Judging Saddam: The Death Sentence Passed on Former Tyrant Saddam Hussein Could Worsen Iraq's Bloodletting-And Bury Embarrassing Questions about How the US Armed Saddam and Kept Him in Power
Blanche, Ed, The Middle East
THE SENTENCE OF death passed on Saddam Hussein on 5 November for crimes against humanity was something of an anti-climax three-and-a-half years after US-led forces toppled the Iraqi dictator and his grotesque regime. Saddam was pretty much a dead man the moment he was dragged from his spider hole hideout near Baghdad in December 2003.
Even though he still has to face other charges, particularly the genocidal Anfal (Spoils of War) campaign against the rebellious Kurds in 1988-89, in which some 180,00 men women and children perished, many of them slaughtered by chemical weapons, Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri Al Maliki, has said Saddam could hang within the next few months. There is no doubt more than a whiff of vengeance about this.
Maliki is a Shi'ite, whose co-religionists suffered as much as the Kurds under Saddam and his Sunni-dominated regime. Maliki is also a veteran of the ad-Dawa (The Call) party, which waged an underground war against Saddam for decades in which thousands of its members and their families were imprisoned, tortured or murdered by Saddam's killers.
The Shi'ites and Kurds are howling for Saddam's blood. They want revenge for decades of brutal oppression. They want to see him at the end of the hangman's rope.
Maliki would have faced the intense wrath of his own community had Saddam been acquitted or given a lesser sentence for the systematic elimination of 148 Shi'ites blamed for an attempt to assassinate the dictator in 1982. Letting Saddam off the hook would have doomed Maliki's efforts to bring the increasingly murderous Shi'ite militias under control.
The Sunnis, who lost their power and privileges when Saddam was toppled, are more ambivalent, but there are fears that executing Saddam will intensify the current surge in sectarian slaughter between the Sunnis and Shi'ites that will give Iraq that final nudge into all-out civil war and probably disintegration.
And amid the political upheaval in the United States by the Democratic Party's sweep in mid-term congressional elections that gave it majorities in both houses, and the impact this might have on the Bush administration's chaotic Iraq policy, Saddam's fate could well be sealed. Few will mourn him.
There are many in Washington who would not like to see Saddam back in court testifying about the support he got from President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s, at a time when the Iraqi leader was slaughtering his fellow citizens in their thousands with nerve gas and other poisons.
It was clear that the Iraqi judges were pressured by the US to announce their verdict against Saddam in the final run-up to mid-term elections, a last desperate throw by the Bush administration to win votes for the Republicans. It is ironic--and it may not be accidental--that Donald Rumsfeld, Bush's ex-secretary of defence and one of the key architects of the Iraq debacle, was dumped as the scapegoat for the Republican's defeat at the polls.
For it was Rumsfeld who, as Reagan's personal envoy on Iraq, flew to Baghdad several times, starting in December 1983 and through March 1984--while Iraq was at war with Iran, a war generally considered to have been started by Iraq's 1980 invasion of its neighbour--to open a back channel to Saddam and to reassure him that despite public condemnation of the use of chemical weapons the US administration stood firmly behind him.
In the final analysis, Reagan played a decisive role in Saddam's survival. So the Americans may not be too keen on having Saddam go on trial again on the Anfal charges since at the time of the Baathist regime's systematic slaughter of the Kurds, the US turned a blind eye to his use of chemical weapons against his own people.
Despite Rumsfeld's intimate involvement with the Saddam regime, he has, as far as is known, never been publicly questioned on his role in aiding Baghdad--and no mainstream media has ever brought it up since the April 2003 invasion. …