Guests: Ayman Mohyeldin, Abderrahim Foukara, Frank Rubino, Mike Almaleki, Jerrold Post
ANNOUNCER: The following is an MSNBC special report.
Feisty and defiant, Saddam Hussein faces justice and rejects the charges against him. In a Baghdad courtroom, the man who ruled Iraq for three decades responds to charges of murder, war crimes and genocide and the invasion of Kuwait. Tonight, fully translated, the former dictator argues his case, along with former right-hand man Tariq Aziz and 10 other defendants, including the man infamously known as “Chemical Ali.” We‘ll have world reaction from the streets of Baghdad.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the Americans are criminals. They put him in this situation.
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ANNOUNCER: And across the Middle East, to London, the White House...
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RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iraq is now a country where the government will answer to the people.
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ANNOUNCER: ...and across America.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He‘s going down.
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ANNOUNCER: Tonight, an in-depth look at what will be one of the most sensational criminal trials in history, the people of Iraq versus Saddam Hussein.
Live, from MSNBC world headquarters, Chris Jansing and Amy Robach.
AMY ROBACH, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening. Tonight you will hear and see what Saddam Hussein said inside an Iraqi courtroom.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC ANCHOR: His words, translated on the screen. You‘ll be able to listen to the former Iraqi dictator—his tone, his emotion, his energy—and draw your own conclusions about the man who the U.S.-led coalition ousted from power.
Now, we are going to be showing you excerpts approved by the U.S. military of Saddam in court. They‘re divided into three sections. The first section is when he faces the judge. And for the first time, we‘ll see a Saddam who the world has never seen.
The second, when the judge explains the law to Saddam and reads some of the charges. We‘ll see Saddam‘s face as he hears them. And the third, the extraordinary scene as Saddam becomes angry and defiant.
NBC‘s Tom Aspell has been covering the story all day and joins us now from Baghdad to set the scene. Good evening, Tom.
TOM ASPELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Good evening. Well, more than a year after he was deposed, the once feared Iraqi leader was flown by helicopter from undisclosed location and then taken by bus to Camp Victory, one of his former palaces near Baghdad Airport. He was wearing handcuffs and a chain around his waist, and Saddam was escorted off the bus by two Iraqi guards and then into the courtroom by six Iraqi policemen.
The handcuffs were removed before Saddam entered the courtroom, and he appeared visibly thinner than when he was captured in December, hiding in a hole in the ground north of Baghdad. The former Iraqi president wore a gray pinstripe suit, a white shirt, brown pants and black shoes. His beard was closely trimmed and flecked with gray. The former Iraqi leader took his seat across the table from a judge, whose security has been kept secret as the wheels of justice began to turn.
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SADDAM HUSSEIN, FRM. PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF IRAQ: Saddam Hussein, president of the Republic of Iraq.
HUSSEIN: Saddam Hussein al Majid, president of the republic of Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was born in April of 1937. Saddam Hussein, the former president of Iraq (UNINTELLIGIBLE) continuous, by the will of the Iraqi people.
JUDGE (through translator): He is the head of the Ba‘ath Party that was dissolved, commander-in-chief of the dissolved Iraqi armed forces. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) it‘s the former (ph).
Your residence in Iraq?
HUSSEIN: Every Iraqi home is my residence.
JUDGE: Your mother‘s name. Name of the mother.
HUSSEIN: Sobha Sobha..
JUDGE: Sobha Sobha is the mother‘s name. He stated the following (ph), after positively identifying the defendant, who is present before the court...
HUSSEIN: May I ask a question, please?
JUDGE: Go ahead, please.
HUSSEIN: Your honor, you also have to introduce yourself to me.
JUDGE: I won‘t (ph). Mr. Saddam, I am the investigation judge of the central court of Iraq.
HUSSEIN: I‘m sorry?
JUDGE: I am the investigation judge of the central court of Iraq.
HUSSEIN: The judge of?
JUDGE: Of the central court of Iraq.
HUSSEIN: By which order was this court formed?
JUDGE: By the coalition forces.
HUSSEIN: The coalition forces? So you are representing the invasion, forces of invasion?
JUDGE: I am an Iraqi and representing Iraq.
HUSSEIN: But you are?
JUDGE: I was appointed by a presidential decree under the former regime.
HUSSEIN: What I want—what I want by this is to reiterate that every Iraqi should respect the Iraqi law. So the law of Iraq was instituted from the very beginning, representing the will of the Iraqi people, right?
JUDGE: Yes, God willing.
HUSSEIN: So you should not work under the jurisdiction of the—of what you call coalition forces, while it‘s an invasion force.
JUDGE: I would like to clarify something to you. I am a judge in the former regime.
HUSSEIN: I respect the judges.
JUDGE: I am residing and I am continuing my work. And you, as an Iraqi citizen, just like any other Iraqi citizen, you have to answer any accusation or charge.
HUSSEIN: That‘s true.
JUDGE: This is an arraignment, a charge. If it can be proven, then you will be convicted. If not, then everything will be fine. This is a judicial process and it will bring back rights (ph). If there is an evidence, you‘ll be convicted. if there‘s no evidence, then you‘ll be set free. Until now, you‘re accused before the judicial system, so according to that.
HUSSEIN: Please—please, let me—I‘m not trying to complicate matters here.
JUDGE: No, absolutely not.
HUSSEIN: You are a judge, right? And judges, they value the law and they rule by the law, right? Right for us is a relative issue. For us, right is represented by our heritage and the Quran, the holy Quran.
HUSSEIN: Then some Sharia law. I am not talking about Saddam Hussein, whether he was Saddam Hussein the citizen or in any other capacity. But I‘m not holding fast to my position, but I am respecting the will of the people. It has decided to choose Saddam and to elect Saddam Hussein as the leader of the revolution. Therefore, when I‘m saying and when I‘m referring to myself as the president of the republic of Iraq, it‘s not a formality that I‘m referring to here or holding fast to a position, but rather to reiterate and to emphasize to the great Iraqi people that I respect their will. This is one. This is one.
No. 2, you, your honor, have summoned me to raise charges against me.
JUDGE: No, I have called you...
HUSSEIN: You have called it crimes, right?
JUDGE: If there is any evidence, then I‘ll defer it to a court of jurisdiction and they will decide what to do.
HUSSEIN: Let me understand something. Any defendant, when he comes to a court, before that, there should be an investigation.
JUDGE: This is an investigation.
HUSSEIN: So I would like you to remember that you are a judge, judging in the name of the people, not because you are judging me or anybody else. It‘s not important to me. But the important thing is that you have to remember that you‘re a judge and do not mention anything about something called occupation forces. That is considered by your people (ph). OK. That‘s said, then. Then you have to judge in the name of the people, as an Iraqi judge.
JUDGE: Mr. Saddam, this is an investigation process, but before that, you have to know your rights and know the accusations raised against you.
HUSSEIN: Let me talk about the legal aspect here. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that I have a lawyer, right? Am I not supposed to meet with the lawyer before I come before you?
JUDGE: If you give me some minutes, I will get done with the formalities, and then I‘ll come to that.
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ROBACH: And so the groundwork was laid, Saddam introduced in the courtroom, and was about to be confronted with the charges.
But first: Only four journalists in the world were picked to be inside that courtroom during today‘s arraignment of Saddam Hussein, and right now, we are joined by one of them. Ayman Mohyeldin was selected to be the only pool producer to witness today‘s historic proceedings. He joins us now live from Baghdad. Thanks for joining us this evening.
I want to ask you first, Saddam walked in. He was described as distraught, as confused. But that quickly changed. Set the scene for us.
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, POOL PRODUCER IN COURTROOM: Well, Saddam was brought in by two members of the Iraqi correctional services and was asked to take a seat by the presiding judge. At first, he was—appeared disoriented. He was looking around the room, trying to what appeared to make sense of who are all the people that were—that were in the courtroom.
And the judge began the process by asking him a series of questions and asking him to acknowledge certain facts, facts such as his name, date of birth, was he the president of Iraq. The original response that Saddam gave, he did not actually speak, looked at the judge, looked around a little bit more, indicating that he was not very comfortable in this setting. It was only perhaps around the second time, the third time that when the judge asked him, Are you Saddam Hussein, that he acknowledged it, and the process began to pick up a little bit.
ROBACH: Ayman, as we hear about how Saddam reacted when he walked into that courtroom, give me a little sense of how the courtroom itself reacted to first seeing Saddam Hussein, a very changed appearance, and to hearing Saddam Hussein‘s ultimately commanding presence inside that courtroom.
MOHYELDIN: Well, the members that were there, both from the Iraqi observers, as well as the international media that were there, for some, they had seen Saddam before before, as early as yesterday. Some were a little bit more comfortable in seeing him. But for those that were there seeing him for the first time, some of the staff assistants of the Iraqi members that were there, you can see that they were very consumed by seeing him. They, indeed, as soon as they saw him, couldn‘t believe, really, what they were seeing in front of their eyes. We spoke to some—just got some very quick reaction from some of those people on our way out, and you know, they expressed to us their disbelief in being able to see this man, once the ruler of Iraq, standing here in an Iraqi court, facing an Iraqi judge for the first time.
JANSING: You mentioned that he seemed to be trying to make sense of who exactly was in that courtroom. Who else was in there? Would he have recognized anyone?
