December 15, 2003 | Peter

On Dictators

A pathetic, scruffy old man is dug out of hole, and one of the more nasty dictatorships of the last century comes to an end. President Bush will be relieved that he won’t have to go to the next election with both his mortal enemies unaccounted for, but Saddam’s capture presents as many problelms as it solves.
First, how to try him. Not only must some reference to international law be made, it must be done in such a way that looks reasonable but does not lay the US and Britain (not to mention Germany and a few other nations) open to Saddam’s comments. There is a murky past to Iraq that many current powerful people will want to keep unexposed. No one will want Saddam on a soap box reminiscing about the good old days when the rich countries fell over themselves to help him out.
Second, if he maintains his position that Iraq did not have WMD, then this is a real challenge to Bush, Blair and our own boy. The problem is that if he rolls over and says he did have them, people will expect to see the evidence. So he either denies their existence, or some evidence will have to come forward. Either way, the Allies have got a problem.
Third, how to sentence Saddam. Given the demonising of him, the US will find it hard not to kill him. But leaving the objections from other nations aside, no such leader has been publically executed in modern times. It would be an extraordinary event. And if they do kill him, it would create perhaps the greatest Islamic martyr in history.
Furthermore, it may well evoke comparisons with Nuhremburg, which could be embarrassing for the Allies who some international lawyers accuse of launching an illegal war of aggression on Iraq (and Afghanistan?).
Speaking of this question of capital punishment, I do wish our PM would remember that here in OZ we do not believe in the death penalty. Howard should either support this principle, no matter what, or if he actually favours the death penalty, come out and say it.
Interesting times ahead, and any of a number of things could come unstuck for Bush in his shot at a second presidential term. A bit of mud might splatter on Blair and Howard as well.
And while on the subject of dictators, the Russian Communist Party got clobbered in the Russian elections and now constitute a lowly 12% of the parliament. Overseas observers criticised the election as being anything but honest. Putin is destroying all serious opposition in parliament (and thus, arguably, undermining the role of parliament) to make his own administration the sole political force in Russia. His next step is to get the constitution amended to allow him more than two terms of office as President.
Seems to me something like this happened once before to the Russian CP when an ambitious strongman sidelined it, so let’s hope it all works out better this time, for everyone’s sake.

Posted by Peter at 1:13 pm | Comments Off on On Dictators |
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