrete blast walls, and we would have missed it except for a small black spray-painted arrow.  The walkway is about a yard wide, and we walk over broken concrete, wires, trash and chicken bones, back for about 50 meters, until the walls open out on a small grassy courtyard with date palms and plastic lawn furniture.  The clientele includes the odd relief worker, journalist or Iraqi government official, and those few embassy staff who, through burnout or rebellion, no longer feel constrained by rules.  

We sit down and a boy of about ten comes up to the table.  The judge asks him what sort of Chinese food they have, and the boy says "the cook left last week".  The judge laughs.  "I never taste Chinese food for 70 years and now the cook quit?"  The boy brings us kebab and beers instead.

We start talking about the trials.  The judge sees the trials as sort of an exegesis of the mountains of captured documents, as a way of systematically and chronologically exposing the two worst decades of Ba’ath rule for Iraq and the world.  The first trial on the Dujail massacre is intended to be the slam-dunk trial, the one with the solid documentary evidence linking Saddam with specific killings.  The second trial is to focus on the Anfal campaign against the Kurds (this trial is currently in progress).   The judge felt that a third trial should be held to address the abuses against the Marsh Arabs in 1991.   He believes and hopes that there will be three trials in total, ordered to provide a structured exposition of the gradually increasing scale and severity of Ba’athist violence.  This was certainly the way the trials were at first envisioned back in 2003, when everyone felt that there was nearly unlimited time and resources to investigate and prepare the cases, and US and UK advisors created the Regime Crimes Liaison Office.  Now, there’s pressure from everyone – from the US, from the political parties, from the local media – to speed things up and be done with it.  This annoys the judge.  "What’s the hurry?  Saddam is finished.  He can never rule again."  

So, five months later, what is driving the rush?  Is it the State of the Union Address or is this event timed to divert attention from Bush’s plan for escalation?  Probably.  However, there are internal Iraqi forces at play, too.  Once Saddam is transferred out of US custody, his life will be measured in hours, not days.  Conspiracy theories thrive in Baghdad’s fetid atmosphere, and more than a few Iraqis want Saddam dead to prevent any possibility, however unrealistic, of the US reinstating him.  (Judge Baban laughed at that suggestion.)  The Shia’ political parties in particular feel they will derive legitimacy from executing Saddam.  Some feel that killing him will demoralize the insurgents, while others suffered so much under the Ba’ath that they just want to kill him whether or not it incites the insurgency.  There is anther internal reason unrelated to US pressure.  Saddam is on trial along with other senior officials for ordering the use of poison gas and mass disappearances of Kurdish civilians in the "Anfal" campaign.  Talabani’s Kurdish constituency overwhelmingly favors delaying the execution until after the current trial, which rightly or wrongly, they view as the only way to get the Arab world’s media to pay any attention to what they went through in the 1980’s.  On the other hand, Shia’ politicians may well see a quick execution as a way of sending a signal that they are in charge, and they are tired of caving in to constant Kurdish demands.  With so many reasons to kill him off and so few reasons to keep him alive, Judge Baban feared back in August that politics will cut the trials short.  

We ask the judge for his opinion on the death penalty.  Judge Baban may be a hanging judge, but he is a disarmingly cheerful and pleasant one.  He is against the death penalty for all but "regime crimes", but says that both Iraqi culture and the traditional interpretation of Islam make him a distinct minority, and that outright abolition will be difficult.  His perspective is similar to that of Jalal Talabani, who refuses to sign death warrants but delegated his power to vice president Abd al-Mahdi, thus permitting the executions of about 40 convicted "terrorists" over the last year.  Judge Baban refuses to be pinned down on whether he will uphold the death penalty, but he’s the most liberal judge on the panel and it’s clear that Saddam has no real chance.

Judges in Iraq either suffered under Saddam or worked for him, so I ask Judge Baban whether a neutral panel of judges can even be found in Iraq.  I ask him whether his own personal history will have a bearing on the appeals process.  "Everybody in this country has scars, and nobody is neutral, but I shall do my best to separate my emotions from my job and follow the law faithfully."  This is a politician’s answer, and Judge Baban’s objectivity is particularly suspect given his history in the opposition.  His ancestor founded the city of Suleymaniya in 1784, and for the next fifty years, they ruled a quasi-independent Kurdish emirate that stretched from near the present day border of Turkey to within a hundred miles of Baghdad.  He went to college, became a socialist and a friend of Jalal Talabani, and joined the Kurdish movement in 1963, after law school.  He spent the next five decades oscillating between the Iraqi courts during peace, and working as Talabani’s legal advisor in the mountains during war.  Remarkably, he was arrested only once and proved his legal skills by talking his way out of jail.  Judge Baban is not a torture survivor, which makes him a slightly more objective choice than Saddam’s trial judge - who was a Kurdish torture survivor from Hallabja.

We stop talking.  The sweat pours off us in rivulets and the first round of beer bottles are empty.  The judge calls the boy and says in Arabic, "Beloved little one, bring us more beers".  One is plenty for me – I don’t much like beer, but appreciate the irony of being in Iraq and still having to resist peer pressure to drink alcohol.  

I ask him about whether he thinks Saddam’s trial will be perceived as legitimate in the Arab world outside of Iraq, and whether it will have any effect on the Arab street.   I suspect that his ethnicity and his background prevent him from appreciating the extent to which Saddam is still perceived as a hero and the trial a farce.  He concedes that the occupation undermines the legitimacy of the trial, but the notion that this is a show trial put on by the Americans strikes him as absurd, even given the very considerable US logistic, research and financial support.  This is a major disconnect.  Indeed, Saddam impacted the lives of individual Iraqis like Judge Baban so deeply that it is difficult for them to understand that Saddam was ever popular, or remains popular, among a section of the Arab street.  The trial was supposed to address this issue, to show Saddam for what he was, to de-legitimize him before the rest of the world.  One of the Judge’s main regrets is that the trial is failing with respect to this goal, and that Saddam remains as popular as ever outside of Iraq.   Those on trial will be handed over by the Americans and executed by an Iraqi government largely funded and supported by the U.S.  This stark reality appears to the Arab world as a form of victor’s justice, as if judges like Taha Baban are simply toying with the defendants the way a cat plays with its prey.  I am convinced the reality is more complicated than this, that Saddam was always more popular among those who didn’t have to live with him, but the PR battle in the Arab world is lost.  

