Is It Really Possible for Saddam Hussein to Receive a Fair Trial?
Saddam Hussein has been found in a hole in the ground, a circumstance which the Bush administration may come to regret, provided that Saddam is tried by a court where he is allowed to defend himself and call witnesses.
It always seemed to me that the Bush people were trying their damndest to kill Saddam, with all of missile attacks and their repeated bombing of most of his palaces and suspected hiding places during the siege of Baghdad. I do not believe that they wanted him alive, nor did they ever offer any chance for surrender terms or negotiations. It was a very funny way to run a war, with your enemy never given an opportunity to seek terms, but that seems to be the U.S. way these days. And then again, it goes back to the "Indian wars" doesn't it, with no give and take allowed, only total destruction or total surrender.
But now Saddam has survived and he will presumably have a chance to speak in court. My own opinion is that we should demand that the International Court of Justice or the new International Criminal Court have this case for several reasons: first, because Iraq is not yet equipped with a sovereign government and it will be very hard to handle such a case in a judicious way (fair and square). Second, Saddam's alleged crimes are clearly international in character, extending into Iran and Kuwait for certain. This means that an Iraqi ad hoc court could not adequately deal with Iranian or Kuwaiti issues. Iran has already expressed its intention of bringing charges against Saddam.
The people of the United States have a major interest in seeing that the International Court is the scene for the trial of Saddam. We have been informed repeatedly in the press that the U.S. under Reagan and Bush Senior provided very strong material assistance to Saddam when he launched his war against Iran and also later when he attacked the Kurdish minority in Iraq. If Saddam was guilty of major crimes in these instances, then we the people need to know if our leaders were helping him and if they also should be called upon to publicly explain their actions. Of course, Reagan is beyond justice now, but many key players in the present Bush administration were apparently working with Saddam during the 1980s.
It has also been pointed out that Bush senior encouraged the Shiites and Kurds to rebel after the Gulf War, but then refused to provide them with any help, thus providing Saddam with his opportunity to crush the rebellion. If so, then this could mean that former President Bush is complicitory in genocide and/or murder of civilians.
An international trial might also bring out information on which U.S. corporations were providing Saddam with the materials he needed to build up his war machine and alleged weapons of mass destruction. This would include U.S. corporations as well as European ones. Is it not right that we try to nip genocide in the bud by going after the corporations and their CEOs who provide the tools for terror and torture? They should be part of Saddam’s trial.
In short, would it not be wise to demand that an international court try Saddam and that the trial be structure so as to place on trial all of Saddam’s major collaborators whomsoever they might be?
© 2003 Professor Jack D. Forbes, Powhatan-Delaware, is a historian, social critic, and poet, covering issues of international and inter-ethnic relations for 45 years. He is the author of Red Blood, Africans and Native Americans, Apache, Navaho and Spaniard and other books. He is professor emeritus of Native American Studies, University of California, Davis. He can be contacted at his web site.
This article was originally published in News From Indian Country December 29, 2003.