Behind the executioner’s mask: U.S. ‘justice’ and the hanging of Iraqi judge Awad Hamad al-Bandar
Saturday, January 20, 2007
By: Mara Verheyden-Hilliard
An attorney’s essay
On Dec. 26, 2006, the Appellate Court of the Iraqi Special Tribunal announced that Judge Awad Hamad al-Bandar, along with Saddam Hussein, was to be put to death. With an initial filing made immediately that night and over the next two weeks, the writer and Carl Messineo of the Partnership for Civil Justice, working with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, sought emergency relief to stop the U.S. government from transferring Judge Bandar to what was an extra-judicial killing.
Judge Bandar was sentenced to death in a show trial, along with Hussein, in the absence of a competent tribunal or due process of law. The federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, refused to prohibit the transfer of Bandar, who was undisputedly in U.S. physical custody, based on the U.S. government’s argument that its operations are beyond the reach of U.S. courts when acting as, or as in this case renaming itself to be, a multi-national force. Judge Bandar was hung to his death early Monday morning, Jan. 15, 2007.
President Bush has announced he is “disappointed” with the hangings of Saddam Hussein, Judge Awad Hamad al-Bandar and Barzan Ibrahim, adding that it “looked like kind of a revenge killing.” This might be seen as strange from the man who hung them. Bush added that the real problem with the hangings was the appearance, that it made it harder for him to “make the case to the American people.” This part was true.
The issue for Bush is not really the hangings, but rather the reality of the hangings that was revealed to the world. The government was concerned that protest and even rebellion could spread in Iraq and throughout the Arab world. But the Bush Administration was also worried about the dynamically evolving domestic political scene. The people of the United States, having seen something other than the edited and packaged presentation of the hangings, may question the U.S.’s fictional story of the situation in Iraq and rightly hold the U.S. government responsible. Condoleezza Rice clarified the government’s displeasure with the situation, calling for punishment of those who made and released unauthorized video images.
First one hanging, and then two more, and the press has filled columns with the U.S. government’s self-serving protestations. The media dutifully reports this fiction of concerns, regret and criticisms. To read these protestations was remarkable to us, as we were simultaneously reading the U.S. government’s briefs filed in federal court opposing our emergency attempts to obtain due process for our client Judge Bandar, who was to be hung.
Judge Bandar, a civilian, was being held in the exclusive physical custody of the U.S. government at Camp Cropper. The U.S. government controlled his fate, whether he lived or died. Had it really any concerns about the hangings, the fact that the federal court system in the United States was being presented with such matters was easily enough to stave off execution. But, the U.S. government actually wanted them dead. Further, it is adamantly opposed to there being any restraint on its lawless conduct in Iraq.
The U.S. government in its military operations has sought to neutralize itself from the authority of the U.S. courts simply by renaming itself as the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I). It presented this fiction to the court claiming that the U.S. government did not control military operations in Iraq. This may be news to you, news to most of the world; especially news to the Iraqis.
That assertion may be news even to General George W. Casey, Jr., identified as the commander of MNF-I who has said repeatedly that he is subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Commander, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and that the MNF-I is “a subordinate command to CENTCOM.” Asked in his Senate confirmation hearing whether there would be any limits on CENTCOM’s authority due to the international nature of the MNF-I, he replied that there were “none at all.” He added, there is “no reporting chain that goes back to the United Nations. … My chain of command is through the secretary of defense and the President.”
The U.S. war machine, which has already sought to exempt itself from restraint or accountability worldwide, has now untethered itself from the one last legal hold on it, the U.S. courts. By so doing, it asserts that the U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to address claims lodged against it. It can take up arms anywhere against any civilians, capture, hold them, torture them, have them killed, and merely by renaming itself can eliminate any threat of judicial oversight or intervention.
The U.S. government also simultaneously argued that any stay in the rendition to death of Judge Bandar would interfere with the “exclusive authority” of the President as Commander in Chief and “unitary chief executive.” Maintaining its open rejection of any check or balance against imperial authority, the government argued this was a matter of foreign affairs and military operations exclusively for President Bush to determine with no oversight.
U.S. puppets and propaganda
Continuing his fiction spun to the people of the United States, Bush has launched a component campaign of his decision to inflict deeper death and destruction on Iraq and U.S. servicepeople. He has begun to publicly criticize his puppet, Prime Minister Maliki. This is to ensure that any failure of the puppeteer’s actions and plans, and resulting public outcry, can be laid at the feet of the puppet. Thus, his critique of the hangings.
Scapegoating their own puppet is not an unfamiliar program to the White House and Pentagon. The U.S. government supported its puppet Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines until the people rose up and drove him out. The United States supported its puppet Jean Claude Duvalier in Haiti until the people rose up and drove him out. A little repudiation of the failing regime, at the stage of its dethronement, is a tactic borne of practicality.
Had things gone according to plan in Iraq, minus the all-revealing video of the execution, all three men would have been strung up by the U.S. government, and it would have been reported as a sovereign act of their puppet Iraqi government and asserted to have been carried out with appropriate gravitas and “dignity.” We would have been spoonfed the fiction of the conquerors’ honorable execution of the captured head of state—a romantic notion of barbaric “victor’s justice,” harkening back to the Roman Empire.
News of the hangings was fed to and reprinted by the press, mostly lies except the fact of death—all reported with just as little responsibility as the war and the show trial that preceded them. The carefully packaged and edited news of the first hanging was betrayed by the cell phone video, its grisly appeal overwriting the accepted constructed news story.
Read all of it here.