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Politics & Policies: Saddam's Judgment Day

Washington (UPI) Oct 17, 2005
The much-anticipated trial of former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein starts later this week in Baghdad's so-called Green Zone, the heavily fortified enclave where the Iraqi government and U.S. officials live and work.

Saddam's trial will no doubt be one of the most publicized political trials since the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, at the end of World War II, brought to trial almost the entire Nazi leadership. Or since the trial of Adolph Eichmann, who was found responsible for the extermination of millions, particularly Jews, during World War II.

Eichmann was kidnapped in Argentina and brought to stand trial in front of an Israeli court in Jerusalem, in 1961. He was found guilty and hanged and remains the only convicted criminal to receive the death penalty in Israel's history.

Saddam's trial will be televised, officials say. It will also require that unprecedented security measures be adopted amid fears that his supporters might try to upset the proceedings or even attempt to snatch him.

Saddam is responsible for the deaths of several hundreds of thousands of people during his 24-year reign of terror. Rarely had he hesitated to order the killing of those who stood in his way, and often eliminated anyone he even suspected of disloyalty.

Saddam came to power in the wake of the 1968 coup when he assisted his frail cousin Gen. Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr. Two years later, in 1970, Saddam sidelined Bakr, assumed all the power, creating a personality cult built around himself. He arrested and ordered the immediate execution of hundreds during a party meeting that was broadcast live on television. As the cameras still filming, people whose names were called out were taken away by Saddam's goons.

He launched the devastating war on Iran, which lasted eight grueling years and caused close to a million deaths on both sides.

In August 1990, Saddam invaded Kuwait, declaring it Iraq's 19th province. His troops trashed the tiny emirate, brutally putting down any resistance. They then set about looting the emirate on an unprecedented scale, stealing anything that could be stolen. Cars, furniture, electronics, contents of entire shopping malls were simply transferred to trucks and onward to Baghdad. All the money from the central bank was taken away to Baghdad.

As the Iraqi army retreated once the U.S.-led liberation of Kuwait began, Saddam had his men set fire to Kuwait's oil wells, creating a massive ecological disaster.

After the failed uprising by Shiites in the southern part of the country, Saddam was reported to have ordered the slaughter of more than 200,000 people. Soon after American forces entered Baghdad in 2003, video footage was discovered showing troops loyal to Saddam forcing blindfolded men to walk off the roof of a two-story building.

The fall was not enough to kill the prisoners, but the shock upon hitting the ground was brutal enough to break their bones. As soon as they hit the ground, other officials would grab them and force them to walk away despite the excruciating pain.

Other video showed how young men were executed; forced to sit on a pile of dirt, a small amount of dynamite taped on their shirt, or inserted in their chest pockets, next to their hearts. Then, as officials watched from just a few yards away, the dynamite was detonated. Dirt was piled up on the dead man as another prisoner was put through the same procedure. And then another, and so on.

Saddam is reported to have personally pulled the trigger, killing political opponents on numerous occasions.

He is also responsible for ordering the use of chemical weapons on Kurdish villages, notably on Halabjah, on March 16, 1988. More than 5,000 Kurds, many of them women and children, died in what was described the as the worst chemical attack committed by the Iraqi regime.

Another million people died during the eight-year Iraq-Iran war, a conflict that was instigated by Saddam. Thousands more died during the invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing war to liberate the oil-rich emirate in 1990-91 when Saddam decided to annex Kuwait as Iraq's "19th province."

But for all his crimes, Saddam will appear before the court on Oct. 19 to face charges relating only to his involvement in ordering the massacre of 160 people in 1982 in the village of Dujail.

Dujail is a small town of about 10,000 inhabitants, some 25 miles north of Baghdad. Following an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Saddam, he ordered his troops to carry out a reprisal raid against the town. About 160 people were killed or later executed; another 1,500 were arrested and tortured.

It is on those charges that Saddam's trial will open.

"The circumstances of this trial are hallucinating," Chibli Mallat, a Lebanese attorney and professor of law involved in international litigation, told United Press International.

"Under the circumstances, international standards will be respected, and it will be the fairest possible trial," explained Mallat, who would have liked to see the trial transferred outside Iraq. But that is not about to happen. Neither the Iraqis nor the Americans will permit the trial's location to change.

The question now asked by several jurists is whether Saddam will be executed or spend the rest of his life in solitary confinement. Odds are Saddam will be spared the death penalty. However, should the former Iraqi president be sentenced to death, it would be by hanging, like Eichmann.

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U.S. Reports Calm In Sunni Areas, For Now
Washington (UPI) Oct 17, 2005
An insurgent response to Saturday's successful referendum is likely to come in several weeks, U.S. Army commanders in Iraq said Monday.

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