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1) International outcry over release of Hussein sons’ photos and video
2) Release of Hussein sons’ photos: Washington exposes its own barbarism
3) The killing of Hussein’s sons: the Nuremberg precedent and the
criminalization of the US ruling elite


International outcry over release of Hussein sons’ photos and video

By Chris Marsden and David Walsh
26 July 2003

The decision by the Bush administration to publish photos and allow the
videotaping of the dead bodies of Saddam Hussein’s two sons has provoked an
international outcry.

The photographs of the bullet-riddled bodies were released July 24 and
reproduced in publications worldwide. On July 25 US officials permitted
television cameras to film the corpses of Uday and Qusay Hussein lying on
metal trolleys in a tented military morgue. Morticians had touched up their
faces, mutilated by US weaponry in a gun-battle July 22 in Mosul, so that
they now resembled wax figures. A wound in Uday’s face had been repaired,
but journalists could still see a hole in the top of his head.

The barbarism of the US display of the corpses was heightened by the
condition of the bodies themselves. Agence France Presse noted, “In a
gruesome twist, Uday’s lower left leg bones, along with the metallic rod and
pins which had been attached to them after a 1996 assassination attempt left
him with severe injuries, had been removed and placed in a plastic bag.
Extensive dental records including X-rays were also provided and explained.”
US officials indicated that they had matched the serial number on a plate
implanted in Uday’s leg after the assassination attempt.

American cable television networks aired the videotape of the nearly-naked
corpses on Friday. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel was the fastest to
broadcast the grisly images, including a written “unedited video” message on
the screen. CNN was a little more cautious, showing images of the brothers’
upper bodies. “We are selecting certain photos that, for lack of a better
phrase, are less revealing than others,” asserted news anchorman Bill
Hemmer. MSNBC waited several minutes after announcing the videotape existed
before airing the images. One of its anchorwomen expressed open distaste for
the videotape.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared Thursday he was “glad” he made
the decision to release the gruesome photos of the Hussein brothers. “It’s
not the first time that people who are dead have been shown, [but] it’s not
a practice the United States usually engages in on a normal basis.” He
defended the action on the basis that the deceased were “two particularly
bad characters, and that it’s important for the Iraqi people to see them, to
know they’re gone, to know they’re dead.”

US officials raised a hue and cry when Arab television broadcast pictures of
American soldiers captured and killed by Iraqi forces during the invasion.
At the time Rumsfeld asserted the action violated the Geneva Conventions.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan defended the decision to publish
the photos of the Husseins, insisting that there was a “huge difference”
between that and the display of soldiers’ bodies for propaganda purposes,
which is barred by the Geneva Conventions.

Bert Hall, a professor of military history at the University of Toronto,
told the Toronto Star that the publication of the photos might well, in
fact, violate the Conventions, which forbid subjecting enemy prisoners or
fatalities to humiliation or ridicule. “Having your enemy’s head on a pike
is one way of showing you have won and your enemy has lost.... It’s a ritual
humiliation,” he commented.

Kamal Samari of Amnesty International asserted, “It is true that there is no
explicit prohibition in the laws of war to show pictures of dead bodies.
However, the spirit of the rules is that the dignity of everyone—dead or
alive, be they Iraqis, United States nationals, British or others—must be

Several factors played a part in the provocative decision by the US
government, apparently over the objections of military officials, to release
the ghastly photos and video footage. In the first place, it reflects the
primitive and savage mentality of Bush, Rumsfeld and company. These are
people to whom placing the head of an enemy on a pike on the gates of a city
is not an unthinkable act. Moreover, there is the question of the social
element within the US to whom they are appealing: the most backward,
degraded and inhumane layer of the population. The administration feels the
need to throw this layer some “red meat” from time to time to maintain its
political credibility.

There are no doubt as well more immediate political calculations in the
continuing release of gory images. The US news media in particular has been
more than happy to “change the subject,” from the revelations that the Bush
administration lied about evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to
the “good news” of the Husseins’ extermination. Moreover, the congressional
probe into the September 11 attacks released July 24, although essentially a
whitewash, raises troubling questions about long-standing relations between
Islamic terrorists and US intelligence operatives that the government would
like to bury.

While the American media generally transmitted the images of the dead
Hussein brothers without criticism, numerous condemnations appeared in the
world press.

