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Under a Cloud of Irony
The new, free
Iraq may officially be in the hands of a former
THE ironies are flowing thicker
than crude oil in Iraq these days.
First, the United States surreptitiously turns
over nominal control of the country to a government
appointed by outsiders while leaving real power in
the hands of U.S. military commanders and calls it
an exercise in democracy.
And although the interim prime minister is a
former member of Saddam Hussein's Baath
Party who later conducted anti-Hussein terrorist
operations on behalf of the CIA -- operations in
which innocent Iraqi civilians may have been killed
-- his anointment as leader of a "free Iraq" is
being hailed by President Bush as a great
victory in the war on terror.
to several former intelligence officials
interviewed by The New York Times this
month, the political group run by interim Prime
Minister Iyad Allawi (right) in the
1990s, but financed by the CIA, "used car bombs and
other explosive devices smuggled into Iraq" in an
attempt to sabotage and destabilize Hussein's
With such a record, it is perhaps not strange
then that Allawi, who built his exile organization
with defecting Iraqi military officers, is already
proclaiming the need to delay elections scheduled
impose martial law. On Monday Bush said coalition
forces would support such a call for martial law,
presumably enforced by U.S. troops.
Allawi is also demanding that Hussein be put
under his government's control and tried quickly by
an Iraqi court -- probably a strategic move to
seize Hussein's strongman crown directly.
When Allawi was first picked for the prime
minister post through an opaque selection process
ostensibly run by a U.N. representative, former CIA
Iran-Iraq analyst Kenneth Pollack justified
the agency's earlier use of Allawi as a terrorist
with the comment "send a thief to catch a thief."
But the question now is: Do you send a thief to
build a democracy?
There has been little media follow-up to reports
in early June
Allawi's work for the CIA amounted to much more
than trying to win hearts and minds. Yet what we do
know is damning enough. In 1996, one of Allawi's
top officers and his group's self-proclaimed chief
bomb maker detailed the mechanics behind Allawi's
murderous actions in a videotape subsequently
obtained by a British newspaper, The
Independent. On the tape he even expresses
annoyance that the CIA had shortchanged him on one
job, a car bombing, allegedly paying only half the
According to one of The New York Times'
sources, Allawi's group, the Iraqi National Accord,
was the only exile group the CIA trusted to unleash
violence inside Iraq under the agency's direction.
In those days, car bombings in Baghdad were thought
to be a good thing, according to one U.S.
intelligence officer who worked with Allawi. "No
one had any problem with sabotage in Baghdad back
then," he said, adding, "I don't think anyone could
have known how things could turn out today." Now,
Allawi has made control over his old rival Hussein
a loud demand of his appointed government, which
sits in uneasy reliance on 135,000 U.S. troops and
must answer to the world's largest American embassy
in all important matters.
Such a plan must be tempting for the United
States. A show trial under Allawi would be designed
to get Hussein out of the way as quickly and
quietly as possible, which might save the U.S. some
embarrassment. After all, in an open, unbiased
trial the old dictator, if he still has his wits
about him, could talk about his cooperation with
the Reagan and Bush administrations during the
1980s, when he committed many of the
alleged crimes --
including the use of poison gas -- for which he
will be brought to trial.
might even discuss his two visits back then with
Donald H. Rumsfeld (right). But even
though a fair public trial might prove
uncomfortable for our government, Hussein is a
prisoner of war captured by the United States, and
Washington is responsible for his treatment under
international standards. We have no right to turn
him over to the tender mercies of a former
CIA-financed arch-rival. That is simply an
abdication of responsibility that violates
There is no good argument for not trying Hussein
under international law, as has been done with
former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. A
fair public trial would reveal the crimes of
Hussein as well as the machinations of those U.S.
officials and agencies that aided him.
Robert Scheer writes
a weekly column for The Times and is coauthor of
"The Five Biggest Lies Bush Told Us About Iraq"
(Seven Stories Press/Akashic Books,
2003).Copyright 2004 Los
newspaper claims that Israeli premier Ariel
Sharon and Mossad agents were first to view
captured President Saddam Hussein |
issued by the underground Iraqi Baath Party on
the arrest of President Saddam Hussein
Not the US version:
Sunday Express (London) reports
that Saddam Hussein was captured by US troops
only after he had been taken prisoner by Kurdish
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