Amid worldwide debate over the effectiveness of bombing as a
means to pressure Saddam Hussein, experts say the US and its allies
are overlooking a weapon of unlimited power that could help turn
the tide against the Iraqi leader.
International law specialists and human rights activists say
the US could deliver a blow far more damaging to the Iraqi leader
than any bomb, short of a direct hit on Saddam's Baghdad residence
These experts advocate convening a special international
tribunal to prosecute the Iraqi leader for alleged war crimes,
crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Given Saddam's notoriety it is surprising to many analysts
that there has been virtually no recent discussion of attempting to
punish the Iraqi leader for his alleged major violations of
international law during the past decade.
The issue arises as the Clinton administration faces growing
criticism of its anticipated military assault on Iraq and concerns
that widespread American and British bombing might result in heavy
Iraqi civilian casualties.
International organizations, including the United Nations,
claim they have gathered substantial evidence of Iraqi use of
chemical weapons in the 1980s and a systematic campaign to
eradicate Iraq's Kurdish population. Here in Kuwait, which endured
seven months of atrocities following the 1990 Iraqi invasion, the
idea of seeing Saddam stand trial is greeted with great enthusiasm.
"If they catch Saddam Hussein and they actually get rid of
him, I will feel very happy," says Dawood Al-Oraier, a Kuwait
refinery worker whose sister died under mysterious circumstances
during the Iraqi occupation.
Former President George Bush once compared Saddam to Hitler.
But his administration never took the next step to set up the 1990s
equivalent of a Nuremberg-type tribunal.
President Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright,
has expressed interest in moving against Saddam in the
international legal arena, but she has yet to take any public
Some analysts say any push to indict and convict Saddam would
face opposition from United Nations Security Council members Russia
and China. And even the US might balk at the idea out of fear of
setting a precedent that could leave American peacekeeping forces
vulnerable to politically-motivated charges of war crimes.
International law experts applaud Mr. Clinton for taking a
firm stand against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
during the current crisis with Iraq. But they also say that when a
world leader actually uses those weapons, the international
community has an obligation under long-established treaties to
investigate and punish that criminal conduct.
"After World War II we said, 'Never again,' " says Diane
Orentlicher, a war crimes expert and law professor at American
University in Washington. "There are certain crimes that can't be
countenanced, and if we do not condemn them, we have,in effect,
condoned them. …