I didn’t get to see the beginning of the trial today. We were gathered in the kitchen after a brief rodent scare, trying to determine where the mouse had come from when I was attracted by the sound of yelling coming from the living room.
The cousin was standing in front of the television adjusting the volume and there was a lot of bellowing coming from the court. That was nearly the beginning- the defense lawyers were pulling out of the trial because apparently, Ramsey Clark wasn’t allowed to speak in English- something to do with the sovereignty of the court or trial and the impropriety of speaking in a foreign language (slightly ironic considering the whole country is under foreign occupation). The lawyers were back later- although I didn’t see that either.
I really began watching when they brought on the first witness, who was also the first plaintiff. He talked about the whole Dujail situation and his account was emotional and detailed. The details were intriguing considering he was only 15 years old at the time. The problem with his whole account is that so much of it is hearsay. He heard from someone that something happened to someone else, etc. Now, I’m not a lawyer but I’m a fan of The Practice and if watching Dylan McDermott has taught me anything, it’s that hearsay is not acceptable evidence.
The second witness was more to the point but he was 10 when everything happened and that didn’t help his case. In the end, when the judge asked him who he was making a complaint against, he said he wasn’t making a complaint against anyone. Then he changed his mind and said he was complaining against one of the accused… Then he added his complaint was against anyone convicted of the crime… And finally it was a complaint against “All Ba’athists at the time”.
Couldn’t they find more credible witnesses? They were fifteen and ten at the time… it just doesn’t make sense.
At one point, the defense lawyers wanted to leave the trial yet again because apparently some security guard or police officer was threatening them from afar- making threatening gestures, etc. The judge requested that he be pulled out of the court (the security person), but not before hell broke loose in the court. Saddam began yelling something, the defense lawyers were making accusations and Barazan got up and began shouting at the person we couldn’t see.
The court was a mess. There was a lot of yelling, screaming, sermonising, ranting, accusing, etc. I felt bad for the judge. He really seemed to be trying hard to control the situation, but everyone kept interrupting him, and giving him orders. He’s polite and patient, he’d make a good divorce judge- but I don’t think he’s strong enough for the court. He just doesn’t have the power to keep the court in its place.
It wasn’t really like a trial. It reminded me of what we call a ‘fassil’ which is what tribal sheikhs arrange when two tribes are out of sorts with one another. The heads of the tribes are brought together along with the principal family members involved in the rift and after some yelling, accusations, and angry words they try to sort things out. That’s what it felt like today. They kept interrupting each other and there was even some spitting at one point… It was both frustrating and embarrassing- and very unprofessional.
One thing that struck me about what the witnesses were saying- after the assassination attempt in Dujail, so much of what later unfolded is exactly what is happening now in parts of Iraq. They talked about how a complete orchard was demolished because the Mukhabarat thought people were hiding there and because they thought someone had tried to shoot Saddam from that area. That was like last year when the Americans razed orchards in Diyala because they believed insurgents were hiding there. Then they talked about the mass detentions- men, women and children- and its almost as if they are describing present-day Ramadi or Falloojah. The descriptions of cramped detention spaces, and torture are almost exactly the testimonies of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, etc.
It makes one wonder when Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney and the rest will have their day, as the accused, in court.
Readers should be aware that the man on trial in Baghdad is in all likelihood NOT Saddam Hussein but one of his many doubles acting out the part in what is essentially a show trial. See Who’s that Man?. Ed.