From today’s editions of The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, more examples of how the MSM simply doesn’t get it.
We’ll begin with the NYT. Contributing writer Noah Feldman, who’s also a law professor at NYU, is upset over what went wrong with Saddam’s trial (and subsequent execution). From Professor Feldman’s perspective, it was pretty much a disaster:
“…the process fell short of what is needed to invoke the transcendent norms of universal justice. This was a profound failure. As with the other shortcomings of Iraq’s government, many players were at fault here: the Americans for failing to provide security for the Iraqis, including the defense team; the Iraqis for failing to get the trial – or the country – to run smoothly; the international community for sanctimoniously disengaging.
But the fact that blame is to be shared does not mitigate the tragedy of this missed opportunity. “
Meanwhile, the LA Times is expressing concern that many of Saddam’s secrets will be buried with the dictator, including the whereabouts of all that money he transferred out of the country in 2003; why he “misled” the world about his WMD programs, and why he gassed thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s.
As for the trial and execution, those events were almost destined to be chaotic and problematic. Professor Feldman should remember that Saddam didn’t exactly leave behind a fair and impartial judiciary system. We had to held the Iraqis build one from scratch, recruiting judges and lawyers willing to brave terrorist attacks and escalating sectarian violence to provide Saddam’s day in court. And, to their credit, the Iraqis managed to get the job done. Mr. Feldman would probably prefers more a more stately process, like the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, established to try various Balkans war criminals.
You may recall that the tribunal’s most famous indictee, fomer Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, was in the dock for more than three years before he died in 2005. Had he lived, Mr. Milosevic could look forward to a comfortable sentence in the tribunal’s prison block, which features private cells with individual showers, toilets and even satellite television. The thought of Saddam living out his days in such a setting is positively infuriating; yet, there are many (particularly in Europe) who have described Saddam’s execution as barbaric. I would argue that an “orderly” trail that dragged on for years, followed by a life sentence for Saddam, would be even more repulsive for those who suffered under him.
As for the videotaping of the execution, did anyone not expect the footage to find its way onto the airwaves and the internet–with or without permission of the Iraqi government? Millions of Iraqis either lost a family member to Saddam’s thuggery, or knew someone who lost a relative. Others feared the judicial process and/or the new Iraqi government would eventually fail, paving the way for Saddam to return to power. Needless to say, Iraqis had a tremendous interest in confirming the death of the tyrant, even if it meant watching some rather unpleasant execution footage. The international community is expressing “shock” that Iraqi guards taunted Saddam in the moments before his death. Can you blame them?
Does Saddam’s death leave unanswered questions? Of course. History is like that. It’s rarely neat and tidy; there will always be gaps in evidence, and queries that go unanswered. And, given Saddam’s uncooperative nature, it’s unlikely that his continued prosecution and incarceration would have yielded additional information on the money, WMDs, or why he did all those terrible things.
However messy his trial and execution might have been, the end of Saddam Hussein was a victory for the Iraqi people and their fledgling government. And that’s the real story, no matter how much the chattering class may wring their hands and disagree.