Sunday, October 23, 2005

Saddam's Trial In Jeopardy

A combination of death threats leveled against prospective witnesses and the murder of one of the defense attorney's have brought Saddam Hussein's first trial to a halt. Witnesses are now refusing to testify, and attorneys are demanding the trial be moved out of Iraq. (Telegraph: Death threats to witnesses halt Saddam trial).

That Hussein's supporters would resort to any criminal method imaginable to disrupt the trial should come as no surprise. The tactics being used here - murders, death threats, and kidnappings - are as old as the concept of a trial by jury. Similar problems were rampant in the heyday of organized crime in the US. In Saddam's case, however, the stakes are far higher both for the people of Iraq and for the terrorists that want to prevent a fair trial from ever occurring.

The problem in this case is that Saddam should never have been turned over to the fledgling Iraqi government in the first place. Historically, deposed leaders accused of war crimes are tried by military tribunals comprised of the victors in the conflict. Had we done this the right way, Saddam would already have been tried and he would have collected his reward of 72 virgins three years ago.

Holding this trial in Iraq was one of the worst mistakes made in the drive towards the implementation of democracy in the Middle East. In our naive quest to prove to the rest of the world that we can give one of the worlds worst tyrants a fair trial in his home country, we are gambling the entire effort on a single roll of the dice. Politically and strategically it is the greatest blunder we have committed in a three-year comedy of errors.

There is still time to rectify the mistake. With even Saddam's defense attorneys screaming to move the trial out of Iraq, we should do just that. Take the primary participants along with the witnesses and their families, and move the trial off-shore. Give Saddam his trial, find him guilty and execute him. Just get it over with fast before we give the insurgents too much of a strategic advantage. Following the historic vote last week, the insurgents were struggling to regain momentum. The Saddam trial may have done just that. We need to take the steam out of it now.


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