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Friday, February 3, 2006 at 11:58:21 mst
Name: Jeff Montgomery
The whole trial seemed flawed to me, but I had not really stopped to analyze why. I simply thought that Saddam was being granted far too much credit/leeway, and the trial was more or less becoming a circus.
Friday, February 3, 2006 at 15:14:46 mst
If there's any necessity of a 'hearing', it should primarily be whether or not this person 'X' was the actual dictator, and if so, whether certain listed actions he technically is 'responsible' for (done under his regime) were done by his direction or at least with his foreknowledge.
Even then, there needs be a 'reason' for the very existence of the question itself. No 'reason'= no need for the 'hearing', much less a 'trial' following.
In that case, Public Exposure Presentation is all that's relevent (maybe necessary, for others to be aware about; maybe not)...before execution.
Friday, February 3, 2006 at 18:13:01 mst
Name: Adam Spong
I think the bit about justice being determined by the tribe is simply a description of the fact that American judges were definitely excluded in part because the US administration didn't want to appear to be "imposing" their influence on the matter.
This is the same multiculturalist premise that spawned the Iraqi constitution and the outcome of the election--the idea that it's only legitimate if America doesn't "meddle" or impose our values (e.g. individual rights) on Iraqi culture. Instead their government must be a purely democratic expression of the people's will--i.e. a tribal power-grab.
It's exactly the same with this trial. It's only legitimate if the "Iraqi people" are the ones meting out justice. As opposed to the US imperialistically interfering in the laws of a puppet regime. The tribalist premise here is clear.
Of course, since any proper war fought by America against a dictator is in defense of the rights of Americans, and not of the dictator's subjects, it is the US that has the absolute right to bring the dictator to justice.
And I agree fully that we are perfectly justified in enacting that justice in the form of a bullet. We were already certain of his guilt when we went to _war_ with him.
Saturday, February 4, 2006 at 20:39:04 mst
Name: Irfan Khawaja
We're about to have a discussion of this article (and related issues) at my blog, "Theory and Practice."
Tuesday, February 7, 2006 at 13:19:21 mst
Name: Philip Coates
I emphatically don't agree with this shortsighted, ignorant-of-legal-methodology op ed:
Trials which allow a full public hearing for the prosecution and the defense are an indispensable part of the rule of law and of the prevention of abuse by government and of tyranny. In this case, a proper trial would also provide a moral lesson for a quasi-barbarian, tribal society unfamiliar with objective justice. Societies which dispense with going through the laborious procedure and the allowing of a defense in obvious cases of guilt will dispense with it in less obvious cases ... or in cases in which the innocent are railroaded but the public is angry. What needs to be demonstrated to a watching tv audience in Iraq and elsewhere is the -process- of proof, how objective law works.
But this is not to defend the type of trial going on now. The trial should not become a circus or a propaganda platform as appears to be the case. It is probably possible for the trial of Saddam to be short, maybe a week or a month since the evidence is clear. Truly frivolous defense motions are treated too seriously in this trial ... and in many trials in the American legal system. But that is an argument against overlong or overindulgent trials, not against trials themselves. If Saddam misbehaves or shouts out in court, he can be shackled and placed in humiliating fashion in a soundproof glass booth like Eichmann. Side issue: a genocidal monster like Saddam or Castro, were he to be captured and spirited out of the country, should be excecuted on television at the end of his trial for the same reason that trials should exist and should be public.
A *proper* trial will throughly expose Saddam even to his followers as a subhuman animal. Which is a side or "show" virtue of having a trial.
To demonstrate the open, transparent, thorough process of justice.
It is the -process- which is sacred and sometimes abused. Less crucial is the issue of whether any one defendant's attorneys got too much time given to the judge hearing their motions or some dollars wasted in a too long trial. For example: it doesn't apply in this known murderous dictator case, but suppose Jack Ruby were to be tried. Should he be executed without trial? That means his lawyer could not even make a motion that he was insane or that there was a mitigating circumstance that makes it second degree rather than first degree.
Stop and think, Mr. Journo! After the defeat of Nazi Germany and the uncovering of the concentration camps, would you not have held the Nuremberg trials by your same reasoning?
Or if Hitler had been caught alive? One purpose of a trial is for the victims to be heard, the atrocities to be exposed...many Sunni Iraqis watching the Saddam trial were quite shocked to hear of the things he did - to hear the testimony of his victims, of grieving widows, to see photographs, to hear of his putting people through a meat grinder, etc. The Nuremberg trials exposed the monstrousness of the Holocaust, allowed the perpetrators to be condemned and exposed and confronted on television.
It would be a colossal, vicious, monstrous immorality NOT to have a trial.
