Monday, August 21, 2006

The Saddam show trial

Over at, Eric Umansky is asking a tough question about the trial of Saddam Hussein. Umansky's basic contention is that the trial has been a political disaster resulting in part from US and European attorneys being far too obsessed with procedural purity:

If you wanted to discredit the whole idea of the rule of law in Iraq, you could do worse than spend years fussing over legal protections for a serial mass murderer while civil strife overwhelms the judicial system for most Iraqis. How much of the trial of Saddam and his associates has really been about setting an example of the rule of law in Iraq -- and how much has been about American and European lawyers striving to set up a trial that would make them feel better about themselves?

Don't know. But I do think the trial of Saddam Hussein highlights some of the conceptual difficulties with "International Human Rights" -- a concept I'm usually very much in favor of. The reality is, putting Saddam on trial is sham. We know he's guilty of massive war crimes. The entire world knows he's guilty. So creating some pseudo-objective tribunal to put Saddam on trial seems utterly superflous to everyone except academics and international-rights attorneys.

My half-baked idea? Try dictators and other baddies like Saddam in abstentia, before invading their country (this has already been done with bin Laden, by the way). That way, once you've captured the baddie, all you have to do is execute sentence.


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