Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Now we've got him
...what do we do with him? The Guardian chews the judicial fat in great detail, as one would expect, with the central debate framed as one between local justice and the more formal setting of an international tribunal. The gut satisfaction of a vengeance ethic, duly restrained and bewigged, or the more subtle pleasures promised by the opportunity for the world community to formally condemn very bad people doing very bad things? Will Saddam follow Slobbo to the Hague?

I doubt that. I've always suspected that the real reason for spiriting Milosevic away from Serbia was the fact that he still had something of a power base there, and if he was tried locally there would have been a chance that he would have got off, or at least that the management of his punishment process might have become embarrassingly obvious. The Hague tribunals ensured that the verdict would be correct. Which it was, of course - but the idea that the end result was in any way an open question, as in a normal trial, was a polite fiction.

There's obviously no chance of Saddam being found innocent in Iraq, so there's no barrier to a "fair trial" being staged locally. The question remains about what he is going specifically to be tried for. Saddam's crimes can be roughly divided into the atrocities he committed as leader of his own people and the war crimes he committed against other nations as acts of state.

It's this second area that presents his jailers and other interested international parties with some dificulties, since it offers him the opportunity to talk in detail about his formerly warm relations with, well, nearly all of them.

There's a good deal more chance of details like this coming out in somewhere like the Hague than in Iraq itself. There, memories of his personal depredations are going to be primary, and the role of his accomplices and sponsors likely to be lost in the opportunities for cathartic political theatre provided by the trial and finally forgotten in a predictable international furore over his eventual death sentence.