Tuesday, February 7, 2006 at 13:34:49 mst
Name: Philip Coates
I note that Mr. Journo advocated some kind of "hearing" in lieu of a trial. You can't call something a 'hearing' in which the prosecuted party is not actually 'heard' from -- it must be an actual trial, for the reasons I gave.
Tuesday, February 7, 2006 at 15:36:27 mst
Philip Coates makes a very persuasive argument here. I agree with every point he makes... like that one of the purposes of putting a well-known tyrant to trial is to establish the supremacy of the rule of law over, validate its processes and methods, and also validate the moral justification and superiority of the eventual sentencing.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 10:20:17 mst
Name: Irfan Khawaja
I basically agree with Philip Coates's post, except that I think he is actually a bit charitable to Journo's article, which is far more incoherent than anyone (including his critics) seems to have recognized. Journo claims that it is "tribalism" to have Iraqi judges run the trial. It apparently hasn't occurred to him (or his champions) that one reason for having Iraqi judges run the trial is that they speak the same language as the accused, the witnesses, and the attorneys. American judges don't. (Indeed, even competent American translators of Arabic are few and far between.) By Journo's logic, a trial run by people who don't understand a word of the proceedings is superior to one in which participants do understand what's being said; or else, a trial involving simulatenous translations is better than one in which there isn't. A person who omits such an obvious issue from a discussion of a trial is obviously less interested in the subject of the trial than in the rationalistic confections he can spin by bringing it up.
I disagree with one part of Coates's argument, however: Coates thinks that Saddam should be put on trial in order to show the Iraqis how justice works. But then it makes no sense to execute him, unless we think the death penalty a generally justified punishment. But the arguments against it here in the US are pretty obvious: the penalty is irreversible but the danger of mistake or caprice clearly exists. If the non-objectivity of the American legal system is a reason for being against the death penalty here, the non-objectivity of the Iraqi system is a fortiori a reason for being against it there. We obviously cannot show the Iraqis how justice works if the most important trial in the annals of the new Iraq begins with an unjustified punishment. But that is what an execution would be.
A point of detail: Eichmann was not put in a glass booth to humiliate him. Nor was the booth in question soundproof. The booth was bulletproof. He was put it in it in order to protect him from possible assassination, and it was wired both for translation (from Hebrew to German and back) and by microphone so that he could communicate with the court. In Saddam's case, his misbehavior led to his being thrown out of the courtroom (well, he was about to be thrown out when he announced he would leave, and was then escorted out). Likewise the case of Zaccarias Moussaoui. You don't need a glass booth. You just send the accused back to his cell for a bit of "time out".
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 10:45:48 mst
"unless we think the death penalty a generally justified punishment"
I don't see why we can't think of death penalty as "a generally justified punishment". The excuse of mistakes, caprice, etc. are silly arguments -- there are many things in life that are irreversible yet also susceptible to mistakes and caprice. And when a cold-blooded criminal is on a killing rampage of 10 human beings, there is no care in his head of the "irreversible" nature of his actions.
Death penalty is not a moral issue. It is just one kind of punishment on one end of the continuum of all justified punishments. It is a matter for the legal system to decide if the crime warrants that extreme kind of punishment or not.
Personally, I think the whole "humane" death penalty with the prick of a needle after being sedated is just so wrong... now, THERE is what I find morally questionable!
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 11:53:21 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
I don't know who is more absurd, Phil Coates or Irfan Khawaja, in their objections to Elan Journo's excellent Op-Ed on the ludicrousness of the trial of Saddam Hussein. They both either totally ignore or distort Elan's main points.
As Elan clearly states - and which is indisputable - there is no issue whatever in regard to Saddam's guilt. There is thus no basis for any presumption of innocence which is the precondition for a trial.
As for a trial serving some educational purpose to detail Saddam's atrocities, as Elan makes, clear a trial is not necessary to achieve that. All that is required is a cataloguing of his horrendous deeds over decades. That can easily be achieved by way of a summary statement prior to his execution.
But if I were to give a slight nod to greater ridiculousness, it would be to Irfan who prattles about how it would be somehow wrong to execute a monster like Saddam. Yes, Irfan, execution is irreversible. But that is precisely what one wants to achieve with such a monster.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 12:52:27 mst
Name: Irfan Khawaja
Ergo says that the death penalty is perfectly justified despite the risk of killing innocent people. Why? Because there are many things in life that are also arbitrary and capricious. The arbitrary and capricious nature of this answer befits its author's view. I am not even sure what Ergo is trying to say. Does he think that when things in life are arbitrary and capricious, we should ignore that fact and keep doing them? More relevantly, when the arbitrary and capricious find their way into a judicial system, should we rest content with this fact and leave them there? Or should we, on encountering the arbitrary, try to eliminate it? How is the arbitrary compatible with justice, and how is the possibility of killing the innocent in the name of justice trivial? The point is not that Saddam is innocent but that when we talk about criminal justice, we have to think in principles. A person who excuses caprice is not thinking in principles.