I ask the judge if executing people, given the current environment, loses meaning and just becomes additional gratuitous violence.  Do official killings merely add to the already overwhelming death and suffering in Iraq, and will a few more additional deaths do anything to assuage the pain Iraq has suffered for so long?  His short answer seems to be that vengeance can’t be entirely prevented in Iraq, but it can be minimized and systematized.  He wants the trials to show another way of managing the vast trauma people have been through, and suggests that executing some might make long jail sentences for others more palatable.  "Saddam would be treated in ‘Amara or in Kurdistan for that matter, exactly as he treated the people there.  The people would pull him apart with their bare hands if they were able.  The people need to see a process continue, to understand that it is not for them to take their justice directly by their own hand."  

In a way, I think Judge Baban genuinely sees the trial as a way to put brackets on the violence of the Saddam era, to make it into something manageable and understandable, to show it in its horror but also its banality, it’s coarse ignorance, and its futility.  The play will end the only way it can, by deaths of the defendants.  Three years ago, his hope was that this ending would also contribute toward the end of violence in general.  Now the Judge has come to see Saddam as a product of Iraqi culture, as a symptom of a sickness, rather than the cause.  The sickness remains, and this land – which has always been known for its stark contrast between sublime art and science on the one hand, and extreme brutality on the other, seems to be reliving its tragic history again.  Perhaps culture plays a part, but colonialism, arbitrary boundaries, and the monopoly of oil wealth by a small clique played no small part too.  

The conversation turns into a meditation on violence.  It used to be that the violence in Iraq was more predictable, more focused, equally cruel but engineered with the same deliberate precision and central planning that constructed vast monuments that dot the landscape of the Green Zone.  The sense of overwhelming fear that Saddam once inspired has receded, but something even worse now confronts everyone – the diffusion of the tremendous violence and rage of this society into millions of separate, disconnected incidents, by thousands of actors.  The violence is fractured and spreading like a contagion, as bad or worse than before, but far less predictable.  The uncertainty about who is behind these incidents, the fear in each community that the other community will gain absolute control and inflict another 30 years of sorrow and loss on them, the sense that in this horrible violence some find opportunity and that the worst will rise, not the best – all of this inspires a sense of dread.  It is this unruly, unregulated violence that frightens the Judge and makes him worried for the future.  "I cannot understand how the insurgents and militias are so devoid of human pity".  He is disgusted by the barbarism.  It seems like splitting hairs as I write this here, but putting a rope around the neck of a convicted official and hanging him seemed to the judge as a very different matter than the random ethnic and sectarian violence on the street, to the point that he was unable to really compare the two.  He slides back into the usual refrain, heard so often in the north – in which "the Arabs" themselves are solely responsible for the current level of violence.   "People say the Kurdistan government is strong, but I say it is weak!  The people are peaceful and that is why the government works."  I protest this as an oversimplification.  "The Kurds had their own civil war in ’96, remember? Maybe Kurdistan is peaceful now because you had 15 years to establish a government. I don’t think you can blame this on being Arab".  He reluctantly agrees.  

As we talk, the conversation interrupted frequently by helicopters landing nearby.  They fly in without any lights at all, like big insects zooming toward the floodlights of the landing zone.  Sweat pours off of me.  The air is dead still, except when the helicopters land – their rotors move so much air that a breeze stirs after they pass.  I feel guilty for enjoying it. We are right next to the trauma center, and these helicopters are bearing wounded American and Iraqi soldiers.  I have no idea if something happened or if it was just a routine night, but at least a dozen helicopters landed while we talked.  

I ask the judge what will happen when the Americans leave.  

"There will be a massacre."  

"Like Yugoslavia?"  

"Yugoslavia is the soup!"  

In other words, Yugoslavia is only the starter before the main dish; that Iraq will dwarf Yugoslavia in violence.  I’m inclined to agree with him, although it’s far from clear that the US can prevent this from happening.  He is concerned not that Iraq split into two or three pieces, but into a thousand.  He fears that the worst will inexorably rise to the top, and that this fatal cycle of violence will only result in another version of Saddam.  

As the evening ends, a sense of melancholy pervades the atmosphere.  The judge is lonely.  His wife died ten years ago, he is an old man, and his children are grown. They do not visit him in Baghdad because it is too dangerous.  Another judge lost his only son to kidnappers, who collected a ransom but killed the young man anyway.  He stays alone in a small apartment in the Green Zone provided to him by the Iraqi government, and will return permanently to Suleymaniya once the appeals process is concluded.  He doubts he will see Baghdad again.  

I finished my business and left Baghdad a few days later on a flight that was packed with people.  I pushed my way through the mob and shoved an excessively polite South Korean military attaché through the gate in front of me, eager that neither one of us be left alone in the terminal at night.  As I write this, I wonder whether Judge Baban has already pushed his own way through the queue in Baghdad Airport and joined the thousands of others leaving the city.

Postscript, five months later:  Although I can’t quite bring myself to oppose Saddam’s execution, I can't support it either and take no solace from what will take place shortly in Baghdad.  My own exposure to violence is minimal compared to most Iraqis, but I’m still unable to come to terms with what I saw in 1991, when I first came to Iraq - the caked blood on the basement floors of the security buildings, the terrified population, the thousands of destroyed villages, the man covered by cigarette burns over every inch of his body.  I cannot feel much empathy for Saddam or even quite bring myself to recognize our shared humanity.  He leaves me feeling deadened inside, and the actual fear that he once inspired – which was quite real in the early 90’s – has dissipated.  The anger isn’t even there.  Perhaps someday I will feel the same about Bush.  Perhaps the anger will be gone, but not the regret for what has been lost, or the sadness that cruelty and ignorance so often prevail.  

Originally posted to ivorybill on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 11:23 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The whole "trial" is a farce. The war is a farce, (30+ / 0-)

    except that many people have died. For what? For Saddam  to be summarily despatched to his maker? Or for the chimp to bask in some kind of fast glory? The whole thing sickens me!

