The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Saddam Hussein in court:
Trial or masquerade?

Nov 7, 2005

On October 19, Saddam Hussein was put on trial before an Iraqi Special Tribunal in Baghdad. He is accused of massacring 142 Shiites in Dujail in 1982. This is the only crime that he and his seven lieutenants are accused of.

The day the trial began, relatives of those killed demonstrated in Dujail with banners demanding the “execution of the tyrant.” Saddam Hussein, whose regime took power with a military coup d’etat in 1968, was in fact a tyrant. The dictatorship which he imposed was ferocious from day one: torture and the assassination of opponents, public hangings to terrorize the population, emptying the prisons of political detainees and killing 3,000 of them between 1997 and 2001, the massacres of the Shiite and Kurd populations, or the village of Hallabja where 2,000 civilians were killed from a bombing with a chemical weapon. He committed numerous crimes on his own account, in order to hoist himself into power. But once in power, he continued on a much larger scale as a hired hand in the service of imperialism.

This aspect hasn’t been raised at all by the court. It’s easy to forget that for a long time he was quite acceptable to the imperialist leaders. In December 1983, a little more than a year after the Dujail massacre, President Ronald Reagan sent his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with a personal letter for Saddam Hussein. A U.S. representative at the meeting wrote, “Saddam Hussein showed obvious pleasure with the President’s letter and Rumsfeld’s visits in his remarks.”

When Saddam Hussein’s government attacked Iran in 1980, it was done with the support of the U.S. and European imperialisms, which wished to weaken the Khomeini regime. That war was a true butchery, while U.S., German, French and Italian companies reaped billions of dollars in profits from the eight years of armed clashes which killed a million men.

Once that terrible war was over, the imperialists weren’t in the mood to forgive the huge debts contracted by the Iraqi state during the conflict and demanded payment. In 1990, when Saddam Hussein decided to invade Kuwait in order to get back some of what the imperialists owed him for his good and loyal service, the imperialists let out a hue and cry, which they hadn’t done when he invaded Iran ten years before. There was no question of letting a state like Iraq poach on the private preserve of the big oil companies.

But after the evacuation of Kuwait by the Iraqi army in the spring of 1991, when the Shiite population in the south of Iraq and the Kurds in the north began to rise up, the imperialist armies looked on calmly while the Iraqi army crushed the revolt. The imperialist leaders preferred to reinforce the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, rather than let instability threaten their domination in this part of the world.

For the moment, the court trying Saddam Hussein has taken up only a tiny number of all the crimes he committed, and it definitely hasn’t called any of his imperialist sponsors to appear before the bar. If Saddam Hussein were promptly found guilty of the murders of Dujail and condemned to death, that would avoid further trials for all his other crimes, and prevent him from speaking of the alliances and support which he benefitted from during thirty years.

This trial of imperialism’s hired hand, organized by those who sponsored him, who now no longer have any use for him, is a criminal masquerade.