Fred Weiss claims that I "distort" Journo's points. Where? How? Apparently he thinks you can make accusations without backing them up. That, too, is an instance of caprice.
He then tells us that we all know that Saddam is guilty, hence there should be no trial. But if the evidence is so obvious, where is the problem in bringing it to trial? Its obviousness should speak for itself.
But the more important point is that a judicial system has to operate on a principled basis, and it is a violation of principle to dispense with a trial anytime the evidence is obvious. The evidence is often obvious, but trials cannot be often dispensed with, without undermining the systemic character of the judicial system. This is particularly an issue when one is first establishing a system more or less from scratch as is happening in Iraq. The precedent of unnecessary extra-judicial killing is a disasterous one. (By contrast, killing of Saddam's sons were necessary, though extra-judicial, since they violently resisted arrest.)
I notice that while praising Journo's article, Weiss doesn't touch the point that I made about the language in which the trial is to be conducted. Since I am so "absurd," I am interested in the wisdom he has to offer on that point. Does it matter what language the trial is conducted in and whether the judges understand it? It evidently didn't matter to Journo. Who then is more absurd--a person who hasn't thought about such an elementary issue, or one who has? Perhaps the most ridiculous person of all is the one who, when confronted with such an elementary issue, evades it in public and then hurls accusations about the absurdity of others.
There is a longer critique of Journo's article on my blog, written by a colleague. I actually think she is far too kind to Journo, but she makes many good points. The link to my blog is in a post a few posts above this one.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 13:23:57 mst
I'm going to only comment on the death penalty issue, since that's where our difference lies, (in this context).
Your excuse of dismissing death penalty on the grounds that *sometimes* the legal system might make a mistake in the matter is silly on many levels - first off, you presume a standard of absolute infallibility for human institutions, and upon observing that we can't meet that standard, you dismiss its credibility or validity in being able to arrive at conclusive certainty in *all* and *every* case. Just because the system makes mistakes *sometimes* does not mean it makes mistakes *everytime*.
But then, you'd argue, its in the irreversible nature of this "mistake" that gives you the reason to dismiss its practice. Well, just like death penalty, a life-long sentence or multiple-sentences adding up to 3000 years without parole is ALSO irreversible, and those judgments are also susceptible to mistakes. Now, if you decide that one could release a man from prison if he's found innocent, but not one that has been executed, well, that's the reason why the system makes every attempt to prove full certainty beyond doubt, allows for many many attempts at appeals, and also stipulates a "stay" period of many years on death row before the actual execution. In the end, the argument that one might still have an innocent man on death row also works in the case of having an innocent man behind bars for life till he eventuall dies on his own.
Anyway, the whole "empirical evidence" argument against death penalty is plain silly. If a country as a whole has the right to go to war against an aggressor nation and kill many civilians in the war, then a society also has the right to go to "war" against aggressing individuals and kill them.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 14:47:59 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
The fundamental confusion here is as between a legal system for a country's own citizens and the proper actions in dealing with those who instigate wars (and other mass horrors). We didn't invade Iraq (or previously, Germany or Japan) for the purpose of arresting its leaders and putting them in jail. We weren't engaged in an action to deal with common criminals. It wasn't a police action to arrest people. People like Saddam (and his henchmen) are not mere murderers - and there is no issue as regards their guilt. They are brazen monsters whose killing is performed on the world stage for all to see. They in effect throw their atrocities into the face of the world - not to mention their own citizens for the sake of exerting total power over their lives.
Such men do not deserve legal niceties. If you recall, Mussolini was strung up on a street lamp by his own people. The people of Italy knew what he had done and in fact to have given him a trial, as if he had any case to make, is what would have made a farce of justice - not the other way around. Once again, there was no presumption of innocence, nor was there any doubt.
As for whether we or the Iraqis themselves should mete out the justice to Saddam, we were the conquerors of Iraq and we were the ones who captured him. When we return the reins of gov't back to the Iraqis (and in my view we are doing so far too quickly) then they can manage their own justice. Until then it is our responsibility as the victors. (I don't believe there were any German or Japanese judges on the post-war tribunals of their war criminals).
Apart from the issue of simply justice - and in the name of his innumerable victims - there is another, practical reason for executing such men. You don't want to allow for any possibility of their returning to power.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 19:14:16 mst
Name: Irfan Khawaja
First a response to Ergo. A piece of advice, to begin: before you call an argument "silly," you ought to have a sufficiently strong counter-argument to justify such talk. You don't.
