I must start by apologizing for my awkward title. I am referring to the ABC News interview of Dec 16th, where Bush said he thinks Saddam Hussein should face "the ultimate justice" for his crimes.

Many people can critique Bush's policies. I choose not to do so since these have already been argued ad nauseum, and I have little to add, besides even more bile.

For Bush to say this, however, is not a matter of policy or having differing opinions. This is a matter of breaking protocol, legal process, ritual, separation of powers, ettiquette, whatever you want to call it.

I do not know if George W Bush has ever served on a jury. However, if he has, he may be familiar with the rules that I was told when I served on a jury: until all the facts are in, you don't make a comment on how the facts add up. You certainly don't make a comment on what punishment someone deserves until you have actually made found them guilty. Is sitting in a jury room for a two hour recess, unable to talk about the case you are witnessing difficult? Is it hard to ignore the tales of murder and mayhem you have been listening to for the past few hours, and instead try to strike up a conversation with your fellow jurors about your cat and how to make soup out of little equal packets? Of course it is. But those are the rules of process that a juror in any case must obey. For the highest official in the land to give a sentence before a trial has started is a terrible blow to legal process.

A government can have policies and plans and operations and schemes. These reflect what they want.

But before they can get to what they want, they must have standards and rules and procedures that should be followed closely. The reason is, these reflect what is, and what is must be acknowledged before plans can go forward.

George W Bush is the perfect child of the 1960's. The 1960s were the decade when people forgot where they came from, and instead focused on what they wanted. This type of attitude reflects running over the methods and the procedures in able to get what impulse demands. Something that is slightly amusing in rough and rugged Hollywood mavericks, but something that I do not find amusing when when adults choose not to grow out of it.

For the ABC article, see: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/Primetime/US/president_bush_031216-1.html

It should be surprising to anyone in the United States that this is even an issue.

I had fully expected Saddam Hussein to die in a gunfight with U.S. armed forces, as his sons did. Granted, I didn't necessarily expect that gunfight to be initiated by Saddam -- I had expected that, after raining bullets and bombs upon wherever they found Saddam, they would claim he sent out the initial shots, thus indicating his unwillingness to surrender.

I don't think this was an unreasonable expectation. A month or so ago, all the neocons in the Bush administration were making the rounds on the "fair and balanced" circuit, telling us how horrible a trial for Saddam would be, how he would make it into a circus just like Milosevic has done, and how we should seriously consider just eliminating him before the notion of a trial came into play. And I think anyone who's been paying attention to the Bush administration understands how these kinds of policies are initiated -- we first get these opening salvos in the media, which lets pundits bat them around for a while until "go" time comes, by which time the American public has fully acclimated to the idea and there's no immediate uproar when words meet reality.

And all the "fair and balanced" pundits warmed to the idea admirably. I was mildy perturbed, considering here we had the so-called "leaders of the free world" sitting around complaining about the pain of due process and fair trials and all that crap. Wouldn't it just be easier if we summarily executed the guy? I suppose. I mean, to be fair, it would be consistent with the legal status of terrorists under this administration, as "enemy combatants" with no legal requirement for representation, speedy trial, etc. I guess that whole "endowed by our Creator" bit only works when you're trying to assert the value of blurring the line between church and state. My mistake!

So anyway, I fully expected Saddam, if he was ever found, to be dead in the process, full of U.S. military-issued bullets. But, as it happens, it seems the troops who took him had a lapse of human compassion -- his surrender was obvious, and I guess they couldn't bring themselves to just throw the grenade into the spider hole. Not that they would have been ordered to, but geez, that would've made things a whole lot simpler, wouldn't it?

If you think about it, Dubya's statement to the public could have been equally applicable had Saddam died in a shoot-out. Change what amounts to an AP lede at the beginning of the speech and you have the same sentiments. And now that he's to stand some sort of trial, it's going to be difficult for us -- not Dubya, us USians -- to put him on trial for atrocities he committed with our implicit support. This is why we kill dictators, after all, or at least arrange for their assassination through paramilitary groups! So we don't have to face up to our own involvement!

So I would suppose Bush's calling for Saddam's execution is just a pre-emptive strike against people of a more sensitive presuasion who might advise a more measured course of action. By making that statement, he gives pundits the ammunition they need to tar nay-sayers as Saddam-lovers. "Aren't his crimes obvious?" "Don't you think killing millions of people deserves the most severe punishment?" "What could his life possibly bring us, or his family's victims, besides a lack of closure and justice postponed?"

And I suppose I don't have any answer to those questions, except to hold up a mirror to such sentiments and ask their proponents if they particularly like the way they look. Is that what the U.S. should look like? A bunch of blood-thirsty capitalists who will invoke our most sacred principles in the pursuit of the death of a single man? I shudder at the thought. I shudder to think I am in the minority.

