Memo To: Ramsey Clark, Esq.
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Your Defense of Saddam
I don’t normally see the Spectator, but am a regular reader of Lew Rockwell’s website, where I spotted the link to your interview with the Spectator on the subject of your joining the legal team that will take up the defense of Saddam Hussein. I’ve long been an admirer of yours, not because of your association with “liberal” causes, but because of your passion in search of justice in the most unpopular causes. There are not too many like you, but I have been of the same bent through my adult life and career in journalism. I took it seriously that my dad named me “Jude,” after St. Jude, the patron saint of lost causes, and taught me not to be so quick to judge. One of my teenage heroes was Clarence Darrow, an attorney like you who took on clients deemed guilty in the minds of the public and press. I’m not a lawyer, but over the years I’ve written in defense of Richard Nixon during his House impeachment, and of other “demons,” such as Ferdinand Marcos, Louis Farrakhan, Michael Milken, Wen Ho Lee, Slobodan Milosevic, and yes, Saddam Hussein. And like you, I’ve done it out of conviction, not for a fee. If in my own inquiries I had genuinely decided in my own mind that these men were clearly guilty of the behavior in the minds of conventional wisdom, I would never have taken up their defense, especially pro bono.
It is because I have spent so much time in the last dozen years following events in the Middle East and Iraq that I know you are no Johnny-come-lately to the defense of Saddam. I didn’t read your 1994 book, “The Fire This Time: U.S. Crimes in the Gulf,” until 2002, but I was greatly impressed with how well your early assessment held up with all the other accounts of what really went on in those years that appeared subsequently. Saddam is lucky to have you in his corner when it has been plain his prosecutors will include the interim government in Iraq, which has no interest in seeing him get a fair trial – which would be possible, I think, if he were brought before the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
The reason I’m prompted to write today, Mr. Clark, is that I suspect the interim government in Baghdad may already be concerned that the charges of Saddam’s “war crimes” may not be able to stand up to close scrutiny, and are preparing back-up allegations. In particular, I call your attention to a February 20 story in the London Daily Telegraph. A soon to be published book about the current war in Iraq, “Neo-Conned,” has a section about my views, in Q&A format, in which the Telegraph article came up. Here is how it went:
What of persistent press reports that Saddam rounded up Shi’ite who were politically agitating and had then killed? The most recent is a February 20 dispatch in the British Daily Telegraph by Colin Freeman about a massacre of 400 Shi’ite in a settlement north of Baghdad in 1982 by Saddam’s troops, supposedly retribution because there had been an assassination attempt against Saddam?
JW: Yes, I read the story and concluded it was yet another example of Shi’ite political factions aligned with the Iranian fundamentalists in the war period trying to bring down Saddam and the government. I have no doubt that his regime acted brutally when threatened, but the story suggested that it was fed to the Telegraph – a pro-war British paper -- by the folks in the green zone who are gearing up to try Saddam and his Cabinet for war crimes. The reporter would never have called Dujail a “settlement” or “village” if he had been there, but if there were 400 deaths as he reports, it would look like retribution, wiping out a whole village for an assassination attempt. But the town has a population of 70,000, which means even if there had been 400 deaths they could easily have been the result the clashes between insurgents and government forces that took place there – along with innocent bystanders. That’s the nature of civil war. The Telegraph might have noted a year-old report in the Middle East Intelligence Review I came across that about 150 people died in the “fierce gunfight” that took place between Saddam’s security forces and al-Dawa insurgents -- who of course were working on behalf of the Ayatollah Khomeini to kill the president of Iraq.
The Telegraph story said Saddam’s half-brother would be charged with war crimes in the case and residents of the town will testify against him.
JW: Look, the bottom line is that as far as I can tell – and I’m only one fellow who has tried to get to the bottom of these charges of genocide and revenge killings by Saddam – is that none of them would stand up to scrutiny in a U.S. court of law. If the charges went to The Hague, the prosecution would be laughed out of Court. That’s why the “interim government” in Baghdad, which may well be headed by a leader of the al-Dawa Shiites, has to keep control of the trials. As it stands, it doesn’t matter how little evidence they have. Saddam will have a hard time holding on to his head.
To be absolutely honest with you, Mr. Clark, I have actually hoped from time to time that Saddam was guilty of war crimes, committing genocide, etc., and not acting as head of state in a region where hardliners are the rule, not the exception (witness Ariel Sharon). It would make it much easier to close this chapter on the Middle East book and feel that the great loss of life connected to Saddam’s regime – the two wars and all that happened in between -- was primarily his, not ours. To date, I’ve found no such hard evidence and if there is, it will have to come out at his trial. I’m counting on you to make sure whatever evidence the prosecution has really is hard, so our conscience as a nation can be clear when he is executed, if that be the case. Please let me know if I can be of any help.