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Dictator on trial
An editorial / By Dale McFeatters
Scripps Howard News Service


October 20, 2005

If Saddam Hussein's trial is to be a show trial, as its critics claim, it is a long way from prime time, based on the opening day.

The video was amateurish and the seriousness of the proceedings was undermined by the mechanics of getting the defendants in and out of the courtroom and Saddam's blustering attempt to question the legitimacy of the tribunal. The little holding pens for the defendants also seemed an unnecessary touch.

It seems everybody - human rights groups, supporters of the International Criminal Court, the Bush administration, foes of the U.S.-led invasion - knows better than the Iraqi government how Saddam should be tried.

And there are some serious gaps in the due process. Saddam's lawyers have been unable to examine much of the evidence against him, for which they were granted a continuance until Nov. 28. The witness list has been kept secret, as has the identity of all but one of the five judges on the tribunal, but that's because of the danger of their being murdered by Saddam loyalists.

And considering the awfulness of his regime - 300,000 dead Iraqis - the relatively small massacre of 143 Shiites 23 years ago in Dujail seems a puzzling place to start.

To which it should be said: Let the Iraqis do this themselves. The trial may not meet the courtroom standards of NBC's "Law & Order," but it is important the Iraqis come to terms with their own history - that through careful, methodical and publicly televised proceedings they lay out, especially for the Arab world, the real evil of Saddam's rule. And, of course, that the guilty be punished in a way that is widely seen to be fair.

Reports out of Baghdad say the prosecutors began with the Dujail massacre because they have hard evidence it was done on Saddam's direct orders. Still to come is the military operation that killed some 180,000 Kurds in the late '80s, the bloody suppression of a Shiite revolt in 1991, and the death of 5,000 Kurds in a poison gas attack in 1988.

It may be a show trial in this sense: There's a lot to be shown.


Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)
Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,

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