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04 Jan 2007 00:00
It was symbolic that 2006 ended with a colonial hanging—most of it shown on state television in occupied Iraq. It has been that sort of year in the Arab world.
The trial was so blatantly rigged that even Human Rights Watch had to condemn it as a travesty.
Judges were changed on Washington’s orders, defence lawyers were killed and the whole procedure resembled a well-orchestrated lynch mob. Where Nuremberg was a relatively dignified application of victor’s justice, Saddam Hussein’s trial was the crudest and most grotesque to date.
The great thinker-president’s reference to it “as a milestone on the road to Iraqi democracy” is as clear an indication as any that Washington pulled the trigger. The leaders of the European Union, supposedly hostile to capital punishment, were passive, as usual.
Although some Shia factions celebrated in Baghdad, the figures published by a fairly independent establishment outfit, the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies (ICRSS), reveal that more than 80% of Iraqis feel the situation in the country was better before it was occupied. (The ICRSS research is based on detailed house-to-house interviewing carried out during the third week of November last year.) Only 5% of those questioned said Iraq is better today than in 2003; 12% felt things had improved and 9% said there was no change. Unsurprisingly, 95% felt the security situation was worse than before.
Add to this the figures supplied by the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees: 1,6-million Iraqis (7% of the population) have fled the country since March 2003, and 100Â 000 leave every month—Christians, doctors, engineers, women. There are one million Iraqis in Syria, 750Â 000 in Jordan, 150Â 000 in Cairo. These are refugees who do not excite the sympathy of Western public opinion, since the US—EU-backed—occupation is the cause. Perhaps it was these statistics, and estimates of a million Iraqi dead, that necessitated the execution of Saddam.
That Saddam was a tyrant is beyond dispute, but what is conveniently forgotten is that most of his crimes were committed when he was a staunch ally of those who are now occupying the country. It was, as he admitted in one of his trial outbursts, the approval of Washington and the poison gas supplied by what was then West Germany that gave him the confidence to douse Halabja with chemicals in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam deserved a proper trial and punishment in an independent Iraq. Not this.
The double standards applied by the West never cease to astonish. Indonesia’s Suharto, who presided over a mountain of corpses, was protected by Washington. He never annoyed them as much as Saddam.
And what of those who have created the mess in Iraq today? The torturers of Abu Ghraib; the pitiless butchers of Falluja; the ethnic cleansers of Baghdad; the Kurdish prison boss who boasts that his model is Guantanamo.
Will Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair ever be tried for war crimes? Doubtful. And former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar? He is currently employed as a lecturer at Georgetown University, in Washington, where the language of instruction is of course English—of which he hardly speaks a word.
Saddam’s lynching might send a shiver down the spines of the Arab ruling elites. If Saddam can be hanged, so can the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, the Hashemite joker in Amman and the Saudi royals—as long as those who topple them are happy to play ball with the US.—Â
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