To start with the fundamental issue first: the death penalty is irreversible in a way that no number of consecutive life sentences can be. When you apply the death penalty, you kill the person in question. If you later discover you've made a mistake, there is no rectifying it. When you put someone in prison, you can at some point rectify your error if an error is discovered. If there is something in this undeniable and obvious set of facts that you're trying to deny, I haven't discovered what it is.
The system may try to get things right, but it does fail, and when a system fails, and the stakes are high, rationality requires that one do what it takes to minimize the problem. The death penalty is an obvious instance of this. In the case of the American judicial system, the failure rate is alarmingly high (consider the case of Illinois moratorium), the standards barely make any sense (read the federal sentencing guidelines), & the juries contain a large number of irrational and apathetic individuals. This is an across-the-board problem that goes beyond capital punishment, but if we did away with prison sentences, we would have no alternative but to let criminals go free--which is absurd. But if we do away with the death penalty, we can still incarcerate the guilty and reverse any remaining mistakes. There is no absurdity there.
All of these problems and more exist in Iraq. So if the DP is a bad idea here, it would be worse there.
As for your last point, rights don't exhaust the moral considerations involved in making complex decisions. We may have a right to kill Saddam--he himself may deserve it--but there is another consideration involved: we are also engaged in creating a new law-respecting republic in Iraq and the precedent of extra-judicial killing is a bad one.
Recall that Saddam is not the only person on trial. So are his henchmen in the Dubail massacre. Should they all be killed summarily? If them, why not their staffs? If their staffs, why not their families (who supported them)? If them, why not all members of the Ba'ath party? Where do you stop the killing? Once you take these questions seriously, you realize that gratuitous extra-judicial killing is an insane idea no matter how attractive it may at first look. And you realize that judicial principles are required to set things right.
If you followed the "policy" of executing the evil and certainly guilty without trial--it is less a policy than an inability to hold context--you would before long be engulfed in a blood bath and destroy everything so far accomplished in Iraq. For what? For the warm fuzzy feeling derived from killing Saddam Hussein. If that is worth it, I'd like to know by what standard. By Robespierre's standards, maybe (see "What Is Capitalism," p. 22). But not by the standard of life.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 19:42:24 mst
Name: Irfan Khawaja
A response to Fred Weiss. I see now that the earlier bluster about my absurdity and so forth has given way to a different tone. That's a start.
You say that we didn't go to war in Iraq to arrest people. You don't say why we did go to Iraq, so I have no idea why your undisclosed reason proves that we shouldn't put Saddam Hussein on trial. I can't think of any good reason for going to war that is incompatible with putting him on trial, nor can I think of any good strategic purpose that is subverted by putting him on trial. But as I said to Ergo, I can think of a good reason why summary execution would subvert our strategic aims in Iraq: it would set a bad precedent, and is impossible to put into practice without undermining the task of creating a law-abiding republic there.
As for Mussolini, you may recall he was strung up by a Communist mob (so was his mistress--whatever she guilty of, not that anyone cared). Of course, the same mob would very likely have strung up you, me and Spongebob Squarepants if they had thought us related (however vaguely) to Mussolini. Such is the quality of justice by summary execution. You may also recall that it was Robespierre who argued before the Constituent Assembly that Louis Capet be summarily executed--an argument made and implemented before him by the Prophet Muhammad and after him by V.I. Lenin and Saddam Hussein. Not exactly an illustrious pedigree.
I still haven't heard your answer to the problem posed by the language barrier. You praised Journo's article very highly, but several paragraphs of it are devoted to arguing that the motivation for having Iraqi judges is tribal--as though there were no other possibilities. But language is an obvious explanation; what of it?
I should add that Journo says, inexplicably, that only members of Saddam's "tribe" were allowed to judge him--when the presiding judge is a Kurd and the identities of 400 members of the judicial staff remain a secret for security reasons. Kurds are not members of Saddam's tribe or part of his ethnic group, and Iraqi urbanites are not members of any tribe. So it is not clear what Journo was talking about. Nor is it clear he knew what he was talking about.
As for the post-war trials, in the one case I have studied in detail--Eichmann's trial--language was a serious problem. The German-Hebrew translation was reportedly "incomprehensible" at times--this despite the fact that Israel had a high percentage of native German-speakers (ie refugees from Germany). The idea that Americans could even equal the Israeli effort, much less exceed it, is a joke. Unfortunately, the joke appears to have been lost on Journo. The Allies conducted the other trials, but I haven't studied them well enough to know the details.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 21:53:09 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
Irfan, you are sadly mistaken if you think that I have changed my "tone" in regard to my view of your position. To make it perfectly clear and to repeat it, I consider your position on this matter completely absurd.
