“The whole Arab world needs to watch this trial,” proclaims the headline on a column by Amir Taheri. He is referring, of course, to the now-commencing trial of dictator Saddam Hussein.
For once I disagree with Taheri, an eminent Middle Eastern expert: This is a show trial that should never take place.
It’s not the show aspect I mind (in fact, I’d like to see Mr. Hussein paraded in shackles on the streets of Baghdad, etc.)–it’s the trial aspect.
Unless you believe in the left-created “international law” now emerging in places like the Hague, you know that trial-by-jury was never designed to work as a part of international politics. It has always been a way to determine an individual’s guilt or innocence, not a tyrant’s.
As both The Other Charlotte and I noted when the trial of Saddam was first broached, the idea of trying fallen tyrants is a fairly recent innovation. The Nuremberg trials of Nazis was the first such trial. Sir Winston Churchill had to be persuaded–he favored shooting the Nazi leaders.
Such trials are always a charade–do we presume that Mr. Saddam, against whose regime we have expended treasure and more than 2,000 American lives is innocent until proven guilty? Of course not. That defies common sense.
The Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum is another writer with whom I often agree–but not in this instance. Like me, Applebaum compares Saddam’s trial to the Nuremberg trials:
“From the start, the trials were clearly ‘victor’s justice.’ Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union created the court with no real German or other ‘international’ involvement. They called their ground rules a charter, not a law, to duck the question of the court’s dubious legality. The list of defendants, limited to 20, was hardly comprehensive. At one point, Soviet prosecutors accused the Nazis of massacring some 20,000 Polish officers in 1940, a crime their government knew perfectly well the Soviet Union itself had carried out.
“Yet Nuremberg was, in retrospect, a huge success, and as the trial of Saddam Hussein begins today in Baghdad, it is worth remembering why. If it achieved nothing else, Nuremberg laid out for the German people, and for the world, the true nature of the Nazi system. Auschwitz survivors and SS officers presented testimony. Senior Nazis were subjected to cross-examination. The prosecutors produced documents, newsreels of liberated concentration camps and films of atrocities made by the Nazis themselves. There were hangings at the end, as well as acquittals. But it mattered more that the story of the Third Reich had been told, memorably and eloquently.”
None of this, of course, is the purpose of a trial-by-jury. And, as Taheri suggests, the Iraqi people already know how evil Saddam’s regime was:
“‘What is the latest?’ Iraqis ask as they come together for tea and sympathy in these times of hope and uncertainty. And there is always someone who answers by reporting the discovery of a new mass grave where the victims of Saddam Hussein were buried.
“According to the latest estimates, the remains of more than 200,000 people, the fruit of the 35-year-long rule of his Arab Socialist Baath Party, have been found in this ever expanding archipelago of death.”
As I said, is he innocent until proven guilty?