stage is being set for madness, in full view of the planet.
In his zeal to
cheer an ignorant American audience, Bush has promised Iraqis
and the international community something he cannot deliver:
a forum that allows Iraqis to present evidence and testimony
on Saddam Hussein’s crimes as they perceive them, and that
also garners some degree of international legitimacy. The Trial
of the Century must somehow be pulled off in the absence of
Iraqi sovereignty, and without exacerbating Iraqi frustration
with that status. At the same time, interested international
parties are expected to refrain from offering facts that contradict
the solitary U.S. version of Middle East history, or to tamper
with American prerogatives. Such stage-management in a foreign
land is far beyond the capacities of the Bush men – as we have
witnessed every day since the fall of Baghdad.
the President at times appears to sense the contradictions,
yet he cannot
escape them and reflexively opts for the sound bite, talking
himself more tightly into his straightjacket. First, Bush frames
the trial as primarily an Iraqi affair: "They were the
people that was brutalized by this man: He murdered them; he
gassed them, he tortured them." Yet in the next breath,
Bush backs away from a trial by the appointed Iraqi Governing
Council’s new special criminal tribunal, promising only to "work
with Iraqis to develop a way to try him that will withstand
that attempt at clarification, Bush seemed to brush aside
his “own” Iraqis
while giving the merest nod to the United Nations and a host
of watchdog organizations concerned with issues of law and
Hussein will be "accorded the protections" of a prisoner of war,
says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. However, there is no
legal basis for handing over for trial an American prisoner
of war to an agency of a non-sovereign country – Iraq. And
the dominant factions within the administration are determined
to resist the encroachment of international authority, even
as marginal voices mumble about consultations and other nonsense.
it is clear that, less than a week after Saddam Hussein’s
capture, the administration is attempting to run on two separate
tracks, one that assures the Iraqis they will very soon have
the head of the dictator, while the other speaks of six months
before a trial, coinciding with the highly problematic handover
of sovereignty to Iraqis. As should be expected, there is no
serious consideration among the real powers in the administration
for a substantial UN role in Hussein’s fate.
Bush men have raised everyone’s expectations, but are prepared to
satisfy none of them. It is as if, as thousands of troops scoured
the countryside all these months searching for Saddam, there
was no plan for what to do when they caught him. Karl Rove’s
domestic policy brain may not know it, but his colleagues have
stumbled into another crisis in the making.
corporate media repeat each conflicting statement from different
the administration, and from different corners of the same
officials’ mouths, all the while pretending that a coherent
plan is evolving for the Trial of the Century. For example,
a December 17 Associated Press headline proclaims “Options
Emerge Around Saddam Trial Issue.” However, the text reveals
that every option is at war with the other. The U.S. has “gone along with the Iraqi plan that Saddam's trial should
be conducted by a special Iraqi tribunal that was set up just
days before Saddam's capture last weekend,” the AP reports. But
it soon becomes clear that no one is actually speaking for “the
U.S.” The Iraqis insist that their timetable is measured in
weeks, and they are adamant that death is the penalty on conviction.
In terms of international collaboration, “that could rule out
all of Europe" said a former State Department official.
No role for Europe means none for the UN. "There is no
question that [the trial] has to be fair, it has to be transparent
and it has to stand up to international scrutiny," said
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Colin Powell’s
right hand man. He’s talking about a six-month schedule, for
the benefit of an international audience that cannot participate
under terms that will suit Rumsfeld’s Iraqis.
there ever is a “fair” and “transparent” trial of Saddam Hussein,
it will be impossible to suppress evidence that the U.S. was
a co-conspirator in his crimes from the days of Saddam’s youth
right up to the moment his army crossed the border into Kuwait,
in 1990. Iraqi communists, who are represented in the appointed “government,” could
not fail to testify that the Baathists’ first mission in their
rise to power in the Sixties was to butcher hundreds of Communist
Party members on lists supplied them by their financiers at
the CIA. Iraqis anticipate a trial that remembers the martyrs,
many of them victims equally of the U.S. and Hussein. Like
Panama's Manuel Noriega, another demonized dictator captured
by American troops after the invasion of his country, Saddam’s
career is inseparable from the Americans.
is difficult to imagine that the administration would allow
such a productive proceeding to occur. However, events since
Saddam’s capture last Saturday confirm that the Bush men
are incapable of escaping, or even recognizing, the trap
they have set for themselves, one that is likely to accelerate
the dissolution of their fragile arrangements with the Iraqi
appointees, and seems certain to further alienate world opinion.
media are no more capable than the Bush men of comprehending
the dangers of treating Saddam Hussein like a domestic campaign
prop – it’s all bells, whistles and logos to the vacant,
and his handlers see a great prize in the caged Saddam Hussein.
In fact, their captive may be booby-trapped to explode in
their blind, dumb faces.