Judgment Day

Ten days from now will be a day of destiny for Saddam Hussein. It’s when the trial to determine who was responsible for one of the many episodes of mass murder of civilians that marked his rule is due to begin. The ex-dictator will stand in the dock for the first time.

The Iraqi government has announced that Saddam’s trial by a special tribunal will start on October 19 in Baghdad, where he will face charges relating to the massacre of 146 Shias in the village of Dujail in 1982. If convicted he faces execution by hanging.

How is he shaping up for it?

Saddam Hussein is looking forward to his forthcoming trial and believes that he will be acquitted of all the charges laid against him, according to Iraqi officials.

“He still insists that he is the legitimate ruler of Iraq and that a foreign army came and deposed him,” said Hoshiyar Zebari, Iraq’s foreign minister. “He does not seem to realise that he lost the war and that since then we have had new elections and new leaders. Saddam’s frame of mind is that he will get off.”

According to Mr Zebari, Saddam intends to conduct his defence on the basis that he is still the legitimate ruler of Iraq, based on the referendum he held shortly before the war in which he claimed to have won 100 per cent of the vote.

Whichever lawyer persuaded him to run that defence might expect to encounter one or two logical difficulties.

“He claims everyone voted for him, but I am an Iraqi, and he did not get my vote,” said Mr Zebari.

Damn you, inconvenient reality – do we have a Plan B?

An alternative defence might be to argue that the US and UK were responsible for the mass murders because both countries sold weapons to Iraq. I know such an argument has potentially fatal problems overcoming the legal principle of agency and it isn’t going to get over the actual facts but it’s been a winner with the liberal commentariat in the West for years. It’s been repeated so regularly and so widely that people have convinced themselves it has real merit.

Such a shame for Saddam that representatives of that body of opinion won’t be sitting on the jury benches on the 19th.