Today's rant is coming from a discussion of the Saddam trial in the newsgroups, where OJ Simpson's murder trial was brought in as an example of strange legal defenses. I basically do regard Saddam's defenses as ridiculous and weaker than OJ's. However, for a "fair" trial, even weak defenses must be considered "fairly". I don't really feel the American court system is "too fair" just because OJ's weak defenses succeeded. My concern there is simply that money should not be the deciding factor. The situation in Iraq is different. The deciding factor in Iraq is force, and right now it's mostly American force. Ergo, right now I think it would be impossible for Saddam to get any semblance of a "fair trial" in Iraq, any more so than an opponent of Saddam could have expected to get a fair trial in Iraq last year. The balance of force has shifted.
There is a bigger problem with a Saddam trial from BushCo's perspective, and that's the reason they wanted him dead rather than captured alive. (On review of the evidence, I'm pretty much convinced that the capture was a mistake, and quite possibly even a violation of orders.) That is the problem that Saddam's defenses, no matter how ridiculous, are very similar to the defenses OTHER "national leaders" would have to use for their actions. To the people who died, it makes little difference if Saddam killed them to cling to power, or if BushCo killed them to remove Saddam from power. They were still innocent victims and in a "fair" world, someone might be held accountable for their deaths.
I'm not a fan of black humor, but someone who was would probably focus on the black aspects. In particular, America probably killed more Iraqis through economic sanctions than we killed in the recent war. The difference was that the rest of the world was willing to agree to those sanctions. Back then, President Clinton was also building up the military, so he effectively weakened Iraq's military and effectively created the military instrument that ultimately destroyed Saddam--and now BushCo is claiming all of the credit and dreams of establishing a new worldwide empire. Not the first dreamers, but like Rocky told Bullwinkle, "That trick never works!"
BushCo is very persistent in ignoring the lessons of history. For example, they also dream of establishing a new age of the Robber Barons, and they've actually made great progress towards their evil goal. They want the peasants (even including those foolish dittoheads) to be controlled ever more reliably (by ever stronger police) with ever growing profits and and ever growing power increasingly concentrated in the hands of BushCo. Sorry, but "ever growing" is not possible in a finite world. Period
From our perspective, the BushCo dream is just wage slavery par excellence, but BushCo will use the power to drive the wages as low as possible--for the few jobs that can't be done cheaper in India. The historical lesson that SHOULD have been learned here is that "Slavery doesn't work." Doesn't matter how you disguise it, it just isn't a competitive economic system. Here, I'll just limit it to two of the more glaring examples, the Confederacy and the Soviet Union. There is strong evidence that the real cause of the Civil War was simply that the Confederacy was bankrupt and determined to default on the Yankee bankers. The Yankee bankers were not willing to accept that, and they therefore insisted on a very bloody war to prevent it. (By the way, some of those Yankee bankers' descendents are still important parts of BushCo.) In the case of the Soviet Union, they didn't call it slavery, but it effectively was a slave system with the people owned by the Communists, and it also went bankrupt. Remember, "Slavery doesn't work." Given the Soviet nuclear arsenal, we are quite fortunate that no one was able to start a war over that bankruptcy. Perhaps we were just lucky that BushCo didn't have their fingers very deep into that pie--no one wanted to loan much money to the Soviets.
This weeks topic is the lies themselves. There are some lies that actually DO get a lot of consideration because they come from people with the power to act on those lies. That's BushCo, right now, but after observing their antics for a couple of years, I've realized that you have to read them like old Pravda back in days of the USSR. In particular, the more loudly and aggressively they are accusing someone else, the more you should suspect they are doing whatever it is that they are accusing the other guy of.
The Saddam case is a rather interesting example. In particular, the main accusation against Saddam was that he had lots of weapons of mass destruction and might use them against America. Even though BushCo has full control over the largest and supposedly best intelligence agencies in the world, they tossed out all the actual evidence and continued to accuse Saddam of stockpiling WMD. However, the simple truth is we know that the US does have large stocks of WMD. If we were right to invade Iraq because of an imaginary threat of WMD, wouldn't it be proper for other nations to invade the US because of our actual WMD? "Look at Saddam's WMD, don't look at our WMD!"
Another important accusation against Saddam was that he had actually used WMD, both against his own people and against other nations. Ever heard of smallpox? Americans used smallpox as a WMD against the American Indians, who are now regarded as part of America's own people. Ever hear of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Americans used WMD against other people. We insist that these were proper actions and justified by the circumstances at the time, but that's just what Saddam would say. "Look at Saddam's history, don't look at our history!"