    The essence of Liberalism is an attempt to secure a social order not based on irrational dogma. Bertrand Russell

    by Asinus Asinum Fricat on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 11:35:46 AM PST

  •  I was hoping Saddam would outlive Bush (6+ / 0-)

    since Bush is responsible for far more deaths.

    Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. - Philip K. Dick

    by VoiceFromTheOuterWorld on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 11:36:02 AM PST

  •  Fascinating. Your diary is so well-written, (22+ / 0-)

    and so powerful, and I'm grateful for the glimpse into the real Iraq, and into this Iraqi's mind.  Thank you, ivorybill.  

  •  Fantastic diary (6+ / 0-)

    I really appreciate you sharing this with us. It's very insightful. Recommended.

  •  Saddam's sentence and execution's timing (11+ / 0-)

    You've summed up my opinion nicely:

    So, five months later, what is driving the rush?  Is it the State of the Union Address or is this event timed to divert attention from Bush’s plan for escalation?  Probably.  However, there are internal Iraqi forces at play, too.  

  •  Another unique contribution (8+ / 0-)
    At this hour, there are conflicting reports as to whether Saddam has been handed over, and the noon news promises "We'll break in if the execution takes place during this braodcast".

    None Dare Call It Stupid!

    by RonK Seattle on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:03:09 PM PST

  •  Magnificent diary, ivorybill! (9+ / 0-)

    My opinion of the "rush" is that the magic number 3,000( US military death in Iraq) is coming very soon.  I believe that bushco wants to deflect attention from that horrific number.  dumya probably hopes to divert attention through Saddam's demise.  Everything this madadministration does is a PR job.  They no doubt expect dumya's poll ratings will rise, as a result and there will not be so much opposition to the escalation in 07.

    The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all - JFK- 5/18/63-Vanderbilt Univ.

    by oibme on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:03:31 PM PST

  •  Should Saddam be in the hague? (63+ / 0-)

    This is the main issue that I did not address in this diary.  This is an also an issue where the US and Iraqis are impeding the use of international tribunals, for different reasons.

    Iraqi judges and lawyers by and large argue that Milosevic's trial was mishandled (no argument there), but they also feel that as Iraqis, they should be the ones to try Saddam.  I would argue that a neutral trial in Iraq would be impossible, and that an international tribunal would be a better way to accomplish the most important goal - to illuminate the crimes and prove that Saddam is not the hero many people still think he is.  Only an international tribunal could do this and have any credibility on al-Jazirah.

    Which is why the US opposes the International Criminal Court and why the Bush Administration is so opposed to any universal jurisdiction.  I hope that the policy take-away for us Democrats is that the US needs to support the ICC, even if it means sending the occasional US official to stand trial.  Certainly, one could make a case for trying some of the authors of US torture policy.  In the same way the Iraqis want to try Saddam in Iraq, I would hope that Bush, John Yoo, Steven Hadley and other assorted regime criminals could eventually be tried in the US.  However, Bush should fear universal jurisdiction for the rest of his life, and never be able to go abroad - even if we never have political consensus to try him here.

    •  I'm a big believer in ICC (17+ / 0-)

      Despite its failures, it is better than anything that we've got here.  It shines light on the cockroaches, that's why Bush hates it.

    •  US does not recognize legitimacy (15+ / 0-)

      I mean, if we turned Saddam over to them, it would be a way of granting the ICC legitimacy which wouldmake it arder to contineu to insist upon US exemption therefrom.

      Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

      by teacherken on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:19:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's a tricky question (12+ / 0-)

      Let's turn it around -- once all the evidence comes to light, should Dumbya be tried in the ICC or should we impeach, indict, and try him right here in the US?

      On the one hand, he's committed crimes against humanity and violated international law in so many ways, there's ample reason to send him to The Hague. On the other hand, there's something to be said for us cleaning up our own mess.

      Of course, as long as Dumbya is pulling puppet strings in Iraq, I'm not sure it's really the Iraqis who were trying Saddam, and that's a subtle but important difference.

      Thwarting the forces of idiocy since 1978. -6.38, -6.00

      by wiscmass on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:22:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Better we try Bush here... (16+ / 0-)

        Which the ICC recognizes.  The ICC is meant to be used when national governments are unable or unwilling to try war criminals.  

        I think we need to try Bush here, for our own good.

        In terms of who is trying whom in Iraq, the Iraqis actually are more or less in charge of the actual process.  The US has provided a lot of support and funding, and can influence the timing of events. If the Iraqis and the Bush Administration were really at odds over Saddam's fate, then you would see the US taking a much heavier hand in the process.  But they are not, at least the al-Maliki government and the Shia' parties in general.  The Kurdish parties consider the timing another gratuitous insult.

        The issue that matters to the Bush Administration, far more than process or outcome, is the timing and the media coverage.  They want to obtain maximum marketing advantage out of Saddam's body.  It's sick, grotesque really - but this administration has never been about anything but marketing.

        •  Well, there you go (8+ / 0-)

          The ICC is meant to be used when national governments are unable or unwilling to try war criminals.

          We have a government with enough poison Kool-Aid drinking wingnuts that we can't remove Dumbya from office, and a population where roughly 1/3 of the people think Dumbya is the right hand of God. Our country might fit that description.

          But in general, I agree that we need to try Dumbya here for our own good -- we made the mess, we need to clean it up. We can't dump this problem on the international community.

          Thwarting the forces of idiocy since 1978. -6.38, -6.00

          by wiscmass on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:58:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Bush has granted himself retroactive immunity, (6+ / 0-)

            via the military commissions act.  That's the basis for the possible charges against Rumsfeld in Germany.  The ICC or countries like Germany or Belgium whose courts recognize universal jurisdiction for war crimes are the only option.

            •  "Retroactive immunity" can be taken away (0+ / 0-)

              Call it part of the conspiracy to cover up his crimes.

              Thwarting the forces of idiocy since 1978. -6.38, -6.00

              by wiscmass on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 07:06:24 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  I'm not at all saying what they did was correct, (0+ / 0-)

                but until the supreme court says otherwise, it's a done deal.  That's why the German courts might now have jurisdiction over Rumsfeld et alia; the first time an attempt to bring charges was made in Germany, the court ruled that the US courts had jurisdiction.  Under the military commissions act, the US courts are now prohibited from hearing these cases, so I guess it's up to the Germans or ICC.

