Reader Elyn F wasn’t able to post this to the comments, but I thought it an interesting enough response to yesterday’s The World on Trial that I offered to post it for her in the hopes of generating discussion.
I’ve been a fan of your writing & blog for a over a year now & generally agree with your assessments of the situations, but I have to disagree with the concept of an “International Tribunal” for Saddam.
The creation of an international trial (before that I believe the standing policy was ‘to the victor went the spoils … & the head of his enemy if the conquerer so chose’), came about at Nuremberg, with the trial of leading Nazis. This was a fair & just decision (though they did leave the Italian leadership out of it, which was slightly odd), as the Nazi’s waged war, invaded, tortured & killed on a multi-national scale &, therefore, had to answer to an international community.
In current times the use of the International Court at the Hague hasn’t proven itself reliable, timely, or effective. Just look at the details of the fiasco known as the (ongoing) trial of Slobadan Milosovitch & his cohorts (that they’ve found).
But, even if the IC or any other type of International Tribune could be stood up & prove itself functional, I still think that this is the wrong approach, for the simple reason that this is an Iraqi dictator, who stole from, terrorized, tortured & massacred Iraqi’s, and must answer to … the Iraqi people.
As the Iraqi’s struggle to come together, however tenuously, as a nation rather then a collection of tribes & religious sects; attempt to navigate their new-found freedoms to vote, write constitutions, stand up an army, come together to make decisions (whether we in the US like these decisions or not); &, most impressively, begin to detain & evict the the foreign Jihadi’s in their midst (& from what I’ve read, they may have rounded up more actual foreign Jihadi’s in 1 day out in the Sunni tribal area then we grabbed in 3+ years), so that they the Iraqi people can guide their country in a direction that they, themselves want (again whether we in the US like it or not); taking away their right to judge a person who did the country & the people so much (almost unimaginable) pain & damage would take them back psychologically 3+ years to the people swarming around the Green Zone looking for handouts from Bremer’s brigades of nation-builders, rather then giving them what any people deserve — respect in their abilities &, therefore, responsibility to take care of themselves.
I truly believe in the ‘you broke it, you fix it’ concept, & we certainly ‘broke it’ in terms of Iraq. So if we want to withdraw our troops & whatever of a coalition-we-have-left’s troops, we can only do so after we’ve given the Iraqi people, not just a functional army, police force, & get their services up & running again but, perhaps more importantly, help them find a backbone (that had been beaten away for decades under Saddam’s dictatorship) & a psychological belief that they, the Iraqi people, CAN & WILL be able to come together & make this new Saddam-free Iraq work. By placing them, yet again, in the role of subservience by claiming only “we” (the west) can judge a man who did so much wrong to them, simply turns them back to spineless subjects & all we’ve done is substituted the International (&, lets admit it, everyone saying that means US & Western/Central Europe) community for Saddam, to make decisions, help them out & send them rules, regs & control. On the other hand, allowing the Iraqi people to take the responsibility to hold these trials themselves — no matter how many flubs, mix-ups & incidents (that would cause a mistrial in the US) occur in court — is to set them on the psychological road to self-determination & a new sense of empowerment &, hopefully, national & personal dignity.
So there you go. Discuss.