Sunday, January 30, 2005


Ramsey Clark on international justice; Bill Clinton on Saddam

Scott Simon interviewed Ramsey Clark on NPR Saturday. According to Wikipedia, Clark was the 66th U.S. Attorney General under Lyndon Johnson—

.... [H]e supervised the federal presence at Ole Miss during the week following the admission of James Meredith; surveyed all school districts in the South desegregating under court order (1963); supervised federal enforcement of the court order protecting the march from Selma to Montgomery; and headed the Presidential task force to Watts following the riots. He went on to supervise the drafting and executive role in passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1968. As Attorney-General, Clark also opposed the government's use of wiretaps.

Following his term he worked as a law professor and was active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. He visited North Vietnam in 1972. In 1974 he was the Democratic Party's candidate for the United States Senate from New York but lost to Jacob Javits.

Not a bad legacy. And what a contrast to the current piece of crap waiting in the wings for the post of Attorney General!

But it's his activities defending the presumed scum of the earth that has him so hated and vilified by the right. He has offered to be legal counsel for Saddam Hussein, which Hussein has apparently accepted, though Clark hasn't been able to meet with his client.

Scott Simon asked him to justify himself—

Simon: .... What about those people who would say that whatever treatment he has received it's certainly been better than that that he has accorded to hundreds of thousands of political prisoners over the years?

Clark: If the theory is that one wrong justifies another then there'll be no end of wrongs.

Certainly it's harder for Americans... One of the greatest problems that we have is demonization.

I think it's always been necessary to demonize an enemy for soldiers because you just don't have the heart to kill somebody unless you think they're a demon or bad or evil or are going to hurt you or something. We've had a long history of it.

But now the demonization is relentless. You can stop anybody on the street and they can recite to you all the terrible things that all these people have been alleged to have done. But that just doesn't overcome the fact that the truth is hard to find in these matters. Very often fault can be shared. Demonization makes it seem that all wrong and "evil," as President Bush likes to say, is all on one side. I don't really believe in evil. I think we have people who do terrible things. But if you call people evil, you're prepared to crush them. And that's not good for peace.

Simon: .... What are some of the lessons you think that maybe you can pass on?

Clark: The first is—and it's founded in international law—that you have to have a legal court that's, as the law says, competent, which means it's legally constituted, that's independent and that itself is personally impartial. Because if you don't have those three qualities you're probably wasting your time in the trial because it's not going to be a fair trial, so what's the point?

Now if you look at the court that's been set up in Iraq. That court was created by the U.S. We chose the group that chose the court. So both in fact and appearance who could possibly have confidence in that court being competent or independent or impartial?

Like the Rwanda court—There's not been a single Tutsi prosecuted in the ICTR (Internation Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda). Yet the former prime minister—the first prime minister under the present government—says that more Hutus were killed than Tutsis, but no Tutsi has been indicted or charged with anything. Now what kind of justice is that? And what kind of reconciliation is possible when only one side gets prosecuted and both sides have been deeply involved in the tragedy that happened there.

Simon: What's your answer to people who in press accounts refer to you as "the dictator's best friend"1 ..."the war criminal's best friend"? —And these were accounts even before Saddam Hussein.

Clark: Well, I'd say they're hard up for friends—which I'm sure the people who call me that would say is justice, [that] they shouldn't have friends. You know all my life ... I thought that the major challenge and duty is to those least likely to get a fair trial and those for whom a fair trial is most important to society. And if that's being a dictator's best friend, so be it. [my transcription]

Clark is urging Bush's impeachment and is affiliated with Perhaps if articles of impeachment are drawn—or better, if Bush is indicted—Clark will offer to serve as his counsel. It would be just like him.

Clinton on Saddam

Meanwhile, Bill Clinton has been letting his hair down in Davos. This remark on Charlie Rose a couple of nights ago has put the right in a froth.

... [M]ost of the terrible things that Saddam Hussein did in the 1980s he did with the full, knowing support of the United States government. Because he wasn't Iran, and Iran was what it was because we got rid of their parliamentary democracy back in the '50s. At least that's my belief. I know it is not popular for an American ever to say anything like this, but I think it is true."

Related post
Torture-monger for Attorney General?


1 See the 1999 Salon article "Ramsey Clark, the war criminal's best friend"

Ian Williams writes,

The former U.S. attorney general has become the tool of left-wing cultists who defend Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Rwandan torturers as anti-imperialist heroes.

.... Many liberals and leftists cut Clark a considerable degree of slack. For a start he is almost the only person the American left has had in high public office since World War II, even if it was a retrospective success, since his long march leftward only began afterward. His views as the former attorney general are listened to with a respect that would be accorded to few others with such eccentric opinions. As a revered spokesman of the left, he is a perfect symbol for its near-impotence in American politics today.

To which I say, to the latter point, "We'll see." [back]

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