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"Iraqi Involvement"?!

12/16/2003 3:22 PM
Mark Hammer
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"Iraqi Involvement"?!
George just doesn't get it, does he?  
 
First, he discusses movement into Afghanistan as a "crusade". There were inumerable reasons why the Taliban were bad for the country and bad for the world, and in the wake of 09/11 I can understand emotions running high, but any mention of "crusades" in the direction of the Islamic world is not going to curry their favour or reduce their longstanding sense of resentment at the west. Accordingly, he was reprimanded by advisors.  
 
Okay, so he changed his phrasing and smartened up for a little while.  
 
Now he discusses the trial of Saddam Hussein with "Iraqi involvement". Um, Mr. Prez, just exactly whose deposed leader is he? Exactly whose country are you in and exactly who has the biggest and most outstanding grudge against him? If Bush wanted to offer up US operational support for an Iraqi trial process, or provide legal consultative services, or simply hold the sonuvabitch securely while the new Iraqi justice system got their act together, that's one thing. To imply that the trial process is the perogative of the US and Iraq will be "let in the room" as some sort of favour is, well, pretty much what resentful nations around the world tend to be resentful about when it comes to US foreign policy.  
 
Saddam is first and foremost Iraq's criminal and it should be their trial. If anyone outside Iraq ought to have dibs on trying the guy it would be Iran, and then possibly the Turkish Kurd community and then Kuwait followed by Israel. In terms of who has standing for prosecuting the guy, the US needs to wait in line behind all those folks.  
 
The cynical paranoid in me would wonder if the Bush administration's drive to have Iraq itself play a benign cheerleader role in any trial process is a way of managing the process to successfully teflon coat the role that several successive republican administrations played in entrenching the guy's power in the first place. Of course there are other European countries that *could* scream about that but would choose not to because it would uncover their own complicity in his cruel hold on power.  
 
But, I'm a Pollyanna and not a cynical paranoid, so I'll simply suggest that poor George just doesn't get it.  
 
On a related note, heard an interesting panel discussion of law professors on the way into work on the prospective war crimes trial and the different forms it could take. One of the models that came up was the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission model following the elimination of apartheid. One of the purposes of the commission was to allow people who had had no opportunity to tell their story during more oppressive times do so.  
 
Given the deep division that still exists in Iraq, my sense is that there is a similarly deep need to have such a process take place rather than nail Saddam for a couple of big ticket items and quickly execute him. The repression that existed during his regime did a few things. First, it did not provide any sort of public opportunity for victims' feelings to be validated (and certainly firing off a few rounds into the air on hearing of his capture does not accomplish that). Often, people have a need to tell their story openly and know that others are listening. There is a huge lineup of such people in Iraq.  
 
Second it covered up a great deal of the crime that took place (which is what obligates the storytelling) so that it was easier for the Baathists to retain the allegiance of those whose pockets it was not explicitly lining. That is also more or less what happened in Serbia under Milosevic. Milosevic was able to enjoy the enthusiastic support of many Serbian citizens because they were prevented from being disgusted by what he was really doing. Like it or not, there are still plenty of Iraqis who think Saddam is a swell guy, a staunch defender of his country, yadda, yadda, and there will be little peace there until those folks are strongly persuaded that he was bad enough for *everyone* in the country that he was effectively a traitor. They will not be able to move on until they have consensus, and a quick end to the guy will stand in the way of that.

 
Replies:
SpeedRacer 2 words: "RIGHT ON!" (nt) -- 12/16/2003 5:35 PM
Dave Rich Re: "Iraqi Involvement"?! -- 12/16/2003 7:26 PM
Love Hippie The real question is what to do wit... -- 12/17/2003 4:19 AM