Aziz the Enabler goes on trial

posted at 7:54 am on April 29, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

Most people remember Tariq Aziz as the international face of the Saddam Hussein regime Dapper, well-spoken, and nothing but a toady for perhaps the worst dictator of the latter half of a century known for its bloody and lunatic dictatorships, Aziz faces charges of complicity in the judicial murder of Shi’ite merchants in 1992. The former Saddam deputy faces the new Iraqi justice system, starting today:

He was the international face of Saddam Hussein’s regime — defending Iraq and taunting the West for more than a decade. Now, Tariq Aziz awaits an Iraqi court as the latest member of the Saddam’s inner circle to face trial.

Aziz, 72, the only Christian among Saddam’s mostly Sunni Muslim coterie, and five other defendants face charges in the 1992 execution of dozens of merchants accused of profiteering.

The trial, scheduled to begin Tuesday, could represent the last high-profile Saddam-era figure to face prosecution for alleged atrocities. ….

The trial deals with the execution of 42 merchants accused by Saddam’s government of being behind a sharp increase in food prices when the country was under strict U.N. sanctions.

This trial could prove more difficult than those of previous Saddam deputies, whose hands had more obvious bloodstains. In this case, Aziz stands accused of signing the death orders as a member of a rubber-stamp council. The Revolutionary Command Council did nothing but provide Saddam a fig leaf of supposed oversight; they wouldn’t have dared defy Saddam by refusing to endorse his will. The signatures on the execution orders were, in that sense, meaningless.

However, dictators stay in power by devising mechanisms like the RCC. It gives them a veneer of legitimacy, and it also invests others with enough responsibility to keep them within the fold so as to prevent coups d’etat. Regardless of whether the 42 doomed merchants — executed within hours of their arrests — would have taken place with or without Aziz’ specific signature on that day, men like Aziz made it possible for Saddam’s brutal oppression to take place by routinely signing off on his atrocities.

Joachim von Ribbentrop didn’t actually pull triggers or drop cyanide into shower stalls, either. The strutting diplomat of Adolf Hitler represented the Nazis to the international community, just as Aziz did. He helped Hitler build his death machine by actively participating in the deceptions that kept the international community from interceding, and then negotiated the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact that doomed Poland and all of Europe. He wound up swinging from the same gallows that ended the lives of Jodl, Frank, Kaltenbrunner, and most of the first Nuremberg Trial defendants.

Aziz will argue that he just followed orders and knew nothing of the atrocities committed by the dictator he slavishly served. We’ve heard that before, too.  Aziz will discover that civilized justice gives no quarter to enablers.

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Unlike in the olden days of von Ribbentrop, Mr Aziz can count on major US law firms sending their top staff to his defense.

Pro bono, of course.

Niko on April 29, 2008 at 7:58 AM

They can’t hang him high enough. It still creeps me out that the prior pope was agreeable to meeting this human piece of shit.

patrick neid on April 29, 2008 at 8:02 AM

Richard Butler’s book, The Greatest Threat (pub 2000), has an amazing section in it where the former UNSCOM head met with Aziz. They met in a large warehouse. At the end of the meeting, Guards brought in an unidentified man, waited for the attention from Aziz and Butler, and when Aziz gave a nod, the guards beat the man almost/perhaps to the point of death. The message was simple: in Iraq, Butler was a guest and present only by the regime’s permission. Butler was incredibly moved by it, and he describes it in detail. Definitely worth checking it out from the library or dusting off ye old copy on the shelf in the basement.

…and let’s not forget that all those people who died under sanctions could have lived if Aziz and Iraq would have cooperated with the UN rather than mislead the world down a dangerous path:

“UNSCOM Cannot prove to me that Iraq is not disarmed!” he [Tariq Aziz] said.
“You misstate the matter, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister,” I replied. “Our job is to verify your claim. It is not to prove a case to you. We are not prosecutors or inquisitors. The council established a three-step system, and you know it very well: Iraq declares, UNSCOM verifies, and together we destroy, remove, or render harmless. That’s what the law says. It says nothing about proving any case to you or to your government.”
-Australian Ambassador Richard Butler, fmr head of UNSCOM, The Greatest Threat, Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Growing Crisis of Global Security

scottm on April 29, 2008 at 8:07 AM

“Muqtada, muqtada, muqtada!”

Think we’ll be hearing that when the phone recording of his hanging is leaked to the world?

