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4570Robert Fisk: No mention of power cuts and violence at trial of the century - Independent, UK

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jul 1, 2004
      No mention of power cuts and violence at trial of the
      By Robert Fisk
      Jul 3, 2004, 13:56


      Now it is time for bread and circuses. Keep the people
      distracted. Show them Saddam. Remind them what it used
      to be like. Make them grateful. Make Saddam pay. Show
      his face once more across the world so that his
      victims will think about the past, not the present.
      Charge him. Before the full majesty of Iraq's new
      "democratic" law. And may George Bush win the next
      American election.

      That's pretty much how it looked from Baghdad
      yesterday. Forget the 12-hour power cuts and the
      violence and the kidnappings and the insurgency. Let's
      go back again to the gruesome days of Baathist rule,
      let's revisit once more the theatre of cruelty - back
      to all those war crimes and crimes against humanity
      with which the Monster will be charged. Let's take
      another look at Tariq Aziz and "Chemical" Ali and the
      rest. Isn't this why we came to Iraq - to rescue the
      Iraqis from the Beast of Baghdad?

      When Saddam was "handed over" yesterday to Iraqi
      officials by the Americans - we don't know how - he
      apparently wanted to know if he would have the right
      to a lawyer (never a previous concern of his where
      prisoners were concerned). Salem Chalabi, a close
      relative of the convicted fraudster and former
      Pentagon favourite Ahmed Chalabi, is leading the Iraqi
      tribunal's work. So no surprise Saddam asked for

      Saddam was freighted up from his close security prison
      cell in Qatar for his meeting with "Iraqi justice" -
      exactly what that means was not clear although most
      Western journalists used the phrase - and will today
      face an Iraqi judge who will formally accuse the
      ex-dictator of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
      The trouble is, we haven't got the charges against
      Saddam quite put together yet. It will take at least a
      year to decide the exact details of what he's going to
      be accused of.

      The gassing of Halabja? Of course. The mass killings
      of Shia after the 1991 rising? No doubt. The torture
      of innocent Iraqis at Saddam's Abu Ghraib prison?
      Although that might not be a place name that the
      tribunal - or the Americans - want to hear right now.
      And will the death penalty be used? Quite possibly -
      at least, that's what an awful lot of Iraqis would
      like. It was, after all, Saddam's favourite
      punishment. Could "Chemical" Ali of Halabja notoriety
      escape such a sentence?

      Then there's the little problem of the Iraqi tribunal
      whose "judges" all turn out to be lawyers without,
      apparently, any judicial skills. Many are Iraqis who
      spent years in exile - the kind with whom a growing
      number of Iraqis who stayed and endured Saddam's rule
      are increasingly disenchanted. A judge, so we are
      told, will formally read a written text against
      Saddam. We don't know where. We don't even know when -
      today presumably. The old "occupying" power - in other
      words the new "occupying" power if you find the
      country's new independence a bit hard to swallow - has
      let it be known that there may be "media access" when
      Saddam appears.

      So one of those familiar "pools" will no doubt be
      created - I will put my bets on CNN and the loony
      right Fox News as certainties - and we'll all be able
      to study Saddam at the critical moment when he begins
      to "face up to his crimes", or whatever cliché we
      produce for the occasion. For justice, read

      Journalists will do their best to turn all this into a
      success story. Even yesterday, the BBC was telling
      viewers that Saddam's appearance in court was "exactly
      what Iraqis have been waiting for". Alas, Iraqis have
      been waiting for electricity and safety and freedom
      from crime and elections far more than the trial of
      the miserable old murderer who will be paraded before

      As an Iraqi woman financial consultant - no friend of
      the Baath party - put it to me yesterday: "This is a
      childish play, written by children for children. We
      have real needs and they want us to go and watch a

      For if the handing over of "full sovereignty" to an
      American-chosen Iraqi government had about it an Alice
      in Wonderland quality, today's interlude with Saddam
      will mark the appearance of the Cheshire Cat. Maybe he
      will smile. Maybe he will shout his defiance of the
      judge - and have to be restrained.

      Heaven forbid he will accuse the new "interim"
      government of being puppets of the United States. Or,
      worse, remind the court of his own long relationship
      with US governments. But most assuredly, like the
      Cheshire Cat, he will fade away again, put back in his
      box for another 12 months until the "Trial of the


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