- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2005

Now that former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark is in Baghdad, it’s clear that Saddam Hussein’s defense team is resorting to political means to attempt to undermine the Iraqi High Tribunal, demonstrating that the truth about Saddam’s rule is so apparent that his defenders would rather make a show trial of the proceedings than face the facts.

Previously, Saddam’s lead attorney, Khalil al-Dulaimi, had declared a strategy of undermining the tribunal with legal arguments about its legitimacy. The entrance of Mr. Ramsey suggests a bid to divert attention away from legal questions and toward political ones.

The defense has a few legitimate complaints, but none involve Mr. Clark. Two of the defense’s attorneys have been killed, and a plot against the chief judge was just foiled. The addition of Mr. Clark makes the defense’s approach something more than mere legal protection for a defendant; it invites farce and political theatrics into the courtroom.

That fact was echoed in Saddam’s erratic behavior in yesterday’s session. Upon reaching the courtroom, Saddam yelled at Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin about the “foreign guards” escorting him, and he complained his pen and papers had been taken away and that he was handcuffed. When Judge Amin said he would “alert them” to the deposed dictator’s complaints, Saddam shot back: “You are the chief judge. I don’t want you to tell them. I want you to order them… You are Iraqi. They are in our country. You have the sovereignty. You are Iraqi and they are foreigners and occupiers. They are invaders. You should order them.”

The “banality of evil” was philosopher Hannah Arendt’s famous phrase to describe the Nazi Adolf Eichmann on trial in Israel in 1961 for crimes against humanity. The phrase suited Eichmann: He was a monster who nevertheless cooperated with the proceedings and attempted to argue that he was merely following orders. Things are very different in the case of Saddam Hussein, who is anything but banal and certainly is not attempting to appeal to reason. Saddam didn’t follow orders; Saddam handed out the orders.

In that sense, the defense’s ploy pays a certain tribute to the truth. Saddam’s guilt is so apparent that only a failed tribunal can save him. That is encouraging news for people who want Saddam to join the other dictators and thugs whose crimes earn them a conviction in court and in the eyes of history.

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