US Armed Forces capture Saddam, give him free medical inspection, release tape of same to world. Is an international trial forthcoming? Don’t hold your breath.

I suppose one could argue that the forces opposing US occupation in Iraq are somewhat weakened by Saddam’s capture and that those events in turn make safer our troops on the ground there. The soldiers I saw interviewed didn’t think so, and I’m inclined to agree. A Santa-lookalike hiding in a one-room spider hole hardly appears to be the guiding light behind attacks on our military, members of whom continue to die almost daily.

Certainly no reasonable person in the US believes we’re safer here on the home front. Saddam was and always has been a bizarre Bush fetish of a red herring in the war on terrorism. Just as no weapons of mass destruction have been found, neither was there ever any link between Saddam and Bin Laden. This Iraq debacle has been a major waste of time and resources (not to mention utterly illegal).

In the aftermath of Saddam’s capture, nobody in their right mind is sorry that the man is in custody. Some, however, are a little over the top in their desire to bring the ex-Iraqi strongman to justice. For example, today’s “Innocent Until Proven Guilty” award goes to presidential aspirant Joe Lieberman who said, and I quote,

This evil man has to face the death penalty.  The international tribunal in The Hague cannot order the death penalty, so my first question about where he’s going to be tried will be answered by whether that tribunal can execute him.  If it cannot be done by the Iraqi military tribunal, he should be brought before an American military tribunal and face death.

In other words, Joe doesn’t care where Saddam is tried or how the fair the trial is as long as Saddam is dead at the end of it all. Time to switch political parties, Joe, to the Likkud.

The initial furor over where Saddam will be tried is silly. The US will never allow an international court of any kind anywhere near this trial. Why? Aside from the fact that most civilized nations of the world have outlawed the death penalty as immoral and barbaric, there’s another very important reason.

Imagine for a moment you’re Saddam’s defense attorney, a thoroughly unenviable task except that you’ll probably gain both fame and fortune before your client heads to the gallows. What’s the first argument you make for your client in an international court? I think the answer is “I was just following the orders I received from the CIA.” That sounds ridiculous, I know, but Saddam was our puppet through the late 1980s and it’s well-known that we supplied him with weaponry in the war against Iran. That type of defense on an international stage would be utterly damning to US credibility. Anything and everything through that time he can, with some justification, point to the United States as a co-conspirator. The US would have to be dumber than a barrel full of monkeys to let this dirty laundry get hung out, so we’ll confine the trial to Iraq and to Iraqi-related torture charges (of which there are ample number) and let his own people take him down.

That doesn’t, of course, make us any less complicit in many of the heinous things he’s done.