TCS Daily

Dictators and Distractions

By Melana Zyla Vickers - July 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Saddam Hussein, Butcher of Baghdad and occasional Muncher of Doritos, was derailed from his three-week hunger strike Sunday in preparation for closing arguments this week in his trial on charges of crimes against humanity.

But as Saddam lies hospitalized at a U.S. facility in Iraq and is fed nutrients through a tube, it's striking how common an image this is: Another global rogue, using his courtroom as a final global stage.

Ostensibly, Saddam is protesting the inadequate security around his defense lawyers -- three have been killed since the trial began last October. But he has willingly accepted the feeding tube and agreed to go another round in the courtroom even though his requests for defense team's special protection have not been met. It seems perhaps his concerns for his lawyers end a little earlier than do his concerns for his waistline.

This isn't Saddam's first hunger strike. He used the tactic in February, and again in June. The strikes are but one in a series of disruptive measures, which have included requests for trial delays, yelling over the judge in the courtroom, and complaining about a miscarriage of justice. Even after the judge gives the verdict, the theater won't end. Saddam can appeal the judge's decision, due in August and continue this performance for a long time to come.

At some level, Saddam's methods are understandable. What else can the imprisoned man do to stay in the headlines? But they're also exasperating, as the attention that goes to the rogue's antics detracts from the seriousness of the charges against him. There would be more solemnity in having the trial continue without attracting much media attention to the accused, its details recorded for the Iraqi and, secondarily, American history books.

But that's rarely the case with these global trials. From Nuremberg and the Tokyo trials until today, the proceedings are a race between slow-grinding justice and the accused's capacity to engage in theatrics. Often, the accused attempts to take his own life, a move that shakes his captors and that earns him sympathy in some quarters, whether he succeeds or whether the captors are left trying to revive him or prevent his next attempt. The issue becomes the accused, and the expensive perversity of attempting to revive him. The accused buys himself a round of reflection by his captors of the sort that he rarely granted his victims, if ever.

Consider these snippets from the recent history of global trial theater:

1945: Father of the Nazi Gestapo Hermann Goering committed suicide with the aid of a cyanide capsule, after his conviction by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal but before he could be executed.

1948: Japanese prime minister and war minister Hideki Tojo attempted suicide during Tokyo's International Military Tribunal. He failed in his attempt and was hanged after conviction. In a further dramatic act, Tojo along with 13 of the 25 men found guilty of war crimes were enshrined in Tokyo's prominent Yasukuni shrine.

1998: Serb ex-mayor of Vukovar Slavko Dokmanovic set fire to his prison cell at the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, and then later hung himself. Afterwards, in his trial for the mass killing of 200 non-Serbs, no formal judgment was made.

2006: Former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic died in prison before his sentencing, the dramatic end to a four-year drag-out trial during which he asked for suspensions to tend to his ill health and asked to be moved to Russia for medical treatment. His death then triggered a firestorm about the location of his burial in Serbia.

The only saving grace from all these me-me-me-me theatrics is that the accused were brought to trial at all. Many of the worst perpetrators global atrocities -- and most notably not a single Soviet communist perpetrator -- have never been brought to justice.

So meanwhile, we have Saddam eating GI's Doritos one day and refusing food the next, then taking sips of American IV fluid while making American headlines. The solution? Swift justice, in which the speed of the trial denies the accused the chance to determine his fate before the law does. Neither Milosevic's four-year trial, nor the prospect of appeals following Saddam's ten-month trial, represents the sort of swiftness that would rob these men of the limelight.

Alternately, there could be a new international standard for attempted theatrics during imprisonment: Let 'em rot. Let them go, no dramatic hospitalizations and revivals. They're not going anywhere good anyway.

Melana Zyla Vickers is a TCS Daily contributing writer.



Saddam not rogue, real rogue is President Bush and his gang
What kind of international rights given to rogue Bush to attact on Iraq and procute Saddam? This is really dacoity.There is no law in international law against dacoity, thats why today Saddam in jail and Bush enjoying oil of Iraq.

taking your fantasies in reverse order
Bush is not enjoying Iraq's oil, the Iraqi people are. For the first time in their history. Bush's oil friends would have made more money had Iraq's oil stayed off of the world market.

The US had two valid under international law reason's for going into Iraq.
The first was the fact that Saddam was violating the terms of the cease fire he signed after Gulf War one. Even the UN recognized this when they passed resolutions requiring Saddam to live up to these committments, or face "serious consequences".
The second was that Saddam was funding and aiding groups that were attacking the US, and US citizens.

World has not given right to Bush to behave as a police inspector.
Today Bush giving judgment on Saddam, tomorrow he will judge Priminister of India because India creating atomic bomb.No one given moral rights to Bush. so he is criminal.

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