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Jewish World Review Jan. 5, 2003/ 11 Teves, 5763

Mark Steyn

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Don't leave Saddam trial to the 'jet set' |
Well, it's January, December's come and gone, so let's add up the final score:

Coalition of the Willing: Saddam captured, Gadhafi neutered.

The ''International Community'': Milosevic elected to Parliament in Belgrade.

Yes, indeed. On the last weekend of the year, Slobo won a seat in Serbia's legislature, as did his fellow "alleged'' (as Wes Clark would say) war criminal Vojislav Seselj, and Seselj's extreme nationalist Serbian Radical Party won more seats than anybody else.

But hang on a minute. Aren't Milosevic and Seselj in jail at the Hague and facing the stern justice of an ''international tribunal''? Why, yes. Slobo's been on trial for two years already, and they're only just wrapping up the prosecution. Among the witnesses was, of course, Gen. Clark, who couldn't resist boasting that he's the only Democratic presidential candidate ''who's ever faced a dictator down. I'm the only one who's ever testified in court against one.'' Au contraire, right now it looks like Slobo is the only Serbian parliamentary candidate who's ever faced a U.S. general down.

Anyone who goes goo-goo at the mention of the words ''international tribunal'' — i.e., Clark, John Kerry, Howard Dean and the rest of the multilatte multilateralist establishment — should look at what it boils down to in practice. Even though the court forbade Milosevic and Seselj from actively campaigning in the Serbian election, they somehow managed to. In other words, ''international law'' is unable to enforce its judgments even in its own jailhouse.

But it's worse than that. One reason why Slobo is popular again in Serbia is precisely because of the ''international'' trial. In 2000, when the strongman of the Balkans was swept from power, he was a discredited figure, a European pariah reviled as a murderous butcher. After two years of legal hair-splitting at the Hague, he's all but fully rehabilitated. True, Slobo, conducting his own defense, has been a shameless showboater, but not half as shameless as the absurd prosecutor Carla del Ponte. It's received wisdom among battered Serb democrats that every clumsy indictment of Ponte's drove Slobo's poll numbers higher. Had Serbs prosecuted Milosevic, that would have been one thing. But once it became Euro-preeners prosecuting Serbs, an understandable resentment set in.

This is the justice Clark wants for Saddam Hussein. If he gets his way, Saddam seems a shoo-in for the Iraqi presidential election circa 2009. But that seems to be the way of Clark, the great hero of small inconclusive wars in which the United States has no vital interest and, even if it did, Clark would be pleased to ignore it just to demonstrate his multilateral bona fides.

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It's not just him, of course. Up to the moment Saddam popped out of the spider-hole, the international jet set's line was that deplorable as Saddam's rule might be — gassing Kurds, feeding folks feet-first into industrial shredders, etc. — it was strictly an internal matter for the Iraqi people. The minute the old boy was in U.S. custody, the international jet set's revised position was that gassing Kurds, feeding folks into industrial shredders and so forth were crimes against the whole world and certainly not a matter for the Iraqi people. Instead, we need a (drumroll, please) United Nations-mandated international tribunal.

This is what the Zionist neocons would call chutzpah.

President Bush understands that the transnational establishment's interest in this case is not to pass judgment on Saddam but, by reasserting its authority, to pass judgment on America — on its illegitimate war, illegal occupation, barbaric justice system, etc. The argument of the trannies is that only a Hague tribunal can confer ''legitimacy'' — ''legitimacy'' being one of those great sonorous banalities that are at the heart of what's wrong with the international order, which, in the main, confers the mantle of legitimacy on a lot of ''illegitimate'' thugs. Indeed, two years of a farcical trial of the Hague seem to have conferred ''legitimacy'' mainly on the rehabilitated Slobo.

But Saddam has been toppled, and Gadhafi has surrendered up his own WMD program to the Brits and Yanks. So the fellows in need of ''legitimacy'' right now are the international institutions presided over by Kofi Annan and Co., who look, to put it at its mildest, utterly irrelevant and, at its worst, the pathetic patsies of Slobo and his ilk.

So the only strategic significance of Saddam's trial is whether the transnational establishment gets rehabilitated or sidelined. The argument in favor of an international tribunal is that a full accounting of Saddam's crimes will be made before the whole world. Really? Anyone who doesn't know about the mass graves and torture in Baathist Iraq is someone who's chosen not to. A lot of people fall into that camp — for example, weapons inspector turned Saddamite shill Scott Ritter. ''The prison in question was inspected by my team in January 1998,'' he told Time magazine, a propos one grisly institution. ''It appeared to be a prison for children — toddlers up to pre-adolescents — whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually, I'm not going to describe what I saw there, because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace.''

Ritter is rare in the extent of his depravity: He saw the horror close up and opted to turn his back. But in the interests of ''peace,'' many others in the transnational elites did the same from a safe distance. It's too late for them to claim that the stuff they covered up now needs a full airing in an international court.

As for the legal niceties, unless a dictator is canny enough to negotiate a transition to democracy, his subsequent trial will inevitably be as much about politics as justice. But then, letting dictators swank around the courtroom in a 10-year dinner-theater run of ''Perry Mason'' has nothing to do with justice either.

To allow the transnational jet set to reclaim Saddam would be to reward them for their indifference to Iraqi suffering. Let's get on with it in Baghdad. A trial next summer, conviction in the fall, and (to forestall accusations it's all timed for the U.S. elections) execution deferred until a day or two after Bush's inaugural address in January.

Of course, I hasten to add that's only if the mass murderer is found guilty.

I'm sorry, my mistake. I mean, the alleged mass murderer.

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JWR contributor Mark Steyn is North American Editor of The (London) Spectator and the author, most recently, of "The Face of the Tiger," a new book on the world post-Sept. 11. (Sales help fund JWR). Comment by clicking here.

12/30/03: Doers and disparagers
12/23/03: Spates of denial
12/16/03: Defiant? He's a Ba'athist who won't bath
12/10/03: Rummy speaks the truth, not gobbledygook
12/02/03: War on terror can't stop with Iraq
11/24/03: It's not Vietnam and Bush is no Kennedy
11/12/03: There is a Cold War between the US and the EU
10/28/03: Muslim paranoia: Enemies made us impotent!

10/28/03:The CIA scandal is important not because it put an agent's life at risk — it didn't — but because it shows that US Intelligence is either obstructive or inept
10/08/03: Palestinian death cult
09/29/03: Bring on the capitalists
09/22/03: Here comes General Clark, his policies will follow shortly
09/17/03: Don't wait for government protection
09/11/03: Predators aren't looking for peace
09/02/03: This is Hillary's moment — You go, girl!
08/29/03: There are now calls for greater UN involvement in Iraq. Thatís the last thing the country needs
08/26/03: There's only one hyperpower — so everything is our fault
08/04/03: The White Man's Burden
07/29/03: Bill Clinton got this right
06/25/03: It's Mullah time!
05/07/03: What counts is what a guy does when he's not talking
04/30/03: It's named UNSCAM for a very good reason!
04/14/03: Movers and shakers have moved on to the next 'disaster'
03/25/03: Give Saddam credit
03/18/03: 'Eurabia' will have to look after herself
02/27/03: Death wish
02/19/03: The curtain will come down on the peaceniks
02/10/03: Let's quit the UN
02/03/03: Columbia reality-check
01/29/03: Go forth and multiply
01/09/03: America's fake identity crisis
12/31/02: GOP underperforms, but Dems are laughable
11/26/02: A bombing pause --- for 12 months!?
10/30/02: Stop making excuses for Muslim extremists
09/27/02: The more inventively you try to ''explain'' the Islamist psychosis as a rational phenomenon to be accommodated, the more you risk sounding just as nutty as them
08/23/02: Battered Westerner Syndrome inflicted by myopic Muslim defenders
08/09/02: Friends in low places
08/02/02: Armageddon out of here
07/26/02: Enjoy the ''scandal'' while you can, lads
07/16/02: Arafat is toast; Bush knows it --- so why doesn't the rest of the world?
07/10/02: Hey, FBI: So, denial really is a river in Egypt!
06/20/02: A fight to the finish
06/11/02: Rock, royalty a good match
05/31/02: Unless we change our ways ... the world faces a future where things look pretty darn good
05/24/02: Sweet land of liberty: Britain and Europe have free governments, but only in the US are the people truly free
05/14/02: Extreme hypocrisy in the pursuit of 'peace' is ...
05/10/02: The home office of extremism
05/01/02 Slipping down the Eurinal of history: France, the joke is on you
04/23/02 It's time to snap out of Arab fantasy land
04/16/02 Mideast war exposes 'ugly Europeans'
04/09/02 Arafat has begun his countdown to oblivion. Now it's time to crush the Palestinian uprising
03/27/02 The good, the bad and the Gallic shrug
03/20/02 Grand convocation of the weird

© 2002, Mark Steyn