Furthermore, I am not going to engage in a discussion with someone who equates our actions in defense of civilization and in dealing with mass murderers as equivalent to Robespierre or Lenin. You obviously don't grasp the essential difference or the principles involved.
There is no "precedent" in the summary execution of known mass murderers - except the precedent that the civilized world should not tolerate their presence and need not accord them any of the benefits of civilization once they are captured. Once again, and now for the third time, if there is no presumption of innocence there is no basis for a trial. If you are either incapable or unwilling to grasp why that is patently the case with Saddam and his equivalents, there is nothing I can say which can convince you.
Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 22:25:41 mst
Name: Philip Coates
> if there is no presumption of innocence there is no basis for a trial
Fred, you keep on repeating this. But in my post I gave a basis for the process of a trial which does not presume (or even admit the possibility) that Saddam is innocent. That's not the justification for a trial in general.
Again, see my post: I explained the basis for trial already with what I thought was crystalline clarity.
Thursday, February 9, 2006 at 6:07:37 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
Phil, I will repeat again - and it is not my mere repetition of it which makes it correct - if there is no presumption of innocence then there is no basis for a trial. Even someone who is clearly guilty - such as the example of Jack Ruby which you cited - is entitled to the presumption of innocence in a normal criminal proceeding.
That does not apply to a Saddam Hussein. What you are referring to in his case - for the purpose of displaying his crimes for public view prior to his execution (which is a foregone conclusion) - is something more equivalent to a military tribunal.
As Elan Journo states, "Prior to his execution, there can be a legitimate reason to hold a public hearing--not to establish his guilt, but to fully expose his secretive dictatorship by publicly cataloguing its myriad vile deeds."
Thursday, February 9, 2006 at 15:58:55 mst
Name: Irfan Khawaja
There is nothing in your post worth responding to except for this passage:
"Furthermore, I am not going to engage in a discussion with someone who equates our actions in defense of civilization and in dealing with mass murderers as equivalent to Robespierre or Lenin. You obviously don't grasp the essential difference or the principles involved."
Really? I don't grasp essential differences or principles?
Well, "our actions in defense of civilization" are the policies of the United States government. If I may remind you of the "difference" between the positions we are taking: I am the one DEFENDING US policy, and you are the one joining Elan Journo in ATTACKING it. It follows that I am the one defending "our actions in defense of civilization" and you are the one attacking precisely those actions.
I was not equating "our actions" with Robespierre or Lenin but YOUR views with them--the views that are NOT currently being "enacted" by the US government, but have nicely been enacted by Communist lynch mobs.
A man who cannot grasp the difference between the view he claims to be attacking and the one he claims to be defending is not worth arguing with. You need to figure out what you're trying to say before anyone can have an argument with you.
Thursday, February 9, 2006 at 16:00:40 mst
Name: Irfan Khawaja
By the way, may I take it as resolved that my point about language was unanswerable?
Thursday, February 9, 2006 at 23:40:51 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
Irfan, apparently all you can do at this point is quibble over irrelevancies. When I referred to "our actions in defense of civilization" I was obviously referring to the course of action recommended by Elan Journo and which I was defending. It was clear from the context that I was defending the view that a civilized country need not put mass murderers on trial - that such trials are both unnecessary and in fact a perversion of justice. As I have said repeatedly, a trial is only appropriate when there is a presumption of innocence. Since there is no possible defense for mass murder, there can be no presumption of innocence for mass murderers. Therefore, to summarily execute a Saddam Hussein (or Hitler or Mussolini, etc) is not equivalent to the actions of a Robespierre or Lenin (who characteristically summarily executed *the innocent*).
Furthermore, I hardly think you want to be defending the US policy of supporting the current trial of Saddam, which is an obvious farce. At least Phil recognizes that much. (Arguably our entire policy in Iraq has turned into a farce, but that's a separate issue.)
As for your "point about language", that is yet another irrelevancy. It is not worth addressing if a trial is not appropriate for these killers, now is it?
Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 18:02:39 mdt
Name: Irfan Khawaja
You've repeated yourself several times but haven't addressed any of my arguments. What this shows is that you're a master of begging the question, but little else.
The point about language was a rebuttal of Journo's claim that an Iraqi-run trial was evidence of tribalism. Your rhetorical question about it in your last post merely shows that you've forgotten the original context of the claim, not that it was actually irrelevant.
Tuesday, May 9, 2006 at 15:38:44 mdt
I am confused.
ERGO, are you saying that if the evidence is sufficient, we do not need trials?
1) Does this take into consideration the context of the actions or just the actions?
2) Shall we base the actions or context within our American structure, or within the structure of the country in which the crimes were committed?
