December 9, 2005
The trial of Saddam
Hussein, which has opened with much international publicity, is a desperate
attempt to justify and convey some legitimacy on the criminal U.S. invasion
and occupation of Iraq. It is an effort to demoralize and divide the
resistance to the occupation. It has nothing to do with justice or truth.
All the political
forces internationally that have opposed the 15-year-long U.S. war on
Iraq--which has included starvation sanctions, bombing and invasion--should
also oppose all the efforts to justify the continued occupation, including
the present trial of the former Iraqi leader and seven members of his
Regardless of the
wide spectrum of political views on the character of Saddam Hussein's
government, it is essential to oppose this U.S. justification for the
war. To be silent on this issue is to give credibility to a U.S.-created
phony court at the giant U.S. command center called the Green Zone.
The U.S. government has no right to have even one soldier in Iraq. It
has no right to bomb, sanction or starve the Iraqi people. It has no
right to impose a colonial government or to establish courts in Iraq.
It has no more right to decide the fate of Saddam Hussein than it does
to control the oil and resources of Iraq.
The detention of
Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants, along with tens of thousands of
other Iraqis, is all based on a criminal, illegal war of aggression.
The Iraqi Special
Tribunal and the trial of Saddam Hussein are also a violation of international
law. The Geneva Convention, to which Washington is a signatory, explicitly
forbids an occupying power from creating courts. In addition, the trial
itself, along with the total isolation of the defendants and denial of
all visitation and legal rights violates the International Convention
on Civil and Political Rights. The defense lawyers who have stepped forward
have been threatened and intimidated. Two lawyers on the defense team
have been assassinated. Today in Iraq there is no judicial system. There
are no codes, no laws, no courts. There still is no agreement on a constitution.
The entire structure of the Iraqi state was destroyed. In its place is
only the most brutal form of outright military domination.
The Iraqi Special
Tribunal has been illegitimate since its very formation. It is a creation
of L. Paul Bremer III of the U.S., former head of the Coalition Provisional
Authority--the illegal, occupying power. Bremer initially appointed
Salem Chalabi, the nephew of Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi,
to organize and lead the court.
Chalabi had returned
to Iraq from exile with the aid of U.S. tanks in April 2003. He opened
a law office to draft the new laws that have reopened Iraq to foreign
capital, in collaboration with the law firm of former Defense Undersecretary
Douglas Feith, a war profiteer, an ideologue of the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld
cabal and a principal architect of the war.
Bremer also appointed
the tribunal judges. The funding and the personnel are totally controlled
by U.S. forces. The U.S. Congress has appropriated $128 million to fund
the court. Of course, the court has no jurisdiction over crimes committed
by U.S. forces in the invasion and occupation!
Role of demonizationThe
trial underway now is part of the sustained U.S. effort to totally demonize
Saddam Hussein. This has been an essential part of the 15-year war on
Iraq. U.S. propaganda has relentlessly described Hussein as an evil
madman, a brutal dictator and a threat to the entire planet who was
poised to strike with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons within
minutes. He was charged with having a role in 9/11 and being in league
and Democrats knew this was a fraud. U.S. bombs had destroyed Iraq's
entire industrial capacity. But no politician was willing to challenge
Every U.S. war
against oppressed peoples and nations has begun with saturating the
entire civilian population with war propaganda that so demonized the
leader of the targeted population that any crime was treated as acceptable
and beyond question. This has been true since the wars against Native
populations and the demonization of Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Geronimo
and many, many other Indigenous leaders, up to the leaders of every
progressive or revolutionary struggle over the past 50 years. It doesn't
matter how mild or committed to non-violence the leader is. Consider
the case of the kidnapped former priest, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide
of Haiti, who was charged with corruption, drug running and gang violence.
Today President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
of Iran are increasingly portrayed as madmen, dictators and evil incarnate.
