Monday, September 26, 2005
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How to try Saddam
How do you try a dictator for crimes committed while in office? The question is not an easy one to answer. The best treatment I've seen of this problem, ironically, is fictional: Julian Barnes' The Porcupine.
This question will rear its head again when Saddam is put on trial in three weeks. Gary Bass -- author of Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals -- has a non-Times-Select op-ed in the NYT expressing concerns about how the Iraqi government is handling the matter:
If this sounds trivial, Bass is correct to point out that the treatment of Saddam's past affects Iraq's political future:
Read the whole thing.posted by Dan on 09.26.05 at 11:34 AM
A good case could be made that the trial of Saddam has already gone off the rails by being delayed for so long. Eighteen months ago there was only one thing in Iraq less popular than the occupation, but time moves on and memories fade.
I agree with the main point Bass makes in The Times today. But this trial cannot be allowed to turn into something like the Milosevic circus, dragging on for year after year and being drained of any political good it might do. The one hope Iraq has right now is a decisive repudiation of its Baathist past, and this trial is the best means of getting to that point.posted by: Zathras on 09.26.05 at 11:34 AM [permalink]
A thorough series of war crimes trials would not only give the victims more satisfaction but also yield a documentary and testimonial record of the regime's crimes.
posted by: Carl on 09.26.05 at 11:34 AM [permalink]
I think putting the sins of the West in perspective can only do good- sure, we let him do a lot of the things he did, but he still did do them himself...posted by: perianwyr on 09.26.05 at 11:34 AM [permalink]
I'm not defending Saddam by any means, Peri. I'm just saying that this is a consideration when US and Iraqi offcials decide what to charge him with.
And it's not just those in the "West" who Saddam could embarrass. Many in the current Iraqi gov't fought for the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war, and they don't want Saddam talking about that in court.
From this perspective, it's better to charge him with a relatively minor crime, where he can be gaveled down by the judge if he tries to bring up these touchy issues.
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