3) Do we use video evidence which may be manipulated to make us see what the editor/creator wants us to see?
4) Or, do we only use eye witness evidence even though we know it is sometimes unreliable.
5) Do we wish to show that no one is above the law? How is this accomplished if we do not remain within the framework of the law?
6) How can we model the presumption of innocence if we do not use it?
7) Are there not instances where the justifications for crimes are considered? 1st degree homicide versus 2nd degree? Justifiable homicide? Manslaughter?
8) Since when has the convenience of the government or any other agency been the prevailing determinant of whether or not a person is untitled to a trail?
I really hope to get a clarification. It scares me to think that anyone would be willing to just toss the judicial process aside because of their belief that there is no need for it. With one incident a precedent has been set.
Tuesday, May 9, 2006 at 16:31:03 mdt
Name: No Trial For Saddam
The answer to everyone of your questions is actually answered, in the abstract, in this short paragraph by Elan.
"Saddam Hussein is not a private citizen, whose guilt requires proof in an objective court of law, but a dictator whose incontestable evil was manifest to any rational observer of his tyranny. The Bush administration, after all, determined that Hussein was so vicious that we had to go to war to topple his regime."
So long as the American government respects the lives and liberty of its individual citizens(Hmmmm?)it is right and proper for it to destroy any foreigners who attack those citizens or who assist in such attacks.
If the administration of an entire nation (Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan etc.) protects or rewards said attackers, rather than capturing them and prosecuting them or handing them over to the Americans, then that nation has aligned itself with the attackers... as an enemy of American *people*. America's government is then well within its mandate to retaliate against that administration (if some manner that is appropriate to American interests). If it does not, then it fails in its role as a rational governing body created to retaliate against coercion initiated on its citizens by other men.
Your 8 points presume the well meaning of American style justice, but it is an error to offer such justice to those who are outside of the American justice system and who actively oppose it! There is no judicial process being "tossed aside" for Saddam, it is entirely a matter of external affairs and military strategy.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006 at 6:56:53 mdt
So, the Nuremberg trials were useless? The war crime trials of the Japanese? What is interesting is if we look out past our immediate period in time. Let's take a look at those trials as they now appear years later. We have an open, documented case against these people and what they did. Their punishment was not based on hubris, but on clearly defined principles and charges to which they were able to answer. We have an historical record of what was done and why these people were punished. One that is not deniable by a rational person sometime in the future.
I would appreciate having this type of record of Saddam and his cohorts in the future to counter nationalist or Islamic revisionsist propaganda. Would we have this type of objective evidence if we simply tossed aside any pretext of legality and opportunity for them to answer charges? No. No matter the rationalization of some in Japan or Germany, we have proof.
The presumption here is that these countries did align themselves and give aid and comfort to the enemy? If we were to suppose for a moment that the saying, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." then what we are looking at in actuality is that to the winner goes the right to make this determination. This really does take it out of the morality realm and moves it into the "might makes right" category. Is this the message we want to send to the future? That military strength is the determiner of right and wrong? Good or bad?
If might does make right, then what Saddam did was perfectly moral because he had the might. This can be said of Stalin or any other tyrant. What sets us apart is the belief in law, the structure of the institutions and traditions to base morality on something other than the wielding of power.
When anyone, a person or a state takes physical possession of a human being, he is now morally responsible for that person. We can view this as an organization that kidnaps a civilian, a cop arresting a person who committed murder right in front of him, or a country that captures a terrorist.
As near as I can see, there has been no definitive evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda or the 9-11 attack. Even the justification of the war is in doubt in the minds of many. I cannot help but see a sense of non-accountability when the administration is the determiner of who poses a danger to our country and then sets themselves up as the judge, jury and executioner.
I believe that the greatest gift to America was the idea that no one entity should be left unchecked. Even today I want and desire a healthy oppositional party to counter mine in our political process. When I look at history, I do not see so much an ideology such as fascism or communism as being the source of the great evil visited on the world, I see a single party that lacks accountability because there isn't a strong countering party.
From what I have determined from the trial of Saddam, the crimes they are prosecuting him for are crimes within Iraq. There isn't an apparent link, that I see, between that and the threat to America or the harboring of giving aid to terrorists set against us. Part of the justification for the war, besides the WMD, was his crimes against his own people.
Like the idea that the Geneva Convention is "quaint" and "dated" I see denying him a trial would be opening ourselves up to a whole world of hypocrisy and charges that our actions were unilaterally taken without justification. This is especially important since just about every justification for the war appears to have been wrong. It could be looked at as the Geneva Convention trying to put sanity into an insane world.
