EDITORIAL: Trial venue irrelevant for Saddam

The long overdue trial of Saddam Hussein began Wednesday in Baghdad, much to the delight of freedom-loving people the world over.

Thus begins the final stage that will ultimately conclude the legacy of brutality that Saddam’s regime brought upon the Iraqi people, which began with his ascent to power in 1979. Saddam didn’t waste any time establishing his infamous reputation: Only days after assuming the presidency of Iraq, he called an assembly of the Ba’ath Party, during which he read a list of names. As each man’s name was called, he was taken outside of the room and executed as a punishment for their “disloyalty.” Similar incidents happened throughout Saddam’s regime, as the mass graves found throughout Iraq attest.

Saddam continued to expand the use of ruthless tactics to quell opposition to his rule, and in 1982 he ordered the murder of 160 persons – including women and children – in the town of Dujail, where an assassination attempt was made on the ruler. In addition, he also had 1,500 townspeople imprisoned and tortured, and destroyed 250,000 acres of their farmland, which they were not allowed to replant for 10 years thereafter. This incident is the one of the first charges that is being brought against Saddam in the trial.

The Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980-1988, also provided opportunity for Saddam to prove himself as a butcher when he turned the conflict into a bloody war of attrition, sacrificing untold numbers of his own people, allegedly using chemical weapons against Iranians and Kurdish rebels, and leaving the Iraqi economy in shambles. To remedy this problem, he invaded oil-rich Kuwait in 1990, sacrificing even more Iraqi lives and culminating in United Nations sanctions against Iraq. During this time what little resources remained were used not to feed the starving people but to stroke Saddam’s ego with the construction of lavish palaces. In the mean time, Saddam continued his brutal repression of rebel groups. Spearheaded by his sons Uday and Qusay, the attacks made victims of many of Saddam’s own Trikriti tribesmen.

Saddam’s apprehension in 2003 was a relief to those who suffered under his regime and to those governments which opposed him. But it seems as though the dictator’s future is a bit murkier than once anticipated, for a new debate has arisen as to whether or not Saddam is capable of getting a fair trial in Iraq.

Some argue that he ought to be tried by an international tribunal, such as the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Some worry that the Iraqi tribunal will have difficulty stifling bias against him, thereby tainting the legitimacy of the trial. Maintaining security throughout the duration of the proceedings is also a cited concern. Others suggest the Iraqi tribunal is fully legitimate. Because Saddam’s crimes occurred in Iraq and affected the Iraqi people most dramatically, supporters say, it is they who should determine his fate.

A defiant Saddam declared himself innocent of any wrongdoing and denounced the legitimacy of the court during the first proceedings. Nevertheless, he will almost certainly be convicted for the crimes of which he stands accused regardless of which tribunal carries out the trial. Not even a change of venue would be enough to clear his name. Finally, as President Bush has said, he will face the justice he denied to millions.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.