It is very important that this trial be as legitimate as possible

And now, I'm afraid this trial will not be as legitimate as it should be. This will be a big mistake if they don't fix it to be more legitimate when proceedings really begin. Take Chalabi out of the court. The GC appointing salem chalabi as chief judge tarnishes the process. I want justice as much as anybody else. He needs to get what's coming to him, but it NEEDS and MUST be from a more legitimate and sound process. I reiterate that because the integrity of the process is compromised, it will be a huge mistake in the long-term.

Of course this is playing out as it is for an American audience. But this should be a process that is custom built for Iraqis, shouldn't it? Especially the ones that have lived through the tyranny of this dictator

There will not be appropriate reconciliation for Iraqis living inside Iraq at this rate.


Long Live Iraq,
saddam is going down one way or another
and today is a good day for this reason alone


a sidenote:
i must pt. out that it is both highly ironic and poetic justice that saddam is not getting a "fair" trial just as his "trials" were unfair. we shall see how this irony plays out.

pps/updated early friday morning
Here's Robert Fisk's latest article:


Confused? Shadow of his old self? Hardly

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad

02 July 2004

Bags beneath his eyes, beard greying, finger-jabbing with anger, Saddam was still the same fox, alert, cynical, defiant, abusive, proud. Yet history must record that the new "independent" government in Baghdad yesterday gave Saddam Hussein an initial trial hearing that was worthy of the brutal old dictator.

He was brought to court in chains and handcuffs. The judge insisted that his own name should be kept secret. The names of the other judges were kept secret. The location of the court was kept secret. There was no defence counsel.

For hours, the Iraqi judges managed to censor Saddam's evidence from the soundtrack of the videotaped proceedings - so that the world should not hear the wretched man's defence. Even CNN was forced to admit that it had been given tapes of the hearing "under very controlled circumstances".

This was the first example of "new" Iraq's justice system at work - yet the tapes of the court appeared on CNN with the logo "Cleared by US Military". So what did the Iraqis and their American mentors want to hide?

The voice of the Beast of Baghdad as he turned - much to the young judge' s surprise - on the court itself, pointing out the investigating lawyer had no right to speak "on behalf of the so-called coalition"? Saddam's arrogant refusal to take human responsibility for the 1990 invasion of Kuwait? Or his dismissive, chilling response to the mass gassings of Halabja? "I have heard of Halabja," he said, as if he had read about it in a newspaper article. Later, he said just that: "I've heard about them [the killings] through the media."

Perhaps the Americans and the Iraqis they have appointed to run the country were taken by surprise. Saddam, we were all told over the past few days, was "disorientated", "downcast", "confused", a "shadow of his former self" and other clichés. These were the very words used to describe him on the American networks from Baghdad yesterday. But the moment the mute videotape began to air, a silent movie in colour, the old combative Saddam was evidently still alive. He insisted the Americans were promoting his trial, not the Iraqis. His face became flushed and he showed visible contempt towards the judge. "This is all a theatre," he shouted. "The real criminal is Bush."

The brown eyes moved steadily around the tiny courtroom, from the judge in his black, gold-trimmed robes to the policeman with the giant paunch - we were never shown his face - with the acronym of the Iraqi Correctional Service on his uniform. "I will sign nothing - nothing until I have spoken to a lawyer," Saddam announced - correctly, in the eyes of several Iraqi lawyers who watched his performance on television.

Scornful he was, defeated he was not. And of course, watching that face yesterday, one had to ask oneself how much Saddam had reflected on the very real crimes with which he was charged: Halabja, Kuwait, the suppression of the Shia Muslim and Kurdish uprisings in 1991, the tortures and mass killings.

One looked into those big, tired, moist eyes and wondered if he understood pain and grief and sin in the way we mere mortals think we do. And then he talked and we needed to hear what he said and the question slid away; perhaps that is why he was censored. We were supposed to stare at his eyes, not listen to his words. Milosevic-like, he fought his corner. He demanded to be introduced to the judge. "I am an investigative judge," the young lawyer told him without giving his name.

In fact, he was Ra'id Juhi, a 33-year old Shia Muslim who had been a judge for 10 years under Saddam's own regime, a point he did concede to Saddam later in the hearing without telling the world what it was like to be a judge under the dictator. He was also the same judge who accused the Shia prelate Muqtada Sadr of murder last April, an event that led to a military battle between Sadr's militiamen and US troops in the holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala. Mr Juhi, who most recently worked as a translator, was appointed - to no one 's surprise - by the former US proconsul in Iraq, Paul Bremer.

