In the academic discipline of political science students and scholars read about legitimate government, and what does or does not constitute essential elements of Democracy and good government. Central to the inquiry is how the government, which holds sole authority to use physical force, torture (oops I mean use tough interrogation methods short of organ failure), and kill people, will treat criminal defendants.
Hallmarks of American and Western liberalism include: the demand that government can only hold one who is accused or convicted of a crime (habeas corpus), the right to a trial and or challenge detention (still habeas corpus), and fair trial you know where defendants get to confront witnesses, see evidence, and the state cannot introduce witness statements made under the duress of torture. (Those latter ideals were so quaint that they had to be tossed by the Military Commissions Act of 2006). Other previously high-minded principles include the right to have counsel of your choosing and the presumption of innocence (two more governmental obligations contained in the Constitution which were stripped by the MCA).
Now G. W. Bush has announced that Saddam Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death in a process that Bush calls a "major achievement for Iraq's young democracy and its constitutional government."
We should see the conviction as a major achievement because the trial was illegal and violated a number of principles in American law (the rule of the occupying power). Under the current Geneva Convention you know, that damned treaty that STILL poses as the standard by which the Bush government must abide (at least that is was Sandra Day O'Connor said in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) the occupying government can only try POWs and war criminals for crimes against humanity that occur during the current conflict.
Saddam was convicted for actions of 1982 that had nothing to do with a war. Allegedly he gave orders to lead a police action against those who attempted to assassinate him, and stood by after the Iraqi courts tried and convicted 148 who were involved in the assassination plot. One account insists that Saddam ordered a massacre of at least 338 people. Remember, this was all known to Reagan, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Colin Powell, and every member of Congress who instead of rebuking Saddam from 1982 until 1990, provided him with weapons, military intelligence, chemical and biological weapons, and economic aid. (What are the Bush rules about abetting terrorist states?)
I wonder what the Bush administration of today would do with a group of over 5,000 men who shared three attributed with alleged airplane hijackers? Now I remember, Bush would order their detention, not charge them with any crime, ship them thousands of miles away and hand them over to torturers in Morocco, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, etc. Well at least Bush has not ordered any bombing runs or invasions leading to deaths of 338, just over 500,000. But hey, it is not like people of Iraq were innocent ... remember what they had to do with 9/11? How did Bush put it? Nothing!
Supposedly, on the heels of the failed assassination attempt in Dujail, Saddam ordered the seizure of land in the village and razed crops. Seems pretty consistent with what Israel does when it invades bordering lands (outside of Israel) in Gaza and the West Bank. Moreover, Saddam's action would be consistent with American law it is called eminent domain. Of course it sounds cruel, just talk to the people of the Western Shoshone, the Oneida, or American Indians who are the beneficiaries/victims of the Treaty of Fort Laramie, and other treaties used as toilet paper by American officials and courts. But in the American context, I think Bush calls it democracy, when we do it, it is legal. When Saddam did it, we call it a crime of unimaginable horror.
Hussein was either denied counsel or his attorneys were assassinated. And the verdict of guilty was predetermined. I must quibble with Bush in one respect. The entire process was a minor achievement because under the thumb of the U.S. military occupation, and it was all orchestrated to be void of process, yet draped with officialdom. However, because the Military Commissions Act allows the federal government to declare you guilty before being charged or tried and limit your access to lawyers if you get a trial, when the "Saddam treatment" comes home, it will be a major achievement. Not for the old former republic called the United States of America, with its democratic protections for individuals, but for the young military-dictatorship called the Empire of Bush.