There was an open poll on Community2 asking: What do we do with Saddam? Here are some of the answers (names removed to protect the expatriates):
  • "Since it's the spirit of Christmas... roast his chestnuts over an open fire."
  • "Put him in a 'wacky roomates stuck in prison' sitcom with Kobe Bryant and Michael Jackson."
  • "Publicly hang him and create all sorts of tensions in Iraq then bugger off in good old Western style."
And so on and so forth.

So... seriously, kids... what do you do with a deposed dictator? You can do a lot of things with him, of course, but what can you realistically do? Let's look at some rational options.

1. International Law

Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking. "International law? BUSH?! Are you shitting me or what?" Well, actually, I kind of am shitting you on this one, but that's beside the point. The point, rather, is this: back in the glory days of the Clinton administration, you'd expect Saddam to go to the Hague or Brussels or someplace. I think Bush is about as likely to give Saddam to Europe as he is to give a blow job to Elvis. But again, that's beside the point.

International law would mandate:

  1. Lots of judges in funny-looking robes and funnier-looking wigs.
  2. A very cold-looking courtroom, designed in the Scandinavian Minimalist "Kill me now so I don't have to sit here any longer" architectural style, brought to your nightly newscast in full-grainy-color PAL via satellite.
  3. A trial that would take no less than three and no more than thirty years, during which time Saddam would stay at a four-star hotel (or equivalent prison cell).
  4. Nobody understanding what the hell happened for at least another decade, until some geek writes a book about it for his history Ph.D. and demonstrates to the world that it was all wrong, it was really Comical Ali the whole time, and don't you all feel stupid now?
But once again, that's beside the point. Bush doesn't care about international law. "International law? Ha! My lawyer will get back to you on that one. Ha!" So let's stop talking about this before it gets too depressing, and move on to something more pertinent.

2. Domestic Tribunal

I'm pretty sure that international law says that Saddam isn't supposed to face an ad-hoc tribunal in the United States for something he did while president of Iraq, but let's get the hell away from international law for a while. We have the old bugger and we can do with him whatever we damn well please, so why not make it quick and surgical, and throw him up in front of a show trial?

Well, it certainly wouldn't make Bush any more popular with his critics, but then again, what would?

Remember that in order to rebuild Japan, Douglas MacArthur had to institute the "Everybody Dies" judicial system. That is, everybody who had an important role in the war against the U.S. also had to die. (The exception, of course, was the Emperor, but he was de-deified, so it sucked to be him anyway.) So why not put Saddam on this lucrative plan?

Well. The issue is, who signs the death warrant? The U.S. starts the war, wins the war, and kills the dictator, all more or less single-handedly, in the name of the Iraqi people? They might just start saying "Yo, yo, yo, leave us outta this, maaaaan!" In Japan, it was an international tribunal, so at least there was some feeling of consensus.

Shit! I'm getting into international law again! Back-paddle, back-paddle!

3. Back to Iraq: Layin' the Smack

Here's what I'm thinking tonight: What if someone in D.C. had a major-league brain fart and decided to let Saddam stand trial before his own people? There could be a number of outcomes...

  1. We discover that they all really did like him, and that they want nothing more than to make him president again and give him all their oil. (Probability: Raiders winning the Stanley Cup)
  2. Saddam escapes from captivity and runs off to hide with Osama Bin Laden in Bhutan or wherever the hell he is. (Probability: Bush legalizing third-term abortion)
  3. The Iraqi court acquits Saddam on a technicality and lets him free, presumably to start a cable news channel or something. (Probability: Michael Jackson being innocent)
  4. The Iraqi court convicts Saddam and tells him to kiss his neck goodbye. (Probability: Republicans picking up Senate seats in 2004)
  5. An Iraqi wingnut shoots Saddam before the trial is concluded. (Probability: Howard Dean becoming president)
  6. An American wingnut does the same. (Probability: Dean winning the Democratic nomination)
So anyway, that's how that goes. It worked in South Africa, sort of. They had many more people to deal with, but it worked in the end. And I have a feeling that Iraqis could dig up all sorts of dirty stuff on Saddam if they wanted to. It would make them feel good... powerful... free for once.

But, somehow, I don't think any of this is going to happen. Here's what's probably going to happen:

4. The Conspiracy

Saddam is being transported from his hyper-maximum-security prison cell to his hyper-maximum-security courtroom in Mount Weather or someplace. (While I'm on the subject, wouldn't it be hilarious if Johnnie Cochran offered to defend him? Okay, I can hear you guys in Baghdad screaming in terror, so back to the point...) As he's getting out of the U.S. Marshals' Suburban, four gunshots are fired from the window of the adjacent federal building, killing Saddam. The gunman is cornered by police, fired upon multiple times, and then jumps off of a waterfall, never to be seen again. He is never prosecuted. Nor, for that matter, is Saddam, except in an ongoing closed-door investigation that wraps up 50 years later by concluding that Saddam pirated Sky News and lied on his tax returns, but that it's all an issue of international law, which has been moot for the past fifty years.

Any way you cut it, Saddam Hussein is gonna be dead.

So, as I said on C2: Crucify him during halftime of the Super Bowl.

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