Already, one suspected, Saddam had sniffed out what this court represented for him: the United States. "I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq," he announced - which is exactly what he did when US Special Forces troops dragged him from his hole on the banks of the Tigris river seven months ago. "Would you identify yourself?"

When Judge Juhi said he represented the coalition, Saddam admonished him. Iraqis should judge Iraqis but not on behalf of foreign powers, he snapped. "Remember you're a judge, don't talk for the occupiers." Then he turned lawyer himself. "Were these laws of which I am accused written under Saddam Hussein?" Judge Juhi conceded that they were. "So what entitles you to use them against the president who signed them?"

Here was the old arrogance that we were familiar with, the president, the rais who believed he was immune from his own laws, that he was above the law, outside the law. Those big black eyebrows that used to twitch whenever he was angry, began to move threateningly, arching up and down like little drawbridges above his eyes.

The invasion of Kuwait was not an invasion, he said. "It was not an occupation." Kuwait had tried to strangle Iraq economically, "to dishonour Iraqi women who would go into the street and would be exploited for 10 dinars". Given the number of women dishonoured in Saddam's torture chambers, these words carried their own unique and terrible isolation.

He called the Kuwaitis "dogs", a description the Iraqi authorities censored to "animals" on the tape. Dogs are, alas, one of the most cursed of creatures in the Arab world. "The president of Iraq and the head of the Iraqi armed forces went to Kuwait in an official manner," Saddam blustered.

But then, watching that face with its expressive mouth and bright white crooked teeth, the eyes glimmering, a dreadful thought occurred. Could it be this awful man - albeit given less chance to be heard than the Nazis at the first Nuremberg hearings - actually knew less than we thought? Could it be that his apparatchiks and grovelling generals, even his own sons, kept from this man the iniquities of his regime? Might it just be possible that the price of power was ignorance, the cost of guilt a mere suggestion here and there that the laws of Iraq - so immutable according to Saddam - were not adhered to as fairly as they might have been?

No, I think not. I remember how, a decade and a half ago, Saddam asked a group of Kurds whether he should hang "the spy" Farzad Bazoft and how, once the crowd had obligingly told him to execute the young freelance reporter from The Observer, he ordered his hanging. No, I think Saddam knew. I think he regarded brutality as strength, cruelty as justice, pain as mere hardship, death as something endured by others.

Of course, there was that smart, curious black jacket, more a sports blazer than a piece of formal attire, the crisply cleaned shirt, the cheap pen and the piece of folded, yellow exercise paper which he took from his jacket pocket when he wanted to take notes. "I respect the will of the people," he said at one stage. "This is not a court - it is an investigation."

The key moment came at that point. Saddam said the court was illegal because the Anglo-American war which brought it into being was illegal - it had no backing from the UN Security Council. Then Saddam crouched slightly and said with controlled irony: "Am I not supposed to meet with lawyers? Just for 10 minutes?"

And one had to have a heart of stone not to remember how many of his victims must have begged, in just the same way, for just 10 more minutes.


again, updated sat morning
with another fisk article

US military tried to censor coverage of Saddam hearing

By Robert Fisk in Baghdad

03 July 2004

A team of US military officers acted as censors over all coverage of the hearings of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen on Thursday, destroying videotape of Saddam in chains and deleting the entire recorded legal submissions of 11 senior members of his former regime.

A US network cameraman who demanded the return of his tapes, which contained audios of the hearings, said he was told by a US officer: "No. They belong to us now. And anyway, we don't trust you guys."

According to American journalists present at the 30-minute hearing of Saddam and 11 former ministers at Baghdad airport, an American admiral in civilian clothes told camera crews that the judge had demanded that there should be no sound recording of the initial hearing. He ordered crews to unplug their sound wires. Several of the six crews present pretended to obey the instruction. "We learnt later," one of them said, "that the judge didn't order us to turn off our sound. The Americans lied - it was they who wanted no sound. The judge wanted sound and pictures."

Initially, crews were told that a US Department of Defence camera crew would provide the sound for their silent tapes. But when CNN and CBS crews went to the former occupation authority headquarters - now the US embassy - they found that three US officers ordered the censorship of tape which showed Saddam being led into the courtroom with a chain round his waist which was connected to handcuffs round his wrists. The Americans gave no reason for this censorship.

