Thursday, July 01, 2004
From the NY Times, an account of the opening of proceedings against Saddam and eleven of his associates, with a heavy emphasis on wardrobe:
"I am Saddam Hussein, president of the Republic of Iraq," Mr. Hussein declared when asked to identify himself after settling into the black leather chair behind the balustrade that served as a makeshift dock at the courtroom, specially built on this United States military base near Baghdad airport. After six months' imprisonment, his hair was unkempt, his beard gray and straggly, and his favored Italian hand-stitched suits replaced by cheap store-bought jacket and pants provided by the Americans for the occasion.From Juan Cole:
The 67-year-old former ruler seemed 15 to 20 pounds lighter than when he last appeared, after his capture by American troops in an underground bunker near Tikrit last Dec. 13. He began nervously, like a hunted man in alien terrain. His eyes swiveled back and forth, his voice was weak, and his fingers stroked his beard and touched his bushy eyebrows. But halfway into his 26-minute appearance he appeared to find his pitch, and he ended with a string of finger-wagging admonishments for the court's temerity in putting him on trial.
At the start, the young Iraqi investigative judge, his identity shielded from disclosure by Iraqi and American officials fearful of his assassination, stared straight back at Mr. Hussein, barely 10 feet away, and said plainly, "former president."
"No, present," Mr. Hussein said. "Current. It's the will of the people."
"Write down, in brackets, `former president,' " the judge told the court clerk . . . .
Once Mr. Hussein settled in, he became more his old self, speaking with a strengthening voice to declare Kuwait rightly a part of Iraq, to rebuke the judge, as an Iraqi, for daring to countenance charges that Kuwait was not Iraqi territory, and to describe Kuwait's rulers as "animals" who had tried to turn Iraqi women into "10-dinar prostitutes." He told the judge, "You know that this is all a theater by Bush, to help him win his election." He then refused to sign court papers and walked out brusquely, saying, "Khalas!"— an Arabic term meaning "finished."
Since the US is no longer in international law the Occupying power, it has little right to continue to hold Saddam. Since the Americans do not, however, trust the Iraqis to guard him properly, their surrender of Saddam is just as much a sham as their surrender of sovereignty. A new opinion poll in Iraq suggested that over forty percent of Iraqis want him executed, while a similar proportion want him just to be let go. This sign of the extreme polarization of the Iraqi public over this issue is a very bad omen. By the way, it seems that Salem Chalabi, nephew of disgraced Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi, is still in charge of trying Saddam, according to the Arabic press. Salem has strong ties to Israeli interests, which may undermine his effectiveness in this role with the Iraqi public.