Saddam is accused of assassinating his political opponents. Israel is accused of assassinating its political opponents. America has used political assassination in the past and is taking lessons from the Israelis right now. Actually, killing political opponents is popular with LOTS of governments. Everyone who is killing their political opponents of course claims they are really executing criminals and terrorists. The political opponents who are getting killed always claim they are patriots and freedom fighters struggling for the liberation of their people. If George Washington had been captured by King George III, he would have been handled as a traitor and executed after a suitable "fair trail" as King George III defined it. Now that Saddam has been captured by "King George II" (AKA Dubya Bush), why should we expect anything different? "Saddam murdered patriotic freedom fighters, don't look at our killing of patriotic freedom fighters!"
The bottom line is that no one needs laws to protect them from someone who is weaker than they are. We need laws to protect the weak from the strong. That can, at least in theory, raise us above the beasts and their law of the jungle. However, this is an area where BushCo lies really shine. Actually, if you're like most Americans, you probably don't even know about this topic, though it's one of BushCo's highest priorities. It's called tort reform. If you listen to BushCo's lies, it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. The reality is different. The whole grand design is to make it harder for weak (poor) people to use the law against strong (rich) people. Did you really believe that a bunch of lawyers would do anything to reduce the need for lawyers? No, of course not. The REAL idea is only to limit access to the courts for certain kinds of people--the poor peasants like you and me. That way the lawyers can spend more time helping rich companies sue each other, with lovely high fees, the fees get passed down to the customers and taxpayers (remember those peasants), and the lawyers will be very happy. The American legal system already favors rich defendants like OJ Simpson over the paupers who receive all the executions. Right NOW BushCo is using YOUR tax dollars to make the laws even better for BushCo and the lawyers, NOT for you. "Saddam will get a fair trial, don't look at America's unfair legal system!"
You want REAL "legal", you should go look at Marshall's decision in Marbury v. Madison. Talk about the wisdom of Solomon! Damned if he did, and damned if he didn't, but he somehow found a TRUTHFUL way out that actually strengthened the rule of law. But those wise men understood that abuse of power is the great danger.
BushCo loves power, and now that they have it, they are going to USE it. "Laws are for crushing peasants!"
Time for another little rant on Dubya's latest lie--claiming he wants a "fair" trial before killing Saddam. The chance of a "fair" trial on any terms remotely acceptable to BushCo is zilch. No, I'm absolutely NOT defending Saddam as ANY kind of nice guy--though he's certainly no worse than dozens of other recognized "national leaders". However, for each possible crime, Saddam really has rational and legal defenses. Therefore, BushCo cannot permit a fair trial.
So let's pretend anyway, and lets consider the possible charges and the obvious defenses, and it will quickly become clear how flawed and distorted the "legal" situation is. Then we can consider the kangaroo court procedures that will actually be used.
First and quite unfortunately, we have to discard any charges based on violations of Iraqi national laws. Sure, lots of national laws are bad and even immoral--at least people in other countries think so. But Iraqi law is still the Iraqi law, and that's what national sovereignty is all about. At each stage, Saddam was acting in accord with Iraqi law. Even though Saddam was steadily changing that law to increase his own dictatorial powers, he was playing by the "rule of law", and there is no "fair" legal system that permits redefining crimes after the fact. No, we can't even weasel out by citing examples of negative defaults, where certain not precisely specified behaviors are illegal unless they are explicitly permitted, because in Saddam's case he could create a properly legal law to explicitly permit whatever he wanted to do. Even though most of his victims were Iraqis, the Iraqi law was permitting them to be victimized.
So if Iraqi national laws won't work, what about international laws. Actually, on first glance, this seems very promising, because some of Saddam's crimes do fit into categories where there is broad international consensus about right and wrong. There are two major areas here--wars of aggression and human rights violations. On top of that, the International Criminal Court was created to deal with exactly these sorts of situations. Even the United States accepts the ideals and originally agreed to support their pursuit--until Dubya personally decided to cancel America's participation. I guess some folks might think that BushCo could still refer this Saddam problem to that court and leave America out of it, but it won't work once you consider the kinds of charges that would need to be part of that mythical "fair trial".
For wars of aggression, there are two counts against Saddam--Iran and Kuwait. Historically bent people will already suspect there's a problem here, since the international responses were completely different. The war with Iran was internationally ignored, while the second provoked widespread reaction, with an immediate international response and ultimately led to Saddam's fall.