"They were rude and they didn't care," another American television crew member said. "They were running the show. The Americans decided what the world could and could not see of this trial - and it was meant to be an Iraqi trial. There was a British official in the courtroom whom we were not allowed to take pictures of. The other men were US troops who had been ordered to wear ordinary clothes so that they were 'civilians' in the court."

Three US officers viewed the tapes taken by two CNN cameras, 'Al-Djezaira' (a local, American-funded Iraqi channel), and the US government. "Fortunately, they were lazy and they didn't check all the tapes properly so we got our 'audio' through in the satellite to London," one of the crew members told The Independent yesterday. "I had pretended to unplug the sound from the camera but the man who claimed he was a US admiral didn't understand cameras and we were able to record sound. The American censors at the embassy were inattentive - that's how we got the sound out."

The only thing the Americans managed to censor from most of the tapes was Saddam's comment that "this is theatre - Bush is the real criminal."

Television stations throughout the world were astonished yesterday when the first tapes of Saddam's trial arrived without sound and have still not been informed that the Americans censored the material. "What can we do when an American official tells us the judge doesn't want sound - and then we find out that they lied and the judge does want the sound?" an American camera operator asked.

Video showed the face - and audiotape revealed the voice - of Judge Raid Juhi, whose name was widely reported in the Arab press yesterday. According to the camera crews, Judge Juhi wanted the world to hear Saddam's voice. Nevertheless the Americans erased the entire audiotape of the hearings of the 11 former Saddam ministers, including that of Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, and "Chemical" Ali, Saddam's cousin accused of gassing the Kurds at Halabja. The US Department of Defence tape of their hearings has been taken by the US authorities so there is now no technical record of the words of these 11 men, save for the notebooks of "pool" reporters - four Americans and two Iraqis - who were present.

Judge Juhi said not long ago that "I have no secrets - a judge must not be ashamed of the decisions he takes."

The Americans apparently think differently.


and again Sat night, Robert Fisk is turning them out in a hardcore fashion

So this is what they call the new, 'free' Iraq

Americans hold Saddam Hussein. Americans ran the court in which he appeared. Americans censored the tapes of the hearing. Who do you think is running the country? Robert Fisk in Baghdad reports on Iraq's first week of freedom from coalition rule

04 July 2004

In his last hours as US proconsul in Baghdad, Paul Bremer decided to tighten up some of the laws that his occupation authority had placed across the land of Iraq.

He drafted a new piece of legislation forbidding Iraqi motorists to drive with only one hand on the wheel. Another document solemnly announced that it would henceforth be a crime for Iraqis to sound their car horns except in an emergency. That same day, three American soldiers were torn apart by a roadside bomb north of Baghdad, one of more than 60 attacks on US forces over the weekend. And all the while, Mr Bremer was worrying about the standards of Iraqi driving.

It would be difficult to find a more preposterous - and chilling - symbol of Mr Bremer's failures, his hopeless inability to understand the nature of the débâcle that he and his hopeless occupation authority have brought about. It's not that the old "Coalition Provisional Authority" - now transmogrified into the 3,000-strong US embassy - was out of touch. It didn't even live on Planet Earth. Mr Bremer's last starring moment came when he departed Baghdad on a US military aircraft, with two US-paid mercenaries - rifles pointed menacingly at camera crews and walking backwards - protecting him until the cabin door closed. And Mr Bremer, remember, was appointed to his job because he was an "anti-terrorist" expert.

Most of the American CPA men who have cleared out of Baghdad are doing what we always suspected they would do when they had finished trying to put a US ideological brand name on "new" Iraq; they have headed off to Washington to work for the Bush election campaign. But those left behind in the "international zone" - those we have to pretend are no longer an occupation authority - make no secret of their despair. "The ideology is gone. The ambitions are gone. We've no aims left," one of them said last week. "We're living from one day to the next. All we're trying to do now - our only goal - is to keep the lid on until January 2005 [when the first Iraqi elections are supposed to be held]. That's our only aim - get past the elections - and then get the hell out."

The production of Saddam Hussein in a Baghdad "court" last week - he was actually sitting in one of his former palaces - was therefore the occupiers' last card. After this, there is going to be no more "good news" in Iraq, no more devices, no more tricks, no more captures to brighten our eyes before the November elections in the US. Yet even the court melodrama was symptomatic of how little power the West is prepared to cede to an Iraq to which it last week falsely claimed to be handing "full sovereignty".