MOHYELDIN: Whether or not he recognized anyone, I certainly don‘t know. There were certainly people that we were told that had met with him before. This included from the Iraqi—from the new Iraqi interim government, national security adviser, Dr. Moqtada Ruyabaye (ph), as well as the executive director of the Iraqi special tribunal, Mr. Salem (ph) Chalabi. There were representatives from the prime minister‘s office, the deputy prime minister‘s office, two representatives from the U.S., from the United States Department of Justice, and there were some staff assistants, as well, belonging to the representatives of the prime minister and the deputy prime minister.
JANSING: And was there a very visible security presence?
MOHYELDIN: Inside the courtroom, there was one Iraqi police officer, as well as the two Iraqi correctional service members that escorted Saddam Hussein into the courtroom, but the facility was very, very tightly guarded. And he was brought in under a very tight escort, but immediately escorted by Iraqi correctional service, once the armored bus that brought him to the scene arrived in front of the courthouse.
ROBACH: Ayman, something that struck me when I was watching this was the direct and unending eye contact Saddam Hussein made with the judge. What stood out most to you, as you watched him today?
MOHYELDIN: I‘m sorry. I didn‘t understand that last question.
ROBACH: What stood out to you, when you watched Saddam Hussein speak to that Iraqi judge today, the most?
MOHYELDIN: Well, there were a few moments where there were some interesting exchanges between Saddam Hussein and the judge. It was certainly Saddam‘s first chance in court to actually engage the judge in the discussion, and he certainly did not shy away from that. There were times where he questioned the jurisdiction of the court, asked the judge to identify himself, and posed some questions to the judge and tried to make a case for himself very briefly in some of the charges leveled against him by the judge.
ROBACH: Ayman Mohyeldin, thank you so much for your time today.
And when we come back, more of Saddam Hussein inside an Iraqi courtroom, including the extraordinary scene as Saddam gets defiant and becomes unglued. Plus, reaction from the Iraqi people as they watched the man who led them for three decades face Iraqi justice. That and more when we return.
ROBACH: As we continue our comprehensive look at an extraordinary day, Saddam Hussein in court, we pick it up with how it was viewed by the people in Iraq. Saddam‘s appearance in court was seen on television screens all over Iraq, but the Iraqi people had to wait two hours to see him in court because of the technical aspects of replaying the tape to a feed point. But then an absolutely riveting moment that was broadcast world-wide, the first look at Saddam since American forces took him into custody seven months ago. NBC‘s Kevin Sites has reaction from Iraq.
KEVIN SITES, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This was the world‘s first look at Saddam Hussein since being pried from his Tikrit spider hole seven months ago. Dramatically thinner, his beard turned mostly gray, in court today, he appeared at times both agitated and defiant. He asked the judge, on whose authority the court was formed. To which he replied, The Iraqi people. He was given his rights, then told of the seven charges.
Across Iraq, people crowded around their TVs, shocked by the haggard images of the ex-dictator. Mixed feelings in the country. “He should be executed. He deserves death,” says Issan Muhammad (ph), a Kurd whose relatives were killed in Saddam‘s Anfal campaign. For Basil Gemayli (ph), whose father was executed, “I don‘t want him to die. I want him to suffer until he dies.” Mayn Ibrahim (ph), from Saddam‘s hometown of Tikrit, feels different. “I would prefer that he does not get tried because he is an Iraqi man and a leader, and every person should be judged by his deed. It doesn‘t matter if Saddam gets tried publicly or secretly. As an Iraqi, I don‘t accept this trial at all.”
Others, like Gaith Abdullah (ph) still see Saddam as a symbol of Iraqi nationalism. “In the trial,” he says, “they will not be able to prove anything because the whole thing was fabricated.”
(on camera): Eleven of Saddam‘s lieutenants were also charged today -
· Ali Hassan Majid, better known as “Chemical Ali,” Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister during the regime. Witnesses say the men appeared nervous, a bit of irony for men used to inspiring fear, rather than feeling it.
(voice-over): Kevin Sites, NBC News, Baghdad.
JANSING: Now, before we see and hear Saddam‘s dramatic outburst in the courtroom, let‘s turn to MSNBC military analyst and Middle East expert Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, NBC‘s Tom Aspell, in Baghdad for us, and Al Jazeera correspondent Abderrahim Foukara, who is in New York. Welcome to all of you gentlemen.
Variously, Saddam Hussein, Rick, today, described as agitated, combative, defiant. What do you think he was trying to accomplish in that courtroom?
LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.), MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:
Well, 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. I mean, he wanted to know who the judge was, what authority, made sure everybody knew that he still considered himself the president of Iraq, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, leader of the Ba‘ath Party.
JANSING: He was pointing. He was looking the judge in the eye.
JANSING: Was he trying to do a little intimidating there?
FRANCONA: Oh, and I think he was successful because no matter what you say about Saddam Hussein, he still had presence in that courtroom, and I believe—I mean, everybody was riveted on him.
JANSING: Abderrahim, If his message to the judge and to the courtroom was, I‘m in charge here, I‘m still the president of Iraq, what do you think his message was to the wider Arab world that was watching?
ABDERRAHIM FOUKARA, AL JAZEERA CORRESPONDENT: You know, I‘m, not particularly sure that he was actually aware that he may have been addressing the Arab world. But you know, 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.
And you know, 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.
JANSING: And Tom, we just saw in the piece that Kevin Sites did one of the Iraqis saying this whole thing was fabricated. There is another Iraqi quoted in “The Washington Post” today, saying, “It makes me feel sad. Saddam was a symbol of Iraq when it was an effective country.” Do you think that‘s the minority opinion within Iraq? What are you hearing on the streets of Baghdad?
ASPELL: Well, I think, definitely, the majority here is happy to see him go on trial. They want to hear all the details. They want it to go as long as possible. They want to see and hear as much evidence as possible, testimonial evidence, as well. They want to see justice meted out not just to Saddam Hussein, but to all of his top lieutenants who are going on trial.
If there is any defense of Saddam Hussein or any criticism of the coalition for mounting what some people would call a show trial, then it‘s coming only from the town of Tikrit and possibly from Fallujah. But for the rest of Iraq, and certainly here in Baghdad, I think most people are thrilled, actually, to see him.
You know, you have to remember that there‘s barely a family in the country that hasn‘t been affected by this man one way or another over the past 30 years or so. Many people have lost relatives, either in the wars that Saddam Hussein started or in the role—or in the repression that he fostered upon his own people. So I think for many people here, it‘s justice being seen on television. I think they‘re quite thrilled by it.
ROBACH: Colonel Francona, I want to ask you—because initially,
Saddam Hussein seemed innocently confused about the proceedings themselves
· do you think that there was some truth to that, or was that for show, as well?
FRANCONA: No, I think he was probably confused. I mean, this is his
· this was the first time he actually has actually spoken to anybody in an audience since he was captured, and I think he realized this was his first opportunity to make his case. And there were some things that I think he did try to do. I don‘t know how effective he was. But he tried to wrap himself in mantle of Islam. He cited the Quran and the Sharia, Islamic law. I think the beard might be an attempt to attract a following among some of the more strict Muslims in the country. And being defiant about who actually constituted the court. So I think after he got over initial disorientation, I think he was quite effective.
JANSING: Abderrahim, I‘m wondering if this is being dissected in the Arab world much the way it is here in the United States, that there‘s so much commentary about the change in his appearance, about his mannerisms in the courtroom.
FOUKARA: No, there‘s absolutely no doubt about it. Saddam Hussein has been the subject of meticulous attention in the Arab world today, down to the last detail, the way he looked today compared with the way he looked that day when he was captured, the size of the beard, the color of the hair, the color of the beard, how haggard he looked, how much weight he seems to have lost. All that is the subject of great—great debate and great discussion.
And as I said earlier, some people are using that as a sign to actually rejoice that what—who—the person they called the tyrant, who actually tormented the Iraqis for 30 years, has finally been reduced to this. But there are others who say they feel a lot of pity, they feel sorry that the man who actually ruled and built Iraq for 30 years has now been brought to this guy we saw with this gray beard and this haggard look, and who looked to have—who seemed to have lost so much weight.
JANSING: I want to thank all of our guests. They‘re going to be staying with us because we‘re going to continue to analyze parts of his testimony. We‘re going to continue to show it to you.
ROBACH: In fact, when we come back, the judge gets down to business. We will hear him level the precise charges against Saddam, including use of weapons of mass destruction in the town of Halabja in 1988 as our MSNBC special report, SADDAM IN COURT, continues.
ROBACH: Welcome back to MSNBC‘s Special Report “Saddam Hussein In Court.” Here‘s what we‘ve heard in the first part of this extraordinary day in court from Saddam. He insisted he is still the president of Iraq. But he says he is the president, he isn‘t the president as a formality, or to be stubborn, but because the people chose him and he has to respect their will.
Saddam challenged the validity of the court, accusing the judge of being a representative of the quote, “occupying forces.”
And the last thing we saw was the former dictator asking why he hasn‘t been allowed to meet with his lawyers prior to this court appearance.
JANSING: And now for more of Saddam himself and his face-to-face encounter with the Iraqi judge. One of the key scenes you‘re about watch play out, is when the judge begins explaining the law to Saddam and reads some of the charges.
Now, again, Saddam Hussein in court.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): According to the law, Mr. Saddam, the investigation judge has to give the defendant the charges that are levied against him.
And then reading the rights of all the charges according to the law, which were stated in articles 123, 124, and 125, the first step is.
HUSSEIN (through translator): These articles were signed by Saddam Hussein, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Yes, this is the law that was issued in 1973.
