David Chambers of the Middle East Institute offers some interesting insights into a how Saddam’s trial could be handled to maximize benefits. I got this via e-mail; I haven’t yet found it online.

“Second Chance: Trial Proof of Democracy”

The capture of Saddam Hussein on December 14, 2003, alone means nothing but, coupled with subsequent consequences, has the potential to impart far greater impact on the future of the country and the region. Saddam¹s pending trials, international and domestic, offer a second chance to translate the Coalition’s military victories into long-term unity and democracy in Iraq.

Saddam’s trials both abroad and at home in Iraq should take plenty of time and need to be broadcast daily and without censorship, so that the people of Iraq, the Middle East, and the world can see democracy at work. These trials have the potential to develop and coalesce a new Iraqi media. These events necessitate granting access to all media, including al-Jazeera and al-Arabiyya so they too can report on these trials. The US Broadcasting Board of Governors’ Middle East Television Network, scheduled to launch this month, has been presented with the perfect opportunity to gain credibility in the region -­ by broadcasting, C-SPAN style, the proceedings of Saddam Hussein’s trials, unedited and without commentary. Overall, a gamut of free media will publicize the facts of Saddam¹s actions while demonstrating the fairness of his trials. The result will facilitate the freedom of expression to discuss openly people’s interpretations of events. Free publication and free expression are key components of democratic freedom of the press. Free media covering Saddam’s trials represents a chance to prove to Iraqis and others that the democratic process can and will work in the Middle East.

Saddam’s trials need to employ the thoroughness of the Milosovic trials, as they provide a second chance to document clearly the guilt of Saddam and his cohorts. They should aim to bring about a national catharsis in Iraq, as trials did in South Africa. Saddam’s trials need to be made publicly, thoroughly, and transparently, so that both Iraq and international courts can mete out justice to the truly guilty.

Simultaneously, these trials offer a second chance to publicly exonerate those people who in the past chose to work within the Baathist government but did not support Baathist party principles or misdeeds. Many people held mid-level and lower-level government jobs; their guilt was to work for a government that was by far the largest employer in the country. These trials may also serve to prove people’s innocence rather than guilt, thus paving the way for the innocent and exonerated to support the new Iraq, rather than be shunned by it and possibly come to resent and even resist it.

Every overthrow of tyranny runs the risk of merely replacing the old with a new tyranny. International and domestic trials can translate Saddam’s capture into a second, longer-term chance for success in Iraq by providing concrete, literally “trial proof” that democracy works. Many other changes can also be implemented under the banner of these trials without losing face.

Seize the second chance that Saddam Hussein’s trials offer: there may not be a third.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Democracy, Iraq War, Middle East, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Lemon says:

    I’ve tried Saddam and I didn’t find him all that tasty.

  2. daoud says:
  3. daoud says:
  4. daoud says:

    Story ran as:

    Outside View: Trial Proof of Democracy
    United Press International newswire


    Outside View: Trial Proof of Democracy
    Washington Times


    Second Chance: Trial Proof of Democracy
    Middle East Institute