Actually, it's not perfectly accurate to say the war with Iran was "internationally ignored", because BushCo was NOT ignoring it, but rather actively encouraging the carnage and profiting by selling weapons to both sides. This would be a crucial part of Saddam's defense in that fair trial everyone keeps mumbling about. Saddam will say Iraq was truly threatened by Iran, which was (and still is) run by religious fanatics. In those years, Iran's leaders were even more fanatical, and quite eager to encourage their co-religionists in Iraq to rebel, and Saddam will say he was only defending his nation. His BushCo allies assured him of "America's" support, even though Iran was much stronger than Iraq and he was "forced" to use "extraordinary military weapons" for "defensive purposes". That's Bush-speak for the chemical weapons that were supplied by BushCo in the first place. Saddam would use basically the same defense as regards gassing the Kurds, though the defensive claims are weaker there. Unfortunately, those claims of "performing his presidential duty to defend Iraq" are mostly going to come back to questions of "national security" and "intelligence", and that's going to be really hard to convict Saddam for. After all, look at Dubya's defective intelligence reports claiming that Iraqi weapons were a threat. The actual aggressive invasion has since shown that no such "WMD justification" existed, which is certainly awkward, to say the least. Or a war crime, to say the most.
Time to return to Kuwait and consider the opposite international reaction to that Iraqi aggression. This one seems like it ought to be taken as a fine example of international response fully justified by the highest principles. However, if principle was the main concern, there were worse situations elsewhere in the world at the same time. No, the big difference in Kuwait was that America got upset and was willing to lead a strong response. Saddam had gotten out of hand, and something had to be done, though not quite so thoroughly done as to remove Saddam from power. However, the big question here is whether there is any defense that Saddam could put up for that fair trial thing, and it turns out that there probably is. Saddam would probably claim that it was an internal matter, not international aggression--and he would even call the US to testify on that point. The muddy truth was that our ambassador was probably officially lying to Saddam to set him up for the fall, but it's still enough to muddle the issue and drag BushCo farther into the mess. I actually do believe this count of aggressive war against Kuwait really would stick, and even though parts of it are quite embarrassing to BushCo, at least there would be little risk of becoming co-defendants there. The risky part from BushCo's perspective is that Dubya would want the trial to be strictly limited to Kuwait, while Saddam would try to expand the scope.
So if the waters have been muddied for the charges of aggressive war, what about human rights violations. Things like torture and murder of his own citizens. No question but that Saddam was up to his ears in this sort of stuff--but still awkward for that fair trial that keeps dogging us. Hard to guess exactly what tactics sharp lawyers would use, but I can think of several without too much effort. Legal acts within Iraqi law as it existed? Subordinates acting without Saddam's knowledge or approval? Required actions to prevent the kind of anarchy that now prevails in Iraq? Citing comparable or worse examples elsewhere, but which aren't being prosecuted? And last, but most importantly, that the worst crimes were with the knowledge and even encouragement of his former friends and allies, especially that selfsame United States.
The current suggestions of a fair trial in Iraq are just too ridiculous to take seriously. Sort of like the idea of Kenny Boy Lay getting a fair trial in Houston, but worse (assuming anyone ever gets tried for stealing all those billions of dollars). There were no laws on the Iraqi books, and they are just going to make them up on the fly, with the goal of executing Saddam already stated by the supreme "military" commander. Anyone who suggests there might be any merit in any defense offered by Saddam would expect to be arrested and disappeared by the occupying troops. No rational person can pretend that a American-military-sponsored trial in Iraq will be anything but a kangaroo court of victor's justice, even knowing that Saddam is a great criminal deserving the most severe penalties.
All in all, it seems there are a number of conclusions to be offered. The most obvious one is that a fair trial can NOT be one of the REAL priorities, and BushCo would have been much happier if Saddam hadn't been quick enough to manage to surrender. The original idea was clearly to get the grenade in the hole, kill Saddam immediately, and avoid any "legal" problems. They didn't really care if those soldiers got blown up in a boobytrap as long as Saddam died, too. They didn't really want to capture Saddam any more than they wanted to capture his sons--even though their live captures and interrogations might well have saved American lives.
Another conclusion is that we ALL know that many of Saddam's acts were wrong and indefensible, but we're talking about higher standards here--and what makes those higher standards important is because good people can and MUST apply them even to bad people who don't understand them and who violated those standards. Kind of the problem with being good, eh? This is a job for the International Criminal Court. No, still not a perfect solution, but the best we could do in a situation like this. Unfortunately impossible since that would include accepting the possibility that the justification for punishing Saddam is no better than the rationale for punishing Dubya and various other national leaders. Not just morally upstanding and ethical people, but even BushCo supporters should (in theory) be able to understand that situation.
It all comes back to BushCo's legal system, the "Law of the Jungle" and BushCo's golden rule, "He who has the gold makes the rules!"