The preliminary hearings today marked the beginning of what many expect to become one of the most famous trials in world history. In the courtroom,that included gassing thousands of Kurds in 1988, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the suppression of 1991 revolts by Kurds and Shiites, the murders of religious and political leaders and the mass displacement of Kurds in the 1980s, to which he suggested he had immunity as Iraq’s president.
Which is interesting. Allow me to play devil’s advocate.
Suppose Hussein was able to subpoena those damning U.S. memos which described how to bypass Geneva conventions, as well as the ones which indemnified president Bush of being called for war crimes in the War on Terror, and used that as his defense? Not as a justification, but as a defense which would turn the ugly spotlight of war crimes right back at the U.S.
Now, far be it for me to justify Hussein’s long-despised tyranny over Iraq, but such a defense could likely cause severe international backlash against the U.S. legal policies without actually finding Saddam innocent. How would he go about claiming such an outlandish defense? Here’s what I proffer:
- The suppression of 1991 revolts by Kurds and Shiites could be legally defended by claiming presidential powers to conduct war against insurgents attacking the Republic. Imagine if you will, calling Abraham Lincoln a war criminal for ordering the death of Confederates during the civil war. Legally, the same problem.
- To defend the gassing of Kurds in 1988, it could be construed as an abberation by a small group of military personnel. A few “bad apples,” if you will. As a jab at the U.S., he could even claim that “this is not the Iraq I know.”
- The murders of religious and political leaders and the mass displacement of Kurds in the 1980s could also stand under the same defense. For the displacement, he could merely cite national security concerns. Ordering the deaths of religious and political leader is a different beast and would be much more difficult to conjure a defense on, but I venture to say that he could again claim presidential authority in detaining the leaders of insurrectionist groups within the Republic and that he had never given the order to have them killed. This is the tip of what I see as a reverse Nuremberg defense.
- Concerning the invasion of Kuwait in 1991, the best legal defense is pre-emptive war against a foreign state harboring terrorists. Obviously a stretch, but who knows how far he could get by using U.S. policy as his defense.
In no way am I endorsing Saddam Hussein, my belief is that he did indeed do horrible things, but I wanted to lay some perspective on the case. If Hussein were to use our own legal meanderings to his advantage, it would definitely paint our own government in a not too pleasant light.