America: Society Iraq War Journal Society

Saddam Hussein

With all the hullaballoo going on about the prisoner treatment it suddenly occurred to me today that there has been no news about Saddam Hussein in a long time. Makes me wonder what has happened to him and if perhaps he is being badly treated just as the other prisoners are. Whatever he may have done he deserves a fair trial and to be treated humanely. What exactly is going on with him? Anyone know? There is a lot to worry about with his being secreted away somewhere.

And what about the Guantanamo prisoners? What’s the true story behind that?

I don’t normally wish ill for any one, but I certainly hope that, at the very least, all this uproar ruins Bush’s career. At best, I’d like to see him tried for international war crimes and genocide.

13 replies on “Saddam Hussein”

I’ve been wondering about Saddam Hussein myself. No idea.

As for the prisoners in Guantanamo, there is apparently no change (I took a long stop at the Amnesty International booth at Whole Earth on Sunday). Still no trial, still no CHARGES.

There’s a bumper sticker that’s been around in the US for a while, Butuki, not sure if you’ve heard of it: “If you’re not outraged then you’re not paying attention.” But what are people to pay attention to, when the last episode of Survivor-du-jour is playing and Maureen Dowd writes about John Kerry’s peanut butter sandwiches? Where’s the MEDIA outrage?


Speaking from the perspective of someone training to be a lawyer, genocide is a very freighted word, and not one that should be bandied about without serious consideration of what it means. Whatever else Dubya may be, his actions do not fit under the rubric of “genocide”, at least according to how I’ve interpreted the Convention on Genocide 1948.

There are very real individuals guilty of genocide, or of attempting it. I’m not going to list their names, mostly because it’s early and I’d rather not ruin my appetite before breakfast. Placing Dubya into that category is unwarranted, and detracts from the terrible meaning the word “genocide” ought to have.

I may not like Dubya, but fairness compels me to say that trying him for genocide would be to insult the victims of real genocidal acts. He doesn’t qualify.


Perhaps you are right, Lashlar. My anger twists my opinions into often harsh pronouncements about Bush and the United States. It’s quite humiliating and fills me with chagrin to have to watch so many awful things happening that I protested from the very start, while so many people are only now having a change of heart, and still speak about us “peaceniks” with derision.

I suspect there is a lot more going on and a lot worse than Bush and his cronies are ever going to let on, and certainly will never be taken to task for. As Tony Parsons of the Mirror writes, “ STOP me if I am missing something here, but if former Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic can end up on trial for war crimes committed under his leadership, then why can’t Tony Blair?

“Former Yugoslav President Milosevic didn’t personally murder anyone. He didn’t actually rape anyone. And he didn’t soil his suit by torturing anyone in a stinking prison cell.

“And yet Milosevic stands accused of crimes against humanity. He faces life imprisonment for unspeakable atrocities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo that happened when he was many miles away.”

If not genocide, then what is Bush to be accused of? Just because he is an American president does in no way let him off the hook. What he has done is much worse than anything Hussein ever did. But the American media, the media that basically controls world media, paints him with soft colors, trying to win people over to his humanity. What humane acts has he done in his time as president? What good has he done any one? And the tens of thousands who have already died in his selfish war, what is that? “Collateral damage?” I take it it’s not genocide when Iraqis die by the thousands, but that three thousand dead in New York is?


“What he has done is much worse than anything Hussein ever did.”

I appreciate your heartfelt remarks…they come from the right place. I know it’s hard to remain objective and strictly rational when you feel so strongly. But if what you say in passion appears overstated or ill-informed, you risk losing credibility even with people who agree with you.

What’s happening in Iraq is complicated and has many sides to it. Understanding all of that is a daunting challenge. It’s not simply about freeing the Iraqi people and encouraging democracy in the Middle East, as you have pointed out. But also it’s not simply a work of evil by an evil man, as you seem to suggest.

With the awful mistakes that have been made, it’s hard to do the work of listening and learning, but it will take time to be fully informed and gain a trustworthy perspective.


One line in Denny’s comment caught my attention, “I know it’s hard to remain objective and strictly rational when you feel so strongly.” This is a common call and there seems to be a certain collective reverence for the rational, at the expense of emotion. But it emotion that allows us to truly empathise with people caught up in any tragedy and surely we lose something vital if we set it aside.

