- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

Well, it’s January, December’s come and gone, so let’s add up the final score:

Coalition of the Willing: Saddam Hussein captured, Moammar Gadhafi neutered.

The “international community”: Slobodan Milosevic elected to parliament in Belgrade.

Yes, indeed. On the last weekend of the year, “Slobo” won a seat in Serbia’s legislature, as did his fellow “alleged” (as Wes Clark would say) war criminal Vojislav Seselj, and Mr. Seselj’s extreme nationalist Serbian Radical Party won more seats than anybody else.

But hang on a minute. Aren’t Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Seselj in jail at The Hague and facing the stern justice of an “international tribunal”? Why, yes. Mr. Milosevic’s been on trial for two years already, and they’re only just wrapping up the prosecution. Among the witnesses was, of course, Gen. Clark, who couldn’t resist boasting that he’s the only Democratic presidential candidate “who’s ever faced a dictator down. I’m the only one who’s ever testified in court against one.” Au contraire, right now it looks like Mr. Milosevic is the only Serbian parliamentary candidate who’s ever faced a U.S. general down.

Anyone who goes goo-goo at the mention of the words “international tribunal” — i.e., Gen. Clark, John Kerry, Howard Dean and the rest of the multilateralist establishment — should look at what it boils down to in practice. Even though the court forbade Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Seselj from actively campaigning in the Serbian election, they somehow managed to. In other words, “international law” is unable to enforce its judgments even in its own jailhouse.

But it’s worse than that. One reason why Mr. Milosevic is popular again in Serbia is precisely because of the “international” trial. In 2000, when the strongman of the Balkans was swept from power, he was a discredited figure, a European pariah reviled as a murderous butcher. After two years of legal hair-splitting at The Hague, he’s all but fully rehabilitated. True, Mr. Milosevic, conducting his own defense, has been a shameless showboater, but not half as shameless as the absurd prosecutor Carla del Ponte. It’s received wisdom among battered Serbian democrats that every indictment of Mrs. Ponte’s drove Mr. Milosevic’s vote numbers higher. Had Serbs prosecuted Mr. Milosevic, that would have been one thing. But once it became Euro-preeners prosecuting Serbs, an understandable resentment set in.

This is the justice Gen. Clark wants for Saddam Hussein. If he gets his way, Saddam seems a shoo-in for the Iraqi presidential election circa 2009. But that seems to be the way of Gen. Clark, the great hero of small inconclusive wars in which the United States has no vital interest and, even if it did, Gen. Clark would be pleased to ignore it just to demonstrate his multilateral bonafides.

It’s not just him, of course. Up to the moment he popped up out of the spider-hole, the international jet-set’s line was that deplorable as Saddam’s rule might be — gassing Kurds, feeding folks feet-first into industrial shredders, etc. — it was strictly an internal matter for the Iraqi people and other countries had no business interfering. The minute the old boy was in U.S. custody, the international jet-set’s revised position was that gassing Kurds, feeding folks into industrial shredders and so forth were crimes against the whole world and certainly not a matter for the Iraqi people. Instead, we need a (drum roll, please) U.N.-mandated international tribunal.

This is what the Zionist neo-cons would call chutzpah.

President Bush understands that the transnational establishment’s interest in this case is not to pass judgment on Saddam but, by reasserting its authority, to pass judgment on the United States — on its illegitimate war, illegal occupation, barbaric justice system, etc. The argument of the transnationalists is that only a Hague tribunal can confer “legitimacy” — “legitimacy” being one of those great sonorous banalities that are at the heart of what’s wrong with the international order, which, in the main, confers the mantle of legitimacy on a lot of “illegitimate” thugs. Indeed, two years of a farcical trial at The Hague seem to have confer “legitimacy” mainly on the rehabilitated Mr. Milosevic.

But Saddam has been toppled, and Libya’s Col. Gadhafi has surrendered up his own WMD program to the British and Yanks. So the fellows in need of “legitimacy” right now are the international institutions presided over by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and company, who look, to put it at its mildest, utterly irrelevant and, at its worst, the pathetic patsies of Mr. Milosevic and his ilk.

So the only strategic significance of Saddam’s trial is whether the transnational establishment gets rehabilitated or sidelined. The argument in favor of an international tribunal is that a full accounting of Saddam’s crimes will be made before the whole world. Really? Anyone who doesn’t know about the mass graves and torture in Ba’athist Iraq is someone who’s chosen not to. A lot of people fall into that camp — for example, weapons inspector turned Saddamite shill Scott Ritter. “The prison in question was inspected by my team in January 1998,” he told Time magazine, a propos one grisly institution. “It appeared to be a prison for children — toddlers up to pre-adolescents — whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually, I’m not going to describe what I saw there, because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I’m waging peace.”

Mr. Ritter is rare in the extent of his depravity: He saw the horror close up and opted to turn his back. But in the interests of “peace,” many others in the transnational elites did the same from a safe distance. It’s too late for them to claim that the stuff they covered up now needs a full airing in an international court.

As for the legal niceties, unless a dictator is canny enough to negotiate a transition to democracy, his subsequent trial will inevitably be as much about politics as justice. But then letting dictators swank around the courtroom in a 10-year dinner-theatre run of “Perry Mason” is nothing to do with justice either.

To allow the transnational jet set to re-claim Saddam would be to reward them for their indifference to Iraqi suffering. Let’s get on with it in Baghdad. A trial next summer, conviction in the fall, and (to forestall accusations it’s all timed for the U.S. elections) execution deferred until a day or two after President Bush’s inaugural address in January.

Of course, I hasten to add that’s only if the mass murderer is found guilty.

I’m sorry, my mistake. I mean, the alleged mass murderer.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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