Untitled Document
Taking a Closer Look at the Stories Ignored by the Corporate Media
Donate | Fair Use Notice | Who We Are | Contact

NEWS
All News
9-11
Corporatism
Disaster in New Orleans
Economics
Environment
Globalization
Government / The Elite
Human Rights
International Affairs
Iraq War
London Bombing
Media
Police State / Military
Science / Health
Voting Integrity
War on Terrorism
Miscellaneous

COMMENTARY
All Commentaries
9-11
CIA
Corporatism
Economics
Government / The Elite
Imperialism
Iraq War
Media
Police State / Military
Science / Health
Voting Integrity
War on Terrorism

SEARCH/ARCHIVES
Advanced Search
View the Archives

E-mail this Link   Printer Friendly

IRAQ WAR -
-

In Defending Hussein, an American Contrarian Seeks to Set the Historical Record Straight

Posted in the database on Tuesday, December 06th, 2005 @ 12:12:57 MST (917 views)
by John F. Burns    The new York Times  

Untitled Document
Ramsey Clark, the U.S. attorney general under President Johnson, questioned the legitimacy of the Iraqi tribunal and safety of the lawyers.

Amid the wrenching testimony of a survivor who told of the atrocities wrought by Saddam Hussein's secret police, the presence of a former American attorney general on Mr. Hussein's defense team in the trial court on Monday seemed to be one of the day's less bewildering things.

Ramsey Clark, one of America's more renowned contrarians, made a mark notable even by his own singular standards on Monday when he delivered a lecture to the judges on the elements essential to a fair trial, including adequate physical protection for the defense lawyers. Earlier, flushed and indignant, Mr. Clark joined in a defense walkout that brought the trial to a temporary halt.

Iraq is "a country that I love, and in a very dangerous time," Mr. Clark, 77, said when the chief judge, Rizgar Muhammad Amin, relenting on his demand for a written submission from the former United States attorney general, gave him exactly five minutes to make his case. "There is a huge foreign military occupation, and even brother and brother are killing each other. This trial can either divide or heal, and so far it is irreconcilably dividing the people of Iraq."

In a two-hour interview on Sunday, Mr. Clark, a tall, gaunt figure, still with a Texas drawl after decades living in New York, set out a rationale for defending Mr. Hussein that would face little contest in American law schools. All men, he said, deserved a fair trial, even history's worst criminals. "Suppose Hitler had survived," he said. "It seems to me that it would have been absolutely critical to give him a fair trial, to let him call witnesses and cross-examine the hell out of them." He added, "If you don't do that, historical truth will be distorted."

Mr. Clark, son of a Supreme Court justice appointed by President Harry S. Truman, made his mark in the Johnson years with his role as a Justice Department official in drafting the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, liberal landmarks of the age. But for most of the last 40 years, he has steered an unconventional passage of his own. It has been a journey that has taken him on many a far-flung venture abroad, and across America, to embrace some of the era's most notorious figures.

It is a remarkable roll call, the men who have had him at their side at times of confrontation with America and its government: Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, Slobodan Milosevic of the former Yugoslavia, Charles Taylor of Liberia; and, at home, fringe figures like the Branch Davidian leader David Koresh, the right-wing gadfly Lyndon LaRouche, and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who is serving a life term in an American jail for his role in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993.

Then there is Mr. Hussein. The two men met in Baghdad for the first time during the Persian Gulf war in 1991, and at least four more times during the 1990's, when Mr. Clark opposed the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after Mr. Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and renewed when he failed to comply with United Nations inspector teams searching for unconventional weapons. Now, Mr. Clark is one of three foreigners - the others are a Qatari and a Jordanian - on Mr. Hussein's five-man defense team, and Mr. Clark finds himself explaining, as so often before, how a former Texas liberal finds himself working in support of a man as notorious as Mr. Hussein.