HUSSEIN (through translator): So, then, Saddam Hussein was representing the leadership and signed that law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are still judging by this.
HUSSEIN (through translator): So you are now judging me, putting me on trial according to the law that was issued by me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am judging in the name of the people.
HUSSEIN (through translator): Please, I am not a lawyer, but I understand. I am originally a man of law. And you are a man of what? Is it allowed to call a president of a republic who was elected by the people and charge him according to a law that was enacted under his will and the will of the people? The first thing is, there is some contradiction here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The judicial process, let me answer for clarification first. I am not deliberating a case against you. I am investigating, interrogating you. This is first. Second thing is, the president is a profession. It‘s a position. He is the deputy of the society.
HUSSEIN (through translator): That‘s true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And originally, inherently, he is a citizen. And every citizen, according to the law in the Constitution, if this person violates the law, has to come before the law. And that law, you know more than I do.
Your crimes are first the intended killing by chemical weapons. Two, second, attempted killing of a great number of Iraqis in 1993. Third (INAUDIBLE) deliberately killing a number of political employees without trials. Fourth, deliberately killing of many number of Iraqis—many people of Iraq—Iraqi religious movement.
Now we come to a very important matter. You heard the court and the assurances that any accused is entitled to, which includes the rights of defense and representation and also the right not to answer any question asked. And that will never be used as an evidence against the accused.
And the court also represented—presented the accused—to the accused his right to argue the evidence. The accused requested to meet with defense lawyers that are his private—to be present with him in the investigation sessions. And, in light of that, the minutes were concluded and the investigation is postponed.
JANSING: Now, you have just heard the first few preliminary charges against Saddam read by the judge.
Let‘s go over all seven. First, the killing of religious figures in 1974. The Iraqi regime is accused of arresting dozens of Shia leaders and executing some of them. The gassing of Kurdish villages in Halabja in 1988. An estimated 5,000 in a single day. The killing of the prominent Kurdish Barzani family in 1983. Iraqi security forces arrested about 8,000 male members of the Barzani clan. They have not been heard from since.
Killing members of political parties over the last 30 years. There‘s been evidence of 270 mass graves across Iraq, which are believed to hold the remains of possibly tens of thousands of people. The 1986 to ‘88 Anfal ethnic cleansing campaign of displacing Kurdish villagers in northern Iraq. Hundreds of villages were razed to the ground, and chemical weapons were also allegedly used.
The suppression of the 1991 by uprising by Kurds and Shiites. The mass graves of Kurds and Shiite victims are still being uncovered in Iraq. And the 1990 invasion of Kuwait, which, of course, led to the first Gulf War.
ROBACH: NBC‘s chief legal analyst and host of “THE ABRAMS REPORT,” Dan Abrams, is here to make sense of all of these charges.
Dan, I first want to speak to the validity of these charges. They detail crimes that took place while Saddam was a sitting head of state. In fact, we just heard him ask the judge, is it allowed to call a president elected by the people and charge him according to a law that was enacted by his will and the will of the people? Is there a clear legal answer to that question?
DAN ABRAMS, NBC CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think that that question is an easier one to answer than the question is there some sort of immunity for Saddam Hussein as the head of state?
I think that the fact that a law was passed while Saddam Hussein—or was enacted while Saddam Hussein was the president isn‘t a problem at all. The question is, as the head of state, is he entitled to some sort of immunity? And there‘s no question that‘s one of the arguments that Saddam Hussein is going to make. He is going to make the argument that he is still the president of Iraq, and, as a result, he is entitled to certain immunity that the head of state might be entitled to.
For example, he is going to say that he didn‘t order any of the crimes that were committed. I spoke with one of his lawyers earlier today, and for example, you mentioned the gassing of the Kurds. He is going to say, yes, there was a gassing of the Kurds, but, no, it wasn‘t done by the Iraqis and, no, it wasn‘t done by Saddam Hussein.
And so this could become a very, very long process, once the trial begins, as Saddam Hussein and his lawyers don‘t just say you can‘t prove that I was responsible, but they are going to say, look, you have the wrong person entirely, meaning, no one from Iraq, no Iraqi weapons were used, etcetera. So this could certainly get very complicated.
But I don‘t think that Saddam‘s complaint right there, that somehow because this law was enacted while he was the president, is any sort of problem.
ROBACH: So what type of proof will the prosecution have to prove personal culpability in each of these historically documented incidents?
ABRAMS: Well, they are going to have—they say that they have got truckloads and truckloads of evidence that has come over the years that demonstrates that Saddam Hussein was responsible.
They are going to have witnesses. They are going to have written documents. They are going to maybe have some sort of physical evidence, testing of what type of gas, etcetera, was used. That is the sort of testimony you are eventually going to see. Remember, we are at such an early stage here. And you talk about this before, but you see Saddam Hussein testing the judge, effectively questioning him, to see if he is willing and ready to answer the question that he has posed to him, the questions you talked about earlier, about the jurisdiction of the court.
Saddam Hussein seems to believe that maybe this judge isn‘t going to have the answer, and the judge certainly engaging him, answering the question as if Saddam Hussein was running the courtroom, rather than the investigative judge.
JANSING: I am wondering, Dan, what this trial might look like. The average American has not watched a trial, for example, of Slobodan Milosevic.
We are used to watching O.J. We are used to watching Scott Peterson. Will this resemble anything like what we are used to seeing in American courtrooms?
And I can tell you, I covered the first war crimes trial at the Hague, and this is a very, very different type of process. There, you are talking about three judges, where Milosevic is being tried. Here, you‘re talking about likely five judges, no jury. It‘s going to be five judges listening to testimony, listening to evidence.
But, remember, when you are talking about these charges, first, they are going to have to establish, unless Saddam Hussein stipulates to it, that the event happened. So first, they are going to have to show that, yes, this occurred in 1974. Yes, these religious leaders were killed. Yes, this number of Kurds were killed as a result of gassing. That is going to be step one. And that can take a lot of time.
And then step two is going to be to show that Saddam Hussein and his administration were responsible for it. And when you are talking about this many charges, this is going to be a very complicated, complex trial, and that‘s why I think everyone is saying that the trial likely won‘t happen for at least a year.
JANSING: Well, complicated and complex.
And, Rick Francona, I want to bring you in. In January, if things go according to plan, there‘s going to be a new government in place. We don‘t know what the security situation is going to be. Does this trial have to be planned not only to look at what‘s going to happen inside the courtroom, but how it might affect outside the courtroom?
RET. LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Absolutely.
And we may not even have a trial by then. This may be put off until after that. So we don‘t even know if the same legal system is going to be in place. So there‘s so many variables out there, but I think it was important that the initial arraignment was held today, because I don‘t think there‘s anything else that demonstrates the Iraqi sovereignty to the people. Certainly, the security situation is the same. And you certainly have all these American forces there.
JANSING: So it sends out an important message. But how long can you delay?
JANSING: There‘s one argument that could be made, Rick, that there‘s still a threat that a lot of people in Iraq feel from Saddam Hussein‘s presence in their country. Is it better just to get this over with?
FRANCONA: Yes, if you get it over with without having what many people believe to believe an elected, legitimate government, you may be doing more harm than good.
It may be better to sit on him, put him back in jail, conduct the investigations. As Dan said, the investigation and the evidence gathering to support this case is going to take a long time. It‘s probably better after an election, so you have what many people in Iraq would consider a legitimate government. And many people don‘t consider this government to be legitimate.
ROBACH: And now is a good time to bring in Tom Aspell, who is live in Baghdad, has been speaking to people on the street.
What‘s the reaction you are sensing? Is there a clear divide as to those who feel this is form of democracy in the making and those who feel this is really just the circus that Saddam Hussein claims it is?
TOM ASPELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely.
And I think many people are expressing the contentment, if you will, or the happiness that it‘s going to be the Iraqi legal system that tries Saddam Hussein, rather than any kind of special tribunal or military panel made up of people from the coalition.
I think the important thing is that they are saying that the Iraqis are putting him on trial. And that‘s very uppermost in people‘s minds here. It‘s a process of seeing that their own system of government is beginning slowly, albeit slowly, to work. And, of course, they know that it‘s an interim government. They know the trial itself will not begin until probably the beginning of next year, but very happy with the fact that it‘s Iraqis trying him.
JANSING: And, Dan, it could potentially going on for a very long time. could, for example, the defense, if they wanted to, drag this out?
ABRAMS: Well, look, defense attorneys in this country can delay and delay quite a bit, particularly when they have got a client who is out on bail and they are not particularly worried about it. The question is going to be, what rules are established with regard to the time?
Remember, that‘s what‘s sort of odd about this whole procedure, is that he has been arraigned and yet the rules that will apply in whatever trial still haven‘t been established as to exactly how the prosecution will take place, how the defense will be allowed to move forward. And so that makes it kind of an awkward position and very unusual, so we don‘t know exactly how much they will be able to delay.
We know that, at the very least, the process won‘t start until the
court is ready to move forward, until the court has all its rules and
procedures in place. And I should just add, I think, in terms of
perception—everybody has been talking how important perception is here -
· it‘s probably a mistake to not allow Saddam Hussein to come in with his lawyer at the arraignment.
Remember, of course, in American courts and courts around the world, a defendant can appear with an attorney at the arraignment. And, as we heard earlier, Saddam Hussein saying, look, I haven‘t been able to talk to my lawyer yet, probably something that they should have done before he arrived. But, again, they are just—they are making the rules as they go here.