      •  Isn't the ICC for those (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gogol, peraspera, rolet, ivorybill, wiscmass

        whose country WON'T try the guy?

        If there is ever an International Criminal Court that all countries sign on to, then maybe ALL state criminals should be tried there.

        But now, I think the ICC for criminals like Milosevic, whose country would not try him for war crimes.

        So, if the trial were run by Iraqis then they don't need the ICC.

        •  Fair enough, but... (5+ / 0-)

          ...until such time as our country shows the intestinal fortitude to go after Dumbya, doesn't that make us a country that "WON'T try the guy"?

          Thwarting the forces of idiocy since 1978. -6.38, -6.00

          by wiscmass on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:59:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yep (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gogol, ivorybill, bayside

            Shrekk explains the point above. Certain crimes like Torture are subject to "universal jurisdiction" which means any signatory to the Torture Treaty can prosecute in the event their home country is unwilling to do so.

            In-country or at least outside Hague tribunals are the best solution provided they are seen to be impartial. The Rwanda genocide tribunals are effective. Four people are currently the suject of an extradition case in London.

            The problem with Saddam's trial is that it descended into farce. From what I could see, the evidence presented did not meet the standards of proof that we would expect. There is also now no chance for the Kurds to get justice for the gassings. That could be the reason for the White House to want to hurry things along. His second trial would have concentrated on the gassings that were at best ignored by Rumsfeld a few months after when he warmly greeted Saddam and at worst the US provided the materiel for the production and delivery of the gas.

            Kneejerk reactions do not come from knees.

            by londonbear on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 06:20:30 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Having any old country prosecute is a bad idea (0+ / 0-)

              That kind of policy leaves prosecution too open to politics. Prosecution is better left to the country where the crime took place, the country of citizenship of the perpetrators (but only in rare circumstances), or The Hague.

              Thwarting the forces of idiocy since 1978. -6.38, -6.00

              by wiscmass on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 07:08:40 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  I feel strongly that he should have been tried (7+ / 0-)

      in the Hague.  Saddam's trial has set a bad precedent.  The next time someone really should be tried in neutral territory, the country in question is going to ask why Iraq got special treatment.  Typical Bush.  Always doing what is best for his media machine and ignoring what is best for all the rest of the world.

      •  The Hague scares the hell out of Bush. (5+ / 0-)

        If America hands over one war criminal for trial, what's to stop them from handing over a second or a third? Or one of their own, maybe?

        •  Well, I think BushCo chose Iraq because they (5+ / 0-)

          knew they could control the entire process.  The bottom line is that if the Iraqi trial had gone even slightly off their charted course for it, Bush would have just "re-invaded" so to speak.  Invading the Hague if the trial was not prosecuted to BushCo's liking would have been a much dicier prospect.  It was a kangaroo court and it will be remembered as such in good time.  The saddest part is that real justice could have come to Iraq in a trial like this one setting an example for their judicial system for years to come, but no...

          The fact that they didn't move the trial after the first defense attorney was killed indicates that they had no intention of really trying Saddam.  They only sought to persecute him.  

          •  Just as Bush sought to persecute Iraq. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gogol, Cedwyn, inclusiveheart

            None of this has any meaning -- any real depth. It's just a bunch of cowboys who think they rode into Dodge Baghdad wearing white hats and to hell with anyone's constitution -- yours, mine or theirs.

            It's all such a sham, a mockery of justice.

            I want Bush in the Hague -- to be tried for war crimes against Iraq.

    •  Are any of the members of the ICC (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gogol, truong son traveler

      or the EU or China or Russia making any attempt to stave off this "inevitable" charade of justice?

      For Iraqis to have closure requires a credible trial.

      <div style="color: #a00000;"> Our... constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshal

      by bronte17 on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 02:01:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Many European countries (4+ / 0-)

        are protesting, but more out of concerns about the application of the death penalty than the procedure of the trial.  

        Personally, I would have preferred a better procedure, even if it ended in the death penalty.  

        Most of all, the trial of Saddam needed to be thorough, impartial and probably outside of Iraq, so that his very real crimes would be exposed to full disclosure.  Bush has done a huge disservice by undermining the historical record of one of the world's worst dictators.  Now, intead of a proper trial, we get a lynching.

    •  Kagaroo court... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gogol, truong son traveler, ivorybill

      Much of the world sees the whole Saddam trial as an "American" trial and the execution as Bush's revenge because the US is losing badly in Iraq.

      It should have gone to the International Court despite the fact it would have been handled much like Milosevic. No one really listened to Milosevic's long rambling rants anyway.

      I don't care if Saddam (or even Bush for that matter) rotted someplace in a cell that crawled with rats.
      However, executing Saddam at this time is total folly (as if there will ever be a "good" time.)

      This is something I do believe the Bush Crime Family could have stopped. This is going to be a MASSIVE mistake on the so called "war on terror."

      Sadly, so many young Americans will die because of the Bush bloodlust.

      "I belong to no organized party, I am a Democrat" Will Rogers

      by vassmer on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 04:07:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Long speeches in which Saddam Hussein (0+ / 0-)

        would reminisce about his good buddies, Cheney and Rumsfeld, etc., and all the business they did together in the good old days? I don't think so. That's why Saddam couldn't be tried in the Hague.

    •  Been saying it... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gogol

      for almost a year now.

      With a sectarian civil war percolating, Iraq is simply not in a position to conduct such an important human rights trial with any expectation of legitimacy.  

      For this type of situation, The International Criminal Court (ICC) was specifically created:

      The International Criminal Court will complement national courts so that they retain jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

         If a case is being considered by a country with jurisdiction over it, then the ICC cannot act unless the country is unwilling or unable genuinely to investigate or prosecute.

         A country may be determined to be "unwilling" if it is clearly shielding someone from responsibility for ICC crimes. A country may be "unable" when its legal system has collapsed.

         

      We've already had murdered defense counsel and a revolving door of magistrates. Meanwhile, everyone in the courtroom fears for his life daily.  Under these circumstances, the Iraqis are simply not capable of prosecuting Saddam with any semblance of conformity with basic legal principles.

