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Firas Al-Atraqchi: Saddam Must be Tried in Iraq

Saddam Must be Tried in Iraq


By Firas Al-Atraqchi

"Ladies and Gentleman, we got him," said L. Paul Bremer at a news conference, confirming eight hours of speculation that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had been captured. Video footage of US medics administering care to Saddam prove beyond a shadow of a doubt, beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is indeed Saddam that has been captured. His eye movements, his facial expressions, and his mannerisms are those of the former Iraqi leader.

One chapter of Iraq's history may now be closed, but several others have now opened.

One must not lose sight of the tribulations plaguing Iraq. Sectarian violence still threatens to rip the country apart. Infrastructure repairs are a long way off and the economy is still in disarray and offer a daunting task. Lack of electric power, fuel shortages, lack of adequate water supplies, insufficient supplies to hospitals that are poorly equipped, lack of security in the streets (rise in rape and abductions), and a rise in infant mortality still plague the country and must be the first responsibility of a new locally-elected government.

Re-politicization of the country must be rooted in the will of the Iraqi people. Elections must be held as soon as feasible. Any delay will just add to the disenfranchisement of the Iraqi people. Questions remain: will Iraqis get a one-person-one-vote democracy, or something less democratic in nature? Will the Shiites see their political aspirations realised? Will the Kurds move to secede from an independent, Baathist-free Iraq?

The Iraqi resistance is not linked to Saddam directly, say regional experts. Bremer has admitted that it is not likely that the resistance will subside in the short term. How the US soldiers conduct themselves in dealing with the Iraqi people (house demolitions, enforced confinement, collective punishment, collateral damage) will determine, partially, the political and security situation in the country.

The above must be addressed. The capture of Saddam is indeed spectacular, but Iraq is hardly a success story. The threat of civil war looms ever great; political forces in Iraq are likely to speed up their mobilization as they vie for a greater slice of government control.

Saddam must be tried in Iraq, not in the Hague and not in Washington. Saddam's actions harmed, hurt, and destroyed entire sectors of Iraqi society. It is to them and to their victims that he must answer. It is to the Iraqis who died in the Iraq-Iran war, in the foolish invasion of Kuwait, and in the cat-and-mouse play with the UN during the 1990s that he must be held responsible.

However, mistakes are still perilously close. Saddam must be tried in Iraq. To do otherwise, would rob the Iraqi people of a sense of justice they have waited far too long for. Iraqis will feel their grievances were never really part of the game and that Saddam's trial in the Hague, or elsewhere, is a political gambit for US and UK politicians.

ENDS

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