Global power inequalities and the Saddam trial
The execution of former Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussain has triggered
an avalanche of views and commentary from around the world on the
fairness and correctness of what passed off as the judicial procedure
which ended his life.
For example, objection is raised in some quarters that Saddam was
tried and executed for what was believed to be the least of his crimes:
the murder of some 144 villagers in the town of Dujail who were accused
of being implicated in a plot to kill Saddam in 1982.
They point out that worse excesses and abuses could have been laid at
Saddam's doorstep. For instance, the massacre of Kurdish rebels in 1988
and the ruthless suppression of the Shia revolt of 1991. Whereas, Saddam
should have faced trial for the latter massacres too, or for the
excesses and irregularities committed by his regime in the 10-year
Iran-Iraq war, he was tried and executed for the least of his crimes,
the Dujail bloodletting, runs this argument.
Other commentators and analysts point out that Saddam should have
been tried, ideally, by an international war crimes tribunal on neutral
Whereas he was tried and executed by an administration which would
certainly have had a vested interest in seeing an end to the former
Iraqi strongman. They rightly point out that the mere gut emotion of
seeking revenge on the part of a Shia-dominated Iraqi regime, besides
political expediency by it, played a significant role in the ending of
Saddam's life. The poser is also raised in some sections on as to why
the Saddam trial was rushed through by the US-backed, current Iraqi
administration. Did the US have too much to hide in the Iraqi dictator's
murky past?, is also a prime question.
This range of objections to the Saddam trial and execution are all
immensely relevant and need to be strongly considered by the world
community. However, a fundamental point which needs to be unhesitatingly
recognized by all responsible opinion is that Saddam should have faced a
fair trial for even "the least" of the lives he is believed to have
snuffed out. The greatness or smallness of the excess should not be made
an issue in view of the priceless preciousness of even the "least" life
on earth. A tendency to forget this fundamental truth could contribute
greatly towards aggravating and intensifying the "culture of death"
which is currently enveloping the world system. However, there is no
denying that Saddam should have faced trial for all the crimes he is
accused of. This would have provided a wealth of information which is of
immense use to humanity.
One of the biggest legal and ethical posers, however, to emerge from
the Saddam execution is the fairness of the trial.
In view of the politically charged nature of the trial and
considering the fact that the accusers concerned, the Shia-led
government in Iraq, and the US, emerged virtual prosecutors of the
accused, the highest standards of fairness would have been met - among
other factors - if the trial was conducted on neutral soil, by an
international tribunal, who would have had no interest in the outcome of
the trial. The non-adherence to these standards reflects poorly on the
However, the fact that the West could virtually have its way on the
question of bringing Saddam to what it considered is justice reflects
the fundamental inequalities in the current world order where the West,
specifically the US, wields disproportionate political and military
power. Put simply, the predominant world powers could commit grave
wrongs and get away with it, while the Third and Fourth Worlds are left
with no choice but to bear the inequities heaped on them.
Among other things, the observer is also reminded of the grossly
unequal power relations which have been persisting over the years among
states in the current world order. More so, why a renewed and energetic
effort needs to be made to truly democratize the UN system.