Monday, June 25, 2007

Chemical Ali sentenced to hang


Saddam's murderous cousin gets what's coming to him, along with two others.

The most notorious of the defendants, Ali Hassan al-Majeed -- a former general known as "Chemical Ali" -- received five death sentences for ordering the use of deadly mustard gas and nerve agents against the Kurds during the so-called Anfal campaign. ...

Also sentenced to hang were Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, 66, former armed forces deputy chief of operations, and Sultan Hashim al-Tai, 67, a former defense minister.

Several more defendants were involved as well:

Two of the defendants in the Anfal case received multiple life sentences: Farhan al-Jubuiri, a former military intelligence commander in northern Iraq, and Sabir al-Duri, former director of military intelligence. In reading the verdict, Uraibiy said the court took into consideration Duri's expressions of regret.

Taher al-Ani, 70, the former governor of the northern city of Mosul, was acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

Meanwhile, 423(!!!) former officials remain under investigation in the Anfal case. And that's just one massacre out of several that could lead to charges.

Human Rights Watch criticized the fairness of the trial, as they did the trial of Saddam. Those concerns need to be taken seriously, because a fair and impartial judicial system is a crucial element for a unified, peaceful Iraq.

That said, it's not like there was any doubt about Ali's guilt. Such concerns are important in this case more for precedent and setting an example than for any real worry that there was a miscarriage of justice. Nonetheless, the concerns are real, and should be taken into account on appeal. Not necessarily for Ali, but for the less cut-and-dried cases that are certain to follow. If the courts cannot be counted on to provide a fair trial in a case where the defendant's guilt is beyond doubt, it cannot be trusted to deliver fair verdicts in murkier circumstances.

But I shed no tears for Ali.

And for pro-war hawks who will trumpet this as justification of the invasion: It's not. It's a terrible idea's silver lining, just like Saddam's ouster. Their apprehension and trial was not worth anything close to $500 billion, 3,500 American lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi ones; the cost-benefit analysis isn't even close. They simply demonstrate that few human endeavors are wholly evil or wholly good.

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