[Marxism] Robert Fisk on Saddam's performance at the US-run kangaroo court

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Jul 3 10:13:15 MDT 2004

This is the best assessment I have seen of Saddam's performance at the
kangaroo court trial of Saddam Hussein. Like Milosevic -- another old
criminal and scapegoat for imperialism who has boldly defied his
superiors in the mass-murder business --  Saddam acquitted himself
His widely ridiculed (in the United States) to be the legitimate
president of Iraq is true of course under international law.  The
invasion was illegal, its formal pretexts were all frauds, and Saddam
never resigned his post or surrendered to invasion.  Some of the US
newspapers proclaimed him "nuts" for this declaration -- which, if true,
should rule him out for trial for the alleged crimes. (There is actually
plenty of evidence that he doesn't know right from wrong about issues
like Kuwait and Kurdistan.) 
This is victor's justice, parading as victim's justice (related to the
US media practice of presenting railroading by cops and prosecutors as a
triumph for the victims of crimes -- see Law and Order three or more
times a week for examples. 
The whole show, like the sovereignty charade, is aimed primarily at US,
not Iraqi, public opinion -- aimed at helping Bush win and, failing
that, preventing the disintegration of support for the war from becoming
irreversible by a Kerry administration. 
As for Saddam, I will continue to enjoy his defiance -- he is being
tried under his own criminal justice procedures which are aimed, as the
US press hopefully asserts, at preventing defendants from speaking up
for themselves.  I like it when basically semicolonial satraps like
Hussein and Milosevic stand up to scapegoating by imperialism, the
central source of the murder and needless death that engulfs the
semicolonial regions today. 
But despite the illegality of Saddam's removal from office (likewise
Noriega and others) the waters of politics and the class struggle have
already closed over the spot in Iraq where he fell.  It is quite clear
that the masses of the Iraqi nation are quite set on never seeing him in
power again, and even the more mass-connected sections of the Baath
Party have dropped references to him as president.  The mass-based
resistance, the strongest forces in the resistance, make no defense of
him and, of course, the Shiite majority despise him.  The Kurds, whom
his regime irreversibly alienated but who have never considered
themselves part of the Iraqi nation, are organized independently now and
are pursuiing the national course set by their leaders, for good or ill.

