Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Saddam's Death Penalty

Editorial from the December 2006 Socialist Standard

It was nauseating to hear President Bush pontificate about the decision to execute Saddam and using words such as "victory" and "justice". If Bush could have cited any moral superiority he has over Saddam then his words might have carried weight, but the simple truth is that this was one opportunistic and blood-drenched killer revelling in the misfortune of another and, far worse, for political expediency.

The very fact that the death penalty was passed on Saddam two days before the US mid-term elections, at a time when Bush's popularity in opinion polls was recording a serious fall, can hardly be ignored. Saddam had been in custody for two-and-a-half years before any charge was levelled against him and the Iraqi Higher Criminal Court miraculously came into existence the same week he was captured. When the time came Saddam was no longer a tool of US foreign policy but an instrument of Republican Party domestic policy.

The first thing to observe is that Saddam's trial was not an Iraqi legal procedure; it was a White House coordinated process from start to finish. It was funded by a $138 million grant from Congress and orchestrated by a large team of staff know as the Regime Crimes Unit and operating from the US Embassy in Baghdad.

It was Washington and London who selected the trial judges, who were then sent to London to be trained on how to handle the case and who were then taken to Italy to rehearse the trial.

Several judges stepped down, one having been rounded on by the Iraqi government because he was considered to lenient. Three defence lawyers were kidnapped and murdered and a similar fate befell one witness for Saddam. Many have asked why Saddam could not have been tried in a similar manner to Slobodan Milosevic whose case was heard at The Hague. Quite simply Washington would have pooh-poohed such a suggestion, just as it has refused to recognise the International Criminal Court or judgements laid down by the International Court of Justice. Indeed the US has little regard for any international legislation or treaty, including the Geneva Convention. All are seen as meddlesome in the pursuit of its global corporate interests.

Historical amnesiacs would do well to remember that Saddam came to power via CIA assistance and was financed and chemically-armed by the West for many years in his war against Iran. Successive American and British governments turned a blind eye to his atrocities, including his mustard gassing of Iranians and the poison gas massacre of 5,000 Kurds at Halabja in 1988, only showing concern when he invaded Kuwait without the nod from Washington and worried the pro-American oil sheiks of Saudi Arabia in the process.

From 1991 up until the US-led invasion of 2003, an estimated 1 million Iraqis died as a result of UN Sanctions. When, Madeleine Albright, the US secretary of State to Iraq, was questioned on American TV about the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of economic sanctions, she commented that it was "a price worth paying." Since the 2003 invasion some 655,000 Iraqis have been killed. Throughout Saddam's 24-year reign he never killed this many humans. Meanwhile, US-led intervention in Iraq in 15 years has resulted in the deaths of almost 1.75 million. And this is in the name of justice!

There is of course nothing the warring factions in Iraq have to celebrate about the death penalty. Their lot has not been improved one iota since the US-led invasion and even if they live in a relatively stable Iraq they will exist as wage slaves, their lives subordinated to dictates of profit-merchants and the whims of religiously-aligned warlords, their future always over-shadowed by the dangerous game of geo-politics, their blood worth far less to the powerful than the country's oil.