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Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Instafisking (TM)

Saddam Hussein has just been put on trial for mass-murder. And, given that Johnnie Cochran is no longer around to ask George Dubya Bush whether he at any time in his life uttered the word "rag-head", I guess the conviction is kind of a foregone conclusion. (BTW ISTR that Alan Dershowitz was second chair on California v OJ Simpson. Or maybe fourth chair. Or twenty-seventh. OJ had a lot of lawyers. Anyway, I remember Dershowitz giving an interview back in the mid 1990s where he expressed a desire to represent Saddam Hussein, should he ever go on trial. I wonder what made him change his mind?)

There's a post over on Instapundit discussing whether "we" should have tried Saddam before now. Rarely has there ever been a discussion that more begged the question "Who you call we, white-man?"

The point is that dear old Sadders is not being tried by the powers that overthrew him, a la Hermann Goering and his chums; Saddam is not even being tried by a bunch of bien-pensant tranzis, the way Milosevic is being tried in den Haag (and the court is apparently going for some kind of Guinness World Record, since it is now more than four years after the Serbian SoB was arrested: I'm reminded of the last words of the serial killer Carl Panzram: Hurry up, you Hoosier bastard, I could kill ten men while you were foolin' around!") No, Saddam shares with that other tyrant Charles Stuart a privilege afforded to few fallen despots: a public trial by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein his crimes were committed.

Some may say that the trial could have been a little more speedy. It could. The Coalition of the Willing could have put him on trial the day they pulled him out of his bijou bachelor pad in the converted septic tank. For that matter they could have summarily shot him and the entire Ba'ath party leadership on the steps of the supreme court in Baghdad, and broadcast the event on FOX NEWS. (And part of me wishes that they had: it gives me a lovely warm glow to imagine how the BBC would have reported that...)

But how much more fitting it was to wait: to wait until the Iraqi people had given the finger to Ba'athism in the first free elections in decades; to wait until they had voted twice; to wait until even his own asshole buddies in Tikrit threw up their hands in despair and joined in the voting...

Saddam chose to rule by power alone, and when a superior power overthrew him, by his own chosen rule his life was forfeit to that power. The Coalition could have said "You are our enemy" and shot him outright (or gone through the motions of a trial the way the victorious Allies did to the Nazis at Nuremberg). We didn't, because we have learned that power, alone, destroys itself; power is strong only in the service of justice. And in the service of justice, we handed the monster over to his victims, who are now prepared to try him for his crimes, prove those crimes beyond any reasonable doubt, and finally achieve a degree of closure after their thirty years of torment.

"Here is neither haste, nor hate, nor anger", peal the Trumpets,
"Pardon for his penitence nor pity for his fall.
"It is the King!" - inexorable Trumpets -
(Trumpets round the scaffold at the dawning by Whitehall.)

When Charles Stuart was executed in that dawning by Whitehall, it set a precedent: for the first time in the history of Europe, a ruler had been held to account by his people. There had been coups and depositions before, but this was new in the world. Charles' dynasty may have been later restored; his tyranny was not; when his worthless son tried to resort to Daddy's maxims of governance, he was chased out of the country and the foundation was laid for the rise of democracy, not just in Britain but throughout the Anglosphere - the Glorious Revolution that drove out James Stuart and established the supremacy of the British Parliament was the inspiration for the American Revolution, and the theme of defending the liberty of the people against the encroachments of the state was common to both. Kings, dynasties and regimes come and go. Precedents are for ever.

When Saddam Hussein gets what's coming to him, it will set a precedent: for the first time (that I know of) in the history of the Mid-East, a ruler will have been held to account by his people. There have been many, many coups and depositions before, but this will be new in the world. The genie is out of the bottle, and all the impiety and witlessness of Ba'athists, mullahs and monarchs can't call it back.

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