Fred Feldman The Independent (London) via TruthOut -  Friday 02 July
2004 http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/070304D.shtml 
Confused? Shadow of His Old Self? Hardly 
By Robert Fisk 
Bags beneath his eyes, beard greying, finger -- jabbing with anger,
Saddam was still the same fox, alert, cynical, defiant, abusive, proud.
Yet history must record that the new "independent" government in Baghdad
yesterday gave Saddam Hussein an initial trial hearing that was worthy
of the brutal old dictator. 
He was brought to court in chains and handcuffs. The judge insisted that
his own name should be kept secret. The names of the other judges were
kept secret. The location of the court was kept secret. There was no
defence counsel. 
For hours, the Iraqi judges managed to censor Saddam's evidence from the
soundtrack of the videotaped proceedings  --  so that the world should
not hear the wretched man's defence. Even CNN was forced to admit that
it had been given tapes of the hearing "under very controlled
This was the first example of "new" Iraq's justice system at work  --
yet the tapes of the court appeared on CNN with the logo "Cleared by US
Military." So what did the Iraqis and their American mentors want to
The voice of the Beast of Baghdad as he turned  --  much to the young
judge's surprise  --  on the court itself, pointing out the
investigating lawyer had no right to speak "on behalf of the so-called
coalition"? Saddam's arrogant refusal to take human responsibility for
the 1990 invasion of Kuwait? Or his dismissive, chilling response to the
mass gassings of Halabja? "I have heard of Halabja," he said, as if he
had read about it in a newspaper article. Later, he said just that:
"I've heard about them [the killings] through the media." 
Perhaps the Americans and the Iraqis they have appointed to run the
country were taken by surprise. Saddam, we were all told over the past
few days, was "disorientated," "downcast," "confused," a "shadow of his
former self" and other clichs. These were the very words used to
describe him on the American networks from Baghdad yesterday. But the
moment the mute videotape began to air, a silent movie in colour, the
old combative Saddam was evidently still alive. He insisted the
Americans were promoting his trial, not the Iraqis. His face became
flushed and he showed visible contempt towards the judge. "This is all a
theatre," he shouted. "The real criminal is Bush." 
The brown eyes moved steadily around the tiny courtroom, from the judge
in his black, gold -- trimmed robes to the policeman with the giant
paunch --  we were never shown his face  --  with the acronym of the
Iraqi Correctional Service on his uniform. "I will sign nothing  --
nothing until I have spoken to a lawyer," Saddam announced  --
correctly, in the eyes of several Iraqi lawyers who watched his
performance on television. 
Scornful he was, defeated he was not. And of course, watching that face
yesterday, one had to ask oneself how much Saddam had reflected on the
very real crimes with which he was charged: Halabja, Kuwait, the
suppression of the Shia Muslim and Kurdish uprisings in 1991, the
tortures and mass killings. 
One looked into those big, tired, moist eyes and wondered if he
understood pain and grief and sin in the way we mere mortals think we
do. And then he talked and we needed to hear what he said and the
question slid away; perhaps that is why he was censored. We were
supposed to stare at his eyes, not listen to his words. Milosevic-like,
he fought his corner. He demanded to be introduced to the judge. "I am
an investigative judge," the young lawyer told him without giving his
In fact, he was Ra'id Juhi, a 33 -- year old Shia Muslim who had been a
judge for 10 years under Saddam's own regime, a point he did concede to
Saddam later in the hearing without telling the world what it was like
to be a judge under the dictator. He was also the same judge who accused
the Shia prelate Muqtada Sadr of murder last April, an event that led to
a military battle between Sadr's militiamen and US troops in the holy
cities of Najaf and Kerbala. Mr Juhi, who most recently worked as a
translator, was appointed  -- to no one's surprise  --  by the former US
proconsul in Iraq, Paul Bremer. 
Already, one suspected, Saddam had sniffed out what this court
represented for him: the United States. "I am Saddam Hussein, the
president of Iraq," he announced  --  which is exactly what he did when
US Special Forces troops dragged him from his hole on the banks of the
Tigris river seven months ago. "Would you identify yourself?" 
When Judge Juhi said he represented the coalition, Saddam admonished
him. Iraqis should judge Iraqis but not on behalf of foreign powers, he
snapped. "Remember you're a judge, don't talk for the occupiers." Then
he turned lawyer himself. "Were these laws of which I am accused written
under Saddam Hussein?" Judge Juhi conceded that they were. "So what
entitles you to use them against the president who signed them?" 
Here was the old arrogance that we were familiar with, the president,
the rais who believed he was immune from his own laws, that he was above
the law, outside the law. Those big black eyebrows that used to twitch
whenever he was angry, began to move threateningly, arching up and down
like little drawbridges above his eyes. 
The invasion of Kuwait was not an invasion, he said. "It was not an
occupation." Kuwait had tried to strangle Iraq economically, "to
dishonour Iraqi women who would go into the street and would be
exploited for 10 dinars." Given the number of women dishonoured in
Saddam's torture chambers, these words carried their own unique and
terrible isolation. 
He called the Kuwaitis "dogs," a description the Iraqi authorities
censored to "animals" on the tape. Dogs are, alas, one of the most
cursed of creatures in the Arab world. "The president of Iraq and the
head of the Iraqi armed forces went to Kuwait in an official manner,"
Saddam blustered. 
But then, watching that face with its expressive mouth and bright white
crooked teeth, the eyes glimmering, a dreadful thought occurred. Could
it be this awful man -- albeit given less chance to be heard than the
Nazis at the first Nuremberg hearings -- actually knew less than we
thought?  Could it be that his apparatchiks and grovelling generals,
even his own sons, kept from this man the iniquities of his regime?
Might it just be possible that the price of power was ignorance, the
cost of guilt a mere suggestion here and there that the laws of Iraq --
so immutable according to Saddam -- were not adhered to as fairly as
they might have been? 
No, I think not. I remember how, a decade and a half ago, Saddam asked a
group of Kurds whether he should hang "the spy" Farzad Bazoft and how,
once the crowd had obligingly told him to execute the young freelance
reporter from The Observer, he ordered his hanging. No, I think Saddam
knew. I think he regarded brutality as strength, cruelty as justice,
pain as mere hardship, death as something endured by others. 
Of course, there was that smart, curious black jacket, more a sports
blazer than a piece of formal attire, the crisply cleaned shirt, the
cheap pen and the piece of folded, yellow exercise paper which he took
from his jacket pocket when he wanted to take notes. "I respect the will
of the people," he said at one stage. "This is not a court  --  it is an
The key moment came at that point. Saddam said the court was illegal
because the Anglo-American war which brought it into being was illegal
--  it had no backing from the UN Security Council. Then Saddam crouched
slightly and said with controlled irony: "Am I not supposed to meet with
lawyers? Just for 10 minutes?" 
And one had to have a heart of stone not to remember how many of his
victims must have begged, in just the same way, for just 10 more

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