Since the days of
the Roman Empire, victor's justice has meant humiliation, degradation
and placing the defeated leader in the dock in order to establish a new
order. It hides the brutality of overwhelming force and gives legitimacy
to the new rulers. The trials of Denmark Vesey and Nat Turner in the ante-bellum
South were the slaveowners' way of cloaking the violence and degrading
brutality of slavery in "god-given" property rights. The kidnapping
and trial of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic after the 78-day U.S/NATO
bombing of Yugoslavia, in which hundreds of civilians died, was a similar
case of victor's justice.
U.S. and WMDs
While the U.S.
demonizes Saddam Hussein, it should be remembered that the Pentagon
has used weapons of mass destruction not only in Iraq but against countless
other defenseless populations, from Korea and the Philippines to Vietnam,
Laos, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Grenada, Libya, Lebanon and Yugoslavia. It
is the U.S. military machine that should be put on trial for having
used the most horrendous weapons, from nuclear bombs to napalm, white
phosphorus, anti-personnel weapons, so-called bunker busters and radioactive
In Iraq intentional
civilian destruction was calculated, photographed and studied. The infrastructure
was consciously targeted. Reservoirs, sanitation and sewage plants,
chlorine and water pumping stations were bombed. The electrical and
communications grids were destroyed. Food production was targeted, from
irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides to processing, refrigeration
and storage. In the 1991 bombing more than 150,000 Iraqis died. There
were 156 U.S. soldiers killed.
Year after year
international delegations that had been to Iraq, including many organized
by the International Action Center (IAC) and led by former U.S. Attorney
General Ramsey Clark, reported on the impact of the 1991 bombing and
the years of U.S.-imposed UN sanctions. The sanctions created an artificial
famine. Imports of food, medicine and civilian necessities were withheld.
By the UN's own
estimates, over 1.5 million Iraqis died of preventable diseases. Half
a million children under the age of 5 years died between 1991 and 1996.
Both the sanctions and the bombing, begun under George H.W. Bush, continued
through the eight years of the Clinton administration. U.S. bombing
continued at an average of 25 raids a day for 12 years.
Ramsey Clark, founder
of the IAC, has courageously challenged the legitimacy and legality
of the Iraqi Special Tribunal as a legal adviser to Saddam Hussein.
As an international
human rights lawyer, his position is entirely consistent with his 15
years of opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq--from his visit to Iraq
in 1991 when the U.S. bombed every 30 seconds for 42 days, through the
12 years of starvation sanctions, to his opposition to the 2003 invasion.
It is consistent with his principled opposition to other U.S. wars and
interventions in Vietnam, Nicaragua, Grenada, Iran, Libya, Lebanon and
Panama. Standing up to demonization is part of standing up to the U.S.
war and its propaganda machine.
Target is Iraqi
The agents of U.S.
imperialism have established corrupt and brutal dictatorships and trained
and funded military rule from one corner of the globe to the other--from
Indonesia to Chile to Congo.
Their problem with
Saddam Hussein was not that he was a dictator. It was that he refused
to surrender the sovereignty of Iraq. He refused to give U.S. corporations
control over Iraqi oil, nationalized beginning in the 1960s. His worst
crime in their eyes was that he refused to bow down to the New World
It is Bush, Cheney,
Rumsfeld and Blair who should be on trial for war crimes and crimes
The global movement
that opposes the U.S. occupation in Iraq must seriously consider its
responsibility to oppose every aspect of the U.S. war--especially the
phony courts and staged elections that seek to legitimize and legalize
Implicit in the
call to bring the troops home now is the demand to stop the whole brutal
process of recolonization. This means cancellation of the U.S. corporate
contracts that have privatized and looted Iraqi resources, closing the
hundreds of U.S. bases and the thousands of U.S. checkpoints, canceling
the "search and destroy" missions and closing the secret prisons
where tens of thousands of Iraqis are tortured and humiliated.
And closing the
illegal, U.S.-created courts.
is co-director of the International Action Center. She has edited five
books on Iraq and coordinated several delegations, headed by Ramsey
Clark, that visited Iraq to challenge the U.S. bombing and the sanctions.
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