ROBACH: Dan, thank you.
Dan and our panel, they are both going to stick around.
When we come back, the most dramatic moment of the day.
JANSING: An angry Saddam Hussein opens up in court about the invasion of Kuwait. And you are going to see that coming up.
JANSING: We‘re back now with more of our special report, “Saddam in Court.”
The pictures of a former dictator now facing a judge in the country he once ruled with an iron fist are riveting and being played countless times on millions of television sets world-wide.
NBC‘s Dawna Friesen looks at reaction from around the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good evening. And welcome to the 6:00 news.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight, from dictator to defendant.
DAWNA FRIESEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On every newscast around the world, Saddam Hussein was the news, closely watched, especially in the Arab world. On Al-Jazeera, a reporter in Baghdad who was in the courtroom said Saddam debated with the judge and was defiant and confident. Extensive coverage, too, on British television.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The dictator in the dock, a scene most Iraqis thought they would never see.
FRIESEN: Not only detailed accounts of Saddam‘s appearance, but reaction from some of the victims.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was tortured by Saddam‘s secret police. More than 70 members of his family were slaughtered. As he watched his tormenter face justice, Sabil Al-Hakim (ph) couldn‘t hide the hatred.
FRIESEN: On the BBC, this assessment of the impact.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It could be many years before the legal process is complete and there is a verdict on Saddam, but for many Iraqis, seeing him as they now have in court is a victory in itself. In some ways, the future begins today.
FRIESEN: In Cairo, like the rest of the Arab world, they have never seen anything like it, a former Arab dictator facing justice in his own country. For some, it‘s gratifying. For others, it‘s an outrage.
“It‘s not an Iraqi court,” this man says. “It‘s the Americans who are trying Saddam.” And this man: “It was the Americans who gave Saddam his chemical weapons, and they created bin Laden as well.”
It‘s both a matter of Arab pride and, says this political science professor, a widespread sense the Bush administration is still pulling all the strings.
MONA MAKRAM-EBEID, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF CAIRO: The way this whole -
· I mean, this whole occupation was conducted, the war and everything, so it has left a very sour taste in people‘s minds. So you might find in some quarters some sympathy for him, and it will reinforce, yes, insurgence and the resistance, if it is not conducted in a fair and equitable manner.
FRIESEN: For those promoting democracy in the Middle East, today marks a turning point, the prospect that Saddam‘s fate may await other dictators.
SIMON HENDERSON, SADDAM BIOGRAPHER: In the past, rulers have either -
· if they have been overthrown, have either fled or have frankly been torn limb from limb. This time, there is a legal procedure by the people of an Arab country to hold their ruler accountable. The idea that this might spread across the Arab world must be deeply worrying to other Arab leaders.
FRIESEN: And, as for Saddam‘s fate, the world is watching and waiting.
Dawna Friesen, NBC News, London.
ROBACH: Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, what we are about to see is extremely dramatic. You have already seen it. Do you think this is what most people would have expected to see, an angry, defiant Saddam?
FRANCONA: Yes, I think it‘s exactly what most people expected, and what we are about to see is what most of us thought this would look like.
But what surprised me the most was the topic that he chose to challenge the judge on. Of all the things he is accused of, some really ugly crimes, the one he picks on, the one he picks to argue with the judge is not the worst. It‘s really surprising what he chooses.
JANSING: And, as it was coming in, we were all riveted to it earlier, so let‘s get to the third part of the tape of Saddam in court.
Here, we see Saddam beginning to come unglued as he again encounters the Iraqi judge face to face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Therefore, I‘m talking to you as a judge, an Iraqi one.
HUSSEIN (through translator): You have raised accusations against me regarding Halabja being the president of the Republic. Regarding Halabja that you could hear in the media about attacking Halabja during a regime that was headed by Saddam Hussein.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The judge saying, well, you have said that you want to postpone talking about this during the presence of attorneys, but now you are answering questions.
HUSSEIN (through translator): No, this was regarding previous accusations. If you want to repeat them in the presence of attorneys, yes, I want to postpone them. But if you want me to sign, yes, then the attorneys come? No, please, I wouldn‘t do it. So my occupation of Kuwait, the seventh charge, unfortunately it is coming form an Iraqi. Is this just?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): But this is the law.
HUSSEIN (through translator): Law? What law? Law that puts Saddam to trial because the Kuwaitis said that we would make out of every Iraqi woman a prostitute for 10 dinars in the street, and I have defended the honor of Iraq and revived the historical right of Iraqis against these dogs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Do not insult anybody. This is a legal session.
HUSSEIN (through translator): Yes, this is a legal session, and I am taking responsibility for what I say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Any impolite statement will not—is not acceptable.
HUSSEIN (trough translator): So the charge against Saddam Hussein is that being the president of Iraq and the commander in chief of the armed forces. The armed forces went to Kuwait, right? So, in an official way, is it legitimate to raise accusations against an official and the official being accused outside the assurances of the constitution and laws, including the one under which you are trying me?
This is the core of the issue, to raise accusations because it was acted upon during a regime headed by Saddam Hussein, but, without providing the assurances to the president. Is this legitimate?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We have postponed this. You are answering officially. Do you want to answer these accusations in the presence of an attorney? Because, if you read the report, it says that this has been postponed.
HUSSEIN (trough translator): Please, allow me not to sign, except in the presence of an attorney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What assurances are you seeking?
HUSSEIN (through translator): I‘m talking about myself
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What assurances are you seeking that you want to sign? These are the assurances.
HUSSEIN (through translator): I‘m talking about the whole process. This is part of the process, the legal process. In every case before you, I will sign in the presence of a lawyer. And you being a judge, why not correct and in an expedited way? Then you will be held responsible or at fault. You are an Iraqi judge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Well, it‘s your right to sign.
HUSSEIN (through translator): I will not sign except in the presence of an attorney.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): So you will not sign unless an attorney is present?
HUSSEIN (through translator): Yes. It is over?
ROBACH: A defiant and stubborn Saddam Hussein.
When we come back, we will hear from the man who defeated Saddam and liberated Kuwait, Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf.
ANNOUNCER: Saddam Hussein faces justice and rejects the charges against him. The former dictator argues his case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUSSEIN (through translator): I have defended the honor or Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Along with former right-hand man Tariq Aziz and 10 other defendants, including the man infamously known as Chemical Ali. Tonight, an in-depth look at what will be one of the most sensational criminal trials in history, the people of Iraq vs. Saddam Hussein.
Live from MSNBC world headquarters, Chris Jansing and Amy Robach.
ROBACH: A defiant Saddam Hussein arraigned in a Baghdad court on charges including war crimes and genocide. He refused to sign any documents without his attorney present, and he spent about half an hour in front of an Iraqi judge whose authority he didn‘t recognize; 11 of Saddam‘s top henchmen were also in court to face charges, including his cousin, the man known as Chemical Ali, the alleged orchestrator of poison gas attacks, and former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. More on them shortly.
JANSING: But, first, joining us now, NBC News military analyst and commander of Operation Desert Storm, retired General Norman Schwarzkopf.
Good evening, General. Thank you for joining us.
NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, NBC MILITARY ANALYST: Good evening.
JANSING: You went to war against Saddam Hussein to liberate Kuwait. Almost 400 Americans gave their lives in that effort. I wonder what your visceral reaction was when you saw him go before an Iraqi court.
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, 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.
JANSING: He did look fit, General. In fact, we were told by the Pentagon he has actually been working out a couple of times a day. He‘s lost weight. He seemed to be in pretty clear control. He had a clear idea of what he wanted his defense to be. He was often combative with the judge. Did any of that surprise you?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, it didn‘t surprise me a bit. He 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, too.
JANSING: The most dramatic moment was Saddam basically taking responsibility for the invasion of Kuwait, but he took issue with the law. I want to play that little clip for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUSSEIN (through translator): Law? What law? Law that puts Saddam to trial because the Kuwaitis said that we would make out of every Iraqi woman a prostitute for 10 dinars in the street, and I have defended the honor of Iraq and revived the historical right of Iraqis against these dogs?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: What is your reaction to him saying the reason he invaded Kuwait was to defend Iraq‘s honor and to save the women of Iraq?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I have got to confess, that‘s a new line that I hadn‘t heard before about the Kuwaitis turning all the Iraqi women into prostitutes for 10 dinar.
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.
JANSING: He also said he wanted to revive Iraq‘s historical rights to Kuwait. And there are a lot of Iraqis who still feel that way. Obviously, that‘s an appeal he can make to Iraqis who may have been listening in today.
But given the sacrifices made by the American military to liberate Kuwait, does any of this get under your skin to listen to him say these things?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, I can show you reams of evidence that talks about the geographical possession of who owns what. The Iraqis and the Kuwaitis never did get along. As a matter of fact, my first visit to Kuwait, they took me on top of a tower and pointed and said there‘s, Bubiyan Island. And the Iraqis think it belongs to them, but it really belongs to us, et cetera.
So that conflict has been there for a very, very long time, as to what is Kuwait, what consists of Kuwait, and what used to belong to Iraq, what doesn‘t belong to Iraq now, and that‘s one of those things I don‘t think you are ever going to sort out.
ROBACH: General, there were many options available to the U.S. military in terms of how they would deal with Saddam Hussein. What do you make of the decision to turn Saddam Hussein over to Iraqi authority and let him stand before an Iraqi court?
