If Saddam Hussein’s trial is to be a show trial, as its critics claim, it is a long way from prime time, based on the opening day.
The video was amateurish and the seriousness of the proceedings was undermined by the mechanics of getting the defendants in and out of the courtroom and Saddam’s blustering attempt to question the legitimacy of the tribunal.
It seems everybody — human rights groups, supporters of the International Criminal Court, the Bush administration, foes of the U.S.-led invasion — knows better than the Iraqi government how Saddam should be tried. But the Iraqis must do this themselves. It is important that they come to terms with their own history — that through careful, methodical, televised proceedings they lay out, especially for the Arab world, the real evil of Saddam’s rule.
The prosecution began with a relatively minor massacre because they have hard evidence it was done on Saddam’s direct orders. Still to come is the military operation that killed some 180,000 Kurds in the late ’80s, the bloody suppression of a Shiite revolt in 1991, and the death of 5,000 Kurds in a poison gas attack in 1988.
It may be a show trial in this sense: There’s a lot to be shown.