Thursday, March 28, 2002
It's been more than a day since I said I would finish skewering the Times' Nicholas Kristof. Unfortunately, real-life issues came up, besides, Kristof is such an idiot, I'm not sure he's worth much more of my time. However, it's easy to get inside Kristof's rather limited mind, so here's what he was thinking when he wrote that article.
Whether or not we invade Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, let's go about this the American way. Let's sue him. [I used to think that shooting people was the American way, but now that I'm a New York liberal, I changed my teensy-weensy mind.]
The United States should launch an effort to prosecute Saddam for crimes against humanity. [I was binging on heroin, Johnny Walker and on old The Nation magazines, so no one should be surprised that this idea would come to mind.] This would destabilize his regime at home, encourage more defections of Iraqi officials and military officers, and increase the prospect of a coup that, in the best-case scenario, would render an invasion unnecessary. [You know, nothing is scarier to me than a lawsuit, except maybe a gun. Yeah, a lawsuit about guns. A lawyer with a gun? I just know that if I were the despotic ruler of a middle-eastern country who maintained power for decades through murder, genocide and intimidation, I know a lawsuit would make me lose control of my bowels.]
I came across this idea in references in books by Richard Butler, who led the [failed] United Nations inspection effort in Iraq, and by Kanan Makiya, author of the leading account of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. [I know this because it said so on the bookcover.] It also turns out that a British organization, Indict, is already pursuing an indictment against Saddam for war crimes. [You see, he's already quaking in his boots.]
Mr. Makiya writes that the best way to topple an Iraqi leader is to make him lose face. [Preferably the back of his skull too, from a very large bomb.] As an example, he cites the Ottoman-era practice of the people of Takrit (Saddam's hometown) of seizing the governor for the area, humiliating him (often by sexually abusing his women) and then releasing him unharmed. [Did I just write that? Ooops....I'm going to have NOW after me any second now....must...retract...]
I would not recommend this precise approach. [Whew!] But a drive to indict Saddam for genocide against the Kurds, along with other crimes, suggesting that he will end his days in a prison cell, will humiliate him in a similar way, squeezing him and encouraging those around him to look for an exit while there is still time. [Of course, anyone heading for the exits will probably be shot, but that's OK...death is an exit after all.]
"In Washington, you either have the war hounds who want to bomb Iraq and take Saddam out, or the folks who just want to contain Saddam because at least he keeps Iraq together," said Joost Hiltermann, who has examined 18 tons of Iraqi documents seized in Kurdistan and brought to the United States, and who is now writing a book about Iraq and its use of chemical weapons. "But there is a third option" — a legal case, with or without a military attack. [Of course, if the legal case is delivered by a process server and contains 10 pounds of C-4...]
(Along with those 18 tons of documents were audio tapes of speeches by Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam and his former lieutenant for northern Iraq. In one tape he says of the Kurds: "I will kill them all with chemical weapons!") [Ooohhhh! Irrefutable evidence....now we've got 'em!]
The Bush administration is interested in the idea of prosecuting Saddam, and it has two lawyers sitting in the State Department gathering evidence against him. [The lawyers were working on the Clinton pardons, but I think this is a much better use for your tax dollars.] But the thinking there has been that the prosecution would begin after Saddam is in custody, rather than before. [Of course, they'd never kill Saddam instead, that would be in violation of the Geneva Convention....I think.]
Why? An administration official, acknowledging that there may be advantages to a pre-emptive indictment and adding that no decision has been made, expressed concern that a legal effort might distract from the task of "regime change," a term that means "squash Saddam like a bug." [I wish I could come up with such clever analogies like real writers can.]
It's a fair concern. But in Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic was indicted when he was still in power, in 1999. The indictment was one factor that helped result in his ouster from power in 2000. [Some people say it was the fact that we bombed the crap out of his country, but they'd be wrong.] And in 2001 he was sent to The Hague for trial.
In short, firing lawyers at Saddam would bolster our military options, not weaken them. [I'm serious, we have plenty of lawyers. We could them in some of the big 16-inch guns...a direct hit using a trial lawyer would certainly be deadly.]
One of the constraints that Washington faces in organizing an attack on Iraq is cold feet everywhere else on the planet (except those under Tony Blair). [Tony uses thermal socks.] To forge a coalition against Saddam, we must build a case against him very publicly to demonstrate that he is not just another two-bit tyrant but a monster almost without parallel in recent decades. [We could use the media for this.]
Police in other countries use torture, but there are credible reports that Saddam's police cut out tongues and use electric drills. [Of course, people use them here too.] Other countries gouge out the eyes of dissidents; Saddam's interrogators gouged out the eyes of hundreds of children to get their parents to talk. Plus, he has tons of VX gas and defies the U.N. [That's the most incredible crime in the world, defying the U.N. Anyone who defies the U.N. should be shot, including most Republicans. Actually, maybe we should put Sen. Jesse Helms on trial first, just to get the kinks out.]
There are three ways we can pursue legal action against Saddam:
• An international tribunal can be established, like the one now trying Mr. Milosevic. This would require Security Council approval, which would be difficult.
• Several countries could launch a case before the International Court of Justice, without Security Council agreement. This would be against Iraq as a country, not Saddam as a person.
• An individual country could indict Saddam. This would be a country claiming universal jurisdiction in genocide cases.
Now's the time. Let's throw the book at Saddam. [But first, make sure it's packed with explosives]
OK, I'm tired now.