Monday, January 01, 2007

Hussein hanged, Bush discredited further

Somehow it is not too surprising that the Iraqi government has been able to mishandle the trail of Saddam Hussein so that it became a rallying point for the Sunni insurgents. What is surprising is that the Bush administration has let the Iraqi government have just enough freedom from American influence to screw up the public relations aspect of the trial. Of course, the Americans and the Bush administration get all the blame along with the Shiites.

According to one law professor on NPR the trial record shows that in spite of the appearances of the trial, the questionable appearing elements were, in fact, completely covered in the extremely long decision document. I don't know, since this is the only place I heard it and no one else seems to be reporting on it. Too much blood in the streets to do detailed legal analysis and then report it, I guess. In any case, the trial was a PR disastor.

The next question is why the rush to execute Saddam? My best guess is that this represents an effort to make up for the extreme weakness of the government by showing them taking decisive action. But it is aimed at satisfying the dominant Shias, not the Iraqi nation. The result is that it has had the reverse effect of demonstrating the weaknesa of the existing government. It doesn't help any that the Constitution that was supposed to be the basic national law carried over an explicit prohibition against conducting executions on the religious holiday Id which was Saturday. Besides rushing the execution, they did it on a day that the Constitution prohibited executions. (See Digby.) So much for the Rule of Law.

Finally, the hanging itself was little more than a lynching. It had a certian Biblical aspect. The Americans who have held Saddam since his capture meekly handed him over to representatives of the Iraqi government to be hung. I wonder if they then washed their hands, saying "It's none of our affair, let them take care of him."

Watching the videos of the hanging itself, it was remarkably like the video of the beheading of the American reporter Daniel Berg. The only visible face was that of the victim, and his death was accompanied by insults and cries in favor of Muktada al-Sadr.

As a result, the whole hanging seems to have been a lynching with some trappings of legality. It also has the appearance of being demanded by the Shiites and approved by the Americans, with the intent of taunting the Sunnis of Iraq. Certianly, no matter the facts, the appearance of the hanging will be blamed on Bush, the Americans and the Shiites of Iraq.

The actual sequence of events and who did what may never be known. That will be sad if true. It needs to be closely investigated somehow.

Somehow, as far as Bush is concerned, I can't decide if this was just an effort to get quick, right-wing "justice", or it was a truly botched effort to turn Iraqi governance over to the Iraqi government, or if it was the unintended consequences of the inherent incompetence of the Bush administration. The difference would be in the intentions of Bush/Cheney, but otherwise the three items could all be true at the same time. Whatever the intent by the Bush administration, the result has been severely screwed up.

Not that Saddam didn't deserve the death penality. He was a really nasty dictator, guilty of crimes against humanity. Unfortunatly, the trial as seen failed to appear fair and unbiased. Who would have thought that an American ultra-right-wing administration could screw up lynching a really nasty criminal?

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent discussion of the Hussein hanging which he entitles 'Iraqis learn the art of legal "workarounds" '.

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