Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Saddam Defiant, Unruly

A defiant Saddam Hussein had his first day in court today, refusing to state his name and scuffling briefly with his guards. (The Guardian: 'I am the president of Iraq. I do not recognise this court'). Hussein sat glumly in the front row of barred prisoners' benches while the charges were read against him. In a further act of defiance, he declared, "I do not respond to this so-called court, with all due respect to its people, and I retain my constitutional right as the president of Iraq. Neither do I recognise the body that has designated and authorised you, nor the aggression, because all that has been built on a false basis."

Perhaps Hussein should brush up on his history. He would not be the first former head of state to refuse to recognize the authority of the court trying him. That tact is never successful, however. Just ask King Charles I, beheaded by the British Parliament despite his refusal to acknowledge their jurisdiction over him. Refusing to acknowledge a court's jurisdiction does not lessen the charges, nor does it change the inevitable verdict which, in Hussein's case, will involve a death sentence.

Hussein is well aware that he is already on death row. That he will be found guilty of at least one of the charges against him, all of which bear the death penalty, is a foregone conclusion. Saddam's defiance is not intended to win him any points in the courtroom. Rather, he is playing to the larger world audience. Some months ago, he professed his readiness to be a martyr, and that's precisely what he's hoping to do. By remaining openly defiant, he hopes to invigorate his former followers, perhaps even incite open rebellion. With the Kurds and Shiites now out from under his oppressive rule, however, it's clear that his days are numbered.

The world is watching to see if the new Iraq is capable of providing a fair trial to its former oppressor. But the world is also waiting to see an execution, and I seriously doubt this court will disappoint them. Defiant or not, Saddam has a date with the headsman. Let's hope he doesn't have too long a wait.


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