In a decision that surprised nobody, the U.S.-created and controlled Iraqi High Court convicted Saddam Hussein and other Baath Party leaders of crimes against humanity on Sunday, Nov. 5. The court sentenced Hussein to death by hanging.
Two other defendants also were sentenced to death, one was acquitted and others received lengthy jail terms.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, member of Hussein’s defense team, recently charged that the timing of
“Again it was rescheduled,” Clark said, “and they said at that time they thought it would be Oct. 25. As Oct. 25 approached it was set for Nov. 5, this Sunday. We haven’t begun a hearing in the entire trial on a Sunday, but Monday was too late for a November surprise and Sunday apparently was thought to be perfect under the circumstances because, with an eight hour time difference, you’d have all day for the electronic media on Sunday,” Clark continued. “Then you’d have your headlines Monday in print media: ‘Saddam condemned to hang.’”
“Justice is a dangerous thing to tamper with,” he said. “It’s a crime. It’s called corruption of justice. A lot of people get prosecuted and sent to prison for it.”
Clark outlined the history behind the charges, which grew out of an assassination attempt against Hussein and other high ranking Iraqi officials in 1982. Iraq and Iran were at war at the time and the would-be assassins—members of the Dawa Party—had ties to Iran, which actually had troops on Iraqi soil at the time. Approximately 148 men were arrested, tried and convicted. Executions were carried out three years after the assassination attempt.
The U.S. government created the tribunal that tried Hussein. It also kept tight control over the proceedings, although the figurehead Iraqis ostensibly in charge are members of the same Dawa Party that tried to assassinate Hussein 24 years earlier. What they could not accomplish by assassination in time of war, they now intend to accomplish through a corrupt and illegal show trial spearheaded by foreign occupiers.
As Clark said at the Nov. 1 press conference, “The unfairness of the trial has been vouched for by virtually every legal expert who has addressed the issue.”
The court allowed the prosecution seven months to present its case, but limited the defense to only five weeks. The chief judge said to the defense, “If you cannot prove your innocence with 34 witnesses, 100 will not help.”
In addition, defense attorneys were not given the same level of military protection as that afforded to the prosecutors. The results often have been deadly. Clark noted that, “Four defense counsels brutally were murdered, three tortured—the last two with drill holes in their heads—and paraded around parts of Baghdad.”
He also warned about the probability of increased violence following the verdict. On Oct. 3 more than 300 organizations in Iraq, including the 1.5 million member al-Obedi tribe, announced that there would be violence unless Saddam is released. The tribe called for armed resistance against U.S.-led forces.
Clark drew a grim picture of Iraq if death sentences are carried out. “You can see now that the Sunni sector of society and those who have identified their own futures with it can see no alternative in Iraq for themselves except through violence. They see the partitioning off of the oil regions into very small sectors to empower future control of the country. They see with the execution or the threatened execution of Saddam Hussein the end of any possibility of compromise or working things out.
“We’ve already seen hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by a criminal war of aggression against a country that was less threat to the United States than practically any other country on earth,” said Clark.
Clark released copies of a letter he sent to all ambassadors to the United Nations challenging the legality of the trial. He then took questions after the press conference, which was widely covered in the bourgeois media. Clark then left to prepare for his trip to Baghdad for the defendants’ sentencing.
The real reason for the trial
The phony Saddam Hussein trial has been a centerpiece in the U.S. government’s attempts to show “progress” and “justice” in what has been a deadly, racist and deeply unpopular colonial occupation. These efforts have failed.
The U.S. imperialists’ tactics are nothing new. They have worked hard to demonize Iraqi leaders, especially Hussein, to achieve their goals for at least 15 years. Revolutionaries and progressives should not be swayed by such bourgeois propaganda.
Saddam Hussein’s complex role in Iraq must be evaluated in the context of the 1958 Iraqi revolution. He represented a strongly anti-communist wing of the Baath Party. This wing was engaged in a violent struggle against communists and other left forces, including some within the Baath Party itself. But at the same time, much like European social democratic parties, it combined this violent anti-communism with a program of social reforms that benefited sections of the masses as well as Iraq’s national development.
Baathism in Iraq represents the aspirations of a nationalist bourgeoisie that is trying to overcome the legacy of colonialism. As a consequence, the Baathist governments had a complex and contradictory relationship with imperialism. At times they collaborated, while at other times they confronted the imperialist powers.
In spite of its anti-communism, Baathism took root in the social soil created by the 1958 Iraqi revolution as a rival to the then-revolutionary Iraqi Communist Party. The 1958 revolution was a thoroughgoing bourgeois nationalist revolution aimed at developing the Iraqi society and breaking the bonds of British imperial domination.
Saddam Hussein collaborated opportunistically with the United States in launching the 1980 war with Iran. But the regime was never a comprador, puppet government of U.S. imperialism in the same way as the client regimes in Jordan, Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, for example.
When Hussein began to assert Iraqi national interests independent of U.S. imperialist interests—for instance, with the 1991 invasion of Kuwait—his regime was demonized and targeted for destruction.
The crimes for which Hussein and the other members of the Baath government were found guilty pale by comparison with the genocides and massacres committed by U.S. client regimes like Colombia, Israel or the Philippines. They especially pale compared to the crimes committed by consecutive U.S. governments against Native American, Puerto Rican and African American communities in the United States or against oppressed peoples around the world.
The real reason Hussein and members of his government face execution and lengthy prison terms today is that they dared to stand up to U.S. imperialism. All the rest of the charges were window dressing to deceive public opinion. The U.S. occupation regime had no right try or convict Saddam Hussein or any of his co-defendants. They all should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Real trials for “crimes against humanity” would see Bush administration officials and Pentagon generals as defendants.