Sticking up for Saddam.

A wartime lexicon.
Dec. 1 2005 5:51 PM

Sticking Up for Saddam

Ramsey Clark admits that his client is guilty.

The best defense is ... not this guy. Click image to expand.
The best defense is ... not this guy

All must agree that Saddam Hussein is entitled to the best legal defense team, and that it is a very special responsibility of the Coalition authorities to provide cast-iron protection to those who undertake the task. (This remains true even if, as is strongly implied in a Nov. 29 article by John Burns in the New York Times, Saddam and his lawyers have been caught hinting at involuntary changes in the composition of the prosecution team.)

Christopher Hitchens Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.

But the phrase "best defense" and the name "Ramsey Clark" do not have the same apposition as, say, peaches and cream. Clark used to be Lyndon Johnson's attorney general and in that capacity tried to send Dr. Benjamin Spock, Marcus Raskin, and others to jail for their advocacy of resistance to the war in Vietnam. (In a bizarre 2002 interview in the Washington Post, he took the view that he was still right to have attempted this, even though the defendants were all eventually exonerated.) * From bullying prosecutor he mutated into vagrant and floating defense counsel, offering himself to the génocideurs of Rwanda and to Slobodan Milosevic, and using up the spare time in apologetics for North Korea. He acts as front-man for the Workers World Party, an especially venomous little Communist sect, which originated in a defense of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

Advertisement

I was wondering when Clark would pop up in Baghdad, and there he was last Monday, presenting his credentials to the judge in the Saddam Hussein case and being accepted at his face value as a defense spokesman. He lost no time in showing what he is made of.

The first charge being brought against Saddam Hussein is that in 1982, after his motorcade came under fire near the mainly Shiite town of Dujail, he ordered the torture and murder of 148 men and boys. It's a relatively minor item in the catalog, but there it is. The first prosecution witness in the case, Wadah al-Sheikh, has actually testified that he knows of no direct link between Saddam and the killings. The defense team has to hope that it can prove the same, or perhaps suggest that no such massacre occurred. Not so Ramsey Clark. In a recent BBC interview, he offered the excuse that Iraq was then fighting the Shiite nation of Iran:

He (Saddam) had this huge war going on, and you have to act firmly when you have an assassination attempt.

More cartoons by Doug Marlette

Just go back and read that again. Ramsey Clark believes that A) the massacre and torture did occur and B) that it was ordered by his client and C) that he was justified in ordering it and carrying it out. That is quite sufficiently breathtaking. It is no less breathtaking when one recalls why Saddam "had this huge war going on." He had, after all, ordered a full-scale invasion of the oil-bearing Iranian region of Khuzestan and attempted to redraw the frontiers in Iraq's favor. Most experts accept a figure of about a million and a half as the number of young Iranians and Iraqis who lost their lives in consequence of this aggression (which incidentally enjoyed the approval of that Nobel Peace laureate Jimmy Carter). And Ramsey Clark says that the aggression is an additional reason to justify the massacre at Dujail.

Rather than say what substance I think Ramsey Clark is made of, I shall quote from Jeffrey Blankfort. There are various Web sites devoted to undermining the war effort in Iraq, one or two of which are also devoted to attacks on my own moral turpitude. I can't read them all but I do usually look at the e-mail I get from Blankfort. He is a very serious guy with whom I have had a few exchanges. He is one of the few to have noticed what Ramsey Clark said, and here is his comment:

The problem is … that Clark is one of the most well-known representatives of the anti-war movement and represents the ANSWER coalition and in my mind this is more than the conflict of interest that it unquestionably is. Thus, the message that it sends to the Iraqi people is that the anti-war movement doesn't really care about any Iraqis other than those who have been killed by US and UK forces, that it, in fact, does not condemn Saddam for his long history of human rights violations and for his launching a bloody war against Iran that took well over a million lives.

That is to say the least of it. He adds:

It is long past time for the anti-war movement to drop its double standards. It can begin by saying Ramsey Clark does not speak for us. He certainly does not speak for me.

TODAY IN SLATE

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The NFL Has No Business Punishing Players for Off-Field Conduct. Leave That to the Teams.

Meet the Allies the U.S. Won’t Admit It Needs in Its Fight Against ISIS

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Medical Examiner

How to Stop Ebola

Survivors might be immune. Let’s recruit them to care for the infected.

History

America in Africa

The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.

New GOP Claim: Hillary Clinton’s Wealth and Celebrity Are Tricks to Disguise Her Socialism

Why the Byzantine Hiring Process at Universities Drives Academics Batty

Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 3:29 PM The Fascinating Origins of Savannah, Georgia’s Distinctive Typeface
  News & Politics
History
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM America in Africa The tragic, misunderstood history of Liberia—and why the United States has a special obligation to help it fight the Ebola epidemic.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Education
Sept. 23 2014 11:45 PM Why Your Cousin With a Ph.D. Is a Basket Case  Understanding the Byzantine hiring process that drives academics up the wall.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 8:38 PM “No One in This World” Is One of Kutiman’s Best, Most Impressive Songs
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 23 2014 11:37 PM How to Stop Ebola Could survivors safely care for the infected?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?