The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Target Audience

For his defense, Saddam Hussein has chosen to be represented by "Ramzi" Clark, a former Attorney General [1967-8, under Lyndon Johnson]. Mr. Clark has drawn substantial criticism for this, but that is not terribly important. It is more valuable to understand why Mr. Hussein would choose Mr. Clark.

The answers can be seen in the defense strategy Mr. Clark has chosen -- namely, to deny the legitimacy of the trial court, and to assert at every turn moral equivalence between Mr. Hussein and the leaders, especially George Bush, who caused his overthrow.

As a courtroom defense, this is flatly demented. No one could believe that it minimizes the probability of a conviction. Therefore we deduce that Mr. Hussein does not aim for acquittal. He is arguing before the court of Iraqi and American public opinion.

Outreach to the latter audience partly explains the choice of Mr. Clark. As an American, and having held a post of great responsibility, he commands attention in America.

But Mr. Clark's nationality is also useful in Iraq. The spectacle of an American making claims of moral equivalence between Messrs. Hussein and Bush is far more convincing [to those willing to be convinced] than the same claims made by, say, a Belgian.

I can only surmise that Mr. Hussein's defense strategy is to attempt to prolong the trial beyond the lifetime of the prosecuting government. With Mr. Clark as his tool, he is using the trial to inveigh against the American occupation, and to sharpen any grievances Iraqis may hold.