The Daily Mail, a conservative British newspaper, denounced the decision to
publish photographs of the corpses. The Mail, a strong supporter of the
US-British war against Iraq, headlined its comment: “Is US sinking to Saddam
’s level?”

The paper wrote: “No one will weep for Uday and Qusay Hussein. They were
criminal savages who terrorised their own people without mercy. The world
and Iraq are cleaner and better without them. That said, should America have
published these horrific pictures? The fact is, the display of these
badly-disfigured faces will not prove one way or another whether they are
Uday and Qusay. But it is bound to enrage militant Muslims round the
world—and as yesterday’s murder of three American soldiers demonstrates, has
done nothing to placate anti-Western Iraqis. But more pertinently, is this
the way a civilised nation should behave? Isn’t there a hint of distasteful
triumphalism in exhibiting vanquished enemies as trophies, in a way
reminiscent of medieval barbarism?”

The Mail also carried substantial reports on the adverse reaction to the
publication of the photos. No other British paper made such a strident
criticism, but the Independent and the Guardian were forced to acknowledge
the unprecedented character of the decision to publish the bloody shots of
the head and torso of the Hussein brothers.

The Independent went through verbal gyrations in defending its decision to
publish the photos, while attempting to placate the disgust this has aroused
in the public and amongst its own readers. It sought to square the circle by
calling for restraint—on the part of the media!

The Independent headlined its comment, “Even these corpses should be treated
with some respect,” and argues: “The public display of corpses for
propaganda purposes is of course obnoxious, and the parading of the enemy
dead by the victors uncivilised, yet the case of Saddam Hussein’s sons is a
special one.”

With its usual cowardice the Guardian made no editorial comment on the
publication of the photos, but its report acknowledged that the decision to
do so had been taken by Rumsfeld and then noted: “However, there were clears
signs that the decision to release the photographs cut against the grain of
US military culture. Serving officers did not comment, but Colonel Dan
Smith, a retired military intelligence officer, said; ‘We have a tradition
of respecting the dead.... We objected to the showing of bodies of American
servicemen. It’s kind of ironic that we turn round and display dead folks
now.’” (BBC Washington correspondent Nick Bryant also reported that some
Pentagon generals found the release “repugnant.”)

Only then does the Guardian add its own critical comment: “The Bush
administration pointed out that publishing the photographs did not
contravene the Geneva conventions. But in March, when dead US soldiers were
shown by Iraqi television and Arab networks, Washington condemned the
broadcasts. General John Abizaid, now commander of US troops across the
Middle East, described them as ‘disgusting.’”

The German Frankfurter Rundschau criticized the publication of the photos:
“It is an issue of human dignity. Independent of the heinous deeds of which
Uday and Qusay were accused and which have been extensively proven true, the
publication of the photos is a violation of basic principles adopted by the
civilized world, partly on the basis of the American Constitution and also
by drawing on a general knowledge of history. This principle applied at a
time when pictures were distributed of the executed Nicolae Ceausescu; the
principle was also loudly raised by the American government for the lesser
incident when Iraqi television showed pictures of captured US war prisoners.
The same has to apply in this case because the principle is indivisible and
universally applicable.”

“To adapt to the morals and habits of antidemocratic forces,” wrote Die Zeit
in its online commentary, “contains the risk that in the long-term one would
no longer be distinguished from them in the eyes of the people and would
then just be regarded as another form of brutal rule to which one bows only
because it is stronger than the others. This leads however to a fatal logic
of domination: every hesitation to employ the most extreme measures would be
regarded in future as a sign of weakness.”

La Repubblica in Rome commented, “We simply cannot explain why above all in
America which holds high the principle of the protection of the individual
and ‘Western values,’ the authorities decided to use the mutilated bodies
for such a spectacle—entirely in the manner of the hunter who displays the
bodies of the animals he has shot on the roof of his car. The pictures of
the massacred sons of Saddam will not end a chapter in Iraq. Quite the
opposite. The Iraqi resistance lives. It could not have been led by these
two men on the run who had already barricaded themselves into the house of
relatives for weeks.”

