Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Court TV and the Big Tent

Is there any better circus to watch than the Saddam Hussein trial? Like everything else Iraq, the trial appears to be a sham with judges who are making it up as they go along. And Saddam is playing the whole thing like a fiddle. Aside from attorney's, judges, and witnesses being blown-up on the way to court, there's this:

The Los Angeles Times leads with the helter-skelter proceedings at Saddam's trial, where the defense lawyers—led by former AG Ramsey Clark—briefly walked out after initially not being allowed to question the legitimacy of the trial. The defendants also harangued the judge, observers, and the trial's first witness. The witness described what happened in his town after an attempted assassination of Saddam there. He testified to mass executions and torture, including what he described as a human meat grinder. Though he was imprisoned and tortured himself, he acknowledged under questioning that he didn't see much of what he testified to.
The witness didn't see much of what he testified to?

The LAT notes that, for a second day, a prosecution witness seemed to be on shaky ground. Her testimony "veered seamlessly from her own experiences to stories apparently picked up from relatives or friends. Her account was long on dramatic flourishes and short on detail."
Correct me if I'm wrong. But isn't Saddam accused of torturing and killing thousands of people? Why can't the prosecution seem to put witnesses on the stand who have, like, actually been a victim? These reports show the witnesses as taking on a aura of little more than urban legends.

Of course Saddam's goal is to be disruptive. But there's also this report:

Richard Engel of NBC News, blogging from Bagdad:
Saddam’s irascible outbursts, snips and jabs at the chief judge during his courtroom appearances might be more than just grandstanding.

Some U.S. officials worry he could be telegraphing, secretly sending messages to his supporters. Antennae were raised when Saddam immediately began his last appearance by identifying the location of the courthouse, what floor he was on and how foreign guards move him around the building.

Could he be calling in attacks, or a mortar strike?
I know Iraqi's think Saddam should be tried in Iraq. But how smart is that? First off, the trial is really lacking the kind of judicial stature that is needed to successfully put on trial a former national leader. Shouldn't he be tried in an international court? And how about that little matter of a war going on outside the courtroom doors.

These facts, as with many other tactics used in Iraq, are leading to a laughingstock trial that will do nothing to tarnish Saddam to his followers, and will serve to further reinforce the image of the U.S. backed Iraqi government as a puppet. The illegitimacy of the whole procedure simply adds credence to the insurgency.

Thank god the latest news is that the trial has been postponed a few weeks. Why not take the opportunity to move it to a venue that's legitimate?

ADDED LATER: Also note this article by Juan Cole which discusses the "convenience" of the charges against Saddam. All the alleged crimes are carefully chosen from periods of time when the U.S. wasn't in bed with him.


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