      For the long term political stability of Iraq, it is imperative that Saddam get a fair trial. The proceedings must be orderly and any conviction untainted by bias or intimidation. Otherwise, Sunni insurgents will be handed a perpetual propaganda bonanza with which to stir up resentment and conflict.

      Saddam belongs in the Hague.

      Wonderful piece ivorybill. Simply wonderful.

  •  Great diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peraspera, ivorybill

    I'm glad that you got back safe and sound.

  •  And congratulations on making the rec list :-) (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    peraspera, ivorybill
  •  An excellent piece (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gogol, ivorybill

    we have no idea what has been lost, what cracks Bush unleased with his lies that led to this juncture in history.  

    If Baghdad erupts or Iraq shatters like crystal - or if it doesn't - there has been so many lives lost, so much cruelty spread that for generations upon generations the world will talk about how America destroyed a world based on lies and ineptitude cowards.

  •  My prediction... (9+ / 0-)

    ...the footage of Saddam's execution will be televised within a week of the Democratic majority being sworn in.  It may play on the internet before then, but it will show up in our living rooms.  We will see it by January 11.

    "...the big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart." -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

    by Roddy McCorley on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:50:02 PM PST

  •  I liked this diary very much. (10+ / 0-)

    What sickens me most (besides the chimp's likely, wanton self-glorification when Hussein is hanged - as if he had run any personal risk...) is the way the execution will be treated by the American MSM - I'm almost expecting it to be televised on a pay-per-view arrangement...
    And yet Bush has done more harm to Iraq than Hussein ever did (and he did a lot).

    we're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression

    by Lepanto on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 12:50:39 PM PST

    •  The American media... (12+ / 0-)

      ...will never seriously attempt to understand Saddam or his fate, or present the perspective of Iraqis, be they Saddam's victims or his supporters. There is something deeply unhealthy about America in 2006 and its focus on crime shows, law and order, and televised punishment.  A few decades ago, at least we had Perry Mason, and public entertainment also at least paid lip service to due process.  Now there's dozens of shows all about tracking down and punishing criminals.

      It disturbs me that Saddam, his crimes and Iraq's complicated tragedy gets distilled down into a Nancy Grace crime spectacular, and that Bush benefits even a little bit from it.

      •  I believe the unhealthy thing you mention to be (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gogol, ivorybill

        a deep-seated cult of violence for its own sake - that manifest's itself so much in our foreign policy: little diplomacy and lots of bombing the shit out of the rest of the world.
        The glorification of violence as the "solution" to all problems is a characteristic of present-day American society and it effects all its strata - from kids going to school armed to the Presidency...

        we're shocked by a naked nipple, but not by naked aggression

        by Lepanto on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:20:36 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  the pornography of primal emotions.... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Cedwyn, ivorybill

        The shift from trial-oriented crime shows to "action"-oriented programs is part of a larger trend: the exploitation of primal emotions.

        As the television is primarily a portrait camera rather than a landscape camera, close-ups of faces distorted with uncontrollable emotion are especially popular, particularly when accompanied by voices that are out of control.  

        For example few things are as likely to make headlines in local news as live footage of people sobbing, preferably up close and personal.  

        "Daughter dies, father cries, all the boo-hoo-hoos at six!"  

        Frankly it's pornography.  

        •  It gives Porn a bad name (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          G2geek, ivorybill

          It's the worst kind of porn.

          "It's the planet, stupid."

          by FishOutofWater on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 06:43:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  exactly: exploiting grief & pain (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ivorybill

            It used to be said that one of the objections to erotic porn was that it was exploitative.  Yet clearly, people who choose to be photographed or filmed whilst doing the proverbial deed, are consenting adults.

            Sticking a camera in the face of a dad who's daughter has just been run over by a car, is not that.  It's taking advantage of someone in a moment when they are not fully in control of their actions.  It's exploitation of the worst kind, and the counterpoint that "they agreed to be filmed" does not apply (as per previous sentence, and as per cases where a person has no choice).  

            I've never had a taste for erotic porn (frankly I find it boring; a tastefully written passage without explicit details is far more engaging) but I downright detest the pornography of grief & pain.  I'd sooner have my wall plastered with the former than have to endure viewing the latter.  

      •  Well said. All of it (0+ / 0-)

        Thanks for the report.

  •  I don't give a damn,,,,, (10+ / 0-)

    what happens to Saddam Hussein.  I don't care if he hangs, starves to death, or dies of old age.

    All I can think about is how badly Iraq explodes into violence against American troops when Saddam's hanging is broadcast across the country.

    If our MSM/Republican spinsters/liars try to treat this as some kind of victory, with media blather and wide-spread celebration, they better be prepared to cover the impending bloodbath that is going to follow.

    I am sickened by the troop deaths this month alone, but I don't think we've seen the worst, not by a long shot.

    Happy New Year, everyone.  Isn't that the anniversary of Tet?  I hope the Green Zone has stocked up on body bags.

    "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine 2995+ dead Americans. Bring them home.

    by Miss Blue on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:00:16 PM PST

    •  The 20%... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gogol, peraspera, truong son traveler

      ...who support Saddam are already fighting us as hard as they can.  I can't see that his execution, televised or not, will alter the level of violence from the insurgency in the Sunni community.

      However, if Bush's 2007 escalation is intended to pick a fight with Muqtada al-Sadr, well, then we will see a huge increase in violence against the US.  Sadr's militia will celebrate Saddam's death, but killing him won't earn Bush any points if he's stupid enough to attack the Mehdi Army.  They have not resorted to full-scale warfare against the US despite some fighting in Najaf in 2004 and in baghdad this year. A full-blown fight between the US and Sadr would be very bad indeed, far worse than any increase in violence from Saddam's death.

      •  I hope you are right. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Boppy

        I pray you are right.  I have never wanted to be wrong more than I do at this very moment.

        "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine 2995+ dead Americans. Bring them home.

        by Miss Blue on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:22:24 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Depends on when he is executed. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gogol, Cedwyn, Boppy

        According to the NYT

        An Iraqi official close to the negotiations on when to execute Mr. Hussein expressed deep disappointment that, after years of forensic investigation, detailed litigation, and careful deliberation, the process could be compromised in the final hours by politically driven haste.

