Don't Look Too Hard at the Gander

I wasn't really focused on this issue because it seems obvious that, on the one hand, Saddam Hussein is a monster who the world will be well rid of and, on the other hand, that convicting and executing Saddam won't change anything that matters in Iraq or in the world. It is, however, actually worth noting a few things about this case. One, as Spencer notes in its zeal to avoid an international tribunal (Bush hates international law), we organized a total farce of a trial and wound up creating a kangaroo court to try a guilty man.

Second, Saddam was charged with the wrong crime. When you think "Saddam Hussein and crimes against humanity" your thoughts naturally turn to Halabja/Anfal. Prosecuting that case, however, raised awkward questions about Don Rumsfeld's meet-and-greet with Saddam Hussein:


The purpose of said visit, as people might recall were the American press not to have its head in the sand, was largely to reassure Saddam that the Reagan administration's public condemnation of Iraqi chemical weapons use against the Iranian military and Kurdish insurgents was not something Baghdad should take especially seriously. The State Department would condemn, but special envoy Rumsfeld was around to cut deals.

At any rate, as a result of Saddam's pending execution, prosecutions for further crimes, including matters related to Anfal, are now deemed unnecessary, and Rumsfeld and the rest of the Reagan national security team can escape scrutiny.

This, in turn, raises questions about the legal precedent being set by the case. Saddam is being executed for the specific charge of killing 148 men and boys from the town of Dujail in retaliation for a July 8, 1982 assassination attempt against Saddam. Saddam's legal team argued that given the state of war existing at the time between Iraq and Iran this fell under the purview of sound counterinsurgency strategy and said argument was rejected.

Fair enough, but compare this to, say, Fallujah. Thirteen civilians were killed when American soldiers opened fire on protesters. This led, in turn, to the murder and mutilation of four contractors employed by the US military. This led to a retaliatory military strike on the town by US and Iraqi government forces that local doctors claimed killed over 600 people. The Iraqi health ministry disputes that, arguing that "only" 271 civilians died in the attack, during which "more than half" of the city's homes were destroyed.

The exact same as what happened at Dujail? No. A completely different sort of thing? Also no. But if Dujail is worth a death sentence, then what's Fallujah worth? Five years? Ten? I don't really know. How about the people tortured to death after the Bush administration's decision to ignore international and domestic law regarding detentions and interrogations?

Which is all just to say that the Bush administration has every reason to seek to undermine international human rights law and the concept of international tribunals.