Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) scoffed at charges of war crimes and mass killings Thursday, making a defiant first public appearance since being hunted down seven months ago. The deposed dictator fixed the judge with a penetrating stare and declared: “This is all a theater by Bush, the criminal.”
Unaccompanied by a lawyer, he was presented with seven preliminary charges that included gassing thousands of Kurds in 1988, the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, the suppression of 1991 revolts by Kurds and Shiites, the murders of religious and political leaders and the mass displacement of Kurds in the 1980s.
At times, Saddam, rather than the judge, seemed in command of the hearing, firmly signaling that he be allowed to speak. He occasionally lectured the young magistrate, making his points with emphatic hand gestures.
He insisted that he be referred to as “president of the Republic of Iraq” and asked who the judge was and under what authority he was holding the hearing.
The judge, who officials have refused to identify for security reasons, said he represented the Iraqi people and acted under coalition authority.
“So you are an Iraqi representing the coalition forces?” Saddam asked.
“No,” the judge replied. “I am an Iraqi representing the Iraqi judicial system.”
Speaking in strong tones, as if he was still commander in chief, the 67-year-old Saddam offered a bit of advice.
“The judicial system in Iraq always represents the will of the people,” he said. “You should not work according to the law of the occupying forces; these are invading forces.”
Saddam in da house. Let the theater begin. This could backfire, couldn’t it?