Watchman on April 29, 2008 at 8:22 AM

Watchman on April 29, 2008 at 8:22 AM

God, I hope not. Since he’s a Christian, I hope to hear him begging Jesus for forgiveness before the trap door opens and sends him to a judge who will really make him answer for his crimes.

Kafir on April 29, 2008 at 8:34 AM

Kafir on April 29, 2008 at 8:34 AM

Boom, bada, bing.

Christian, or Shia, the man was a wheel on the death express.

Limerick on April 29, 2008 at 8:58 AM

What was the point of putting the man’s religion in the article?

highhopes on April 29, 2008 at 9:11 AM

I remember this dirtball when he was a big star at the U.N., couldn’t stand him then or now. I hope the Iraqi people give him what he deserves.

Maxx on April 29, 2008 at 9:24 AM

A close friend of mine served in Iraq as a prison guard over Aziz. He was very introspective and would talk about the birds.

Supposedly Saddam was brought to the same prison my friend served, but that of course cannot and will not be confirmed to him.

Grafted on April 29, 2008 at 9:26 AM

What was the point of putting the man’s religion in the article?

highhopes

Because his religion is partly responsible for his position in Saddam’s government. It’s important.

Krydor on April 29, 2008 at 10:03 AM

Get a rope.

CP on April 29, 2008 at 10:16 AM

I hope they hang him. I remember James the Arabist Baker going to meet with the creep in Geneva prior to Gulf War I and the creep (Baker is a creep too) threatening Israel with chemical weapons.

Hilts on April 29, 2008 at 12:31 PM

Oh, so Nuremberg Trial is now an example of proper judicial process.

freevillage on April 29, 2008 at 2:51 PM

erhaps the worst dictator of the latter half of a century

Mao? Pot? Khomeini? The Kims? Mullah Omar? Sorry, but Hussein would be lucky to be in the top five. Let’s not fall into this “worst since Hitler” meme again. What Hussein did was bad enough that we shouldn’t need to resort to that.

calbear on April 29, 2008 at 3:55 PM

Oh, so Nuremberg Trial is now an example of proper judicial process.

freevillage on April 29, 2008 at 2:51 PM

Why yes. Yes it is. Get a problem with that, comrade?

Andy in Agoura Hills on April 29, 2008 at 3:59 PM

Mao? Pot? Khomeini? The Kims? Mullah Omar? Sorry, but Hussein would be lucky to be in the top five. Let’s not fall into this “worst since Hitler” meme again. What Hussein did was bad enough that we shouldn’t need to resort to that.

calbear on April 29, 2008 at 3:55 PM

You’re joking right? They were all equally evil. Its perfectly reasonable to claim how evil he was. If that hurts your sensibilities, well, its too bad. If more people would remember how depraved evil gets then maybe more people would be willing to fight it. So is this what you learned in Berkeley?

Andy in Agoura Hills on April 29, 2008 at 4:04 PM

Why yes. Yes it is. Get a problem with that, comrade?

Let’s see… Two Soviet judges as well as the main prosecutor were principal organizers of show trials in the USSR. Nuremberg trials were conducted under its own rules of evidence that are not and cannot be accepted in any civilized country these days. In particular, any evidence that the victors did not like was simply not allowed by them as was stipulated during the creation of the Tribunal.

But let me pause for a second and ask you a question more relevant to this discussion. What if anything other than “Hell, yeah!” do you know or have you read about that Tribunal?

freevillage on April 29, 2008 at 4:56 PM

We can have Baghdad Bob officiate the hanging!

“He’s still alive. No harm has befallen our brave comrade! See! Look, he’s still breathing! The invaders have no power! Praise Allah!”

Maquis on April 29, 2008 at 7:05 PM

We can have Baghdad Bob officiate the hanging!

I kind of miss Baghdad Bob. That guy was comedy gold.

Tariq Aziz… Not so much. Hang him.

trigon on April 29, 2008 at 7:23 PM

But let me pause for a second and ask you a question more relevant to this discussion. What if anything other than “Hell, yeah!” do you know or have you read about that Tribunal?

freevillage on April 29, 2008 at 4:56 PM

Hmmm, before I answer that smart-ass question, what exactly do you admire about the Nazis? And you’re the one that needs to read about the rules of evidence. Which by the way are different from civilian trials because they were military tribunals. I suppose you have a problem with the Eichmann trial in Israel? If so, its not the trials, if the fact that your a Nazi sympathizer.

Andy in Agoura Hills on April 29, 2008 at 7:47 PM

what exactly do you admire about the Nazi?

[fresh]

freevillage on April 29, 2008 at 8:50 PM