Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Saddam's Legal Team

You have to wonder what they're after, the liberals defending Saddam Hussein. It's not just former Attorney General Ramsey Clark with his outrageous anti-American agenda. Since the beginning of Saddam's continually postponed trial we have heard the protests from leftist lawyers, NGOs and assorted liberal media types. They all proclaim their interest in justice and fairness, but all these meddlers seem more intent on using this trial to showcase their own agenda. Placing their interests above justice, and the welfare of the Iraqi people.

Clark seeks to use the trial as another soapbox to criticize American foreign policy. He intends to defend Saddam on the grounds that the US led war was illegal. Even were that fiction true, would it retroactivally absolve Hussein of genocide? Does the former Attorney General really think that absolving Saddam of responsibility will make the world better?

Other groups, like Human Rights Watch, claim that poor Saddam can't get a fair trial. One time critics of Saddam the dictator, HRW has become the defender of Saddam, "the victim's" rights. Assailing the trial on several grounds, they question the legitimacy of the Iraqui tribunal. They overstate the role International Law in the case. They appear horrified by the prospect of the death penalty, almost guaranteed by the legal culture in Iraq if(when) Saddam is found guilty of mass murder.

Wrong on all counts. This tribunal is as legitimate as any newborn court can be possibly be. Certainly it has a better foundation of legitimacy than Nuremburg did in 1945. The court created under US supervision, is based on existsing Iraqi law and "international law" guiding occupying powers. Since the Transfer of Sovereignty in 2004, Iraq's government has continued to recognize tribunal authority. The democratically elected legislature has passed supporting legislation. The people approved a constitution in October giving the court further populist approval.

While Hussein is guilty of multiple crimes under International Law, this case is about the murder of 148 Shiite males in the city of Dujayl in 1982. As a sovereign state Iraq has the right to try this as a domestic murder case. Whatever conflicts with international proceedings occur, they get the first crack at Saddam. The American legal team behind the current strategy was smart. By starting small, local and domestic, the US team left open the possibility of international tribunals if the Iraqis fail.

In their quest to ensure a trial that Iraqi's will see as fair, leftist's confuse their values with the Iraqi people's. HRW et al. view capital punishment as immoral, and illegal. In a profound way this contradicts their arrogant self-appointed role as guardians of the Iraqi people's justice. Continued objections to the death penalty, demonstrate their distance from the typical Iraqi conception of justice. Iraq, an Arab, Muslim nation retains the death penalty. It is part of that culture’s idea of justice. While liberals are entitled to their objections to the death penalty, in the Arab world, it is considered essential for justice. In Iraq it is now a democratically approved sanction.

Under Iraqi law the appropriate penalty for murder is death. Sure Amnesty International, liberal lawyers and the UN organization are against the death penalty. However, 75 states including not only Muslim nations, like newly democratic Afghanistan, but Japan, the US and other democracies, retain the death penalty option. Iraq is entitled to its own sanctions. Liberal distaste for this punishment does not make this trial unfair.

These interests claim to be ensuring fairness. But they cannot possibly speak for what Iraqis call fairness and then reject Arab notions of justice. Iraqis will more likely find it unjust if Saddam is excused on a legal technicality exposed by Clark or other foreign lawyers. Iraqis know that Saddam, is guilty of oppressing them. The minority who do not accept this are unlikely to be convinced by any trial. What Iraqis want most is a public accounting of at least some of these crimes, and an appropriate sentencing. Forerign liberal interests with separate agendas should not deny the Iraqi people this justice.

The Defense of Mario Lozano