Saddam is the subject, but we’ll get to him later. First, a brief look back.
Romania had a despotic dictator for decades, one of those lovely guys who threw the opposition into prison, shot seventy brown bears in one afternoon just for sport and generally ran the country to suit himself. Nicolai Ceaucescu was his name, the communist president of Romania from 1967 until 1989, when he was overthrown and executed in a popular revolution. In ’89 the wheels came off communism everywhere.
They didn’t mess around with Nick. Once the palace was surrounded, they grabbed him and his wife by the scruffs of their necks, ran them before a judge who stamped a death warrant and then dragged both of them into the nearest courtyard and shot them. Romania was not about to have a protracted show-trial for a couple of bums.
What has it been now, three years that Slobodan Milosevic, the deposed Yugoslavian president has been on trial in the Hague? Crimes against humanity. The style today is to do the crimes-against-humanity thing for crackpots that used to be shot like dogs in the street.
Waste of time, waste of breath as well and a process that becomes ever more ludicrous as Europe tries to show just how sophisticated it has become since the Inquisition. Milosevic and Ceaucescu were both blatant murderers of their people, ruthless in the extreme. Yet the former still struts, shouts and vilifies the court, years after the latter claimed his well-deserved bullet.
There is a national cleansing that comes from putting an autocratic tyrant to death, quickly and as mercilessly as they executed their victims. It gives the national rage a chance to subside and paves over the potholed road to a better future. Singularly, such an action cuts off whatever radical support may lurk, ready to subvert the best efforts of replacement governments. Despots always have their followers and henchmen. Nothing cools their ardor quicker than a firing squad.
By contrast, according to the latest wire-reports from Iraq,
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 13 — Saddam Hussein was brought back to the courtroom by force today as his trial resumed, and prosecutors made their strongest efforts yet to tie him to executions carried out in the wake of an assassination attempt on the former Iraqi leader in 1982.
Strongest effort yet? What’s going on in a country where Saddam's disappeared make Augusto Pinochet look like a Boy Scout? Saddam marches into court like he was still President, indeed announces himself to still be President—and in this farce, who is to say he’s wrong? Judges come and go in this bizarre trial. Defense attorneys mostly go, a couple assassinated thus far and the balance under threat. The entire court under threat it seems and the country as well.
One senses this wasn’t an Iraqi idea, this courtroom drama. One feels Iraqis would have been pleased and relieved, when Saddam was dragged from the hole in which he hid himself, to have seen him tied to a tree and shot. The current charade smacks of American political interference, of Paul Bremmer and the coercion applied to all things Iraqi from the Green Zone.
As he entered the courtroom, Mr. Hussein, dressed in a dark blazer and Arab dishdasha rather than his usual suit, ‘lashed out angrily at the judge for forcing him to return to the courtroom.’ He’s been getting away with that throughout the trial, if one dares call it a trial. An observer hardly understands who is on trial, the judge or the defendant.
According to news reports, the defendants (there are several besides Saddam) have rejected court-appointed attorneys named to replace their own lawyers who walked out of the trial last month, and are demanding the removal of the chief judge. In Jordan, Saddam's chief defense lawyer said there were no plans to end the boycott and denounced the court for forcing the former leader to attend.
A demand by Saddam? Denouncing the court? A walkout? A boycott? Another dozen car-bombs?
George Bush and M. Paul Bremmer weren’t around in ’89 when the Romanians solved their ‘dictator-problem.’ Romania today is on a fast-track to a safe, sane, democratic future and there are no car-bombs going off in their fruit markets.
But then, they solved their dilemma with a firing-squad and went on from there to build a country.