So I experience a sudden bout of sleeplessness, and decide to get my morning browsing out of the way. On my aggregator, Salon’s entries are up. I usually cruise them, if nothing else to see what reverse-Dr.-Laura advice their “relationship” counselor has.
I don’t frequently read Joe Conason, as he seems to be the Left equivalent of Rush Limbaugh: better-read, but not as funny. Maybe it’s the lack of Oxy-Contin. However, he had what potentially could be an interesting tagline, “Why an international tribunal may be the only place to try Saddam“.
Intrigued, I read further. I was disappointed. He plays the usual Washington Partisan Pundit game: pick an action you know the other side will never do for some pre-existing ideological ground, of which you pretend to know nothing or at best mention in passing. In this case, it’s recognizing the International Criminal Court. Then invent some justification, possibly tissue-thin, for Why the Fate of the World Hangs On This Very Important Issue. In this case, trying Saddam before the ICC. Play your viola, you’ve got an instant Talking Point.
In this piece, the tissue-thin justification, that the ICC would be inherently more “transparent” than any conceivable Iraqi tribunal, strikes me as more than a tad racist and condescending. Could it be that Side-Gunner Joe doesn’t think that brown people can really do anything fairly, but “international” people [read: white Europeans] can? Not consciously, I would assume, being a good liberal, but unconsciously? His primary argument isn’t that the White House is incapable of conceiving of a fair trial for Saddam, but that it chooses the Iraqi solution because it will inherently be the least transparent and provide the least embarrassing revelations.
Joe, isn’t the majority of the opposition to the war predicated on the premise that Saddam was a greater threat to his own people than to his neighbors or, indeed, us? So if the Iraqi people are the ones victimized by him, and they are, for better or worse, his peers, shouldn’t they in the name of Justice be the ones who most deserve to try him? You wouldn’t try someone for murder in a Federal court if they committed murders within a single state. At most you would move it to a neighboring state, or a part of the state less affected (theoretically in Iraq’s case, this could be the so-called “Sunni Triangle”).
To suggest otherwise means that you care more about scoring a couple of easy points against the Reagan administration than you do about justice for a mass-murderer. Parenthetically, it also ignores the fact that the U.S. is hardly the only or even the most recent country with skeletons in its closet vis-a-vis Iraq (*cough* TotalFinaElf *cough*). I suspect we may not see as correspondingly huge a hue and cry from the war opponents as we do from Conason.
Reagan, for all intents and purposes, is dead. Let it go. Let’s track this issue on its merits–if the time comes and the process by which Saddam will be tried looks insufficiently transparent, I will heartily join you in criticizing it. But until then, let’s stop assuming that people less white than ourselves are incapable of justice, and let his own people have a say. That may not be the argument you intended, but it comes across that way. After years of oppression, the Iraqi people at least deserve the opportunity to fail.