January 08, 2006
Saddam trial is bad for us, says top Iraqi
AN Iraqi who is one of the favourites to become the country’s next prime minister has said that Saddam Hussein should have been summarily executed and warned that his continuing trial is having a negative effect on the country.
In an interview last week, Vice-President Adel Abdul Mahdi, 63, a moderate (emphasis ours) Shi’ite, said that the former Iraqi leader’s many crimes, from atrocities against his own people to the war with Iran, were evidence that "he deserves to be put to death without trial".
"This is no ordinary trial; it’s a trial that will judge Saddam and the members of his regime’s vicious crimes against humanity, even though he is being given a chance that he denied others during his rule," Mahdi said.
A member of the mostly Shi’ite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri), Mahdi said that he had been "ecstatic" when told by the prosecution that the first of a series of trials against Saddam could be completed in 10 sessions. "The continuing process is unnecessary and will only hurt the Iraqi people," he said.
Sciri is part of the United Iraqi Alliance, expected to be the most powerful force in parliament when the results of the December 15 poll is announced, probably later this month.
Mahdi, an economist by training who went into exile in France after the 1968 coup that brought Saddam’s Ba’ath party to power, said 2007 would be "crucial" in deciding whether coalition forces should remain. He praised the work of British forces in particular, saying they had done a "tremendous job" in the south.
He said it was "not appropriate" to set a precise date for troop withdrawal. The picture would be clearer once the new government had determined how best to fill the security gap that would be left by departing forces.
Mahdi, whose brother Ghalib Abdul Mahdi, a cabinet adviser, was shot dead in October, said he did not believe the large coalition presence had made the insurgency worse. But he claimed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, would not have gained such a foothold if Iraqis had been in control of their own security.
"The biggest evidence for this is the stable security situation in Kurdistan, which is protected by the local authorities there," he said.
Last week was one of the bloodiest of recent months in Iraq. At least 136 people — including 11 American soldiers — were killed on Thursday.
Mahdi admitted that it had been difficult for Iraq to build up its security forces and weed out people loyal to the former regime. But they were now 70% better than they were a year ago, he said.
"At the beginning, the Iraqi troops would take one step ahead and two steps back, meaning that they would immediately retreat from battle," he said. "Now a substantial improvement has taken place in that they would fight in combat alongside the coalition troops as back-up troops and now they have paved their skills to take the lead in combat."
He dismissed claims that the Iraqi authorities were involved in running secret prisons and suggestions that the interior ministry had been penetrated by Iranian intelligence. Such claims have been voiced by Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister who was had been seen by the West as a future leader but whose party did badly in the elections.
"During Mr Iyad Allawi’s rule there were people who were tortured to death," said Mahdi. "Where was the US then? Where were the Arab and western media?"
Mahdi said he could not deny that certain members of the security services were behaving "in a manner that services their own personal interests" but added: "We strongly believe that the violation of human rights has largely decreased." He also defended the Badr Brigade, blamed for the mistreatment of Sunni prisoners. "The Badr organisation has sacrificed a lot," he said.
In an astonishing admission, Paul Bremer, who led the American civilian occupation authority after the 2003 invasion, said this weekend that the United States had not anticipated the resistance it subsequently ad faced in the country. Asked who was to blame for violence, in which thousands of Iraqis and Americans have died, he replied: "We really didn’t see the insurgency coming."
Bremer, whose book on his experiences in the country is being published tomorrow, said there had been a tendency "by people in the Pentagon to exaggerate the capability of the Iraqi forces".
In a further embarrassment for the Pentagon, it emerged that the army and marine corps were working to upgrade body armour for its troops in Iraq after classified forensic studies showed up to 80% of fatalities suffered in combat in the country could have been prevented by better protection.
In a separate development, The New York Times claimed yesterday that American officials were talking to local Iraqi insurgent leaders. A western diplomat told the newspaper the aim was to exploit rifts between local groups, whose main goal is to expel American forces, and the more radical groups, like Al-Qaeda, which have alienated many Iraqis by the mass killing of civilians.
AL-QAEDA HOLDS US JOURNALIST
Attempts were being made last night to locate an American journalist who was kidnapped in Baghdad yesterday after a meeting with a senior Sunni politician. Her Iraqi translator was killed, writes Ali Rifat.
Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in a statement posted on the internet.
The car in which the journalist, her translator and their driver were travelling was stopped by another vehicle just after they had set off from a meeting with Adnan al-Dulaimi, a leading member of the largely Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front. Al-Dulaimi lives in the Adel district, one of the toughest in the Iraqi capital.
The assailants opened fire with machineguns, killing the translator. The driver fled to a police checkpoint to raise the alarm.
A spokeswoman for the American embassy in Baghdad said: "An American journalist is missing. We are investigating." She declined to confirm the journalist’s name.
Insurgents have kidnapped more than 250 foreigners in the past two years. Among those still believed to be held is Norman Kember, 74, a British peace activist kidnapped in Baghdad in November.