“Many who live deserve death, and some who die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Then, do not be so quick to deal out death and judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends.” Gandalf the Grey in The Fellowship of the Ring.
That said, if anyone deserved the ultimate penalty, it was Saddam Hussein. But the story being shaped leaves a lot to be desired. The story leaking out is of the Iraqi government insisting Hussein be turned over for execution over the objections of US diplomats and commanders in Iraq. Anybody who believes the final decision wasn’t made in Washington must be in the market for some beachfront property near the ruins of New Orleans. The current administration definitely attempts to control events from the top down. The only reason to do it any other way is to give the administration a degree of deniability in Hussein’s execution. Not that deniability of any kind is going to do this administration any good with the Iraqis.
Officially, Hussein was executed for ordering the deaths of 148 Shiite men and boys from a village where there was an attempt on his life in 1982. Officially, these charges were brought first because supposedly the court had the most evidence with his name on it for these crimes. Never addressed were charges of genocide against the Kurds in the late eighties, the attempts to force the Marsh Arabs off their lands, and the abortive rebellion of the Shiites after the first Gulf War. A rebellion encouraged by America. Ruthlessly put down by Hussein when we failed to support them.
An op-ed piece in the Saturday Oregonian by Peter W Galbraith (go to this link for information on Mr. Galbraith's career http://www.salve.edu/pellcenter/functions/biography_detail.cfm?bio_ID=43 details his observations of the Kurdish area where 4,500 of 5,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed. At least 200 were with chemical weapons. In the best Nazi tradition, the middlemen responsible for the genocide kept paper records and video tapes of executions and torture sessions. Some fourteen tons of records captured by the Kurds after the Gulf War and now in the National Archives. That’s our National Archives folks. Hussein’sname has to be on an order in that stack of paper somewhere.
What our elected hired help would prefer not to come out at trial is what Galbraith calls “a deeply amoral period in Western diplomacy when the major powers including the United States, chose to overlook genocide for strategic and economic reasons.”
The idea of Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, Dick Cheney or even the first President Bush being called to testify on what is part of public record had have them sweating bullets.
Donald Rumsfeld was President Reagan’s special envoy to Hussein in 83-84. According to Galbraith he met with Hussein twice without mentioning the use of poison gas on the Kurds. Even though he had spoken in public about the matter. Outside Iraq.
Colin Powell was Reagan’s National Security Advisor. He coordinated the successful effort to block legislation imposing sanctions on Iraq for using poison gas on the Iraqi Kurds. Imagine a former American Secretary of State called to testify in an Iraqi court about our failure to prevent yet another genocide.
In the months after the 1988 gas attacks the first Bush Administration doubled its financial assistance to Iraq. Dick Cheney was the Secretary of Defense at the time.
Without a trial and a verdict, Galbraith contends that future Iraqi governments can claim that genocide against the Kurds never happened. And it kind of makes me wonder if some of the current members of the Iraqi government might be on the witness list.
With or without a verdict justice was served. I can think of no better justice than Hussein’s spirit having to confront the souls of everyone, Iraqi or Iranian who died on his orders. It would bea hell of line up. I wonder how many years it will be before his soul is ready to come back to learn what it didn’t this time around.
Peter Galbraith is the author of The End of Iraq, how American incompetance created a war without end.