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, it‘s absolutely necessary.
It‘s got to be the Iraqis who recognize what has happened to their people. We are not talking about just a few minor people. We are talking about tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens who were murdered at the hands of the Iraqi military and on the orders of Saddam Hussein and his bully boys, so it‘s very, very important that the Iraqi people render judgment on this.
If they didn‘t, if it was left to just some court of the United States of America or some other court in Europe or something of that sort, I don‘t think in the eyes of the Middle East, it would have any legitimacy at all. But you can bet the eyes of the Middle East are looking at exactly what is going on now, and with curiosity, quite frankly, as to what‘s going to happen next and how are they going to prove these charges and if it‘s done in a legal way or if it‘s done in a way that other people can believe.
Obviously, there‘s some out there, supporters of Saddam, who benefited greatly from his regime and no longer are going to benefit from him who are never, ever going to believe anything but what Saddam says. But I don‘t think that‘s the vast majority of the Iraqi people.
FRANCONA: General Schwarzkopf, Rick Francona here.
Sir, I was wondering, you heard the litany of charges that were proffered against Saddam. Are you surprised he singled out Kuwait as the one he wanted to challenge the judge on?
Rick, you and I both know that that was one that was pretty well cut and dried as to what happened, exactly—from beginning to end, exactly what transpired. So I am kind of surprised that he would focus on that, rather than the tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of other murders and tortures and things of that sort that took place. It would seem to me that would be what he would want to refute, rather than the invasion of Kuwait.
JANSING: He got a lot of talking in there. He got his points across.
He gave a sort of preview of what he thinks his defense is going to be. And there has been some concern, General, that this has essentially been a bully pulpit for Saddam Hussein and that it could provide some more fodder for the insurgents who are fighting the Americans.
Do you have any concern about giving him the ability to speak and be seen and heard within Iraq in this way?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, I think it‘s very important that he be allowed to speak and say his piece. And I think the evidence, in the future, we are going to see a lot of things that refute what he has to say.
JANSING: And not dangerous for the Americans who are there defending, securing Iraq?
SCHWARZKOPF: No, I don‘t think so. I think that there‘s enough other reasons. Don‘t forget, there are an awful lot of people in Baghdad and in Iraq who are very glad that he is gone, an awful lot of people whose families suffered greatly at the hands of him and bully boys, so there‘s a lot of people in the country who truly are happy to see what‘s happening to him.
And let him talk. The more he talks, he is presidential, and I think, for the time being, he considers himself to be presidential, and he is going to act that way. I think the big question is, how is he going to act when later on they are showing concrete evidence of the atrocities that he committed or were committed on his orders. Then we will see how presidential he looks.
JANSING: Do you think he can get a fair trial? Is there such a thing in this sort of circumstance?
SCHWARZKOPF: I think there‘s no question about the fact that he is going to get a fair trial. As a matter of fact, I think that it‘s amazing the lengths that we are going to go to, to make absolutely sure he gets a fair trial.
And it‘s going to be open to viewing by the entire world. It will be the world that ultimately will make the decision as to whether or not he gets a fair trial. But he is certainly off to a good beginning.
JANSING: There are of course 11 other defendants who were in court today after Saddam Hussein. And I am wondering if you know or have met any of them, if you have had any experience with any of the members of the upper echelons of Saddam Hussein‘s government.
SCHWARZKOPF: Well, prior to the war, I had met several of them, usually when we were in other countries for other celebrations, and they just happened to be there at the same time.
I will tell you, they went out of their way to ignore me and avoid me, which was perfectly all right with me. That didn‘t bother me a bit. Frankly, one of them who avoided me the most was one of them who ended up meeting with me in Safwan for us to read to him exactly what was going to transpire for the cease-fire to continue. So what goes around comes around.
ROBACH: And, General, I want to ask you, we heard from the president of Iraq today, saying that they are now reinstituting the death penalty. Do you believe that‘s the appropriate punishment for Saddam Hussein?
SCHWARZKOPF: If Saddam Hussein is found guilty of even one-one-hundredth of what he is charged with, then I have no problem whatsoever with the death penalty.
But that is something, of course—it‘s not something I am not going to have anything to do with. There are other people who are going to rule on the legality of it and it happening or not happening.
But you have got to hold that man responsible for what has happened to hundreds of thousands of people, I mean, and to his own militia at times, his own military, for having been defeated in the Gulf War. You know, terrible things happened to them. And then, of course, the Shiite uprising and what happened to them, what happened to the Kurds before them, and the chemical attacks on the Kurds. These are things that would not even one of them be tolerated anywhere else in the world, and there‘s no reason why we are going to tolerate them now on behalf of Saddam Hussein and his bully boys.
JANSING: Retired General Norman Schwarzkopf, always a pleasure to speak with you, sir. Thank you so much for your time.
SCHWARZKOPF: Thank you.
ROBACH: And when we come back, we will tell you what happened to the other 11 of Saddam‘s henchmen in court today, including the notorious Chemical Ali and Tariq Aziz.
JANSING: And, later, who are the people defending Saddam Hussein? A look at his legal team ahead.
We‘ll be right back.
ROBACH: As we have been reporting, Saddam Hussein is not the only member of his ousted party who faced a judge today. There are others, 11 others.
NBC‘s Bob Kur tells us who they are.
BOB KUR, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): First up in court after Saddam, another familiar face, his former foreign minister, Tariq Aziz. He told the judge he wants two lawyers and that he was not personally responsible for any murders.
Then Saddam‘s cousin, known as Chemical Ali, Ali Hassan al-Majid, alleged orchestrater of poison gas attacks against Kurds and Iranians. Most of the 11 accused with Saddam are notorious, his inner circle from the deck of cards the U.S. issued after the invasion.
Taha Yassin Ramadan, the former vice president believed responsible for torturing and killing thousands of Iraqis. Sultan Hashim Ahmad was minister of defense. Abid Hamid Mahmoud al-Tikriti, head of Saddam‘s personal security force. Saddam‘s half brother, the money manager, Barzan al-Hassan al-Tikriti, and advisers, Kamal Mustafa al-Tikriti and Watban al-Hasan al-Tikriti.
Sabir Abdul Aziz Al-Douri was governor of Baghdad. Aziz Saleh al-Numan, former Baath Party commander. And Muhammed Hamza al-Zubaydi from Saddam‘s Revolutionary Council. A reporter in court described most as tired, broken men.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called the proceedings a good tactical move by Iraq‘s interim leaders.
RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: Most significantly of all, I think, the prime minister, Iyad Allawi, had a plan to show to the people of Iraq in word and deed right off the bat that Iraq was sovereign. And taking possession of Saddam and these 11 other bad boys I think is a graphic demonstration of that.
KUR: How many will turn against former leader and provide evidence to build a case against him, hoping to save themselves? One reason officials running the tribunal want all the others tried first.
Bob Kur, NBC News, Washington.
ROBACH: One of the journalists inside the courtroom today was “New York Times” reporter John Burns. He held a news conference afterward where he described Saddam Hussein‘s henchmen who also face trial. He spoke of Tariq Aziz, who was Saddam‘s foreign minister, and Chemical Ali, who earned his nickname for his role in chemical weapon attacks against the Kurds.
Burns described Chemical Ali‘s reaction after hearing the charges against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BURNS, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: He is looking sober. He is looking sober and pensive at this point. He‘s got his hands clasped in front of him. Then he is given his rights, and he says, thank you.
He says, I don‘t have a lawyer. I am happy with the accusations put forward, because I am innocent of them, and you will see that justice will prove that I am innocent of these crimes. He said to the guard as he went out, the guards told Rubayh (ph) this, that he was—he said, I am pleased. He said, I thought the charges would be much worse.
Said Tariq Aziz, I need an Arab non-Iraqi lawyer and a foreign lawyer as well. There are Lebanese, French, and Jordanian lawyers who can defend me.
There was a bit of argy-bargy. And he said, the judge said, these are criminal charges against you, not political. And, again, now, he once again returns to this question of, what are you talking about here? He said, are these personal accusations or are they accusations against me in my capacity as a member of the Revolutionary Command Council or as a minister?
Now, just in context, I asked him in November of 2002 if he knew he was on the State Department—initial State Department list. And he said, who me? I didn‘t do anything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBACH: In all, 11 of Saddam‘s top henchmen appeared in court today.
And we are back with MSNBC military analyst Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, NBC‘s Tom Aspell in Baghdad, and Al-Jazeera correspondent Abderrahim Foukara.
I want to begin this morning with Abderrahim Foukara.
I want to ask you, the two most infamous, as we mentioned, in this country, at least, Tariq Aziz and Chemical Ali, both of them on either end of the spectrum as far as what they are accused of as far as violence goes, how are they viewed in the Arab world?
ABDERRAHIM FOUKARA, AL-JAZEERA: Let me just quickly say, before I move on to address that point, that Dan Abrams, the NBC analyst, and General Norman Schwarzkopf were right on the money when they said that perception is very important in the Arab world today.
It‘s not just important for justice to be done. It‘s also important for justice to be seen to be done. That‘s very important, both for what happens in Iraq and what happens in terms of relations between the United States and the Arab world.
Now, as far as Saddam Hussein‘s aides, Tariq Aziz and others, the focus in the Arab world during the days of—during the reign of Saddam Hussein was obviously Saddam Hussein himself. Obviously, when Tariq Aziz was dispatched to various capitals and when he was actually dispatched to meet with the Americans during the Gulf crisis, the first Gulf crisis, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, obviously, he came into prominence, and people in the Arab world started to pay more attention to him than they had done before.