I am a firm believer in protecting America. I am not, however, willing to sacrifice my integrity to twist what I know to be right and wrong to justify a unilateral (the winners)interpretation of morality. If the justification leading up to the war is sufficient to take action, then it should be able to hold up to the scrutiny of a trail and the documentation it provides. This is not about someone's convenience or the obviousness of the crime or guilt.
I am an old "Cold War" warrior, and I used to think that if the Soviet Union just understood Americans and the American system, they would have no fear of us because we didn't act on a whim or capriciously. What I am seeing today is that maybe they were right to fear us and the only thing keeping us in check was their counter strength.
"... it is an error to offer such justice to those who are outside of the American justice system and who actively oppose it! There is no judicial process being "tossed aside" for Saddam, it is entirely a matter of external affairs and military strategy."
I was not aware that our criminal justice system depended on whether or not someone supported or opposed it. I thought that it stood on its own and was not swayed or influenced by whether or not the defendant wished to do it harm or to recognize it. Again, we should not change what we are or who we are in response to the actions of the terrorists. I have always believed that if I forsake my beliefs because of fear of another person's reaction, then I have given power to that person.
If a member of a terrorist organization, such as the one that bombed the twin towers is caught in Pakistan, we ask for him to be sent to America so he could stand trial for what he did. This was done. I am not against using other means to kill the person if he cannot be brought to trial, but then again, if we have the capability to do so, he should be held accountable in a court of law.
Anyone who argues against a legitimate trial is simply not thinking beyond today. I would argue that this is a short cut, and like a lot of short cuts, they usually come with a downside. I am sorry, but splitting of hairs and justifiable anger does not persuade me that surrendering principles is the right thing to do.
Friday, May 12, 2006 at 10:10:54 mdt
Name: Richard Bramwell
None of Journo's comments, or those by others on the "No trial for Saddam" side, suggested that investigating and understanding details of what took place under Saddam should be ignored? Never mind that *more than enough* was documented before Saddam was ousted, as Journo made clear.
Your subsequent comments are of a similar nature & are not in my interest to detail or debate. Reconsider Journo's abstract statement, and check the premises in some of your own.
Friday, May 12, 2006 at 16:23:37 mdt
You wouldn't per chance be a professor? Your comments reminds me of the type that they use. Especially in the philosophy department where a student may take a larger view than the narrowly defined parameters of your argument and it is attacked as being unworthy of discussion. Why is that? Because when it is extrapolated out it makes the original premise seem, well... naive? It really works great on the underclassmen, doesn't it? My premise stands firm, and unless the question pertains to what I said, versus an attempt to characterize what I said as being unworthy, well... I will just ignore it.
I believe, that what I was talking about was an independent reckoning of the truth. Everyone KNEW that Saddam was linked to terrorists. Everyone KNEW that he had weapons of mass destruction.
When it comes to aggression against America... exactly when did he attack or kill an American? I believe that it was after he invaded Kuwait? Was this not a regional conflict that we chose to participate in? He did not declare war on America as an aggressor against us. When he was killing hundreds of thousands of Iranians he was our "covert friend" that we helped. His crimes against the Kurds and the Shiites were largely carried out within his country. The same country that should now be trying him.
Rhetorical demonizing of the opponent is to be expected when we want to mobilize a nation for war. But, please, keep things in perspective.
When you say you aren't suggesting that it be ignored, what are you suggesting? A collection of news clippings? In a socity based on law, the perponderance of the evidence, a video tape of a person committing the act, the heinousness of the crime... these are not a basis for not bypassing the legal system. They are evidence to be presented at a trial.
You ignored my (and others) comparison to the war crimes trials of WWII. Because they were inconvenient? We have a trail of court admissible, objective, evidence to verify the actions. We have the opportunity for the victims to speak out. We have the opportunity to make the person stand before the world and be condemned. Without a trial what do we have? The winner setting the rules and making the judgement.
Mr. Journo may have a prestigious place to make his statements, but that does not make his statements prestigious. His belief that a militant dictator be summarily judged and then executed, I will again assert, as being incredibly short sighted. Why not Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez? He has dissed us! What level do we use to decide whether or not a person should be tried?
This administration has gone way overboard with their desire to imply powers to the "Commander-in-Chief" role of the President. It does not mean the ability to do whatever he wants. It is a descriptive title to mean that he is in control of our military and that they must answer to him. This prevents a military dictatorship, hopefully. It does not mean that he can arbitrarily determine what international laws and norms should or should not be observed. That, sir, is the definition of hubris.
Sir, if these things are not in your interest of debate... then possibly I wasn't addressing you. Was I? If so, then please excuse me. If not, then please refrain from trying such a cheap trick as to suggest that my comments were not worthy. After all, unless I am not mistaken... it isn't all about you. My thoughts may be apropos to others. Ones with a "broader" viewpoint than trying to narrowly define an argument? I still don't buy it.
