FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Justice as Photo-Op

The Independent

Now it is time for bread and circuses. Keep the people distracted. Show them Saddam. Remind them what it used to be like. Make them grateful. Make Saddam pay. Show his face once more across the world so that his victims will think about the past, not the present. Charge him. Before the full majesty of Iraq’s new “democratic” law. And may George Bush win the next American election.

That’s pretty much how it looked from Baghdad yesterday. Forget the 12-hour power cuts and the violence and the kidnappings and the insurgency. Let’s go back again to the gruesome days of Baathist rule, let’s revisit once more the theatre of cruelty–back to all those war crimes and crimes against humanity with which the Monster will be charged. Let’s take another look at Tariq Aziz and “Chemical” Ali and the rest. Isn’t this why we came to Iraq–to rescue the Iraqis from the Beast of Baghdad?

When Saddam was “handed over” yesterday to Iraqi officials by the Americans –we don’t know how–he apparently wanted to know if he would have the right to a lawyer (never a previous concern of his where prisoners were concerned). Salem Chalabi, a close relative of the convicted fraudster and former Pentagon favourite Ahmed Chalabi, is leading the Iraqi tribunal’s work. So no surprise Saddam asked for counsel.

Saddam was freighted up from his close security prison cell in Qatar for his meeting with “Iraqi justice”–exactly what that means was not clear although most Western journalists used the phrase–and will today face an Iraqi judge who will formally accuse the ex-dictator of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The trouble is, we haven’t got the charges against Saddam quite put together yet. It will take at least a year to decide the exact details of what he’s going to be accused of.

The gassing of Halabja? Of course. The mass killings of Shia after the 1991 rising? No doubt. The torture of innocent Iraqis at Saddam’s Abu Ghraib prison? Although that might not be a place name that the tribunal–or the Americans–want to hear right now. And will the death penalty be used? Quite possibly–at least, that’s what an awful lot of Iraqis would like. It was, after all, Saddam’s favourite punishment. Could “Chemical” Ali of Halabja notoriety escape such a sentence?

Then there’s the little problem of the Iraqi tribunal whose “judges” all turn out to be lawyers without, apparently, any judicial skills. Many are Iraqis who spent years in exile–the kind with whom a growing number of Iraqis who stayed and endured Saddam’s rule are increasingly disenchanted. A judge, so we are told, will formally read a written text against Saddam. We don’t know where. We don’t even know when–today presumably. The old “occupying” power–in other words the new “occupying” power if you find the country’s new independence a bit hard to swallow–has let it be known that there may be “media access” when Saddam appears.

So one of those familiar “pools” will no doubt be created–I will put my bets on CNN and the loony right Fox News as certainties–and we’ll all be able to study Saddam at the critical moment when he begins to “face up to his crimes”, or whatever cliché we produce for the occasion. For justice, read photo-opportunity.

Journalists will do their best to turn all this into a success story. Even yesterday, the BBC was telling viewers that Saddam’s appearance in court was “exactly what Iraqis have been waiting for”. Alas, Iraqis have been waiting for electricity and safety and freedom from crime and elections far more than the trial of the miserable old murderer who will be paraded before us.

As an Iraqi woman financial consultant–no friend of the Baath party–put it to me yesterday: “This is a childish play, written by children for children. We have real needs and they want us to go and watch a play.”

For if the handing over of “full sovereignty” to an American-chosen Iraqi government had about it an Alice in Wonderland quality, today’s interlude with Saddam will mark the appearance of the Cheshire Cat. Maybe he will smile. Maybe he will shout his defiance of the judge–and have to be restrained.

Heaven forbid he will accuse the new “interim” government of being puppets of the United States. Or, worse, remind the court of his own long relationship with US governments. But most assuredly, like the Cheshire Cat, he will fade away again, put back in his box for another 12 months until the “Trial of the Century”.

 

More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail