Sunday, January 07, 2007

We are not going to be their legal nannies

Since the official film of Saddam Hussein’s execution that aired on Iraqi tv was so rapidly supplanted as the snuff-film-of-record by that cellphone footage, we’ve tended to ignore the fact that the bowdlerized version was dishonest, inaccurate and in short, a cover-up.

There is a lengthy piece of dictation article in the NYT, in which American military officials use the newspaper to distance themselves from Saddam Hussein’s execution. They pleaded with Maliki and his people to delay, to do it in a more seemly fashion, to take heed of international concerns, even to follow Iraqi law, but in the end they just had to turn him over. Sure, just as if he’d been acquitted, the Americans would have shaken his hand and let him walk free. Because our respect for Iraqi sovereignty is just that strong.

An unnamed American official is quoted saying that they thought the execution violated Iraqi law, but “the president [sic – he means Maliki] of their country says it meets their procedures. We are not going to be their legal nannies.” Indeed, why should Maliki have any less of a right to violate his country’s laws than Bush claims for himself every single day?

Here’s the damning detail, which I think hasn’t come out before: the Americans wanted a written statement (the Iraqis were very reluctant to put anything down on paper) from the chief judge of the highest court that the execution was lawful. He refused, so Maliki went instead to a body of Shiite clerics. Because, really, it didn’t look enough like an act of sectarian vengeance.

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