Americans continue to hold Saddam - in Qatar, not in Iraq - and Americans ran the court in which Saddam appeared. American soldiers in plain clothes were the "civilians" in the court. American officials censored the tapes of the hearing, lied about the judge's wish to record the sound of the trial, and marked the videotapes "cleared by US military"; three US officers later confiscated all the original tapes of the trial. "The last time that happened to me," one of the reporters involved said afterwards, "was when the Iraqi government took my tapes in Basra during the 1991 Gulf War."

But it's not just the crude handling of the start of Saddam's show trial - where he had, of course, no defence counsel. For if he is ever to be given a fair trial in the future, the "muting" of the tapes last week will have set an important precedent. For he can now be "silenced" again - if, for example, he deviates from the script and starts telling the court about his close association with the US rather than his non-existent contacts with al-Qa'ida.

But America's occupation continues in many other ways. Its 146,000 soldiers are still all too much in evidence in Iraq, its tanks guarding the walls of the US "embassy", its armour littered throughout Baghdad, its convoys humming - and sometimes exploding - along the highways outside the city. The "new" and "sovereign" government cannot order it to leave. Mr Bremer's raft of reconstruction contracts to US companies ensures that American firms continue to cream off Iraq's money, described quite accurately by Naomi Klein in The Nation as "multibillion robbery". And Mr Bremer managed to institute a set of laws that the "new" and "sovereign" government is not permitted to change.

One of the most insidious was the re-introduction of Saddam's 1984 law banning all strikes. This piece of folly was intended to muzzle the so-called Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions. Yet the trade unions are among the few secular groups in Iraq opposing religious orthodoxy and fundamentalism. A strong trade union movement could provide a vital base of political and democratic power in a new Iraq. But no, Mr Bremer preferred to protect big business.

And all the while, the power of the mercenaries has been growing. Blackwater's thugs with guns now push and punch Iraqis who get in their way: Kurdish journalists twice walked out of a Bremer press conference because of their mistreatment by these men. Baghdad is alive with mysterious Westerners draped with hardware, shouting and abusing Iraqis in the street, drinking heavily in the city's poorly defended hotels. They have become, for ordinary Iraqis, the image of everything that is wrong with the West. We like to call them "contractors", but there is a disturbing increase in reports that mercenaries are shooting down innocent Iraqis with total impunity. US military and diplomatic officials have now set an 80/20 ration target for "security" details - 80 Iraqi mercenaries for every 20 Western mercenaries.

And even if President Bush can forget it, the Abu Ghraib scandal burns on in a country where the filth and nudity and humiliation inflicted by US soldiers will take a generation to erase from the memory. One leftist group in Baghdad now claims that several women, allegedly raped by Iraqi policemen at the jail while Americans watched, have been murdered by their families for their "dishonour".

Large areas of the country are now effectively outside any government control - even America's. Fallujah is a virtual people's republic and lynch law is occurring even in Baghdad. The so-called "Mehdi Army" of Muqtada al-Sadr publicly executed a 20-year-old man in the slums of Baghdad's Sadr City last month for "collaboration" with the Americans. Understandably, few journalists dare to travel outside Baghdad - much to the pleasure of the US military. "They killed all those poor people at the wedding party near the Syrian border and our military sources told us there'd been a fuck-up," an American correspondent complained last week. "Then [Brigadier General Mark] Kimmitt says that all the dead were terrorists and he knows we can't go and prove he's wrong."

Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister, we must recall, was a CIA man, an MI6 man and a former Baathist. Indeed, he boasted to journalists that he had taken money from 14 intelligence agencies while he was in exile. However "free" Mr Allawi thinks Iraq is, he will not turn against his American protectors - nor against the glowering figure of John Negroponte, the new US ambassador of Honduras fame.

Ironically, the only real hope for the new government would be to do what a majority of its people say they want: to tell the Americans to leave. This, of course, Mr Allawi cannot do. His "sovereign" government needs those American troops to protect it from the people who don't want the American troops in Iraq.

And so we boil our way on to those January 2005 elections, the lid dangerously lifting from time to time to horrify us with little glimpses of the future. Many Iraqis believe that there will be a new dictator, a "democratically minded strongman" in the creepy expression of American neo-conservative Daniel Pipes, to bring about the security that we have failed to give them.

For after the elections, if indeed they are held, we shall self-righteously claim we can no longer be blamed for anything that goes wrong in Iraq. We liberated the Iraqis from Saddam, we shall say. We gave them "democracy" - and look what a mess they made of it. 


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