The show trial of Saddam Hussein was drawn out until two days before the midterm US elections. The death sentence imposed on the former Iraqi president may help the deluded band of Bush supporters find victory in the defeat that Bush has met in Iraq and motivate them to support the beleaguered Republicans on November 7.
But Saddam's sentence will do nothing for reconciliation and peace among Iraq's Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites. In Iraq the sentence is seen by all parties as revenge for the years of Sunni rule. Saddam's sentence is perfectly timed to drive the rising sectarian conflict, which is already causing 100 or more Iraqi deaths per day, over the brink into full scale civil war. Indeed, one could conclude that the real purpose of the sentence is to achieve the neoconservative goal of a dismembered and impotent Iraq.
Saddam was sentenced to death because 148 Shiites were killed in 1982 in the Iraqi government's response to an attempted assassination of Saddam. We have no way of knowing how many, if any, of the 148 were involved in the assassination attempt, or whether the botched attempt was a "black ops" event to enable the police to settle local scores or to take out potential trouble-makers. The killings, however, do not fit the propaganda picture of Saddam gratuitously killing people for the fun of it.
Now that the Bush administration has adopted the torture and detention practices of Saddam's regime, one wonders what would be the fate of Americans accused of an assassination plot against a US president?
Saddam's trial itself is suspect. The most qualified lawyer in the courtroom, former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, was ejected from the trial for handing Judge Abdul-Rahman a memo in which he said the trial was a "travesty" of law. I am confident that Ramsey Clark has more integrity than Abdul-Rahman.
But, to get to the main point, let us assume that Saddam is guilty as charged and that his death so serves the cause of justice that it is worth heightened sectarian conflict and even full-fledged civil war. What did Saddam do that Bush, and Cheney, and Rumsfeld, and Blair have not done?
If Saddam can be sentenced to death for his responsibility in the killing of 148 Shiites, what about Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Blair's responsibility for the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians slaughtered by Bush's invasion of Iraq?
This massive carnage is the direct consequence of an illegal invasion—a war crime in itself for which Nazi leaders were sentenced to death—that was based on lies and deception. Bush himself admits that 30,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. Iraq Body Count puts the civilian deaths at between 45,000 and 50,000. The recent Johns Hopkins University study published in the peer-reviewed British medical journal, The Lancet (October 11, 2006[ PDF]). puts the Iraqi civilian deaths caused by Bush's invasion as high as 655,000.
What does the world think of American hypocrisy when the US government, drowning in the blood of tens of thousands of its innocent victims, cries "justice" as the president of Iraq is sentenced to death for killing 148 people for trying to assassinate him?
The verdict against Saddam was influenced by the propaganda of mass graves uncovered by the US-led invasion and seized upon as justification for that illegal invasion. However, as various experts have pointed out, the graves are those of war dead from the Iraq-Iran war. The US government has responsibility for these deaths also, as Washington gave aid to both sides in the bloody conflict that is believed to have claimed as many as one million lives.
Now that Saddam Hussein has been held accountable for his crimes, can we look forward to accountability for George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, John Bolton, Kenneth Adelman, Michael Rubin, Eliot Cohen, and their propagandists in the media, such as Billy Kristol, Victor Davis Hanson, Robert Kagan, David Frum, the Wall St Journal editorial writers, the editors of National Review and the New York Times, and the Fox "News" talking heads?
Will accountability be extended to the conservative foundations and think tanks that financed the neoconservative takeover of the Republican Party and Bush administration?
Now that the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan have ended in defeat, those most responsible for the destruction of those two countries, tens of thousands of deaths, and a bill for US taxpayers in excess of $2 trillion (according to Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz) are running from any responsibility.
Richard Perle, the principle instigator of the illegal invasions, declared to Vanity Fair (Nov. 3, 2006): "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened." "At the end of the day," Perle told ABC News' Karen Mooney (Nov. 4, 2006), "you have to hold the president responsible."
Kenneth Adelman, who promised us a "cakewalk war," now puts all the blame on Rumsfeld: "He certainly fooled me" (Vanity Fair, Nov. 3).
The neoconservatives, of course, are trying to escape blame for the defeat of their strategy by accusing Bush and Rumsfeld of incompetent implementation. Will the neoconservatives escape responsibility for launching the wars that have turned the United States into a war criminal abroad and a police state at home?
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Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.