The Swiss daily Le Temps observed, “The message that these photos are
intended to convey is that the American forces will not withdraw before the
guerrillas defying them for three months now.... But did it not occur to the
military photographers that ... the picture of the bearded Qusay, vaguely
reminiscent of the dead Che Guevara, might risk becoming a similar kind of
icon for Arab youth?” Journalist Robert Fisk reasoned along the same lines:
“The occupation authorities are pondering the idea of plastering the
pictures around Baghdad. Be sure, they will soon be used as martyrs’
photographs on posters with a somewhat different message. The work of the
Americans. The work of the occupiers.”

Doug Saunders writing in Canada’s Globe and Mail asked about the “grisly”
Hussein photos, “Are they proof, or pornography?... While U.S. President
George W. Bush and other Washington officials defended the release of the
photos yesterday as a necessary proof of success and resolve, others saw it
as distasteful gloating, and some pointed out that it was exactly the sort
of lurid display that the White House had condemned in the recent past.”

In contrast, Murdoch’s Australian splashed large photos of Hussein’s dead
sons on its front page on Thursday. Asked about the release of the pictures,
Australian Prime Minister John Howard declared that it was “very
understandable,” even if the action breached the Geneva Conventions. Despite
a number of outraged letters to the editor, none of the Australian media has
even commented on the Bush administration’s release of the photos, let alone
criticized it.

A variety of Arab television stations and newspapers criticized the US for
its double standard. Al-Arabiya television in Dubai, for example, commented,
“The world has not forgotten the campaign launched by the US when Iraqi TV
showed pictures of US and British prisoners and bodies of their soldiers
killed in Iraq; the world has not forgotten the angry statements made by US
and British officials referring exhaustively to the provisions of the Geneva
Conventions to stress what they saw as an inhumane action.... But all these
humanitarian principles seem to have been overlooked or dropped with the US
administration’s release of the pictures.”

And Al-Watan in Saudi Arabia: “Everyone remembers how the US and Britain
protested against the broadcasting of pictures of US POWs and those killed
when the two began their war against Iraq.... But now, Washington has given
itself the right to publish pictures, and no one is commenting on the
violation of international conventions.... This is a new world order based
on the confiscation of human rights.”

Ordinary Arabs interviewed by various news agencies echoed these criticisms.
Reuters cited the comment of Saad Brikan, a Saudi civil servant in Riyadh:
“Although Uday and Qusay are criminals, displaying their corpses like this
is disgusting and repulsive. America claims it is civilized but is behaving
like a thug.” Another civil servant, Hasan Hammoud, told the wire service,
“America always spoils its own image by doing something like this. What is
the advantage of showing these bodies? Didn’t they think about the
humanitarian aspect? About their mother and the rest of their family when
they see these images?”

Mohammed Emara, an Egyptian Islamist scholar, told Al Jazeera television
that displaying the bodies violated Islamic Sharia law. “Under Islamic law
this is rejected,” Emara said. “America wanted to boost the morale of its
soldiers so it resorted to this illegal act which is denounced by all
religions. America said during its war on Iraq that displaying pictures of
its soldiers who were alive was against the Geneva Convention, so what about
pictures showing disfigured bodies?”

Many Iraqis quoted in the media generally expressed satisfaction with the de
aths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, but questioned the propriety of the public
release of the degrading photographs. They also challenged the logic of the
Bush-Rumsfeld line that only supporters of the old regime were resisting the
American occupation.

A Reuters correspondent described the situation in Fallujah, a hotbed of
opposition: “Fallujah residents dismissed suggestions that their deaths
[Husseins’ sons’] in a gun battle in Mosul will ease the AK-47 and
rocket-propelled grenade attacks on U.S. occupation troops. In shops, street
corners and cafes in this anti-American town, Iraqis said only an end to the
occupation will stop the violence. ‘I don’t understand why the Americans say
it is the former Baath Party people who are killing their soldiers. All
Iraqis want to kill the Americans because of the way they act,’ said
Muhammad Abbas, who owns a shop that sells natural honey.”

Tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims flocked to the Iraqi city of Najaf on
Friday to hear Islamic cleric Moqtada Sadr denounce the US occupation as a
“terrorist” act. On a video broadcast Thursday a group of hooded gunmen,
describing themselves as Saddam’s Fedayeen militia, vowed to avenge the
deaths of the Hussein brothers. Five US soldiers have been killed since the
raid on Mosul July 22, and numerous attacks have occurred not resulting in



Release of Hussein sons’ photos: Washington exposes its own barbarism
By Barry Grey
25 July 2003
Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

The world was subjected to a gruesome and barbaric spectacle on Thursday
when the Bush administration released photographs of the mutilated corpses
of Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay, ambushed and killed by American
forces on July 22.

The American cable news networks wasted no time in displaying blowups of the
bloody heads and torsos of the dead men and beaming the images into homes
across the US and around the world. US government spokesmen and media
commentators could barely conceal their glee at the sight of the shattered
bodies, and their satisfaction over inflicting the pictures on a global

Nothing the World Socialist Web Site could say would be a more devastating
indictment of the degenerates who wield power in the US and their media
accomplices than their own self-exposure. The overwhelming majority of
people around the world, and especially in the US, will feel only revulsion
and shame at this exhibition of sadism.

Whatever one thinks of the deposed Iraqi ruler and his sons—who were
undoubtedly guilty of reprehensible crimes—the actions of the Bush
administration in slaughtering Uday and Qusay Hussein and then gloating over
their dead bodies demonstrate that the US ruling elite has nothing to learn
from its enemies when it comes to savagery and contempt for human life.

Bush administration notables such as Paul Bremer, the American proconsul in
Iraq, and Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, justified the release
of the photos as a supposed boon to the Iraqi people. The aim, they said,
was to convince the Iraqis that Saddam’s sons and right-hand men were well
and truly dead. This, they claimed, would reassure the people that the
Baathist regime was finished and would not return.

Not only that. It would, said Bremer, encourage ordinary Iraqis to come
forward with information about the whereabouts of other Baathists (above
all, although Bremer did not name him, the still-at-large Saddam Hussein)
and demoralize those who are waging a guerrilla war against the American
occupiers. Rumsfeld claimed at a joint press conference with Bremer that the
showing of the photographs would save the lives of American troops.

Speaking in Philadelphia, Bush exhulted, “Now, more than ever, the Iraqis
can know that the former regime is gone and is not coming back.” The
previous day, Bush stood alongside Bremer, Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs of
Staff Chairman Richard Myers and boasted that the killing of Hussein’s sons
meant the US military was “on the offensive” in Iraq” against a “few
remaining holdouts” of the Baathist regime.

To the extent that Bush and company truly believe such claims, they reveal
the degree to which they are suffering from political dementia and
self-delusion. The display of American arrogance and contempt for human
sensibilities—let alone deeply felt cultural feelings about the desecration
of the dead—will only fuel the hatred of the Arab masses for the invaders
and their quislings within Iraq. Indeed, even as the photos were being
broadcast, news reports were circulating about the death of three more
American soldiers in Iraq.

Despite all of the “winning the hearts and minds” blather, it was impossible
to conceal a more ruthless motive behind the release of the photos—namely,
to intimidate and terrorize the Iraqi people and show in the most graphic
manner possible who is “boss” in the new Iraq.

There are indications that the pressure to release the photos came primarily
from the White House and the civilian leadership of the Pentagon, headed by
Rumsfeld, not the military. On Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the
commanding Army officer in Iraq, told reporters the military was reluctant
to release the grisly images. He was doubtless concerned about the
ramifications of issuing the photos for the safety of American soldiers on
the ground.

But that evening, Rumsfeld told reporters, “There will be pictures
 released,” and on Thursday he claimed responsibility for the decision to
release them. Significantly, the photographs were issued by Bremer, an
appointee of the White House, not by the Army.

Militarism and criminality

The fact that those who wield power in Washington are blind to the mass
revulsion that will arise in response to the showing of these photos
highlights the insular and degenerate character of the American ruling
elite. These traits are concentrated in the man who sits atop the

The political calculations of Bush and his associates, such as his chief
adviser Karl Rove, are of the most crude and backward sort. It is no
exaggeration to say they reflect a criminal mentality.

Bush’s inner circle was intimately involved in the decision to massacre the
Hussein sons and release the photos of their corpses. They believed that
such a “success” would reverse the unfavorable political momentum of recent
weeks, which have seen a mushrooming controversy over administration lies,
mounting US casualties in Iraq, and a failing economy—the combined effect of
which has been reflected in plummeting poll numbers for Bush.