But today and yesterday, the focus in the Arab world is basically Saddam Hussein, whether by people who think that he was a criminal in Iraq or in Kuwait, or elsewhere in the Arab world who see him as a hero. That is the main focus.
ROBACH: Colonel Francona, I want to bring you into this, because you actually worked with and met two of the men, the lesser-known men, we should mention, on this list. Tell us what you know about them and your reaction to seeing them in court today.
FRANCONA: Well, the two that I know, met personally, as of course, the one General Schwarzkopf met at Safwan that day in 1991, is the former defense minister and former deputy commander of the Iraqi armed forces. That would be General Sultan Hashim Ahmad.
I was surprised to see him in this initial 11 because as my research tends to show me that he is more of a soldier and really can claim he may not have been aware of some of the atrocities. I don‘t know that to be true.
The other one is Sabir Abdul Aziz Al-Douri, a member of a very prominent family. But Sabir Aziz Al-Douri is one of the inner circle. He was a director of military intelligence during the Iran-Iraq war. I believe he certainly has blood on his hands. So I think if any of these group are going to be able to make a deal, it could be General Hashim Ahmad or it could be Tariq Aziz.
ROBACH: And speaking to that deal-making, I want to bring in Tom Aspell now, because many have suggested that perhaps Tariq Aziz could be one who prosecutors would be willing to make a deal with to turn evidence over against Saddam Hussein.
Is there a feeling among the Iraqi people that they would be willing to see deals struck in order to bring Saddam down?
ASPELL: Well, I think that‘s a good point about Tariq Aziz. You remember that he wasn‘t exactly captured. Tariq Aziz waited in Baghdad when the American forces arrived here back in April and surrendered himself to coalition authorities, whereas everybody else was captured.
So I think many people surprised he didn‘t try to make a run for it.
Many people really thinking, why didn‘t any of them get out of the country? It‘s not as if they didn‘t have the money or the means to do it. And in the case of Tariq Aziz, I think people do feel that he is privy to some of the inside decisions of the Revolutionary Command Council and that, indeed, he may be willing to turn against Saddam Hussein.
But, remember, I think all of the 11 and Saddam Hussein himself, all of them are aware that they are on trial for their lives here now, and I think it remains to be seen exactly how far they will go, how much they will turn in an effort to save their own lives.
Remember, many people here, after the exhortations of Saddam Hussein when he was in hiding, the taped messages he sent out to people, telling them to fight to the death, he praised his own sons, who were killed by U.S. forces in Mosul. He praised his own sons for sacrificing themselves for being martyrs to the cause. And yet every one of them seemed to surrender almost without a fight when they were cornered.
So many people wondering how they exactly turned in their own minds that way. And, of course, unsurprised at the spirited defense that Saddam Hussein himself put up. These are people on trial for their lives.
ROBACH: Colonel Francona, I want to ask you specifically about Chemical Ali, because he perhaps is the one with the most blood on his hands. He‘s been implicated in the Halabja attack responsible for 5,000 deaths, as well as the Anfal campaign against the Kurds.
Was this man perhaps even more hated, more feared than Saddam Hussein himself amongst a certain segment of the population?
FRANCONA: Well, now you are getting into the who is the worst of the worst.
I think Saddam is probably symbolic of all of the hatred. But if you had to pick one man in Iraq who probably could generate more ire and more anger, it‘s got to be Ali Hassan al-Majid.
JANSING: Do you think because Tariq Aziz is perhaps more Westernized than the rest that he might be the one that would be looked on most favorably by the Iraqis?
FRANCONA: Probably of them.
And I think he has also has got a fairly good reputation among Westerners. And I don‘t know if it‘s his Christian background or his demeanor. He moves very easily in Western circles, and he‘s very polished and very educated. So whether or not he does have blood on his hands, he comes across as being someone that you could deal with.
So he has got that going for him. On the other side of that coin, Ali Hassan al-Majid, Chemical Ali, I don‘t think there is any salvation for this man. I don‘t think anybody is going to make a deal with him. And I think of all of those 11 that went under indictment today, outside of Saddam Hussein, he stands the chance of being convicted.
JANSING: Abderrahim, I understand your point that clearly this is a focus on Saddam Hussein today and it will be the focus on his trial. But would you agree that Chemical Ali, both within Iraq and throughout the Arab world, is the one who people would like to most see brought to justice after Saddam Hussein?
FOUKARA: I am not sure how much people outside—in the Arab world outside Iraq know about Ali Majid, Chemical Ali.
Chemical Ali probably started to come into prominence in the Arab world during the war in Iraq, when suddenly you had these reports, particularly the reports in the American press, about what he seems to have perpetrated in various parts of Iraq, including in the south and in Iraqi Kurdistan.
But I go back to my original point. These are people that the Arab world know very little about, and partly because Saddam Hussein, as the president of Iraq at the time, overshadowed everyone else. A lot of people in the Arab world actually knew Saddam Hussein through his broadcasts and through their own national media. And therefore, if there was anyone who symbolized Iraq, both good and bad, in the Arab world, it was more Saddam Hussein than anybody else.
JANSING: Do you think, Abderrahim, that there are leaders in other parts, in that part of the world, other leaders who are looking at this trial of Saddam Hussein and the other 11 and it‘s making them nervous?
FOUKARA: Chris, I tell you, the entire region is watching this trial.
Whether we are talking about governments, whether we are talking about political leaders at large, whether we are talking about the street, everyone is watching it. It‘s going to be very interesting to see how the repercussions of what actually happens in this trial percolate in the corridors of power in other capitals in the Arab world. And it‘s also going to be interesting to see how repercussions of what happens in Baghdad in this trial, what sort of reaction it‘s going to draw from those capitals and how those reactions will actually affect or may affect or not peace and stability in Iraq itself.
FRANCONA: I think it‘s interesting how this plays out as if there‘s any anti—if people are very upset with this being an Arab leader being put on trial.
Is this going to translate into increased anti-American feeling in the region or is this going to be directed against the new regime in Iraq? I suspect it will probably be the latter.
JANSING: But the possibility exists, you think? This is why it becomes so critical. When this all plays out, how it all plays out, and the perception of how much American involvement there might be, because there certainly is an effort by the Americans who are there to say, they are just doing what they can to help at the direction of the Iraqis.
FRANCONA: Well, and that‘s the problem.
How is this perceived in the Arab world? I think Abderrahim is right. The perception is the reality there. And despite the fact that this is an Iraqi sovereign court and this is done by Iraqis, I think it‘s still perceived as being directed or the strings being pulled by the Americans, and I think this may end up being a net negative in the long run for the United States.
JANSING: And Saddam Hussein tried to play into that today, suggesting that this is all about George Bush‘s reelection.
When we come back, we are going to take a look at what it takes to defend Saddam Hussein.
ROBACH: And later, Saddam Hussein announced today that he is still president of Iraq. What does that say about his mental health? That‘s later.
JANSING: Many Arab-Americans around the U.S. had strong reactions to seeing Saddam Hussein in court today.
Let‘s listen to what they had to say, in their own words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUSS BAZI, ARAB-AMERICAN: I am so happy, man. He is going to get punished. That‘s why I want him to get punished, this terrorist. Maybe they put him an electrical chair, man.
MUHAMMED ELBOUKI, ARAB-AMERICAN: What he is saying right now, this seems exactly what he has been saying for the past 15, 20 years. He is going down. He got nothing to say to you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Been following this guy for the past 35 years, and to see him like that, sitting so in such a situation, it‘s—we are not very used to that. We are used to Saddam Hussein, the guy who, he is holding the gun, with the hat on....
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In full control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In full control. And he tried to show some kind of control in the room as well.
All the points which he has raised on very legitimate points. He has no lawyers with him in the court. You can never here do that in America. And how—when there are 600 people, 600 lawyers who are waiting to defend him, in addition to some, I understand, English and French lawyers who also are ready to defend him, why can‘t he have one single lawyer to defend him in court? That shows very weak sovereign nation, so to speak. It is not really as sovereign as Mr. Bush wants us to believe. It is not.
DR. HAKKI ARAB-AMERICAN: And he act like he is the judge. There‘s still this arrogance, still this mentality. I cannot believe it, this guy. The best thing Bush have done for us is, he said, you, the Iraqi, you the victim of Saddam. You are going to put him for trial.
The majority of the Iraqis have said, don‘t kill him. Put him in a zoo. Kill him, just, he is gone within five minutes. But if you put him in the zoo and let the whole world will visit him, with the monkeys and with the animals, and humiliate him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBACH: President Bush made a couple of public appearances, but did not comment on Saddam Hussein‘s appearance in court today.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed Saddam‘s claim that President Bush is—quote—“the real criminal,” saying Saddam is likely to say all sorts of things, and his arraignment will help bring closure to his brutal dictatorship.
Vice President Cheney did make some brief remarks once again linking Saddam to al Qaeda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Saddam‘s region also had long-established ties with al Qaeda. These ties included senior-level contacts going back a decade. In the early 1990s, Saddam had sent a brigadier general in the Iraqi intelligence service to Sudan to train al Qaeda in bombmaking and document forgery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBACH: The once powerful Saddam Hussein was on his own in the courtroom today, with no family members and no defense attorneys to advise him. There is a team of lawyers ready to help ensure that he gets a fair trial, but they couldn‘t even get into the country.
