Sunday, December 31, 2006

Bush Saying "Fair Trial" Doesn't Make it True.

Saddam Hussein had barely stopped dangling when George W. Bush revved up the lie machine.

His idea of justice is “rough justice” or “frontier justice” or “the King’s justice,” whereby if he calls it justice, it is justice. If he deems it a fair trial, it is a fair trial.

“Today, Saddam Hussein was executed after receiving a fair trial,” he said in the very first sentence of his rushed statement, a claim Bush repeated, in case you missed it, in his second sentence and then again in his third.

But Bush, as powerful as he is, does not make a trial fair by declaring it fair.

The world’s two leading human rights organizations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, both came to a different conclusion from Bush.

Amnesty International called the trial “deeply flawed and unfair.” It was “a shabby affair,” said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

Amnesty International cited “the grave nature of the flaws,” which included the following:

“The court failed to take adequate measures to ensure the protection of witnesses and defense lawyers, three of whom were assassinated during the course of the trial,” it said. “Saddam Hussein was also denied access to legal counsel for the first year after his arrest, and complaints by his lawyers throughout the trial relating to the proceedings do not appear to have been adequately answered by the tribunal.”

Nor were they adequately answered by the appeals court.

“The execution appeared a foregone conclusion, once the original verdict was pronounced, with the Appeals Court providing little more than a veneer of legitimacy for what was, in fact, a fundamentally flawed process,” said Smart.

Human Rights Watch concurred.

It called Saddam’s trial “deeply flawed,” and termed his execution “a significant step away from respect for human rights and the rule of law in Iraq.”

Among the “serious flaws” that Human Rights Watch noted: “failures to disclose key evidence to the defense, violations of the defendants’ right to question prosecution witnesses, and the presiding judge’s demonstrations of bias.”

Yes, Saddam Hussein was a mass murderer on a colossal scale. But even he deserved a fair trial.

The flaws didn’t bother Bush, though, who crowed about “bringing Saddam Hussein to justice.”

This is one of Bush’s favorite constructions. Whenever the United States kills someone Bush believes is a terrorist, he says that person has been “brought to justice,” whether that person was killed by a bomb, by an extrajudicial killing, or by a kangaroo court, as in the case of Saddam.

In his 2002 State of the Union address, Bush vowed to “bring terrorists to justice.”

In his 2003 State of the Union address, he said, “One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice.”

When U.S. troops killed Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay, Bush said they were “brought to justice.”

But is this truly “the meaning of American justice”?

What Bush reveres is not our great system of jurisprudence, which guarantees due process and habeas corpus. He’s proven that with his insistence on the right to torture and with his Military Commissions Act, which allows the use of evidence that was beaten out of the defendant and which deprives any noncitizen whom Bush deems an enemy combatant of the right even to see a judge.

Bush has no appreciation of “the meaning of American justice.”

His idea of justice is “rough justice” or “frontier justice” or “the King’s justice,” whereby if he calls it justice, it is justice. If he deems it a fair trial, it is a fair trial.


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