THE IMAGES of Saddam Hussein on trial filled our TV screens and newspapers last week. This week it was the trial of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic that made the headlines.
Responsibility for the horror in Iraq and former Yugoslavia does not just lie on the shoulders of the two men in the dock. It is the responsibility of many of the Western politicians now staging these trials.
George Bush, Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld, Jack Straw and many others should be on trial for the war crimes committed against Iraq and Yugoslavia.
But they want to avoid anything resembling a full reckoning of events in Iraq and former Yugoslavia. The proceedings of both trials are fixed. They are both show trials in every sense of the term. Saddam Hussein stands accused of starting the eight-year war against Iran in 1980.
But the survivors of Ronald Reagan’s administration, who backed Saddam at key stages during that war, get jobs in multinational corporations or in Bush’s White House.
Saddam is charged with gassing thousands of Kurdish villagers.
But there are no charges against US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who sold him the weaponry. No one is to be called to account for the UN sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians through the 1990s, or the US-led wars on Iraq in 1991 or 2004.
The two year long Milosevic trial has shown the sham that the US and Britain have in store in Baghdad.
The US refused to allow the Serbian people, who had overthrown Milosevic in October 2000, to try Milosevic themselves. It held back $1.2 billion of aid until they agreed to hand him over.
Then the US and its allies set about fixing the court so nothing embarrassing would come out during the trial. A tribunal was set up which prevented any discussion of NATO’s own crimes in the Balkans.
The specially selected chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte, said Nato leaders would not be indicted as the tribunal was “very satisfied there was no deliberate targeting of civilians” during the 78-day bombardment of Serbia and Kosovo.
Days later human rights organisations produced a mountain of evidence showing NATO did target civilians.
The tribunal has not allowed as evidence the admission by Wesley Clark, the NATO supreme commander during the attack on Serbia, that the war was “technically illegal”.
Milosevic was due to start calling some 1,600 witnesses this week, including US officials who supported him in the mid-1990s and described him as “a man we can do business with”.
US authorities have already taken precautions to prevent the trial of Saddam dredging up the links between his regime and the West.
The Independent’s Robert Fisk has reported how last week’s hearing was censored by the US military. One journalist whose tapes were seized said the last time that happened to him was in Iraq in 1991, under Saddam.
US professor Michael Scharf is responsible for organising the trial. He says, “The US will be involved in the trial, but from behind the scenes, more like a puppet master.”
Asked if the trial will be “fair”, he says, “It’s all relative…it’s pretty fair.”
Scharf is also responsible for training the military judges who will preside over the kangaroo courts in Guantanamo Bay. The trials of Milosevic and Saddam Hussein are about trying to hide decades of complicity in mass murder, and justify the US and its allies’ assaults on Iraq and former Yugoslavia.
The trials are not about dispensing justice. Only the victims of both regimes can do that.
You can help build Respect's by-election votes
EVERY SOCIALIST Worker reader should get involved in the Respect by-election campaigns in Leicester South and Birmingham Hodge Hill.
Activists can join the campaign at any time, but Respect is organising for supporters to come together in large numbers from around the country.
The Marxism 2004 festival on 9-16 July provides one of the best opportunities to mobilise around the by-election campaigns.
The Socialist Workers Party has reorganised the event to make it as easy as possible to get involved in the campaign.
Transport will be available at Marxism 2004 to take activists to both Leicester and Birmingham all through the conference.
The final day at Marxism 2004, Friday 16 July, has been strengthened, with lots more meetings and a rally on the way forward for Respect after the by-elections with George Galloway MP, John Rees and Salma Yaqoob.