Friday, December 23, 2005

Saddam Hussein tortured? Important?

The latest twist to the Trial of Saddam is that he claims the U.S. has been torturing HIM (!gasp!). Apparently this has become a big thing in the mainstream media (I don't watch TV, so I don't know for sure). Now, this raises interesting considerations to say the least.

I think it's best illustrated by this exchange in the State Department daily press briefing, December 22, 2005

QUESTION: Yesterday, I think it was, Saddam Hussein accused the U.S. of beating him and torturing him while he was in jail.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I know you spoke briefly to it yesterday. I'm wondering whether the U.S. or Iraqi authorities have investigated those charges and whether you have any information on it, or whether you intend to.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the people from our Embassy spoke very clearly to this, I think the Iraqi investigative judge spoke to this, that these allegations are bogus. And frankly, I think it is -- you know, I've seen this -- I've seen this issue play a lot on the cable TVs. I've seen it in the headlines. I've seen a lot of stories about it. And frankly, this sort of grandstanding detracts from what the real story is. The real story is, and the voices that need to be heard, are the victims of Saddam Hussein.

Saddam Hussein was one of the most violent mass murderers of this century or any other century, and what you have now is an opportunity for the victims of Saddam Hussein to detail the tyranny, the oppression, the brutality, the violence of this regime. That's what's on trial here, not the U.S. Government, not the new Iraqi Government. It's Saddam Hussein. And that's where the focus should be, frankly.

And I understand you need to ask these questions, but I think that it does a disservice to the world when the equal ink and airtime, if not more, is not given to the stories of these people, horrific stories of, you know, women being raped, being brutalized, people who have had molten plastic applied to their skin so it could be ripped off, people's relatives -- families -- being wiped out. That's the real story here. And you know, frankly, I would encourage you to ask more questions about that as part of this trial and your coverage of it.

QUESTION: When you talk about grandstanding, don't you have the feeling that this trial is going out of control?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think the Iraqi judges and the Iraqi judicial authorities are doing the best job they can under difficult circumstances to bring to justice those responsible for the oppression of an entire people for over the course of more than two decades. We are working closely with them. But I think that these are a brave group of people -- the prosecutors, the judges -- who are working on these cases. These are people who are working under threat, a threat to their lives by those who don't want to see this trial move forward. So I think that what they deserve is our encouragement and support in moving forward on the best possible judicial process that they can.

That exchange sounds rather reasonable, but let me offer a different interpretation than the guy obviously intended. This press secretary is obviously spinning the story the way the administration wants it to go, which is: Saddam Hussein was evil, evil acts occurred under his administration, and those evil acts justify any evil we might do in order to prosecute him for his crimes.

That's essentially what Mr. McCormack is saying, that the press should ignore any accusation by Saddam Hussein against the U.S. Instead the press should keep their attention strictly on the evil performed under Saddam Hussein's regime.

Now, what strikes me is how duplicitous this is. Evil is evil, no matter who performs it. The danger of prosecuting someone else for their supposed evil, is the evil you yourself have to embody in order to do so. The example is before us, with U.S. soldiers guilty of torture in every region the conflict has reached. Torture is not an American value, yet here we are having soldiers committing torture. What has this country come to?

Now, I'm expecting that Saddam probably is lying in claiming the U.S. has tortured him. Mr. McCormack also says his claims are bogus, as does the Iraqi courts, etc. The truth or not of whether Saddam has been tortured isn't my point. My point is the attitude Mr. McCormack shows in how he directs the attention in the direction of "Saddam's evil justifies any evil the U.S. might want to do".

Saying "the ends justify the means" is something attributed to the Russian Dictators. Again, is that an American value? No.