Catalogue of debacle comes to an unseemly end

Nobody can now claim that any part of the war in Iraq has been anything but a disaster. The invasion based on faulty intelligence, the hundreds of thousands of dead, the inability of Western powers to extricate themselves militarily. The one bright star — for war apologists — was the capture and trial of Saddam Hussein. Echoing Nuremberg, the trial was to demonstrate the absolute justice in Hussein’s removal from power, and, by extension, the rightness of the American cause.

The jury may well still be (paradoxically) out on the quality of justice during the trial. We should not forget the lawyers who were murdered for defending him. Saddam Hussein was certainly an utterly despicable man. This does not justify flawed justice.

However, the manner of his execution, and the subsequent attack by Mr Maliki on Westerners who have dared to question it, has demonstrated that, in the removal of Saddam, we have not advanced Iraq. Rather, we have handed over power from one ethnic group to another. True, Mr Maliki is no Saddam Hussain. But, equally, he has now publicly stated that he does not want to continue in his job, and that he would stop early if he could.

Even in Mr Malki, though, there is a chilling tone of totalitarianism: “The decision was implemented after a just trial which the dictator did not deserve as the crimes he committed against the people, the country and its institutions were disgraceful,” he said. As soon as we deem one class of criminal to ‘not deserve a fair trial’, we have abandoned the most fundamental principle of modern jurisprudence: that all are equal under the law.

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