May 9, 2006

Ramsey Clark on Saddam's Trial

On the eve of the 24th session (scheduled for May 15th) of the first trial of Saddam Husayn, Ramsey Clark, a member of his defense team and a former U.S. attorney general, made some caustic statements about the judicial process. Clark has been an outspoken critic of the trial since it was convened in October.

Clark has a rather sordid past, having served as attorney general under Lyndon Johnson - the Vietnam years - and later as defense attorney to the worst dictators on earth, men such as Charles Taylor (Liberia), Slobodan Milosevic (Yugoslavia) and Elizaphan Ntakirutimana (Rwanda). Quite a resume - now add to that Saddam Husayn.

Let's look at some of his recent blatherings:

- The trial is to "vindicate its invasion, to validate its occupation, and to make the world believe that the Iraqi people demanded that Saddam Hussein and leaders in his government be executed."

Mr. Clark is in the courtroom, so he should be aware of the setting. I have listened to almost the entire trial live. The fact that it is an Iraqi courtroom, an Iraqi judge and an Iraqi tribunal might be the first clue that this is an Iraqi process. If Mr. Clark is of the belief that the Iraqi people do not want Saddam Husayn executed, then he's not reading the editorial pages or listening to the talk shows. Oh, I forgot, he can't. Besides knowing nothing about Iraq, he doesn't speak Arabic.

- The trial of Saddam for crimes against humanity constitutes "a direct threat to international law, the United Nations, universal human rights and world peace...."

Huh? Perhaps the Iraqis would like to try their own criminals. The United Nations? Yeah, they were really helpful - he does remember the "oil for food" scandals?

- He demanded that proceedings be transferred from the Iraqi Special Tribunal to a new court that could work independently, free of prejudice.

What Mr. Clark is saying is to establish a special tribunal in The Hague for these trials, moving it out of Iraq and into a venue that cannot impose the death penalty. It would also give Mr. Clark a platform to continue his grandstanding in defense of the indefensible.

- The judges have either been Kurds or Shi'ites, and the defendants with one or two exceptions Sunnis, he said. "It's a sectarian persecution, if you will."

In case he forgot to read a bit of Iraqi history, the Sunnis were the primary group in charge since the days of the Ottoman Empire, whether the form of government was monarchy, regency, republic, dictatorship, whatever. More importantly, their progress and position was usually at the expense of the Shi'a and Kurds. The fact that the judges are of one sect or another should have no bearing.

- "It is common for the law to require the highest official of a state to approve and sign death warrants. George W. Bush signed 152 such warrants as governor of Texas," he said.

This is actually a point that has been made in court. It's the destruction of property, rape and torture that renders the comparison ludicrous.

Saddam Husayn, like all defendants, deserves a defense. The more and more I read Mr. Clark's remarks, the more I believe he deserves Mr. Clark's defense.