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Making Saddam Look Good Only this administration could manage that
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Zepp's Commentaries
July 7, 2004

I wonder if we're actually going to see a public trial of Saddam Hussein?

I watched the arraignment or whatever the hell it was the other day, and even before I heard about the responses reporters were getting from jihadi-in-the-street interviews, I realized that the admin had pulled yet another tactical blunder in Iraq.

Saddam was looking pretty sharp, beard neatly trimmed, nice casual threads, dropped a stone or so, clear-eyed and exuding confidence. Even worse, he basically took control of the television cameras, throwing the court on the defensive.

Well, let's face it; you can't be the brutal and hated tyrant of a country for over twenty-five years unless you have that sort of presence. In politics, monsters need charisma. Especially monsters.

The Vichy regime, which has no more sense for effective propaganda in Iraq than its American masters, made sure the hearing was broadcast. It played very well.

Unfortunately, it was SADDAM who played well. In a country where over half the population now thinks of Saddam as "the good old days," Saddam picked up quite a bit of support.

I don't know what Bremer and his stooges were thinking. Maybe they believe the propaganda that Saddam was brutal, an unthinking and unfeeling thug who would drool on the stand and threaten to disembowel little girls or something.

After twenty five years of tyranny and leading his country from one disaster to the next while keeping his popularity reasonably high, Saddam knows a thing or two about projecting calm, authoritative and assertive presence for the TV cameras. Republicans can only wish George was half as good, especially when not carefully scripted.

Saddam won round one. Granted, both sides were just sparring, exploring each other's defenses and dancing around the ring, and the judges scored it 10-9, but given that this was billed to both the Iraqi and American public as Allah vs. Charlie Manson, anything short of a first round knockout was considered a major upset.

So for the main trial, when and if, they might consider slapping duct tape over Saddam's mouth, and make him wear a pink tutu and a red clown nose, just so the prosecution doesn't look too bad in the eyes of the viewers.

The admin thought this would be a slam dunk, and got their asses kicked. They keep doing that with Iraq.

Now, on top of everything else, it looks like the one element of the charges made against Saddam might collapse completely.

Understand, much of the US case for taking action against Saddam has collapsed already. You may have heard about it. Turns out (ha, ha, ha) that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction. He didn't have links to al Qaida, and in fact was antagonistic toward them (Iraq used to be an obstacle terrorists had to go around in the middle east. Now it's a central staging area.) He wasn't a threat to his neighbors, let alone America.

Which left his record as dictator, which is actually quite bad. The only trouble is all he has to do is point out that many of America's closest allies have dictators who are just as bad scattered around central and south America, in Africa, and even as close to hand as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, two countries that DO have links to al Qaida.

But the administration could trump this with the American people by simply saying, "He gassed his own people." I've often wondered what the Kurds think about being referred to as Saddam's "own people" -- I don't imagine they like it very much -- but it arouses moral indignation in the American breast, just as that story about Iraqi soldiers dumping new born babies out of incubators and onto the hospital floor did.

The only problem is that, like the incubator story, it might not be true.

Even worse, Saddam's best witness might be American operatives from the CIA.

A website happened to remember a news story that appeared in the New York Times back in January 2003, during the ramp-up to the attack. The story, which currently appears at http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0131-08.htm, was written by Stephen C. Pelletiere, who was the CIA's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.

Pelletiere states bluntly, "...[A]ll we know for certain is that Kurds were bombarded with poison gas that day at Halabja. We cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds."

Pelletiere has more than casual knowledge about Halabja. He was head of an Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States, and much of his investigation centered around the Halabja massacre.

He writes, "[E]ach side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent that is, a cyanide-based gas which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time."

If asked to testify (and granted, this is a kangaroo court run by a puppet regime, so who knows if the defense will have the power to subpoena?), Pelletiere will pretty much have to testify along these lines, since this is stuff that he had previously written, both in unclassified documents and in the NY Times. Worse, there is a bunch of corroborating evidence in the public domain that America's pathetic whore media ignored.

Which would mean that not only has the final leg of the structure of rationalizations the admin used to attack Iraq collapsed, but both in Iraq and here, the admin suffered another PR disaster. They face the possibility that Saddam might end up exonerated, since they stupidly made this one accusation the lynchpin of the case against him.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Only the Republicans could lose a PR battle with Saddam Hussein in an open court of law.

Still, for Putsch and the rest, there's one bright spot. If the court case proves that Iran, and not Saddam, gassed the Kurds at Halabja, then the admin won't have to hear any more about how the Kurds were gassed with chemicals provided by Reagan, Bush, Rumsfeld, et al. Iran got their cyanide gas elsewhere, possibly Russia. Small consolations. They'll have to take what they can get.

When this administration decides to stage a complete fiasco, they sure don't screw around, do they?

Posted: July 9, 2004


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