With Judges Like This, Who Needs Defendants?

"If you are urging to kill Americans," Saddam Hussein's judge told him yesterday as the former Iraqi dictator's war crimes trial winds down, "let your friends of the mujahadeen attack the American campsand not blow themselves up in the streets and public places and cafes and markets. Let them blow up Americans." Nice, eh? I'll bet that's not exactly the sort of high-handed rhetoric and respect-inducing demeanor that U.S. officials were hoping for from the court when they helped create the tribunal that has stopped and started and hemmed and hawed its way through Iraq's first "Trial of the Century."

After today's session, the Saddam trial now is on hold until October 16th, when presumably the court, if it can hold itself together until then, will reveal its verdict. The primary defendant, always one to look ahead, already has told the court that he would prefer to be shot, rather than hanged, once he is found guilty. And Saddam also made sure the court and the rest of the world knows that he believes his own defense attorney is his "enemy" and an "enemy to the Iraqi people." Those poor defense attorneys, remember, have been getting assassinated by terrorists at an alarming rate even as they try to raise legitimate legal questions about the prosecution's case against Saddam. That case involves the massacre of 148 men and boys in Dujail in 1982.

We cannot expect the Iraqis, with their country imploding, to initiate or maintain the same sort of dispassionate justice system that, for the most part, we enjoy here in America. It is simply asking too much. But it says something awfully strong about the way even moderate Iraqis (and here I am assuming that Chief Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman is a moderate otherwise why would he even be doing the job?) feel about the American presence that the most visible jurist in the country would practically invite the despot defendant before him to focus the wrath of the insurgency upon U.S. soldiers. Sure, the judge made the comment partially out of frustration. But clearly he also made the comment partially out of candor. And that might say more about Iraq today than anything that comes out of the first Saddam trial.

By Andrew Cohen |  July 27, 2006; 12:00 PM ET
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That comment, coupled with Maliki's criticism of Israeli action in Lebanon, really shows the kind of country Iraq is becoming. It seems to me that our efforts to turn Iraq into a democracy may leave us with an enemy rather than an ally.

Posted by: A.H. | July 28, 2006 10:44 AM

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