Today's Blogs

Trials of Saddam, Part 2

Bloggers are in a tizzy over the start of Saddam Hussein’s second trial, baffled at the Bush administration’s move to reclassify Cold War-era documents, and fuming over the high style in which JonBenet Ramsey’s suspected murderer flew back to America.

Saddam on trial, Part 2: An ever-insolent Saddam declined to plea innocent or guilty to charges of genocide against Iraqi Kurds on the first day of his second trial, saying only “that would require volumes of books.” A Baghdad-based tribunal is trying Hussein and six of his aides, including his infamous cousin “Chemical Ali.” Iraq’s Kurds are hopeful, 18 years after the Anfal campaign, that overdue justice will be dispensed. The verdict on his first trial for killing Shiite inhabitants of Dujail is expected in October.

Brit Andrew Ian Dodge at group blog The Dead Pool thinks Saddam is sticking to his “finger-in-ear-an-go-lala approach to his defence.” On the deposed dictator’s odd remark about “volumes of books,” he quips, “[p]resumably that is books of names of those who has killed or caused to be killed.”

But Human Rights Watch, which closely tracked Hussein’s first trial, says it doubts the possibility of a fair trial. The self-described “unabashed liberaltarian” at Liquidtoast agrees, dubbing the trial a “farce” and thinking it should be relocated to the Hague. “[T]rying him in the Hague would mean the death penalty is off the table, and the Bush administration couldn’t have that. They want him to hang. And of course, being tried in Iraq means he will be found guilty, and hung, but primarily for vengeful reasons.” At AIDP Blog, the blog of an international-law professors group, Creighton law prof Michael Kelly notes that, depending on the ruling in the Dujail case, Saddam could be executed before the end of his second trial, further marring the tribunal’s legitimacy: “Trying people in absentia is anachronistic to a modern sense of justice, and belongs more to the Soviet era than to the 21st century.”

Conservative Ed Morrissey at Captain’s Quarters writes that Saddam is where he belongs: “The Kurds have a claim on Saddam that few others can match. Saddam and his regime targeted them like no others,” Morrissey argues. “Saddam faces the correct tribunal in the correct venue. The Hague has no role to play; Saddam should be tried in the country he brutally tyrannized for four decades. The victims of his merciless rule have the right and the jurisdiction to try him, and they have provided a much more just environment than Saddam ever did.”

Eric Umansky, formerly of Slate’s Today’s Papers, delves into the political consequences of Hussein’s protracted trials. “It isn’t going too far to say that dragging Saddam’s trial out for so long has helped get a lot of people killed,” he writes, continuing, “[Y]ou just have to wonder if the political price paid for spending so much time to construct a trial consistent with elite European and international opinion of what a trial should be has been way too high.”

Read more about Saddam’s second trial.

Reclassify that: Deeming that knowledge of Cold War-era nuclear missile imparts a threat to 21st-century national security, the Bush administration has moved to reclassify many of these documents. This information has been published in multiple sources and was even provided directly to the Soviet government for the sake of deterrence.

At Musing’s Musings, liberal Michael Spires opines that this reclassification defies logic. “Given that we are the only nation in history ever to have actually used nuclear weapons, I should think we’d all agree that particular djinn is already out of the bottle, never to be forced back in.” Renny Babiarz, a Johns Hopkins political science grad student blogging at Rennyopolis, provides a link to some of the unaltered documents to illustrate that much of the information has been public for years.

Anchorage-based liberal Gryphen at Immoral Minority declares the reclassification a red herring. “By re-classifying so many things as secret, it makes it so much easier to hide the documents that you want to keep from the prying eyes of journalists buried in a huge jumble of newly re-classified government papers. It is hiding your potentially embarrassing needle in an information haystack.”

The Alabama native and retired federal employee at Simple Country Physicist sees the move as simply repairing the damage done by the wanton declassification during Clinton’s presidency. “[C]lassification standards were so gutted under the previous Democrat administration that almost nothing could be classified, regardless of how much potential damage the authors thought it might pose. The initial changes under the current administration began to restore some sanity.”

Read more about the reclassified documents.

You have the right to be pampered: John Mark Karr, recently apprehended in the death of JonBenet Ramsey, sipped champagne and nibbled on various delicacies (prawns, chocolate cake, and duck) on his flight back from Thailand. He’s currently enjoying “room service” in his Los Angeles jail cell.

David Allen at ThoughtCrimes was outraged: “Note to prisoners in Guantanamo: Confess to the murder of six-year-old girls. It seems that torture is not part of the interrogation procedure when you supposedly rape and kill little girls.”

Patt Morrison of the liberal Huffington Post was intrigued that a Homeland Security official accompanied Karr on his trans-Atlantic flight. “We must be as safe as all get-out if Homeland Security has the time and the money to assign its people to cases like this one.” BooMan is skeptical of the media play being given to the story: “[I]t’s depressing to see the cable news networks devoting the majority of their coverage this morning to the question of whether it is appropriate to feed alleged child killers prawns and champagne.”

Read more about Karr’s flight.

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