Here‘s NBC‘s justice correspondent Pete Williams.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The closest these two dozen defense lawyers got to the hearing today was 500 miles away watching it on television from Amman, Jordan. They come from Arab countries, from Europe, even the U.S.
TIM HUGHES, ATTORNEY FOR SADDAM HUSSEIN: The reason I am defending him, like my colleagues on the committee is, that he has the right to a defense. It‘s very simple.
WILLIAMS: All hired by Saddam‘s wife and daughters and by the son of Tariq Aziz, the former deputy prime minister, also facing charges. The trial, they say, is off to a bad start, since Saddam had no lawyers with him in court. Their defense, they claim he was illegally overthrown by an illegal occupation and cannot get a fair trial in Baghdad. And they say the judges cannot be fair if they are all Iraqi and lived and suffered under Saddam‘s brutal rule.
DOMINIQUE GRISAY, BELGIAN DEFENSE ATTORNEY: National judges are, in a way or the other, influenced by what has happened. They cannot be considered as neutral.
WILLIAMS: Even so, since the Nuremberg trials after World War II, international law has favored conducting war crimes trials in the country where the crimes were committed.
Professor Diane Orentlicher of American University, who has twice met with Iraqi judges, says they are keenly aware that Iraq and the rest of the world will be watching. And she says they hope to avoid letting Saddam do as Slobodan Milosevic has, use the trial for a daily diatribe, but she says they believe Saddam‘s defense must be vigorous, even if at times it seems political.
DIANE ORENTLICHER, PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, he will, when charged with illegally invading Kuwait, will say, well, look, how is that any different than what the United States did with Iraq? Is this really a violation of the law?
WILLIAMS (on camera): Legal experts say the trial can‘t possibly start before next year, but, even now, some of the defense lawyers say they are already receiving anonymous threats.
Pete Williams, NBC News, Washington.
JANSING: And now to another former world leader who had his day in court many years ago. Panamanian General Manuel Noriega was a one-time CIA operative who took over Panama back in the 1980s. The U.S. extracted him from Panama and tried him on state charges of drug trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, and selling secrets to Cuba. He was convicted and sentenced to 40 years.
Our next guest, Rubino, was General Noriega‘s defense attorney.
Thank you very much for joining us.
FRANK RUBINO, FORMER DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR MANUEL NORIEGA: My pleasure.
JANSING: I am wondering if, as you are watching Saddam Hussein in court, you are wondering to yourself, here is a guy who is accused of a litany of atrocities, of mass murder. How do you even begin to defend a man like Saddam Hussein?
RUBINO: Well, it‘s a task that I personally would not want to undertake.
But, if put in that position, basically, what a defense lawyer‘s job is, is to test the evidence. The defense lawyer‘s job is not to plead the defendant‘s cause. It‘s to plead his case and it‘s to test that evidence to see if it‘s real evidence, if it‘s good evidence, and if it‘s valid evidence.
JANSING: He seemed to be pleading a little bit of his own case today. I will tell you, what first went through my mind was, how difficult it would be for a team of lawyers to try to bring on board a defendant who essentially is used to calling the shots all the time. Do you think that‘s going to be a difficulty for this defense team?
RUBINO: Oh, I think it‘s going to be a horrible difficulty. This is a man who is used to giving orders, not taking them. This is a man who is used to telling people what to do and how to do it.
I think there‘s going to be a real conflict between him and his defense lawyers. And I think there‘s going to be a hard time muzzling him in the courtroom.
JANSING: And this is also a man who is widely perceived as inhumane. Isn‘t part of the role typically of defense attorney to humanize his client?
RUBINO: That‘s going to be a terrible problem they are going to face. Basically, they are going to have to convince five judges. And that presents another problem. These are five Iraqi judges who have lived under his regime who will actually act as the jury.
And they are going to try to humanize Saddam Hussein to those five men and convince them he is not a direct descendant of Satan, which is going to be almost impossible.
JANSING: Mr. Rubino, please stay with us.
I also want to bring back NBC‘s chief analyst, Dan Abrams and Mike Almaleki, an Iraqi who was a victim of torture under the rule of Saddam Hussein.
And let me ask you first, as someone who was nearly tortured to death by Saddam‘s regime, how did you feel as you watched Saddam in court today?
MIKE ALMALEKI, IRAQI TORTURE VICTIM: I feel a lot better today, because Saddam Hussein—like not just me. I am sure a lot of Iraqi people who have suffering under Saddam Hussein‘s rule, under his government, they have been waiting and waiting.
And the day has become historic day for the Iraqi people and for me. I was so glad to see Saddam Hussein. And the first time Saddam Hussein, he said to one Iraqi guy, the judge, he told him, please. This for first time I heard Saddam Hussein, he said please to Iraqi judge.
JANSING: He actually said that several times. Did his demeanor surprise you at all?
His attitude seems still Saddam Hussein. I mean, Saddam Hussein, he is the person—he don‘t believe just himself. You can tell—you know, when he walked into the room and he cannot believe himself from the judge, because he still think he is the president of Iraq.
ROBACH: And I want to bring in Dan Abrams into this discussion right now.
Dan, these charges against Saddam Hussein stem from atrocities with historical documentation. Is this the cakewalk that it would seem for prosecutors as they go to trial?
ABRAMS: Well, look, the prosecutors are going to have a lot of evidence against Saddam Hussein when it comes to the atrocities committed in terms of the invasion of Kuwait, when it comes to the gassing of his own people, in addition to the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq war. They are going to have a lot of evidence.
The question is going to become—and this is what the prosecutors are going to have to avoid—getting tripped up. For example, already—
I spoke with one of the lawyers for Saddam earlier today, and he is already making procedural arguments as to the problems with this case.
You heard Pete Williams lay them out there, the fact that this war was illegitimate, therefore, this court is illegitimate, therefore, this case can‘t even be brought in the first place. You are going to hear other arguments about the bias of the judges who are sitting on the case. You are going to hear a lot of those procedural arguments early on.
But I also asked him, are we only going to be hearing procedural arguments? And the answer was no. They are going to say it simply wasn‘t Saddam Hussein who ordered any of this. It wasn‘t the Iraqi government who did any of these horrible things.
Now, he is not going to be able to defend himself the way we heard him a moment ago, saying that the invasion of Kuwait was defending the Iraqi people‘s honor. That‘s not a legal defense. You can‘t go into court and say, I was defending our honor. He is going to have to make arguments that make some sort of legal sense to defend what it is he did and why he did it.
It‘s going to be a tough argument, but expect -- 20-something lawyers, that‘s another issue. Think about how all of them are going to present one defense. You are talking about 20 lawyers from different countries, different parts of the world. That‘s going to be a tough team to rein in.
ROBACH: And, Frank, I want to ask you about the task ahead of that defense team. We have already started to hear a slight defense from Saddam Hussein. He‘s intimating that he may have a possible immunity defense. Is that a plausible defense in this case?
RUBINO: Well, I see him heading in that direction by the statements he has made in court today, and especially when he got to the invasion of Kuwait. And I think he may be trying to intimate a defense of leader of the country, of a sovereign immunity, as the head of state. I don‘t think it‘s a valid defense for him under those circumstances, but I could see it being raised, yes.
JANSING: And, Mike, I wanted to ask you, there‘s a lot of concern about getting people to testify against Saddam Hussein, a level of danger. Even some of his lawyers today said they wanted assurances that they would be secure when they traveled to Iraq to see Saddam Hussein.
Would you go back? Would you be afraid to go into that courtroom and face him?
ALMALEKI: You know, I am not afraid to go face Saddam Hussein.
But I am afraid I am going to do—like, I am going to do a bad thing for myself, because when I am going to see Saddam Hussein, probably I am going to do something bad, because maybe I am going—like hit him or I going punish him, because I cannot—you see, this country teach us how to be—you know, follow the law, to be a human.
You know, we cannot do to somebody else like Saddam Hussein. Now we are different people, different Iraq. You know, this Iraqi court, we have to respect everything the judge go and said. Saddam Hussein, now, on the security issue that‘s going on over there, especially in Baghdad now, this little bit make all of us wonder if we go and testify against Saddam Hussein, what is going to happen to the rest our family? Like, I have family here. I have family back home. So it‘s just a little bit tough as well.
JANSING: But if you could face him in a courtroom, what would you want to say to him?
ALMALEKI: You know, Chris, I can‘t really—you know, like now, I am so—inside me is too much anger.
I mean, we go and spend a lot of money and a lot of time. We go and spend all this time for somebody who doesn‘t deserve to be even in court. But, you know, the law is law. We have to respect the law. We have to continue the trial. We have to give him fair trial. But I guarantee you, he never give Iraqi, one person, fair trial before. He never allow any Iraqi to have a lawyer.
You know, this bother me a lot. We go and spend the money, we go and spend the time, but I don‘t think he deserve it, if you ask me my opinion, but we have to follow the law.
JANSING: Dan, Mike‘s concerns for his family certainly are understandable, and we have known historically that these kinds of trials have shown some difficulty in getting people who aren‘t afraid to go and face someone like Saddam Hussein. What about that?
ABRAMS: The Iraqis know that this is a major concern, and as a result, one of the first things that they intend to deal with as they move forward is to establish a witness protection program, is to encourage people to come forward and be able to say, in good faith, we will protect your family from any repercussions. That is going to be one of the biggest challenges this court is going to face.
