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No doubt most readers here are aware that Saddam Hussein's trial began (albeit briefly) today. Accused of a long list of atrocities, fewer probably know the specifics of the current charges. The LA Times has details:
Once a torrent of water coursed through this central Iraq town, which takes its name from Nahr Dujayl, the Little Tigris River that for centuries nourished its lush palm groves and orchards.Read the whole thing, of course. Much interesting background information.
Now, only raw sewage flows through open gutters along the city's unpaved alleyways.
Inside a mud-brick home, an old man chokes back tears as he recalls his three sons. They were killed, prosecutors say, as a result of then-President Saddam Hussein's vengeful fury following a 1982 assassination attempt.
"One by one, my sons were taken from me," said Ali Hossein Mussawi, a 68-year-old onetime farmer. His humble living room is filled with fading photographs of the three young men. "Saddam took away my sons, he took away half of my heart."
Hussein's Sunni Muslim-dominated regime unleashed a wave of retaliation within hours of the July 8, 1982, attack in the Shiite-majority city, Iraqi officials, prosecutors and witnesses say. At least 148 were rounded up and executed, an Iraqi prosecutor said. Some estimate three times that many were killed. Prosecutors allege that almost 400 men, women and even children were in custody for years.
The small river running through the town, which gave it life and prosperity, was cut off, plowed over and eventually turned into an asphalt road. The date palm groves and gardens where residents earned their livelihoods were bulldozed or left unwatered until they died too, according to prosecutors and townspeople.
While reading, consider the people of Iraq. Used as cannon fodder in a lengthy war with Iran or slaughtered for opposing their own government. Forced to march into Kuwait then punished economically by the world after the defeat in that war. Murdered by the thousands by their own government for over a decade and finally invaded and occupied. Now as Baathist remnants continue their slaughter of their political opponents and foreign fighters slip across the border to add to that death toll the people go to the polls to vote on their future.
Rebuilding this devastated nation will be a project of many years. Most of the world and half of the population of the US are missing in action from the effort, if not in outright opposition in word or deed.
As for the trial itself, perhaps no event will reveal as much about the heights and depths to which those who support or oppose this effort are willing to rise or fall.
The New York Times, for instance, leads with this:
But what should be a moment of triumph for his victims is instead stirring concern about the fairness and competence of the court itself.And offers a litany of reasons they consider the as-yet unheld trial to be a failure. No word on the qualifications of the stenographer or the comfort of the press gallery seating, but future entries will no doubt tell the tale.
There are those who will find themselves agreeing with the Times - and they should carefully examine their motives. The thin veneer of a call for "legitimacy" offers cover, but it's the implicit claim of illegitimacy of the current system in Iraq that nourishes their hunger to dismiss the effort. That is their right, of course, as witnesses to history - a luxury the participants seldom enjoy. Even mere bystanders in these historic times can speak out without fear of repercussion - and can do so with or without the obligatory disclaimer that the accused is, of course, guilty - dismissed immediately with the requisite "but...".
They can say what they will, for as long as the 'less talk more action' crowd are inclined to protect them from the Saddam Husseins of this world.
Anne Applebaum's op-ed in the Washington Post offers a welcome dose of reason:
The rhetoric was soaring, the goals were grand, the ideals were large. And yet, by the standards of modern human rights and international law, the International Military Tribunal that tried and sentenced the Nazi leadership in Nuremberg should have been a failure.She's found the signal in the noise, of course. Read it all.
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.
Odd that the Post identifies this as an opinion piece, while the Times claims theirs is news.