        "According to the law, no execution can be carried out during the holidays" said one official involved in the negotiations. "After all the hard work we have done, why would we break the law and ruin what we have built."

        The Muslim holiday of Eid begins Saturday for Sunnis, which is Mr. Hussein’s sect, and Sunday for Shiites, who where oppressed under Mr. Hussein’s rule but now control the government.

        Iraqi law seems to indicate that executions are forbidden on the holiday.

        Mr. Haddad was dismissive of those concerns, injecting some of the sectarian split that is ripping this country apart into his response to a question on the subject.

        "Tomorrow is not Eid," he said. "The official Eid in Iraq is Sunday."

        Executing him during the Hajj might be a bad idea. But executing him during Eid (Festival of the Sacrifice) would probably really infuriate the Sunnis outside Iraq.

  •  An excellent essay (7+ / 0-)

    It's a pleasure to read original reporting here. Anything else you might write about the concept of "transitional justice" or international assistance for the Iraqi judiciary would be very interesting as well. The U.S. idea of what Arundhati Roy has called "instant mix democracy" places a compulsive focus on elections, while the judiciary is usually neglected, creating a democratic facade on what is sometimes merely a military dictatorship with a changing public face. In the wake of Saddam's (or any other) dictatorship, it's difficult to imagine the existence of a functional judiciary capable of managing this trial.

    •  Those are some great points... (6+ / 0-)

      namely, you can't create a judiciary overnight especially in the wake of a totalitarian state.  The judicial system in the Kurdish region is considerably better after more than a decade, but even there, the public defender system is horrible and justice is frighteningly arbitrary. It will require another decade before it approaches Jordanian or even Turkish (criminal, not political0 standards.

      And it should be pretty clear to everyone that elections alone don't make a democracy.  

  •  I think they'll hang Saddam's double. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cedwyn, Karyn

    The Iraqi's will make the sub while he's in their custody.  

    Just sayin'.

    The rhetoric of the right wing is being fixed around the policy of disinformation.

    by MoronMike on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:09:16 PM PST

  •  Magnificent diary (4+ / 0-)

    I really appreciate the work you put into this.

    Stop the surge. Stop the scourge.

    by The Termite on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:13:26 PM PST

  •  Conrad updated - Baghdad Heart of Darkness (5+ / 0-)

    Great storytelling but damn it's bleak. Fools go where angels fear to tread. Saddam should be kept alive to finish the other trials for the sake of the truth. But in a place of darkness, there is no truth, only lies.

    "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:16:49 PM PST

  •  Forgive me if you've answered this already (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chicago Lulu, Karyn

    I only have time to recommend your diary, but I'm wondering why this execution is happening now.  I was listening to Air America ~2 weeks ago, and Rachel Maddow was saying something about an attempt to marginalize Moktada al Sadr ... that it would effectively remove Maliki from power ... she mentioned some guy who was supposed to meet with Bush later met with him a week earlier, and this guy is maybe going to be the new prime minister should this power shift happen.  

    I'm obviously unsure of all the details, but I'm wondering if the timing of the execution has anything to do with shifting ground in the Iraqi government.

    Great diary.  Well done.

    •  These politics get complicated (9+ / 0-)

      I think Saddam's execution right now helps Maliki more than it hurts him, because the execution will be very popular in the Shia' community.  They might want to do it within 24 hours so that people can celebrate over 'Eid al-Adha, the feast of the sacrifice, which has to do with the whole Abraham substituting a sheep for his son thing in the Bible.

      Both al-Maliki and Sadr want Saddam dead.  Sadr's father and uncle were tortured and killed by Saddam.  Not to be too explicit, but Sadr's Mehdi Army tortures and kills Sunni victims in exactly the same way Sadr's uncle and father were tortured and killed.  Saddam would be tortured in unimaginable ways if the Sadr movement ever got a hold of him.  

      In terms of al-Maliki's relationship with the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - Abdulaziz al-Hakim's group - I'm not sure of the political ramifications.  I'd check Juan Cole at Informed Comment, linked on Kos' main page.

      In terms of the Kurds, the US and the Maliki government are insulting them big-time by killing Saddam now.  They wanted Saddam to stand trial for the Anfal genocide, and this will be very negatively received in Kurdistan.  But the Kurds have nowhere else to turn.  

      •  Does his execution (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Karyn

        provide cover for war with Iran?

        •  That's possible (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gogol, Karyn, fou

          but I'm not entirely sure either.  Iran of course wants Saddam dead, but they are not going to speed up attacks as a result.  And I just don't think that Bush has the ability anymore to order an attack on Iran.  He can't win, his generals know it, and Congress will never back it.  I could be wrong, but this does not worry me too much at this time.  Hope I don't eat my words later.

      •  thanks for not being explicit (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ivorybill

        "Exactly the same way" and "unimaginable torture" are quite sufficient to make the point, without indulging in the pornography of primal emotions (as per my previous posting above).  

        I appreciate the tone of thoughtfulness in your diary and the postings I've read thus far.  When violence and vengeance and suchlike are in the air, it's all the more important to keep the dialog at the level of the cerebral cortex rather than descending to the limbic system.  

  •  Your boots-on-the ground diaries and comments (6+ / 0-)

    about Iraq can always be relied upon to bring fresh insight into the problems there. I so much look forward to them. It drives me mad that there is so little of this type of information available. Thank you so much for taking some of what must be very precious time to share this experience.

    Killing Sadaam will rob us of the history of just how far the US went in enabling him in the first place as he is probably the only one who has the critical pieces of that puzzle. I worry mightily that ignoring this part of our past will surely condemn us to repeat it with consequences that may well be even more tragic.

    •  It's going to be hard to be more tragic (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gogol, peraspera, Karyn

      There are no good options now.

      Iraq is like a slowly breaking dam. There's going to be massive death and destruction. As bad as it has been it will get even worse.

      It's down to damage control now. It's down to trying to chose the least bad option.

