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Volume XLIV, No.47

Meaning of the Two Verdicts


Tuesday 24 April 2007, by SC


Less than a week before the former ruler of Iraq Saddam Hussein, ousted more than three-and-a-half years ago by US troops following an illegal invasion bereft of any legitimacy or popular sanction, was convicted and sentenced to death by an Iraqi court after a trial that, as the distingushed human rights activist and former US Attorney General Ramsay Clark categorically stated (before he was ejected from the court), was a travesty, Saddam’s chief lawyer Khalil al-Dulaimi, said in Baghdad that Bush had strategically arranged the verdict such that it was pronounced before the mid-term Congressional elections in the United States. Earlier on October 22, in a letter to the chief judge presiding over this trial, Raouf Rasheed Abdul Reahman, Saddam Hussein had himself claimed that the November 5 scheduling of the judgment in the case was an attempt to sway the voters in the US Congressional elections by painting his conviction and sentence as a victory for George Bush’s Administration.

Bush’s reaction after the verdict in Baghdad was a clear vindication of Saddam Hussein’s assertion. As an observer aptly noted, it was an “obscenely jubilant” response out of tune with the trend worldwide. Beleaguered due to a variety of reasons, including the onslaught on him based on the charge of being too close to Bush in his misdeeds in Iraq, British PM Tony Blair refused to publicly join Bush in the “celebrations” (albeit premature), never mind what he thought in private. Among the sober voices in the Western media one was struck by that of The Guardian whose views found echo in The Times (London) as well. Editorially The Guardian counselled something that was at complete variance with Bush’s outbursts:

If a new Iraq is ever to emerge from the ruins of the old, eschewing judicial murder would be a good start. National reconciliation should matter more than sectarian retribution, however understandable the desire for it. Now that this cathartic, defining moment has arrived, the Iraqi authorities should put the Dujail case on hold, hear the Anfal and other cases—and commute the death sentence. Hussein would never have done that. Iraq’s new masters should behave differently.

This was indeed a tall order. For the judgment itself smacked of partisanship and bias. As a leading British human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, QC, has pointed out,
... the court was not independent; it has been interfered with by the Iraqi Government, which replaced several presiding judges because they were perceived as being too fair to the defendants.

In Robertson’s view, Saddam’s execution would throw up “an obscene spectacle, an example not of justice but of wild justice, otherwise known as revenge”.

As far as President Bush is concerned, Robertson’s words are bound to fall on deaf ears. For he advocated, by his most reprehensible elation at the sham verdict, that very course: of revenge. But then what else can one expect from Bush and his followers like Donald Rumsfeld who has now been forced to resign from his post of Defence Secretary? If Saddam Hussein is charged with mass murder or genocide, how can one condone Bush’s crime? Was he not directly responsible for the death of around of 654,965 persons—that is, those killed in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion? If so, doesn’t he deserve to be tried like Saddam Hussein?

However, Bush’s strategy has eventually failed. His “obscene jubilation” following the death penalty to Saddam Hussein has not been able to sway the US electorate towards him and his Republicans; thus Democrats have swept Republicans from power in the US House of Representatives and even in the Senate they have re-established their strong presence although absolute majority eludes them there. This is undoub-tedly a convincing repudiation of both Bush and his handling of the Iraq war as mirrored in the departure of Donald Rumsfeld who was indeed an epitome of Bush’s misadventure in that Gulf state.

The message from the just-concluded polls is clear and unequivocal: change your strategy and approach in Iraq or be prepared to face a rout in the long run. But is the myopic politician in the US head of state capable of deciphering that message?

November 9 S.C.

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