Impressions of Saddam in court

"No matter what you say about Saddam Hussein, he had presence in that courtroom," said Lt. Col. Rick Francona, U.S. Air Force on last night's MSNBC special report "Saddam in Court."

How did the former dictator come across? Was the process a display of Iraq sovereignty? Did Saddam's rant actually become a platform for criticizing the U.S.?

Below are some thoughts and reactions from various MSNBC guests and contributors:

James Woolsey, former CIA director
"I think the United States and Britain and our allies have done a great thing by bringing Saddam to justice and helping establish an Iraqi government that can prosecute him.  I think this may be the beginning of people across the world seeing what some of the positive outcomes can be, and are of our intervention in Iraq."

Jack Kemp, co-founder, Empower America
"Finally justice can be done.  I‘m glad he‘s in the hands of the Iraqis.  I‘m glad the trial is being conducted in an Iraqi court.  And I‘m really glad the president turned over the sovereignty to Iraq two days earlier than was expected.  So, hopefully, we can begin now to win some hearts and minds not only in Iraq, but in the Arabic and Islamic world." 

"I think the Iraqis take this very seriously.  Saddam did a great deal of harm.  Irrespective of where people stood on the war, the occupation now has to be turned into economic liberation and justice for Saddam Hussein.  And that‘s being done.   So can it be done?  Yes.  Will it be tough and cumbersome?  Absolutely.  But I think it works to the president‘s benefit in so far as the Iraqis now have a chance to be free and move toward some type of a stable, more democratic, not a perfect Jeffersonian democracy, but a more democratic form of government."

Norman Schwarzkopf, NBC military analyst
"I have to confess that he looked a lot better than I expected him to look.  And I had to say to myself, he is very, very lucky to be in the hands of people who abide by the Geneva Convention, and not in the hands of his bully boys who seven months or more ago were recklessly murdering and killing and raping people, and before that, what he did to the people of Kuwait.  Saddam has always viewed himself of being above the law, of being smarter than anybody else, of knowing exactly what should be done and shouldn‘t be done.  He‘s very much hands-on leader of his country. So I can see him with just enough ego to think he‘s going to beat this."

"A new line that I hadn‘t heard before about the Kuwaitis turning all the Iraqi women into prostitutes for 10 dinars. As I recall, there was another three-letter word in there that everybody was talking about, especially him, at that time.  And it was oil.  He was very upset with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirate and several other nations, but mostly Kuwaitis for the fact that they weren‘t complying with their OPEC quotas.  They were exceeding them grossly.  And he was furious about that, and, in fact, threatened them with physical force if they didn‘t bring those allocations more in line."   

Raghida Dergham, senior diplomatic correspondent, al-Hayat; MSNBC analyst
"When the trial takes place, I believe Saddam Hussein will want this to be the trial of the American policies toward the Middle East, altogether.  I think this is how it will be watched by the rest of the Arab world, not only in Iraq.  I think that what they saw today is something about Saddam Hussein coming back to haunt the Iraqis.  He‘s still around.  And I was in a gathering of some Arab diplomats and some suggested it may have not been a good idea to put him on display, because then he would have effectiveness.  And finally, our own headlines in 'al-Hayat' for Friday, is that 'Saddam utilizes his experience to launch a counter-offensive.'"

Lt. Col. Rick Francona, U.S. Air Force (Ret.); MSNBC military analyst
"It looked like he was trying to set the stage, at least lay the groundwork for his future defense.  He came in, and after his initial disorientation, came out shooting.  He wanted to know who the judge was and what the authority was. He made sure everybody knew that he still considered himself the president of Iraq, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and leader of the Ba‘ath Party."

"I think he was successful because no matter what you say about Saddam Hussein, he still had presence in that courtroom. Everybody was riveted on him."

Howard Fineman, Newsweek; MSNBC political analyst
"My gut reaction was probably George Bush wishes that the United States Army and the coalition had managed to not only capture, but kill Saddam Hussein.  I hate to be so blunt about it,  but he poses a potential public relations problem for him  if he argues his case. The good thing for the Bushies is that Saddam won‘t actually be on trial for a number of months." 

Abderrahim Foukara, Al Jazeera correspondent
"As Homer tells us in 'The Iliad,' words have wings.  And in this case, pictures have wings.  Whether Saddam Hussein was aware that he was actually addressing Arab audience or not, he was necessarily doing just that. As far as the reaction across the Arab world, it runs the whole gamut, from people who basically rejoice that, you know, what they call finally putting the dictator on trial, to people who felt that it was a sad, sad day that an Arab leader was put on what they see as a show trial.  But whatever the reaction has been, there‘s one thing, one factor that unifies all Arabs and Muslims today, and that is that the Middle East has, with today‘s images, entered uncharted territory."

Dr. Jerrold Post, psychological profiler
"I was very impressed with how concentrated, focus, and intense he was.  I think it was something he had prepared for, and, in many ways, he was following the path carved out by Milosevic in the war crimes tribunal in the Hague." 

"The vivid contrast, almost startling contrast, was that between what we saw in court Thursday, was a rather dapper person, focused, clearly thinking. That almost-scruffy street person who came out of the spider hole when he was captured— that man's defenses were broken down. This man is in his kind of his default position in his psychological computer, defying the world, showing himself as an Arab strong man with the courage to defy the superior adversary.  This is a man with a remarkable sense of optimism."