October 23, 2005

"Testify before the sham court and you will be signing your own death warrant. "

That's the telephoned message to prospective witnesses in the trial of Saddam Hussein.
"We want Saddam to be held to account for his evil crimes and eagerly await the day when his lifeless body will swing from a rope," said Hatem, a farmer from Dujail whose brother Ali is one of the witnesses fearful to testify.

"There is almost nothing we won't do to hasten this day, but Saddam is very powerful. He has his agents everywhere. So when the message came that we would be liquidated if we took part in his trial we had to think of our families."...

American officials said there was no possibility that Saddam could threaten prosecution witnesses from the confines of Camp Cropper, the facility near Baghdad Airport where he is held in isolation from other prisoners.

"There is rampant paranoia about Saddam," one said. "He is a broken man who will soon be begging for his own life. All he thinks about now is himself and he has had no connection with the insurgency since we captured him in late 2003. I don't underestimate the evil that is inside him or the magnitude of his deeds. But as a tyrant, he is finished, impotent. And Iraqis need to realise this."
How difficult it will be to get through the trial. The trial ought to inspire people about the rule of law, but, as it is, many will decide instead that it would have been better to have killed Saddam outright on capture.

13 comments:

ALH ipinions said...

If nothing else, this trial demonstrates how petty our complaints about voter suppression and other "democratic abuses" are.

The mere fact that there are people prepared to vote (in percentages unheard of in America) and participate in this trial, in themselves, constitute vindication for democracy (and the rule of law).

Indeed, we can learn a lot about democracy by watching the Iraqis risk life and limb everyday to reclaim their country (from tyranny and coalition forces).

crewdog said...

"How difficult it will be to get through the trial. The trial ought to inspire people about the rule of law, but, as it is, many will decide instead that it would have been better to have killed Saddam outright on capture."

If Saddam was shot on the spot, it would have been yet another scandal involving prisoner abuse, and the soldiers involved would be on trial for their own lives.

knoxgirl said...

Yes... let's hope we don't have to go through this again with Bin Laden.

Joe said...

Ann,
For the longest time I've been complaining that we no longer live in the "Land of the Free" (that's in quotes only because it is, after all, quoted from a rather famous song). You know - too many laws and rules and regulations and condominium associations etc., etc., and on and on.
I think now, thanks to Saddam, that I was wrong. He has reminded me, very effectively, what it truly means to be living a free country.

neo-neocon said...

There's always a struggle between the rule of law and the anarchy of giving in to the very human desire for revenge and retaliation. We don't usually see it so well here, because for the most part the rule of law has won out.

But in Iraq we see evidence before our eyes of the struggle between the two playing itself out, and the bravery it entails on the part of the Iraqi people who hope that the rule of law prevails.

I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately. My most recent post on the subject is here, and another one related to the subject is here.

Jacques Cuze said...

The trial ought to inspire people about the rule of law, but, as it is, many will decide instead that it would have been better to have killed Saddam outright on capture.

Fallacy of the excluded middle Ann. In this case a lot of excluded middles. Sigh, I wish my middle excluded this much ground.

What alternatives are there between holding the trial in Iraq at this time and killing Saddam on the spot? I ask you this as a law professor, not just a pitch-fork wielding member of the mob.

Ann Althouse said...

Quxxo: If you're going to hurl logic about, you ought to keep track of what I've actually asserted! All I said was that some people will use these problems to say he should have been shot. As to whether the trial would be better handled outside of Iraq, I have not studied the matter and have no opinion.

Craig said...

Although it would be nice if "the trial ... inspire[d] people about the rule of law," it seems to me that there is a real possibility that such is impossible both pragmatically and logically (cf., on this point, Kant).

I wish more was discussed about the meaningfulness of Saddam's claim that he cannot be "tried" as such. Although I'm not sure that it is correct, it is certainly an interesting claim that should especially trouble anyone seeking to establish "the rule of law" in a post-Saddam Iraq. This seems especially true as his trial very likely will be held up as either a beacon of success or a portent of failure for the nascent country.

Jacques Cuze said...

Quxxo: If you're going to hurl logic about, you ought to keep track of what I've actually asserted! All I said was that some people will use these problems to say he should have been shot.

Well it's your blog here after all, but if you can accept a bit of criticism, instead of just making a statement of opinions that you apparently do not recommend, perhaps a stronger post on your part would have included your analysis of the situation, and what you actually thought should have occurred, or should occur now.

Another post on your part that I would eagerly look forward to, would be your sense, as a Constitutional Law Professor of the history of fair trials in America, looking at the Constitution, and looking at lynchings and change of venue for example. I still would encourage that.

If I had to rank three alternatives:
+ Saddam gets a fair trial
+ Saddam was shot on the spot
+ Saddam gets an unfair trial

I would suspect the worse outcome for everyone would be the last choice. Do you agree? If so, what does that mean about a trial in which defense lawyers are killed and witnessed are threatened?

Sloanasaurus said...

Saddam himself does not deserve a "fair" trial. Fair trials are required to prevent innocent people from being convicted. Saddam is not innocent, he is an iternational criminal whose crimes have been seen by millions.

The only reason to have a "fair" here trial is for history's sake - to try and uncover the evidence of all the crimes so the victims can have some closure.

Saddam himself should be shot or hung immediatly. At the very least he should be shot immediatly after his conviction of the first crime. If they need him present for the additional trial, then can use his lifeless body.

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