I suspect it is this ability to disassociate from our emotional conscience, and remain in the head, that is exactly the quality necessary for people who perpetuate actrocities. Emotion is just as effective and necessary a moral compass as logic. The two should not be divided.

Perhaps we should leave it aside while we gather facts. What are facts? Whether we admit it or not, we filter everything through our personal perspective. So can anything ever be truly objective?

So please don’t water down your passion butuki. Whatever your ‘lapses’ in ‘fact’, your outrage keeps you on track.


I’ve been thinking about your comments, Denny, and yours, Penny (is it fate that brought the two rhymes together?), all morning and both of your words have forced my insides to do somersaults. It’s hard to pinpoint the correct “perspective” on all this. But that is just the point, maybe. There is no one in the world, not a single person, who has a true and complete perspective about what is going on.

As Penny points out, so much of what is going on is determined by emotion. Certainly Bush’s actions seem to be more determined by emotion than wisdom. So I think it is not important for us to “get the facts right” so much as learning to look at the awful things we do from a place of inner quiet, to feel what is the right thing to do. You can have all the facts in the world, but if your heart is in the wrong place no amount of awareness of facts will change what you are doing.

Penny observes that it is people who have the ability to look at things without emotion who are most likely the ones to commit atrocities. And I think she is right. My German Socialist-Pacifist grandfather, who spent time in an American-French war prison (and related to me of the awful treatment he got there, especially by the French), who refused to carry a weapon in the national army (not the Nazi army) at a time when he could have gotten shot for his beliefs, and who, with my grandmother and great aunt, harbored a family of Jews, most of whom were discovered and sent away to the camps, once observed to me: “It is the German ability to think so rationally and to be so careful with records and research that made the Nazi atrocities and the camps possible.”

I used to be a very angry man, full of rage at the world and constantly shouting and blowing my top. It’s part of what ruined my marriage. But I learned to overcome it, after going through some truly lonely and trial-by-fire times. Learning to find peace inside myself and learning to stop being so afraid of the world and putting up all my defences came about not through any kind of objective rationalization. It came about through a kind of emotional overload, and an about face toward all the demons that were chasing me, turning right about and flinging myself headlong into the maelstrom. I will never forget the night that everything swept past, when I lay awake, feeling as if my mind were about to explode, in a fever, and a rage so big I could have destroyed my entire apartment. It was like rocketing up into the troposhere and then suddenly, inexplcably, petering out in weightlessness. While it is not always perfect, this sense of weightless grounding has remained and my anger dissipated. I can feel love again and don’t feel I have to make apologies for what I am and do so much any more.

I bring this up because I don’t think the Iraq war is going to find any solution unless people learn to face their emotions about things like the New York tragedy. People must face the demons and then step beyond them. I don’t think Americans have done that yet (why else would they allow the administration to carry out the farce of the present investigation? I’ve never understood how a tragedy as terrible as the New York tragedy, which truly staggered Americans, could be so cavalierly shunted aside. I mean, what happened was something serious, and yet the people and the government are monkeying around). Instead they have fled the demons by attempting to destroy them, fixing the face of Sadam Hussein and Iraq to the facelessness of demons. But demons, in their very nature, cannot be destroyed. You have to understand them. You have to learn where they come from and why. You have to empathize with them, otherwise they will just seem irrational and frightening. And part of that is a very necessary soul-searching among Americans in which they finally admit to themselves that they are the same as everyone else on this planet, that they are no better and no worse. That they are capable of, and actually carry out, awful deeds.

The American reaction to Iraq and Afghanistan, led by Bush, is a crime. When I speak of Bush needing to be tried, I do not say “evil man” as Americans so love to use the word. I don’t believe in “evil” (as much as I don’t believe in saintly goodness). I believe in foolhardiness, greed, selfishness, desire for power… all very human traits. Bush has trangressed against the human community, has put millions in danger, has disregarded international ethos and laws, has instigated murder of tens of thousands, has bombed people for no defensible reason. America is a pariah and a “rogue nation”, in America’s very own jargon. In this closely knit world community such a nation with such dangerous tendancies, with a leader who cares nothing for the opinions and advice of other leaders, cannot be allowed to continue this way. The only thing stopping the rest of the world from exercising their right to bring Bush to trial for crimes against humanity is the power of the American military and its economy. A bully all dressed up in armor and bigger than everyone else.

Yes, I am angry. This is my world, too. Not just America’s. I have as much right to say what should go on in this world as any American does. And Bush is pushing us all around. In our lands! Why shouldn’t I be angry?


