So Saddam Hussain is to be hanged. And who has pronounced the judgment? A Court appointed, for all practical purposes, by the US Government. To say that Iraq has a ?sovereign government? is a cruel joke. It has nothing of the kind. Iraq is an occupied territory. The United States runs it. To say that the United Nation recognises Iraq'ssovereignty is and insult to the very concept of sovereignty.
How can an occupied country ever be described as sovereign? Apart from that, everybody knows that the United Nations itself is a body many of whose members are under constant arms-twisting by the United States and do not have the courage to stand up to the only Super Power. In the circumstances, what the United Nations does is totally irrelevant. The crime that Saddam Hussain reportedly committed relates to the killing of 148 people during wartime in the 1980s. Only recently, 83 persons were killed in an attack on a religious seminary in a village in Bajaur Agency, close to the Pakistan-Afghan border, by a US Predator drone. The charge is that the seminary?madrassah?was training terrorists.
Musharraf claims that the madrassah was bombed under his orders. Can he be sentenced to death by hanging for that reason? Even if the presumption is true- and Indians would be glad to hear that?according to western concepts, as effort must first have been made to send and armed force, if necessary, to capture the seminary and arrest its inmates and have them tried in a court of law. India may be happy that 83 prospective terrorists have been killed, but what law was either Pakistan or the United States observing? May it be remembered that the 148 people killed, allegedly according to orders issued by Saddam Hussain was at a time when he was a close friend and ally of both the United States and Britain.
If Washington is so conscious of Human Rights and Law, why didn'tit take prompt action against Saddam then? There can'tbe two sets of laws, one for friends and another for friends-turned-foes. This is making a mockery of justice. If killing is not justified, what, pray, is the excuse given by the US in mounting a vicious and terrible attack on North Vietnam which had committed no crime except to go communist? The war against Vietnam resulted not in just 148 people killed, but in millions killed and wounded. President Nixon is dead but can the world demand that Henry Kissinger be hanged?
Is power everything? Can earlier US Presidents and their Secretaries of State starting with Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles and ending with first Robert McNamara and later Henry Kissinger be dammed they should?as criminals? Isn'tthere no end to hypocrisy? The United States had no business to attack Iraq in the first place. If Washington suspected Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)they must have been supplied by the Americans themselves to help Saddam in his eight-year long war with Iran. It was an unwarranted war and cost both Iran and Iraq thousands of lives.
But why go to Iran and Iraq? The United States knows perfectly well that Pakistan has been?and continues to be?guilty of supporting the ISI in its murderous activities especially against Jammu and Kashmir, that have cost thousand of lives. Why hasn'tthe US taken any action against Musharraf? Is it okay for Musharraf to encourage and promote violence in a neighbouring state and wrong for Saddam Hussain to take action against dissident rebels in his own country? And the United States, in any event, can'thave much claims for observing Human Rights considering that as late as the early 1950s, blacks were treated with utter disdain, especially in the south?
Has anybody forgotten Martin Luther King Jr? The trial of Saddam Hussain may be described as fair by America'schamchas, but it is well to remember that neither the President of the United States nor his Secretary of States have been held responsible for the massacre of innocent Vietnamese in My Lai. And it is equally interesting to note that former US Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, one of Saddam'slawyers, called the Saddam Trial a travesty and was ordered ejected from the court room by the presiding judge. What sort of fair trial was he holding? Three defence lawyers of Saddam were also assassinated during the course of the lengthy trial and several witnesses were obviously coached to say the things they did. This is hardly a fair trial. It has proved itself to be anything but. Indeed, the sentence passed on Saddam applies just as much to George Bush and to Tony Blair, incidentally, is opposed to the death penalty ?whether it is for Saddam Hussain or anyone else?.
Margaret Beckett, UK'sForeign Secretary, too, has been quoted as saying that Britain ?does not approve of the death penalty, never has, and always tries to persuade others not to use it?. The best way for Britain to persuade the US not to enforce the death penalty is to withdraw all its forces from Iraq. That should teach Bush a lesson. India has not condemned the death sentence unequivocally. It has hinted that there might be an element of the Victor'sjustice in the court'sverdict. That is quite true. But to say that New Delhi is not Amnesty International, as some hold, is pure nonsense.
Iraq, incidentally, has always been practically the only Muslim state to stand up for India on the Jammu and Kashmir issue. India is not concerned with the Shia-Sunni conflict. That is for the Iraqis themselves to resolve. As one can see it, it was the United States, in the first place, that attacked Iraq for the wrong reasons. The US, in the circumstances, cannot simultaneously be all three: Judge, Jury and Prosecutor. And India must make that clear. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is perfectly within his rights to say what he said, which is the truth, though it may not be palatable either to the US or to certain sections of Iraq'spopulation.
What Mukherjee said is not ?high-minded? moralism as some sections of the English media in India have described it. The first thing to do for the US is to get out of Iraq, lock, stock and baggage and leave Iraqis to determine their own fate, even if that means ending up in a civil war. India will keep out of it. But the UPA government is perfectly right when it doubted the validity of the judgment. It need not be apologetic. Are we such a weak nation that we have to be eternally frightened at the very thought of telling the truth as it is or offending the United States? We have stood up in the past and we should do so now. Delhi must slow that it has its own mind. Iraq will understand.