Far from healing Iraqi divisions, this trial has deepened them
THIS is victor's justice. There is a tiny chance that it will calm Iraq's turmoil,
but much more likely, it will have the opposite effect. The verdict is no surprise.
One hundred per cent of Iraqis anticipated it; 80 per cent with a sense of
vindication, 20 per cent with fury. The only doubt yesterday was whether the
court would consider that the Dujail case was sufficiently strong to warrant the
death penalty, or whether it would wait for one of the later charges, where the
chain of command from Saddam Hussein to the killings might be more firmly
established. But it didn't. For more than a year, this court has looked like an
exercise in vengeance of the Shia majority in Iraq, brutally suppressed by Saddam
Hussein. The court and its succession of judges have been overwhelmed by violence,
threats, and the sectarian rifts within the country's politics, to the point where it
became impossible to see it as a contribution to the political health of the country.
There were high hopes at first that it might help to heal Iraq's rifts, but it is hard to
see now that it will do anything but deepen them.
Robert Fisk: This was a guilty verdict on America as well
So America's one-time ally has been sentenced to death for war crimes he committed
when he was Washington's best friend in the Arab world. America knew all about his
atrocities and even supplied the gas - along with the British, of course - yet there we
were yesterday declaring it to be, in the White House's words, another "great day for Iraq".
That's what Tony Blair announced when Saddam Hussein was pulled from his hole in
the ground on 13 December 2003. And now we're going to string him up, and it's another
great day. Of course, it couldn't happen to a better man. Nor a worse. It couldn't be a more
just verdict - nor a more hypocritical one. It's difficult to think of a more suitable monster for
the gallows, preferably dispatched by his executioner, the equally monstrous hangman of Abu
Ghraib prison, Abu Widad, who would strike his victims on the head with an axe if they dared
to condemn the leader of the Iraqi Socialist Baath Party before he hanged them. But Abu Widad
was himself hanged at Abu Ghraib in 1985 after accepting a bribe to put a reprieved prisoner to
death instead of the condemned man. But we can't mention Abu Ghraib these days because we
have followed Saddam's trail of shame into the very same institution. And so by hanging this awful
man, we hope - don't we? - to look better than him, to remind Iraqis that life is better now than
it was under Saddam.