You hit the nail on the head when you called for people to face their demons, step beyond them, and engage in a little soul searching. That’s the best any of us can do. And I suspect it might be more productive than continuing to address this (or any) issue solely as an intellectual argument.


What is genocide? That’s hard to define. There are a number of definitions but I prefer to stick with the one that’s in the Convention on Genocide, primarily because I’m most familiar with it.

An act, or acts, committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. It is not mass killing alone that defines genocide, although that’s one way of dea. It is the deliberate intention of destroying a national, ethnic, racial or religious group on account of their membership in that group. What the Germans did to the Jews counts. What the Ukranians did in Poland counts, though that could also fall under the rubric of ethnic cleansing. Rwanda. Bosnia. Kosovo. (The latter two could be more precisely, in terminology, be described as ethnic cleansing because of differing objectives, which might be legally significant but might not. That’s an area of law I haven’t studied in detail yet.)

Neither the World Trade Center tragedy nor the Iraqi war count as genocidal acts. To say that they do is at best insulting to those who faced the REAL threat of utter annihilation, and at worst a trivialization of the word genocide, thus taking away its potency as a word expressive of horror.

I don’t know what exactly Dubya can be charged with. From what I know, the ICC still doesn’t have a definition of “war crimes” that would allow it to try such cases, and furthermore, unless the exemption ran out while I was sleeping, America is still legally exempted from the jurisdiction of the ICC. I do know what he cannot be charged with, and I know that howling for his blood is not a credit to anyone. I know that baying for him to be charged with something, with *anything*, is both emotionally unsound and legally unsound, and makes those who do so no better than those who cheerfully hunted for witches in Salem, Massachussetts.

There are shades of grey here, subtle patterns that defy a quick answer. I don’t have answers. I don’t know if anyone has answers. I do know that if we let the heat of the moment carry us away, we’re lost. Strategic decisions need to be made, calculations and assessments of what must be done, and emotions, emotions will not get us to the stage of knowing what must be done.


Lashlar: in your studies, have you come across what EXACTLY constitutes a war crime? Even though the U.S. has handily exempted itself from the World Court, it would be interesting to know if the actions of Bush et al. qualified under World Court definitions.

There were no WMDs, which is what we ignored United Nations mandates to go to war to find. Lives–nobody knows how many, to our great shame–have been lost because of this blatant disregard for UN process.

The U.S. and stooges in a quagmire–can’t go forward, can’t go back, can’t go sideways–is indeed what many of us predicted would happen. It doesn’t mean I’m gloating about it. That would make us no better than them. I’m particularly disturbed that so many people seem ONLY to think about this in terms of election time in November…. when the corpses continue to pile up.


In my studies, I have not yet gotten to “war crimes”. It’s more of a public international law issue, which probably means that I’ll get to it whenever I get around to taking Public International Law to round out my compulsories, probably in a year or so from now. The reason I’m familiar with the Convention on Genocide has more to do with personal reading, and as necessary background to a case I had to brief in my Legal Institutions class last year.

However, I can suggest looking at the Geneva Conventions, since that is the touchstone, as far as I know, of laws governing conflicts. A cursory examination of the Rome Statute shows that the ICC _has_ a definition after all. I can’t remember if that was in the copy of the Statute I read for Legal Institutions last year, but I don’t think it was.

Anyway, those two should provide the basic list, and probably contain extensive definitions, although bear in mind that construing the definitions is a fine legal art and even I would be, as a young law student, somewhat hesitant to attempt to construe them and claim that my understanding of the terms is equal to that of sitting judges who have had decades of legal experience in this field.


Just a comment on the Guantanamo prisoners – there are two Australian citizens, one, David Hicks, has been abused by the guards as reported here. It’s fairly typical that US citizens are unaware of this. I hope our Prime Minister is voted out and a new labor government withdraws our troops from Iraq. I hope sincerely the US voters get rid of Bush for all our sakes. This whole situation sickens me. Less debate and more action is needed.


I too hope that somewhere, sometime along the line Bush and his administration receive the punishment they deserve. An international trial has a certain appeal, but I’d settle for an impeachment.

It makes me sick sometimes to think of the unholy chaos they have released and to then think that Bush may walk away from this unrebuked and unchanged and unmoved, as he has done from so many other messes in his life.

To say it is frustrating is to grossly understate my feelings.


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