      "It's the planet, stupid."

      by FishOutofWater on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:40:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Cynically handing out wildly inappropriate toys (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greeseyparrot, Karyn

        to a homicidal madman can, indeed, result in much, much worse than what we are likely to see in Iraq, as horrific as that is likely to be. Not holding the people who made those decisions accountable will mightily encourage others to push the envelope even farther.

    •  I wish that the Anfal trial (6+ / 0-)

      at least would continue.  The Kurds would probably permit exposure of information on US complicity with Saddam during the 1980's, even though they are by no means anti-US.  They cooperated in investigations of Dutch companies.  Rumsfeld, Cheney and 41 had a big role in enabling Saddam.  Too bad the US media will never pick up the story.

  •  The Execution will be Televised (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gogol, ivorybill, Karyn

    Apologies to Joe Trippe, but I found this buried
    in an articel on the CBS News Website

    Iraqi officials have said that Saddam's final moments will be videotaped by the government.

    "We will video everything," al Rubaie said. "All documentation will be videoed. Taking him from his cell to the execution is going to be videoed, and the actual execution will be documented and videoed."

    It's not clear whether the videotape will be broadcast on Iraqi television.

    Maybe not on network televison, but if a camera is there, you just know this'll make it to the cable stations...

    To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all -Goethe

    by commonscribe on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:26:17 PM PST

  •  Hanging Sadaam to provoke war with Iran (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karyn, fou

    I'm diary pimping for Two Women Figure it out

    Thank you, Howard Dean for the 50-state strategy.

    by kaye on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:28:14 PM PST

  •  Kangaroo Court and rush to kill (5+ / 0-)

    Saddam Hussein would have been convicted even in a fair trial, but if an American gang-banger were convicted in such a farce of a trial, there would be rioting in the streets. If George Bush is given this treatment after his equally  inevitable conviction on war crimes, even I would object to his immediate execution. This is nothing but barbaric bloodlust and vengeance, justice is nowhere to be seen.

    I'm a linguist, licensed to use words any way I want to!

    by MakeChessNotWar on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:33:52 PM PST

  •  This (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karyn

    He fears that the worst will inexorably rise to the top, and that this fatal cycle of violence will only result in another version of Saddam.

    is also how I see the game inevitably ending.

    All that blood, effort, treasure.  What will it all have been for?

    I just don't see how any other alternative could result.  

    Or maybe I'm just too cynical.

  •  Excellent diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karyn, Buddha Hat

    and here's why I'm not a TU: I believe that if you're prepared to kill, you should be ready to die. If anyone was ever prepared to kill, it's this murderous bastard, and you betcha I hope it does some good for the surviving families, of which there are tens of thousands.  This is no carjacker.

    "free-dum"? That is a worship word. Yang worship. You will not speak it.

    by moltar on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 01:57:52 PM PST

    •  And what does that say about us? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      truong son traveler, exmearden, Karyn

      I agree with your sentiment, but as the diarist says, Saddam was a symptom of the sickness of Iraqi society.  The US is now led by an ignorant, arrogant man who is at least as great a mass-murderer as was Saddam.  What does that say about our society?

    •  non sequitur plus a valid point indirectly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ivorybill

      The algorithms that determine TU status don't care about your opinions; rather, it seems (from observation not from inside knowledge) that all they see is frequency of posting and whether or not your postings get responses.  So equating TU to unpopular opinions is a non-sequitur.  

      That being said there is good reason to execute Saddam, though not for the sake of psychological comfort to his victims.  

      The rational basis for executing Saddam is that if he was held in prison in Iraq, he would become a focal point for various groups using violence to achieve their goals.  For example you would see kidnappings and gruesome hostage murders (videos included) aimed at getting him out.   Whereas, once he is dead, there may be some retaliatory acts, but not the potential for acts intended to obtain his release from a prison cell.    

      Under normal conditions, the disposition of a convicted criminal should in no way be governed by the actions of others over whom the criminal has no control.  That is, it's a gross miscarriage of justice to execute someone because his homies might go on a rampage.  

      However for extraordinary defendants such as dictators or leaders of movements, particularly in the midst of war, this sort of thing might be permissible as an exception.  

      It still would have been far preferable for him to be tried at the Hague, sentenced to life w/o parole, and locked up somewhere in Europe where the authorities are outside the reach of influence by hostage-takers and suchlike.  

  •  The trial was a sham, the verdict predetermined (5+ / 0-)

    The US has been the occupying force basically propping up a Vichy govt. recall that the judge was replaced 1/2 way through because he was leaning away from the planned death sentence.

    this execution benefits no one. (maybe Bush right now, but this'll haunt him just as "Mission Accomplished" and "Bring 'em On" has).

    Saddam should have been tried for all the crimes first. At least that would have given the illusion of justice to all the aggrieved people. Executing him following the first show trial makes the prosecutors-both US and Iraqi-look cowardly.

    Idiots of the world, ignite!

    by susanp on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 02:38:34 PM PST

  •  This diary is why the blogosphere rocks ! (7+ / 0-)

    You won't read a real person story like this in the MSM. There is no "framing" of the story, no sensational headlines, just the heart felt story of a intelligent and insightful eyewitness. Ivorybill's own fairmindedness is far more objective than the medias so called "balanced reporting". I empathize and understand Iraq much better by reading Ivorybill's diarys than all the MSM stories I ever read. Keep up the great work and stay low.

    Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong. ~James Bryce

    by california keefer on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 02:40:38 PM PST

  •  Phenomenal diary, ivorybill (7+ / 0-)

    this phrase, in particular, caught my mind:

    Now the Judge has come to see Saddam as a product of Iraqi culture, as a symptom of a sickness, rather than the cause.

    A world of meaning in that phrase.

    We could dance for days around the periphery speculation of how dictators come to be, and whether cursed populations birth them and nurture them, or if they are merely a product of timing and ambition and violence. But we would all have a hard time admitting to what we really believe, gut-level, bottom line, end-of-story.

    Does a nation deserve its leaders?

    If we try to answer that question, we'll see our own boorish reflection in the mirror of responsibility.

