In the end the tyrant from Tikrit was found in a hideout hole in
the ground, just outside the Iraqi city from which he rose to power.
In Iraq and the Middle East, awareness of the state to which one
of the most fearsome and bloody dictators of the 20th century was
reduced when he was captured is important. It will further the job
of pulling Saddam Hussein from his pedestal - a process that began
when his statues were tumbled last April.
But now that Saddam Hussein is in American military hands, the
crucial task of his demythification will be completed only with a
tribunal that will try him for the crimes attributed to him.
That trial will seek to render some sense of justice to the Iraqi
people who suffered under his rule for more than 30 years. Although
US officials in Iraq said Sunday the specifics of bringing Mr.
Hussein to justice were only starting to be worked out, Iraqi
leaders said Hussein would be tried in an Iraqi court - perhaps in
the court just created last week by the US-appointed Iraqi Governing
Council (IGC) to handle the crimes of the former regime.
Adnan Pachachi, who holds the IGC's revolving presidency this
month, says an Iraqi civilian court will try Hussein for crimes
against humanity and war crimes. He and other Iraqi leaders
characterized the trial as "showing the world the democracy and
freedom of the new Iraq," and that it would not be a trial for
revenge, but a "just trial."
Even given Hussein's global reputation for cruelty, it will be
crucial for Iraq's future and for the historical value of the trial
that it be perceived in Iraq and the region as fair, experts say. A
trial presents certain pitfalls as well, in particular for the US.
For starters, there's the tricky question of how to treat America's
former ties with the dictator it eventually deposed.
Still, a trial will serve the important purpose of reminding both
Iraqis and the world of what Hussein was in Iraq, in the region, and
in the pantheon of 20th century dictators. "Even in a region where
competition is particularly tough for how terrible and brutal a
dictator can be, Saddam ruled supreme at the top of the list," says
Bruce Jentleson, a Middle East expert at Duke University.
Hussein will be remembered for gruesome acts against his own
people, from the gassing of Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s to more recent
attempts at genocide of Iraqi Shiites in the country's southern
marshes. But many experts say Hussein stands out for two defining
aspects of his rule: his longevity as either the power behind the
scenes or the autocratic ruler in Iraq, and the particularly
vindictive and personal nature of his cruelty. Hussein was
officially in power from 1979, when he became president, but his de
facto rule began with the rise of the Baath Party to power in 1968.
He was a hands-on tyrant like few others.
To illustrate this trait, a story is told in the Middle East
comparing Hussein to Hafez al-Assad, the late Syrian dictator. …