Monday, November 06, 2006

"Free Saddam!" Any takers?

Lest we get carried away in debating the moral legitmacy of Saddam's excecution, based on such weak grounds as the unfeasible requirement that one be 100% "just" in order to carry out "justice", there are two excellent websites for substantive legal material and legislative issues surrounding the trial.

1) The first is on the Law Library of Congress website, highlighting the specific legal concerns.

2) Then there's also Human Right's Watch excellent background on the trial's legitimacy from the standpoint of international law

More than any philosophical, but in this circumstance largely useless, questions about whether or not the undoubtably U.S.-supported Iraqi court has the moral authority to sentence Saddam to death, the real issue here is whether the court can legitimately sentence Saddam to death without breaking international and Iraqi law.

Calling the trial a "sham" or an "outrage against justice" may be a fine bit of rhetoric alongside Dean's "Yargh!" and the Jihadi's "Death to the West!", but it doesn't do anything to address the heart of the matter.

This is not a puppet court. They aren't taking him out and stoning him, shooting him in the back and decapitating him and kicking around the head. These are not Iraqis being forced against their will to testify against Saddam, and these are not Iraqis forced against their will to weigh his crimes, and these were not Iraqis forced against their will to find him guilty. The Iraqi people are undergoing a serious, difficult debate on what to do with the man who - all credit for employing bloody terror to maintain the calm aside - destroyed Iraq.

This trial is one of the few real instances in which the Iraqis have tried to reach out to America, Europe, the UN and the EU, to try and act as a legitimate nation with legitimate institutions, to incorporate the ethics and behavior of the global community into one of the most significant episodes in their nation's history.

There needs to be debate about the trial: honest, serious debate. But if anyone wants to make the claim that the Iraqi court does not have the right to sentence Saddam to death, they need to support that claim with more than some vague, relative notion of "justice" or a snip about the moral hypocrisy of the Bush administration. Such claims need to incorporate the Iraqi legal system and international law.

That's how informed Iraqis are trying to frame the debate. Yes, there are also many Iraqis calling it a joke, or the inevitable result of a court on the payroll of the American dogs; but those are precisely the comments you'd expect from a populace that still hasn't grasped the concept of the democracy that has given them, at a bloody cost, the right to determine their nation's future in governance and law. You saw it in the USSR: "Oh, a trial? That's when the government kills whomever they want, right?" This is precisely why the Occupation is failing. Because when it comes to actually educating Iraqis about all the ways they can constructively inform themselves and criticize the governmment, all we have are marines trained to kill and destroy. No one seems to pay any attention to the fact that there is an Iraqi legal system. No one seems to pay any attention to the fact that there is a prominent Iraqi national institution carrying out a very difficult task, and that's a damn good reason for Iraqis to think the trial is a sham.

But that doesn't make it true.

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