    How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives. - Annie Dillard
    Visit me at exme arden

    by exmearden on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 02:44:50 PM PST

    •  symptom of a sickness: exactly. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      exmearden

      There are two wars being fought in Iraq.  One is Insurgents vs USA, which will cease when either the insurgents are defeated or the USA leaves.  The other is the sectarian and civil war, Shia vs. Sunni, tribe vs. tribe, that has been going on in one form or another since long before the USA existed.  The latter is purely local, it is not our fault, and it is the disease of the local culture.  

      In the US we presently have a number of different factions of fundamentalist extremists, who worked together to get a Republican single party state.  However imagine them fighting each other in the street and killing innocent civilians in the process.  

      That is the insanity of Iraq at present: religious extremists, nutcases really, along with tribal nutcases, slaughtering each other and whoever gets in the way.  

      If it happened here we would have no problem identifying it as the product of a sick culture.  

  •  Thank you very much for sharing this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karyn

    Riveting. You have extraordinary access and I'm sure you feel privileged to have gained the time with the judge that you had.

    I wish I had your knack for writing. The projection of you perspective in this diary has actually caused me to reevaluate a few things and admit that my comparatively black-and-white view was partly due to rage and the feeling if impotence being stuck behind a keyboard.

    I had been experiencing a slow building of sympathy for Saddam over the last few days but I see now it was due to my hatred of Bush and maybe even a bit of nostalgia for when things were simpler and less violent. The fact is, Saddam was a monster.

    I still think the timing of his execution is one more mistake.

    I think, therefore I think I am

    by ackermanniac on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 02:50:34 PM PST

  •  I just saw a new AP report that says (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Karyn

    the order has already been signed for Saddam to be executed by 6am Bagdad time tomorrow.

    I guess we'll see.

    •  Before 10p est tonight , sayeth the AP (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cedwyn, rolet, ivorybill, Karyn

      in an AP story that moved at 5:51 est...
      The salient graf:

      An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saddam would be executed before 6 a.m. Saturday, or 10 p.m. Friday EST. Also to be hanged at that time were Saddam's half-brother Barzan Ibrahim and Awad Hamed al-Bandar, the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, the adviser said.

      The time was agreed upon during a meeting Friday between U.S. and Iraqi officials, said the adviser, who declined to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media

      To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all -Goethe

      by commonscribe on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 03:18:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  No man shall know the end time. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rolet, Karyn, edwardssl

      I'm sure it will be a fait accompli by the time it gets announced.

  •  I've Said It Before and I'll Say It Again (7+ / 0-)

    Saddam Hussein was just fine with the US and Europe as long as he played ball.

    Public outrage over the "mass graves," rape rooms, woodchoppers, chemical attacks against the Kurds, government-hyped (however passionate) support of Iraqi "Democracy" (including referendums, national elections, constitutions and all the trimmings) - all an afterthought.

    Saddam Hussein was JUST FINE with the US and Europe as long as he played ball.

    "We do not torture." - George Bush during recent Asian visit

    by Flippant to the Last on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 03:17:11 PM PST

  •  Yeah... between the French, the Russians, and us (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gogol, rolet, Karyn

    he was a man we could all do business with.

    To think is easy. To act is difficult. To act as one thinks is the most difficult of all -Goethe

    by commonscribe on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 03:20:30 PM PST

  •  Reliable literature on Saddam (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mikolo

    Great diary.

    A quick question: I have very often heard it mentioned in passing, just accepted as a given, that Saddam was a murderous, bloodthirsty torturer, and have no real reason to doubt it. The thing is, I've heard almost nothing in terms of specifics. Neither of the things he's actually on trial for seem at all out of the ordinary for a military dictator reacting to genuine threats to his regime. For me, it is remarks like this:

    the caked blood on the basement floors of the security buildings

    that place him in the league of the true barbarians of history. But I'd like to verify that this is actually true. So, can anyone point me in the direction of any sort of reliable literature documenting torture, other mass killings, etc.?

    When Jesus said, "Love your enemies," he probably didn't mean kill them.

    by porktacos on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 05:00:00 PM PST

  •  I liked the diary (0+ / 0-)

    but I sure as hell don't like the idea of executing anybody. Public display in stocks might be in order,
    but executions are, simply put, more murder.

    Mikolo

  •  Roasting chestnuts onna open fire (0+ / 0-)

    Let's throw Gary Gilmore in there too.

    It rubs the loofah on its skin or else it gets the falafel again.

    by Fishgrease on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 07:02:16 PM PST

  •  Saddam confirmed dead (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    annefrank, edwardssl

    Fox News goes off air for solemn moment of orgasm.

    It rubs the loofah on its skin or else it gets the falafel again.

    by Fishgrease on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 07:08:49 PM PST

  •  hmm... well now i see he's just been executed (0+ / 0-)

    bad karma coming down the pike for the good ol us of a. the death penalty is wrong imho... but what is really troubling for me is that the us government was backing saddam back in the 80s when he was doing all these atrocities to his people. hmm... indeed.

    Keep Religion in Church

    by titotitotito on Fri Dec 29, 2006 at 07:09:31 PM PST

  •  I am afraid (0+ / 0-)

    now that Saddam has been executed that we are about to see that it is possible for things to get much worse in Iraq.

    Whatever prayers, hopes, wishes you have please say them for the people in that country...I am afraid conditions will now descend straight to hell.

    I hope I am wrong

  •  And how much do you share with President Bush? (0+ / 0-)

    I cannot feel much empathy for Saddam or even quite bring myself to recognize our shared humanity.  He leaves me feeling deadened inside, and the actual fear that he once inspired – which was quite real in the early 90’s – has dissipated.

    Now since the late and unlamented failed to compete successfully with President Bush in the number of deaths he caused, in breaking up the same country that had people, jobs, security, electricity, heathcare, education, etc... all of which we are told are things of the past, long gone past before the sanctions, the question is:

    How much 'empathy' do you have President Bush? Does he leave you 'deadened inside?' Did the sight of the US tanks bursting shells at Fellujah 'inspire fear' in you? or were you afraid when the Black Hawks swooped down shooting at random over Sadr City...

    Or is it because you felt secure in the knowledge that they are American?

    I am not sure these and zillion other questions would be answered... not by one of us. It will take an Iraqi to do that, but then, they cannot lynch an ant... Our civilized tyrants are ruling their country... right?

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