Iraq: White House tries its creature Saddam

Saddam Hussein appeared in court on 1 July and was charged with a list of crimes.

Formally, he is now in the hands of Iraqis. But in reality, the Americans are still in charge of the ex-dictator’s fate.

The CIA and the FBI have interrogated him. Fifty officials from the US Justice Department have been involved in the preparation of charges. The judge at the trial was handpicked by the Americans and feared for his life if his name was disclosed; the tribunal charged with running the prosecution is led by Salem Chalabi, nephew of former US-backed exile Ahmed Chalabi, now on the run from his former masters.

The court, we are told, was filled with plain-clothed US soldiers; but the Iraqi media were barred from their ’own’ legal system!

It seems the Americans still want to run the trial; because of George Bush’s refusal to sign up to the International Criminal Court, there will be no war crimes trial like in Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia. And there is good reason for this.

The US ruling class in particular – and Western governments in general – were complicit in the rise to power of the Ba’ath Party in Iraq, and of Saddam Hussein himself.

The CIA backed the Ba’ath coup in 1968 to try to prevent bigger social and political upheaval. They supported Saddam’s promotion to president in 1979 as a bastion against the rise of political Islam in Iran, and egged him on to declare war against Iran in 1980, a bloody conflict that lasted until 1988.

Donald Rumsfeld, current US Secretary for Defense, was pictured shaking Saddam’s hand in 1983 in a visit to Baghdad. The US government shed no tears when Kurds were gassed in 1988.

The American ambassador to Iraq was even ambivalent when Saddam asked what would be the US reaction to an invasion of Kuwait. Only when the invasion actually happened and the threat to oil supplies and America’s strategic position in the Middle East became clear did the US government, led then by George Bush senior, eventually change its mind about Saddam.

There’s a lot for US imperialism to fear in a trial of Saddam. That’s why it will be stage managed, and almost certainly won’t happen before the US presidential elections in November. Revelations of the true extent of US collaboration with Saddam, which he will undoubtedly use in his defence, could finally end Bush’s chances of re-election.

As one Iraqi commented: "If they give Saddam a fair trial, they will all end up with him in the dock – Kissinger, Reagan, Thatcher, Blair, the two Bushes and [new Iraqi prime minister] Allawi."

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July 2004