Friday, May 12, 2006 at 20:16:54 mdt
Name: Fred Weiss
Tell me, Darren, at what point would we have been justified in attacking Japan? Did we have to wait until after Pearl Harbor?
Could we have attacked their fleet once it was clear that they were heading toward Hawaii? Or, did we have to wait until the planes took off from their aircraft carriers? Or go back a step, suppose we had reliable but not conclusive information of their plans to attack Hawaii and we had the opportunity to launch a sneak attack against them.
In short did we have to wait until the Japs had destroyed a large percentage of our naval fleet and killed several thousand Americans before we were justifed in attacking them?
Saturday, May 13, 2006 at 8:38:11 mdt
Name: Fred Weiss
In addition, as regards the primary issue - of the justification of trial for Saddam - a trial is only necessary to resolve any possible doubts concerning the crime(s) of the defendant and to give him an opportunity to present his defense. What possible doubts are there concerning Saddam's crimes and what possible defense could be offered for them? His crimes were committed openly and publicly - and he was proud of them. Not even to mention that they were committed on a massive scale and with exceptional brutality and cruelty. He didn't even have the feeble excuse of the Nuremburg defendants, that he was "just following orders".
A trial for Saddam is therefore a mockery of the purpose of the institution and that is precisely what his trial has become.
Saturday, May 13, 2006 at 16:13:27 mdt
If the implication is that I am soft on terrorism, then believe what you wish. I was the recipient of a bomb being placed under my car in the early 1980's while stationed in Athens Greece. It would have caused great harm and probably death to me and my family if it would have gone of while we were in it. I also was a frequent flier on the TWA flight 847 so, there but for the grace of God, I could have had my body dumped on a tarmac. I am a disabled vet that served 10 years in the USAF, from the age of 17 to 27.
I am a firm believer in the pre-emptive attacking of people who wish to do us harm. I was a supporter of our actions in Afghanistan.
If you are saying that it was only a matter of time that some day Saddam might have attacked us... then we would have to believe that he had the intent as well as the means. I would hate to use a cliche, but it really is apples and oranges. Iraq was not really capable of carrying out the imperialist goals of Japan. It also ignores the reasons behind Japan's actions and narrows them down to just malice, which it was not.
My point was, there is no need for a rush to judgement. Trails are a farce (O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, etc.) and they are inconvenient. What they do though, is show to the world that there is an attempt to deal rationally in a sometimes irrational world.
It really does not matter to me anyway. I was informed via personal e-mail that my arguments do not measure up to the standards of this blog and thus not appreciated. Therefore, this will probably be my last post. Good day to you all.
Saturday, May 13, 2006 at 16:34:01 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
Darren said: "I was informed via personal e-mail that my arguments do not measure up to the standards of this blog and thus not appreciated. Therefore, this will probably be my last post. Good day to you all."
I am the owner of NoodleFood -- and so I am *THE ONLY* person who has the right to say anything of the sort to someone posting to the NoodleFood comments. I certainly don't think ill of you, nor of your arguments. (I'm not sure that I agree with them, but that's a separate matter.) You are more than welcome to continue posting, whether on this thread or any others.
Saturday, May 13, 2006 at 17:14:07 mdt
Name: Fred Weiss
Darren, you raise at least 3 separate issues, each one of which could be the subject of a major debate. If you want to discuss the justification for our invasion of Iraq or Japan's motivation for attacking Pearl Harbor, I'll be happy to.
But concentrating on the main subject, whether Saddam was entitled to a trial, you never really responded to my point. I do not hold to the view that "trials are a farce" or that "they are inconvenient" (even if you just meant that sarcastically).
My point was that you are dropping the context of the purpose of trials if you think they apply to Saddam. In regard to Saddam, there is nothing to discuss or debate and there is no possible defense. This doesn't preclude the possibility - even the desirability - of a hearing to detail his atrocities. But soon after he should have been summarily executed. Such an action is not in opposition to reason. It upholds it. It recognizes the nature of the case and in justice the proper way to deal with it.
Monday, May 22, 2006 at 6:48:31 mdt
Name: Michelle F. Cohen
[Re: post #15 on February 8]
"As for the post-war trials, in the one case I have studied in detail--Eichmann's trial--language was a serious problem. The German-Hebrew translation was reportedly "incomprehensible" at times--this despite the fact that Israel had a high percentage of native German-speakers (ie refugees from Germany). The idea that Americans could even equal the Israeli effort, much less exceed it, is a joke."
Yet the language issue was not a reason to transfer the trial to Germany and let the German people try Eichmann. Similarly, the Nueremberg trials were conducted by the allies, not the German people, and utilized court interpreters.