One thing that seems reasonably certain is that Mr. Clark is not in it for the money. In the interview on Sunday - at the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad's heavily fortified international zone, a short bus ride from the bombed-out former Baath Party headquarters that has been remodeled for the trial - Mr. Clark was asked about his fee for representing Mr. Hussein. Mr. Hussein's hidden wealth has been a matter of keen speculation since his son Qusay, on the eve of American troops' sweep into Baghdad in April 2003, sent a flatbed truck to Iraq's central bank to make off with steel trunks containing at least $1 billion in cash.

"Not a penny," said Mr. Clark, who added that he had taken no fee from many of his more contentious clients. What about the air fares on his shuttles between Baghdad and New York, where Mr. Clark lives with his wife, Georgia, in a Greenwich Village condominium? "Economy class," he said, $1,400 for the 13-hour leg from New York to Amman, Jordan, and a 500-mile additional leg to Baghdad. Mr. Clark made the journey twice in the last week, sandwiching legal work in New York between appearances at the Hussein trial. While the air fares have been paid with the Hussein legal team's funds, he said, he was paying for meals and taxi rides himself.

Mr. Clark said in the interview that beyond the personal right to justice, there was the need for a broken society like Iraq to find ways to heal its wounds. "If you don't give Saddam and the others a fair trial now, you're not going to get peace," he said. "Emotions are so inflamed, it would be hard to make things worse. So if there is a perception that the trial is simply war by other means, people will be deeply angered, and they'll say, 'You're perverting justice so as to destroy a man who is your political enemy.' "

But along with more scholarly arguments, Mr. Clark mixed personal observations that suggested a sympathy for Mr. Hussein that has little in common with the widely shared view of him as a psychopathic dictator - a view held both by his Iraqi victims and by many outside the country who have studied his quarter century in power. Mr. Clark still slips into calling his client President Hussein, a title the ousted ruler has asserted for himself in court. Mr. Clark also savors reminiscences about their long conversations over the years, including a four-hour meeting Mr. Clark attended between Mr. Hussein and his legal team on Sunday.

The meeting was held at or near Camp Cropper, the American detention center about a 20-minute drive from Baghdad International Airport, where Mr. Hussein and more than 100 of his top associates are held. Mr. Clark said they met in a bare auditorium, with American soldiers serving snacks of soda and chocolate-chip cookies, and that Mr. Hussein was eager for conversation. "When a man has been in extreme solitary confinement for nearly two years, any chance to talk to people would be exhilarating," Mr. Clark said. "He seemed quite mellow, and he read us two of his poems, about family life, about mothers and children, and about the possibility of violent death."

At his trial, Mr. Hussein is charged with crimes against humanity in the killing of 148 men and teenage boys from the Shiite town of Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an assassination attempt against Mr. Hussein there in 1982. But Mr. Clark suggested that Mr. Hussein's secret police had reason to act harshly against Shiite assassins who, he said, almost certainly had political links to Shiite-ruled Iran, then in the early stages of an eight-year war with Iraq. He compared the actions of Mr. Hussein's secret police with the muscular behavior of an American president's security detail.

"Just look at how our Secret Service works," he said. "I've been knocked down several times when they see some kind of threat." In any case, he said, he could not see how Mr. Hussein could be blamed for the killings. "He was the president of the country, he was in a war, he was a pretty busy guy," he said. "I can see this as a case of some of his juniors overreacting."

But much of Mr. Clark's energy in the interview went into linking his earlier legal career, fighting racial prejudice in the American south and apartheid in South Africa, with the seemingly crankier course he has taken since. In both periods, he said, he was engaged in confronting prejudice - in the case of Mr. Hussein, Colonel Qaddafi and others, prevailing against people "who have a habit of seeing the world in black and white, as good and evil, of demonized characters stripped of all humanity." That, he said, was what America had done to Mr. Hussein, and, in a way, to Mr. Clark.

"I know something about that, because I get a little bit of that demonization myself," he said.



Go to Original Article >>>

The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of Looking Glass News. Click the disclaimer link below for more information.
Email: editor@lookingglassnews.org.

E-mail this Link   Printer Friendly




Untitled Document
Disclaimer
Donate | Fair Use Notice | Who We Are | Contact
Copyright 2005 Looking Glass News.