Thursday, September 14, 2006

Saddam not dictator!

So Saddam claims he was not a dictator, the judge agrees. Its only a matter of time before the blogosphere goes wild.

But what the judge actually told Saddam was that he was not a dictator but he was allowed to behave like one. In other words Saddam was never granted dictatorial powers and always claimed that his rule had the thin veneer of legitamacy.

Saddam is currently being tried in a civil trial under Iraqi law. If the court accepted that he was a dictator this would be impossible. By definition a dictator is not subject to national law, the essence of dictatorship is that the dictator sets themselves above it.

If Saddam was recognized as a dictator he could not be tried in a national court under existing national law. The only options would be to create new national laws with retrospective effect or to try him in an international court.

While there is certainly enough justification to charge Saddam with war crimes the Iraqi government and the US occupation prefers a national trial. One of the many reasons for this preference being that the international courts no longer recognize the death penalty.

So unpacking what the judge really said to Saddam he did not say 'you were not an evil dictator', instead what he said was 'you are on trial as a common criminal and will face the death penalty if convicted'.

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