ROBACH: Mike, you said you recognized the need to recognize this Iraqi court of law, certainly a new form of democracy that most Iraqis have never seen. Do you think that it will be seen as legitimate in the eyes of Iraqis?
ALMALEKI: Of course.
You know, I hear a lot of like rumors. This trial tries today 7:00 a.m., Yes, 7:00 a.m. And I hear a lot of people talk about Arab countries, on the Arab countries, whether their view of the trial. This the court inside Baghdad. This the case is Iraqi case. Saddam Hussein, he never hurt any Arab country except Kuwait.
But every single day, he hurt Iraqi family. Saddam Hussein should be punished, should be brought to justice on his injustice. And, hopefully, he will—the justice will serve.
ROBACH: Do you think he will get a fair trial, Mike?
ALMALEKI: I hope so. I hope so, because, you know, we not going back. We not going back to the old regime. You know, we are a new Iraq. We are a new people, and thanks to America, thanks to the United States, thanks to the military.
Guys, you are teaching us a lot. We have to be fair with everybody. We have to be fair with a neighbor. We have to be fair with ourselves. We have to be fair. So let‘s give it a chance. Let‘s give it a chance and see what happens.
ROBACH: Mike Almaleki, thank you so much for joining us.
And we thank you to our guests who are sticking with us.
Today, Saddam Hussein still insisted that he is the current and rightful president of Iraq. Does he really believe that, and if so, what does that say about his mental stability? That‘s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUSSEIN (through translator): Saddam Hussein, president of the Republic of Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is the law that was issued in 1973.
HUSSEIN (through translator): So then Saddam Hussein was representing the leadership then and signed that law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And we are still judging by this.
HUSSEIN (through translator): So you are now judging me, putting me to the trial according to the law that was issued by me. And I have defended the honor of Iraq and revived the historical right of Iraqis against these dogs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Do not insult anybody. This is a legal session.
HUSSEIN (through translator): Yes, this is a legal session, and I am taking responsibility for what I say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBACH: What can we tell about Saddam‘s mental state from looking at him in court today? He says he is still the president of Iraq.
Dr. Jerrold Post joins me now. He is a psychological profiler who used to work for the CIA.
Dr. Post, during your time at the CIA, you dug deep into the psyche of the former dictator. I want to ask you, because he seems pretty indignant to me, do you think his determination to say that he is still President Saddam Hussein speaks more perhaps to his stubbornness than his sanity?
DR. JERROLD POST, PSYCHOLOGICAL PROFILER: Well, I don‘t think we saw anything resembling insanity. I was very impressed with how concentrated, focus, 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.
ROBACH: Dr. Post, the man you saw, the Saddam you saw in court today, is that the same Saddam you knew from years past?
POST: Very much so.
The vivid contrast, almost startling contrast, was that between what we saw in court today, a rather dapper person, focused, clearly thinking, and that almost scruffy street person who came out of the spider hole when he was captured. That man, his defenses were broken down. He was cowering. 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.
ROBACH: Dr. Post, as we see Saddam Hussein, watch his gestures and the emotions behind his words, do you think he believes there‘s a way out for him out of all of this?
POST: That‘s an interesting question that I have pondered. This is a man with a remarkable sense of optimism. He has had major setbacks, and he has been willing to take a step backwards, only to return later.
He does, indeed, believe that there is significant support for him still in Iraq. And, in fact, there was a poll of, what, 41 percent said they believed he should be released from prison. I think there is a part of him that still does cherish that. But, more importantly, he wants to embellish his historical image as a radical Arab strong man, and he will not tarnish this by cowering in any way. He is going to be defiant to the end, I believe.
ROBACH: Do you believe most of what we heard today was impromptu, reactionary, or do you think it was calculated?
POST: I think it was calculated very thoroughly, and he planned to come in and challenge the very legitimacy of the court.
I was very struck by the way he took over the courtroom, and, in fact, in effect, cross-examined the magistrate, who must have been really quite intimidate to be facing this man under whose rule he had lived through his entire life.
ROBACH: What impact do you think that will have on the trial itself? Do you think he will continue to try to intimidate the judges, the witnesses? What might that do to legality of the proceedings?
POST: I believe we saw today a preview of coming attractions, and he will continue to be defiant and be speaking to the radical Arab world, hoping to embellish his reputation in history.
I do not see him collapsing. And, in fact, he has withstood the prolonged incarceration much better than, for example, Tariq Aziz, who seemed to be almost in a state of psychological shambles by contrast.
JANSING: Let‘s bring in Tom Spell, NBC correspondent who is in Baghdad, and get your thoughts on this conversation, Tom, the appearance, the entire demeanor of Saddam Hussein today.
ASPELL: Well, definitely, the Saddam Hussein who thinks he is still in charge. And I think we can take it as read that some of the other defendants who will appear with him, especially the top men, the 11 who appeared today, I think many of them will make the point that they were physically afraid of Saddam Hussein all the time that they were in power.
I think if you look back to pictures of Saddam Hussein at RCC meetings, at public gatherings, you can see that all those around him, and specifically Tariq Aziz, if you look at pictures of Tariq Aziz and Saddam together, you will see Tariq Aziz almost afraid of the leader there, nodding along with everything he says. It‘s always been the case that Saddam has radiated this fear, not just over all the people, but amongst those closest in his circle.
And I think we can take it as read that all of them will say that they were afraid for their own lives and of their families. Remember, Saddam Hussein had his own sons-in-law executed, the husbands of his daughters executed, when they returned from Amman after running away briefly there.
So this was a man who had tremendous power, the power of life and death over everybody, including the co-defendants that he appeared with today.
JANSING: We want to take a look ahead to what happens next for Saddam Hussein with some final thoughts from our panelists.
And, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, let me start with you.
Saddam Hussein is in the legal custody of the Iraqis, but the physical custody of the American military. Do we know what‘s going to happen to him between now and the time he goes to trial, six months, a year or longer from now?
FRANCONA: Well, that‘s interesting. We have no timeline whatsoever, because they won‘t release it, for one, because of security concerns. And I think everybody is waiting to see what will shake out in the way of upcoming elections, what the new government will hold, and how legitimate the new government will be.
I think that Saddam‘s future—I think his place in history, of course, is pretty much assured, but I think today was very instructive. As his appearance went through that 30-minute hearing, at about the 20-minute point, I think he began to realize just the enormity of the issue, the gravity of the situation in which he finds himself.
JANSING: And, Frank Rubino, this is obviously an enormous challenge for any legal system, let alone one that is brand new, newly reconstructed. Do you think that this Iraqi court is up to the task?
RUBINO: Well, I think they made a large mistake today. Had they brought Saddam Hussein into court with a lawyer by his side, the judge could have directed all his comments to the lawyer. The lawyer would have answered the judge. And Saddam would have been relegated to that of nothing more than an observer.
Instead, they allowed him to take over the courtroom. They have got to make sure at the trial that Saddam Hussein is a defendant and not an active participant. His lawyer should speak for him. He should sit there quietly. And the judge should rule the courtroom with an iron hand and make sure that happens.
ROBACH: I want to bring in Dan Abrams into this conversation.
Dan, up until this week, Saddam Hussein was a prisoner of war. His legal status changed when he was placed into the hands of the Iraqis. Now he has access to lawyers, to information in the world. Tell us a little bit about what the next months will be like for Saddam and how drastically they may be than the past seven months.
ABRAMS: Well, I think, as a practical matter, it will be pretty similar. He is still going to be in the control of the American authorities. He is going to get access to lawyers. He is going to be able to start formulating his defense, which will be different.
But, again, the question is going to be, is he going to let his lawyers do the thinking here, or is he going to demand to be in control? And I think, when it comes to this court, they have to try and eliminate the fear. They have to try and eliminate the fear of the judges, the witnesses, even the lawyers. I think that‘s going to be the key to its success.
JANSING: And, Dan, I was talking to one of the people who was with the prosecution team putting together the evidence today. He was saying, there‘s literally millions of pages of documents. It‘s been reported that there‘s something like 30 tons of evidence that has been accumulated. How enormous is this task facing the lawyers?
ABRAMS: It‘s enormous, facing the prosecutors.
Remember, there‘s also been some concern about documents, for example, that turned out to be unauthentic. So not only do they have to sort through what they have and figure out what‘s relevant and what‘s not. They also have to figure out what‘s authentic, what‘s not, what‘s important, what‘s not. They have got an enormous task in front of them.
JANSING: We also want to go back to our guest from Al-Jazeera.
And I want to get your final thoughts on how important this is to the United States‘ relationship with the rest of world, that has been so tarnished by the war in Iraq.
FOUKARA: Well, I think both supporters and critics of the United States will find some ammunition to fight with in this trial of Saddam Hussein.
And it‘s interesting if we go back to an earlier stage in the program where a question was raised about the possible similarities between this trial and the trial of O.J. Simpson. It‘s interesting that the timing of the trial of Saddam Hussein, it seems that a lot of people will have—will try to make political hay out of the trial of Saddam Hussein.
We know that, here in the United States, it‘s election time, so various people will try to draw some political capital from the trial. The authorities, the new government in Iraq, obviously, it‘s very—the question of legitimacy is very important for it. So the trial will be useful. And, also, for Saddam Hussein as well, he will be trying to make capital hay.
JANSING: Abderrahim Foukara, Dan Abrams, Frank Rubino, Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona, and, Tom Aspell, our thanks to all of you.
ROBACH: “HARDBALL” is next.
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