Iraq: Saddam executed, while Bush Jnr arrogantly plans "surge" into his killing field Print E-mail
 Pakistan -- Monday, January 1, 2006, Zill-Haj 10, 1427 A.H.

Saddam is dead, but who will pay for thousands of Iraqi civilians killed by the US?

By Kaleem Omar

Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was executed by hanging in Baghdad at 5.00 a.m. local time on Saturday, after a court in US-occupied Iraq found him guilty of crimes against humanity on November 5 and sentenced him to death for the killing of 148 Shia men after an assassination attempt against him in 1982 in the town of Dujail.

The Swiss foreign ministry reacted to the execution, calling the death penalty “unjustifiable”. In a statement issued in Bern on Saturday, the ministry said it condemned the serious crimes committed by Saddam Hussein, but disapproved of the use of the death penalty.

“For Switzerland, the death penalty cannot be justified even for the most serious of crimes. This fundamental position also applies for the case of Saddam Hussein,” the ministry said.

It added that Switzerland remains “extremely concerned” by the “dramatic insecurity” in Iraq.

As if to underscore those concerns over the insecurity on Iraq, 31 people were killed and at least 58 others wounded in the Iraqi town of Kufa on Saturday when a bomb planted in a minibus exploded. The minibus was parked in a fish market crowded with shoppers.

A CNN report about Saddam Hussein’s execution quoted an eyewitness - Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak - as saying that the former Iraqi president was “a broken man.” Mowaffak said, “He was a broken man. He was afraid. You could see fear in his face”.

But another eyewitness - Iraqi Judge Munir Haddad - said Saddam Hussein appeared “totally oblivious” to what was going on around him and was “not afraid of death”.

In an editorial titled “The Rush to Hang Saddam Hussein” published on Friday, the International Herald Tribune said: “The important question was never really about whether Saddam Hussein was guilty of crimes against humanity. The public record is bulging with the lengthy litany of his vile and unforgivabler atrocities...What really mattered was whether an Iraq freed from his death grip could hold him accountable in a way that nurtured better hopes for a better future. A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of vindictiveness. It could have fostered a new national unity in an Iraq long manipulated through its religious and ethnic divisions. It could have, but it didn’t. After a flawed, politicised and divisive trial, Saddam was handed his sentence: death by hanging. This week, in a cursory 15-minute proceeding, an appeals court upheld that sentence and ordered that it be carried out posthaste.”

Criticising the way Saddam Hussein’s trial and appeal proceedings were conducted, an article by Richard Dicker published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper on Friday said: “The trial judgment was not finished when the verdict and sentence were announced on November 5. The record only became available to defence lawyers on November 22. According to the tribunal’s statute, the defence attorneys had to file their appeals on December 5, which gave them less than two weeks to respond to the 300-page trial decision. The appeals chamber never held a hearing to consider the legal arguments presented as allowed by Iraqi law. It defies belief that the appeals chamber could fairly review a 300-page decision together with written submissions by the defence and consider all the relevant issues in less than three weeks.”

The Guardian article added: “This follows a trial whose serious flaws rendered the verdict unsound. The trial was undermined from the start by persistent political interference from the Iraqi government. Furthermore, the rights of the defendants (Saddam Hussein and his co-accused) were systematically denied by failure to disclose key evidence to the defence. There were also serious violations of the defendants’ rights to confront witnesses testifying against them. Most disturbing were the frequent lapses of judicial demeanour by the trial’s second presiding judge. In January (2006), the first chief judge resigned in protest over the public criticism of his trial management practices by leading officials.”

Saddam Hussein has paid with his life for his involvement in the killing of 148 Iraqis in the town of Dujail in 1982.

The much bigger question, however, is: who is going to pay for the killing of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians by the US military? Those killings, too, are crimes against humanity.

Estimates of just how many Iraqi civilians have been killed during the Bush administration’s utterly illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq differ widely, with estimates or counts ranging from 50,000 to 655,000. The huge difference between the lower and higher figures is a telling comment on the confusion and chaos that has reigned in Iraq since the US invasion began in March 2003.

Iraqi Health Minister Ali al-Shamari said last month that between 100,000 and 150,000 have been killed in the war. Speaking during a visit to Vienna on November 10, he said the figure was based on an estimate of 100 bodies being brought into government-run mortuaries and hospitals every day.

In October 2006, the British medical journal The Lancet published a study saying that nearly 655,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the war.

The Lancet study was a follow-up to a study published by the journal two years ago stating that 100,000 Iraqis had died between March 2003 and October 2004 as a result of the war. Subtracting the earlier figure from the latest figure shows that nearly 555,000 Iraqis have died since October 2004 as a result of the war.

This translates into more than a quarter-of-a-million deaths a year over the last two years - a horrific death toll by any standard.

The Lancet’s figure of 655,000 deaths was endorsed by a group of American scientists who came up with an identical figure in October 2006.

But the Lancet study was dismissed by US President George W. Bush and other American officials as “not credible” because it based on cluster samples rather than body counts.

The fact of the matter, however, is that Bush and other administration officials are in no position to say just how many Iraqis have been killed because the US says it does not record the number of Iraqi civilians killed by its forces - as if only American deaths mattered.

The deteriorating security situation and administrative chaos in Iraq, which continue to worsen by the day, also make counting extremely difficult.

The “Iraq Body Count” (IBC) campaign group, which has been recording the number of civilians reported to have been killed during the war and subsequent US occupation, said on October 15, 2006 that it put the number of reported civilian deaths at 41,744 to 46,555 and the number of Iraqi police dead at 2,578.

IBC uses a survey of online news reports to produce its running tally, including a “minimum” and ‘maximum” figure where reports differ, or id it is unclear whether a person killed was a civilian.

The IBC figures include not only deaths caused by military action, but also those it considers “a direct result” of the breakdown in law and order in Iraq.

Because it relies on deaths reported by the media, IBC suggests its figures are an underestimate as “many if not most civilian deaths will go unreported.”

On December 12, 2005, Bush said “about 30,000” Iraqis had been killed since the war began. But since the US does not record the number of Iraqis killed by its forces, what was the basis for Bush’s figure?

Bush has repeatedly tried to defend the utterly indefensible, saying that his decision to go to war against Iraq was “the right thing to do” even though no weapons of mass destruction had been found there.

In fact, the US’s unprovoked invasion and occupation of Iraq was a blatant act of aggression, in violation of all canons of international law and in defiance of world public opinion.

The US fought the war on the false premise that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and, in Bush’s words, “posed an imminent threat to the national security of the United States.”

The truth, however, was known to the world long before the war began: that Iraq, in fact, possessed no weapons of mass destruction and posed no threat whatsoever to the mighty United States.

No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq despite a year-long postwar search by a 1,400-member team of American weapons inspectors.

Yet Bush continues to argue that the US did the “right thing” by invading Iraq. In saying this he seems oblivious to the fact that nobody believes him now, not even the American people. Or perhaps, in his arrogance, he doesn’t care whether anybody believes him or not. It’s either that, or else he’s in a state of complete denial.