The New York Times reflected the thinking in the White House in a July 24
article headlined, “Deaths of Hussein’s Sons Allow Change of Subject.” The
author wrote: “With the deaths of Saddam Hussein’s sons on Tuesday in Iraq,
a bad political month for President Bush got palpably better.” The author
went on to write that “privately, advisers to the White House said the
development marked an important turn of fortune...” He quoted a top
Republican adviser as saying, “But the death of the Hussein brothers has a
tactical political meaning because it changes the subject from the 16 words
in the State of the Union.”

Role of the media

It will come as no surprise to those—the vast majority—who retain a sense of
humanity and have not lost their political bearings that the American media
played a particularly despicable role in these events. On Thursday morning,
Jerry Nachman, the editor-in-chief of MSNBC, the cable news network jointly
controlled by NBC and Microsoft, indulged in commentary with overtly racist
overtones while photos of the shattered corpses played across the TV screen.

Nachman justified the showing of the photos on the grounds that the US was
obliged to tailor its tactics to the mentality of the Arab people, who, he
declared, routinely witnessed public executions and had come to expect
public beheadings. He was seconded by the pundit of the moment, Con
Coughlin, author of a book entitled Saddam: King of Terror. Coughlin opined
that the display of the photos would “win respect for the Americans” in the
Arab world.

On CNN, moderator Wolf Blitzer opened up the telephone lines for comments
from the public, and was taken aback when the first caller denounced the
broadcast of the photos as a moral abomination, and reminded him that among
those killed in the American assault on Tuesday was the 14-year-old son of
Qusay Hussein, Mustapha. “Why don’t you show his photo too?” she demanded.

It should be recalled that during the US invasion, the Bush administration
publicly denounced the Arabic network Al-Jazeerah for displaying photos of
American soldiers killed and taken captive by Iraqi forces, calling it a
flagrant violation of international law. The White House demanded that US
media outlets refuse to broadcast or publish the photos, and the major media
meekly complied.

The contrast to the media’s current role in emblazoning the photos of the
dead Hussein brothers at the behest of the government only underscores its
corruption and subservience to political reaction and the Bush White House.



Release of Hussein sons’ photos: Washington exposes its own barbarism

The killing of Hussein’s sons: the Nuremberg precedent and the
criminalization of the US ruling elite
By David Walsh
24 July 2003
Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

There is little doubt that Uday and Qusay Hussein, the two sons of former
Iraqi president Saddam Hussein killed by US forces in a house on the
outskirts of Mosul July 22, were morally and politically reprehensible
figures. By all accounts, Uday Hussein, the elder, was a sexual predator and
murderer, while Qusay, as chief of Iraq’s notorious security apparatus, had
even more blood on his hands. Given the reactionary nature of the regime,
there is no reason to doubt the extent and depth of their crimes.

Having said that, both the means by which Hussein’s sons were liquidated and
the manner in which the killings were greeted by the American government and
media speak volumes about the nature of the US intervention in Iraq and the
character of the American political establishment.

On the plane of morality, there exist no fundamental differences between the
personnel of the Hussein regime and the Bush administration. The latter
operates in every sphere with unashamed lawlessness and violence. If there
is a difference in the degree of brutality against its own citizens, the
“restraint” exercised by the Bush forces is a matter of circumstance rather
than moral superiority over the killers and torturers of the ousted Iraqi

In the operation against the Hussein brothers the US military mobilized
hundreds of troops and dozens of vehicles and aircraft. The American forces
used automatic weapons, rockets, rocket-propelled grenades and tow missiles
against four individuals armed with AK-47 automatic rifles.

The assault had the character of a gangland slaying, the vengeful wiping out
of the cornered leadership of one gang by a more powerful and better-armed
outfit. An unnamed senior US military official in Iraq spoke like a Mafia
don, telling the UPI: “This is a very beneficial hit. They cannot feel
anything other than doom, since if we can take down these guys, we can take
down anybody.”

The exultation of US and British officials and the media over the killings
in Mosul—which included the death of the 14-year-old son of Qusay Hussein,
Mustapha—can only arouse revulsion. The pleasure that these circles take in
bloodletting and violence has a pathological character.

President George W. Bush boasted, “Now more than ever Iraqis can know the
former regime is gone and is not coming back.” Senator Ted Kennedy, the dean
of Democratic “liberals,” expressed satisfaction over the killings. “It’s
progress,” he said.

Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair was less restrained, declaring, “This is
a great day for the new Iraq.”

The American media was both jubilant and bloodthirsty. The New York Daily
News carried photos of Saddam Hussein and his two sons, with red crosses
placed over Uday and Qusay, and the words, “One to go.” Rupert Murdoch’s New
York Post, headlined its editorial “E-RAT-ICATED!”

The New York Times also celebrated the “hit” in Mosul, calling the
assassination of the Hussein brothers “the most encouraging news out of Iraq
in weeks.” The editors of the Washington Post called the deaths “very good
news indeed” and went on to claim that the killings “meant a serious blow to
the diehard resistance that has plagued the postwar administration.”

The notion that the murders in Mosul will halt Iraqi resistance to the US
colonial occupation of that country is wishful thinking of the most
politically blinkered variety. The American government and media
establishment apparently believes its own propaganda that the only
opposition to the US presence is being offered by “holdouts” of the old
regime, “terrorists” and “criminals.”

These people are so blind to social and political reality and so distant
from the Iraqi people that they cannot conceive of popular resistance that
rejects both the Ba’athist regime and foreign imperialist tyranny. Attacks
on US forces continued unabated July 23, as two more American soldiers died
and nine were wounded in attacks.

Why were they not taken alive?

Why was no effort made to capture Uday and Qusay Hussein alive? When asked
about this, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was in charge of the operation,
answered blandly, “Our mission is to find, kill or capture.”

A number of factors come into play. After weeks of US deaths and sagging
troop morale, American officials no doubt concluded that a murderous assault
would boost the spirits of the war constituency in the US and the psychotic
element in the military. In any event, they share the outlook of this
constituency and were in need of a bloodletting themselves. The pent-up rage
and vindictiveness, in the face of growing Iraqi resistance, expressed
itself in the extermination of Hussein’s sons.

More fundamentally, the capture of Uday and Qusay Hussein presented
politically troublesome problems. Putting the two former officials on trial
would have inevitably raised the issue of the entirely lawless character of
the war and occupation. The Hussein brothers would not have found it a great
challenge to turn the tables on their prosecutors and expose the hypocrisy
and criminality of the Anglo-American operation in Iraq.

We have the example of the ongoing Slobodan Milosevic war crimes trial in
The Hague, which has turned into a fiasco for the US and NATO. The former
Yugoslav president has already succeeded—during the prosecution phase of the
case—in using the tribunal to expose the machinations of the great powers.
Milosevic is expected to develop his arguments during the two years he will
now have to present his defense.

Beyond the immediate situation in Iraq, there is the equally vexing question
of the long-standing relationship between the US government, including some
of its current leading officials, and the former Hussein regime.

In February 2003 the National Security Archive released 60 documents
detailing the extent of the relations between the Reagan administration and
the Iraqi government during the 1980s. At the time of the Iran-Iraq war the
US, while claiming to be neutral in the conflict, supported Hussein against
the Islamic regime in Teheran. The Archive notes that Washington, through
direct and indirect means, provided financing, weaponry, intelligence and
military support to Baghdad “in accordance with policy directives from
President Ronald Reagan,” several years before the US restored formal
relations with Iraq in November 1984.

A highlight of the process of normalizing American-Iraqi relations was the
visit by then presidential envoy (and current Secretary of Defense) Donald
Rumsfeld to Baghdad in December 1983, where he held a 90-minute conversation
with Saddam Hussein. The US was well aware that the Iraqis were using
chemical weapons against Iranian forces and Kurdish insurgents. Rumsfeld
made no mention of the issue in this discussion. A secret memo sent to the
State Department reported that “Saddam Hussein showed obvious pleasure with
[the] President’s letter and Rumsfeld’s visit and in his remarks.”

As the New York Times reported in March 2003, the US and France were the
sources of Iraq’s biological weapons programs.

Iraqi officials have learned to their cost that whether a foreign leader is
feted by Washington or assassinated depends entirely on the circumstances.

The assassination of the Hussein brothers has further undermined the claim
that the US went to war to prevent the Iraqi regime from developing or using
weapons of mass destruction (WMD). According to Judith Miller in the July 23
New York Times, Qusay Hussein “was also responsible for overseeing Iraq’s
unconventional weapons. ... Stephen Black, a former inspector and chemical
weapons expert, said that by virtue of his control of the security services,
Qusay would have known, for instance, ‘whether they had chemical weapons,
how many they had, and where they were deployed.’ ... Finally, he said,
Qusay would have known not the exact hiding places but the ‘broad brushes of
the concealment policy and practices—whether Saddam had destroyed or hidden
weapons or the capability for just-in-time production, and what the goals of
this concealment were.’”

Obviously, by taking the decision to murder Qusay, the US government and
military expressed their total lack of interest in the existence of WMD and,
in effect, acknowledged that such deadly and dangerous weapons do not exist.

US role at Nuremberg

The bloodlust and lawlessness of the present-day political establishment is
placed in sharp relief by comparing its campaign of political assassination
in Iraq with the attitude of the US to the treatment of fascist mass
murderers captured at the end of World War II.

Less than sixty years ago, Washington opposed the summary execution of the
leaders of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan—who had committed crimes on a far
more massive scale than any carried out by the regime of Saddam Hussein—and
insisted they be placed on public trial and accorded all of the legal
privileges of due process. The vast contrast between then and now
underscores the break with any conception of democratic principles that has
occurred within the American ruling elite.

The surviving Nazi leaders were responsible for the deaths, by genocide and
war, of tens of millions, yet American officials were scrupulous in
demanding that they be captured alive and placed on trial, as they
eventually were, at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal in 1945-46.
Considerable pains were taken to ensure that the defendants not take their
own lives. The US was insistent that the defendants be provided with counsel
and access to evidence and that they be accorded the right to cross-examine

Dennis Hutchinson of the University of Chicago in a November 18, 2001
Chicago Tribune article cited the comments of Supreme Court Justice Robert
H. Jackson, chosen to represent the US in any post-war proceeding,
explaining the options he presented to President Harry Truman: “We could
execute or otherwise punish them [the Nazi officials] without a hearing. But
undiscriminating executions or punishments without definite findings of
guilt, fairly arrived at, would ... not set easily on the American
conscience or be remembered by our children with pride.” Jackson insisted
that the only appropriate “course is to determine the innocence or guilt of
the accused after a hearing as dispassionate as the times and horrors we
deal with will permit, and upon a record that will leave our reasons and
motives clear.”

Jackson feared that summary executions would erode the moral high ground
that the victorious powers enjoyed, according to Hutchinson, and that it was
necessary as well to document the precise nature of the Nazi crimes for
posterity. Jackson commented: “Unless we write the record of this movement
with clarity and precision, we cannot blame the future if in days of peace
it finds incredible accusatory generalities uttered during the war. We must
establish incredible events by credible evidence.”

In a comment directly relevant to the current international situation, both
in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jackson noted that the Allied triumph by itself did
not provide the victors with the legal sanction to punish German officials,
nor did Allied claims and proclamations. The guilt of the Nazi leaders had
to be proven in a court of law.

Jackson declared, “The president of the United States has no power to
convict anyone. He can only accuse. He cannot arrest in most cases without
judicial authority. Therefore, the accusation made carries no weight in an
American trial whatsoever. These declarations are an accusation and not a
conviction. That requires a judicial finding. Now we could not be parties to
setting up a formal judicial body to ratify a political decision to convict.
Then judges will have to inquire into the evidence and give an independent

In his opening statement to the Nuremberg tribunal, Jackson said, “That four
great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of
vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of
law is one of the most significant tributes that power has ever paid to

Jackson’s comments and actions were bound up with a certain fidelity to
democratic principles that still held sway within the American ruling elite.
They expressed as well a certain confidence in the prospects for US
capitalism and the post-war world. They came from a position of relative
political and economic strength.

The prevailing atmosphere in present-day Washington, which venerates
repression and murder, represents the collapse of any adherence to
democracy, at home and abroad. The Bush administration, which came to power
through fraud and thuggery, serves the interests of a crisis-ridden ruling
elite that can only hope to exercise power through the unrestrained use of
violence on a global scale.

The campaign of political assassinations in Iraq is a further demonstration
of the criminalization of the American ruling elite.

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