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Saddam’s Metamorphosis; genocidal maniac or folk-hero

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"It was the most wonderful thing I've seen in my life. He's a man who never surrenders. He's a hero, and he will remain a hero." Saddam's daughter, Raghad

How do you make one of the greatest mass-murderers of the 20th century look like a folk-hero?

That's a question only the Bush public relations team can answer, but they seem to be doing a first-rate job.

So far, the greatly anticipated trial has done nothing to diminish Saddam's reputation or improve the world's view of American justice. The surprisingly hearty looking ex-tyrant started off the proceedings by glaring at the presiding judge and barking disdainfully, "You know me. I'm the president of Iraq." His brusque tone ruffled the judge and put the glowering Saddam at center-stage. Right away his defiance put a major wrinkle in Bush's heavily scripted-plan.

I'm not a fan of Saddam Hussein, and I'm ready to accept any of the horrific things that are said about him. But anyone who saw his performance in court yesterday must have marveled at his guts. He's obviously been drugged, tortured, and abused for nearly two years and yet"the eyes were shifting like a cat, the voice was still steady and deep, and the demeanor was still firm and resolute.

All in all, he made a pretty good showing.

Saddam has one thing on Bush; he's not a wimp. He didn't jump on Air Force One heading west when the planes hit the Towers, he didn't join the Champagne Unit of the Republican Guards, and he wasn't buoyed to Baghdad on his Daddy's coattails. He scratched his way to the top killing a lot of innocent people on the way.

He built his dictatorship the old fashion way; he earned it.

Whatever the Bush administration hoped to achieve by this fiasco, it failed quite spectacularly. The chilling image of Saddam can still strike fear into the hearts of enemies and embolden friends to fight even harder. It was pure stupidity to put him in the spotlight.

BBC commentators said that the trial was intended to "de-legitimize" Saddam and, thereby, elevate the stature of the new constitution.


Is that it; out with the old, in with the new? Just like the sign hanging over Abu Ghraib; "Under New Management"?

Most of the Iraqis got the constitution too late to even read the bloody thing and only voted according to the directions of their tribal elders or religious leaders.


How about electricity? How about water, sewage and security?

Even the Shi'ites had it better under Saddam than Bush; at least there was food, gas, jobs, and state assistance.

Now what? 100,000 dead, 300,000 injured, 25 million traumatized with no end in sight? And Bush thinks that his phony, mock-trial will lift the people's spirits?

Who does he think he's kidding?

Iraq is in a shambles. Do the Iraqis need another public humiliation to add to their misery?

These people are not fools. They can see through this comic opera; they know it has about as much credibility as a Bush tele-videoconference. It's all just more White House chicanery. After all, no one in Abu Ghraib has been tried or has even charged with a crime. So why pretend a butcher like Saddam deserves justice? Iraq is governed by the iron fist of the occupier not the rule of law. Why not forgo the charade.

So far, the proceedings have not even met the minimal standards for a fair trial. The defense has been prevented from seeing Saddam, they don't have a clear grasp of the charges against him, and they've been kept from interviewing witnesses. In other words, the process is a complete fraud.

On top of that, the only charges filed against the ex-despot are for the deaths of 140 men from the Shi'ite town of Dujail following an assassination attempt in 1982. That's 16 less than the number of men Bush put to death as Governor of Texas!

Are we really expected to take this seriously?

How can Saddam's 1982 crimes possibly compete with the illegal invasion of a defenseless country and the subsequent destruction of Iraqi society? Bush's attack on Iraq was the "supreme crime" according to the Nuremburg Tribunal. The judges ruled that unprovoked aggression differs "only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole". That means that if we plan to hold Saddam accountable, we'd better save a place in the dock for Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Rice.

Bush should cut his losses and put the kybosh on the trial. The whole deal is a "lose-lose" situation for the administration. Saddam will only fire up Iraqi nationalism and turn him into a martyr. Nothing good can come of it.

The only up-side for Bush would be to demonstrate real transparency and justice in the proceedings and hope that that might soften hearts to the ongoing American presence. But, as we all know, there's no chance of that.
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Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.

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