Friday, May 20, 2005

Saddam's Underpants

“I see England ! I see France ! I see Saddam’s Underpants !” The British tabloid newspaper The Sun today printed photographs of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein – in his underpants. The photographs have been reprinted by the New York Post, and a link to the "Butcher of Sagdad" photo is here for your delectation. Both The Sun and the New York Post are part of Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper chain.

It’s not clear how Mr. Murdoch got the photographs. It is possible that they were sold to The Sun in violation of US military regulations – public distribution of photographs of Saddam, at one time considered a PW, would possibly violate the Geneva Convention, and probably US Army regulations on the treatment of prisoners. It is also possible, however, that the photographs were leaked deliberately, as a psychological blow against the Iraqi rebels.

According to Agence France Presse, lawyers representing the deposed tyrant have stated that they plan to sue The Sun. Bully for them. Long before such nonsense can come to trial, Saddam will hopefully be rendered into ashes poured out in some anonymous ditch some place (like the executed Nazi criminals at Nuremberg that Saddam emulated so well).

The matter does present some interesting legal questions. Saddam’s lawyers in this lawsuit would do well to secure payment in advance, because their client is not the only one who can manipulate the law. At one time, Saddam could certainly have claimed the protection of the Geneva Conventions, but it is far from clear these are available to him now. Saddam is no longer a PW, but technically at least a state prisoner of the Iraqi government, which may deal with him according to its laws and wishes. The WW II allies evaded the Geneva Conventions in a similar manner, when they tried the Nazi war criminals. After the German surrender, the Allies, then exercising all political power in Germany, by the stroke of a pen, turned German prisoners from PW’s into “internees” – taking the Geneva Conventions right out from under them.

Certainly, there are plenty of Saddam-era laws and regulations which would permit the tyrant to be stood up against the nearest convenient wall and shot without benefit of a farcical trial, but no doubt Saddam is going to get the due process he denied to so many others.

Similarly, it is questionable whether the present rebels can claim Geneva Convention protections, unlike the Iraqi soldiers who fought the Coalition forces during the invasion, prior to the fall of Baghdad. The rebels are not part of a regularly organized army or militia, and do not fight for any lawful government, and are thus nothing but rebels and brigands, and outside the law, and, in the good old phrase from (I think) the Roman proscription notices: "cast out from all protection of law, enemies-general of all mankind, to be dealt with as wolves are." Too bad we're too nice for that.

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