Can we put a dead man on trial?
Among supporters of the current war effort, people who think that Saddam got what he deserved, I am not the only one who is asking: why weren’t trials for Saddam’s other crimes against humanity completed before he was executed? Here is an article by Christopher Hitchens:
…How could it have come to this? Did U.S. officials know that the designated “executioners” would be the unwashed goons of Muqtada Sadr’s “Mahdi Army”—the same sort of thugs who killed Abdul Majid al-Khoei in Najaf just after the liberation and who indulge in extra-judicial murder of Iraqis every night and day? Did our envoys and representatives ask for any sort of assurances before turning over a prisoner who was being held under the Geneva Conventions? According to the New York Times, there do seem to have been a few insipid misgivings about the timing and the haste, but these appear to have been dissolved soon enough and replaced by a fatalistic passivity that amounts, in theory and practice, to acquiescence in a crude Shiite coup d’état. Thus, far from bringing anything like “closure,” the hanging ensures that the poison of Saddamism will stay in the Iraqi bloodstream, mingling with other related infections such as confessional fanaticism and the sort of video sadism that has until now been the prerogative of al-Qaida’s dehumanized ghouls. We have helped to officiate at a human sacrifice. For shame.
In Baghdad last week, I missed the best chance I shall ever have to mention rope in the house of a hanged man. The house belonged to Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, Saddam’s repellent half-brother and one of the two men who are now scheduled to follow him through the trapdoor. These days, it serves as the office of President Jalal Talabani, with whom I was invited to take lunch. The television was showing the trial of Saddam and his associates for the Anfal campaign, that ruthless and mechanized devastation of Iraqi Kurdistan and the systematic slaughter and clearance of its people by conventional and chemical weaponry. Every Kurd I know was eager to see this episode properly aired in court and placed on the record for all time, with its chief perpetrator on hand to be confronted with his deeds. Instead, the said chief perpetrator was snatched from the dock—in the very middle of his trial—and thrown as a morsel to one of the militias. This sort of improvised “offing” is not even a parody of the serious tribunal that history demands.
Here is another one, by Micah Halpern:
…What happens during a trial? Events are read into historical record. Witnesses offer testimony while their memory is still fresh, while the pictures are still clearly defined in their minds, while the wounds still ache. Documents are produced and validated and offered into evidence. Then comes justice. Trials are not convened for the purpose of legitimizing revenge, trials are the instruments of justice.
History and justice. The two go hand in hand. To deny one is to diminish the other. History and justice. It is our responsibility to record, to pursue and to preserve. The rest is irrelevant.
Now back to Saddam Hussein. What a colossal mistake. What injustice.
It was a mistake because Saddam Hussein was tried and convicted for perpetrating a mass murder that took place in 1982 that killed 148 Shiite Muslims in the northern town of Dujail. Just one incident involving one case of mass murder. Saddam Hussein was guilty of tens of thousands more incidents of mass murder.
The only way to actually right the wrong that Saddam perpetrated on the Iraqi people would have been to try him for every event and enter every event into the court record and convict him of every murder. This mass murderer should have been held accountable for more than one single event.
Read both of these articles. Both authors are supporters of the war effort. Both authors think that Saddam got what was coming to him. But both authors think that it should have happened after all the trials were over. I have to say that I agree with them. Now brace yourselves for the industry of Saddam’s crimes denial and conspiracy theories suggesting the we had something to hide and that is why Saddam was executed now.
Some people think that this was done in order to throw a bone to Shias and then go after Al-Sadr (hat tip: Bill Faith). Perhaps. But it seems that Al-Sadr might have grown stronger because of this. We should take him out anyway. And the Shias would have gotten their “bone” anyway, when Saddam would have been executed eventually for all of his crimes, not just one.