Has anyone noticed that the charges leveled last week against Saddam Hussein bore no relation to the reasons offered by President Bush for his preemptive invasion of Iraq? Not a word about Hussein being linked to terrorist attacks on the United States or having weapons of mass destruction that posed an imminent threat to our nation's security.
That is because after seven months of interrogation, the United States appears to have learned nothing from Hussein or any other source in the world that supports the president's decision to go to war. Washington turned Hussein over to the Iraqis without charging its infamous prisoner of war with any of these crimes. And even the Iraqis did not charge him with being behind the insurgency that almost daily claims American lives.
It's a travesty, if you think about it. The fact is that the United States, which holds itself up as the exemplar of democracy for the entire Middle East, held Hussein in captivity for seven months, virtually incommunicado, without access to lawyers of his choosing and without charging him with a crime or releasing him at the end of the occupation, as required by the Geneva Convention. If the U.S. believes, as most of the world does, that Hussein committed crimes against humanity, then he is entitled to the same international standards of due process that the U.S. and its allies applied to top Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. It is well established in such cases that justice will not be served by turning Hussein over to be tried by his former political rivals or his victims.
No one will be fooled by the claim that we are merely acceding to the demands of the new Iraqi government, since its leader, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, has long been on the CIA payroll and was essentially appointed to his post by the U.S.
Similarly, Salem Chalabi, nephew of Pentagon protégé and discredited Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi, was put in charge of the trial by the U.S., creating what looks so far like nothing more than a show trial. The younger Chalabi is also a member of the INC, the exile organization bankrolled by U.S. taxpayers that provided much of the now disproven "intelligence" Bush used in speech after speech to convince Americans of the urgency of the Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction and terrorism "threat."
Salem Chalabi was picked by Bush's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice. In a secret directive issued in January and leaked to the public in March, Rice authorized a delegation of 50 lawyers, prosecutors and investigators to be sent to Iraq to prepare for Hussein's trial. Chalabi is not only the prosecutor but chose the judge, whose identity is a secret.
It is thus a huge stretch to call the proceedings a fair trial or an Iraqi-run affair. Men long on the U.S. payroll are running the country and the trial; U.S. troops are still guarding Hussein. And the U.S. even chose what images could be broadcast and told pool reporters they could not record Hussein's voice. An unauthorized audiotape was, however, leaked to the media.
We have already grossly violated the standard of Nuremberg laid down by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson: "That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to reason." But the four great nations Jackson was referring to, led by our own, were not guilty of committing aggression but rather of stopping it. The first principle of the Nuremberg trials was to hold nations accountable for crimes against peace.
It is therefore fitting that the preliminary indictment holds Hussein responsible for his aggression against Kuwait, which precipitated the 1991 Gulf War. How disturbing that in the current war it was the United States that committed aggression by invading Iraq based on false premises, thereby violating the Nuremberg principle.
Judge not, lest ye be judged is Scripture not to be taken lightly.
Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times