The Bush administration is laying the groundwork for prosecuting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and a "dirty dozen" other officials for genocide, "ethnic cleansing," mass executions, rape and other crimes against humanity, The LA Times reported on Sunday.
The push to prepare dossiers for war crimes prosecutions, which now involves the State Department, the Pentagon and the intelligence community, reflects the growing momentum in Washington toward ousting Hussein and the increasing preparation for the days afterward, the daily reported.
"We need to do our part to document the abuses, to collect the evidence that points to who is responsible," said Pierre-Richard Prosper, the State Department's ambassador at large for war crimes and a former U.N. war crimes prosecutor for the Rwanda tribunal. "We feel there has to be accountability for what has occurred. You can't brush aside the deaths of more than 100,000 people."
After Saddam, the next name on the list is Ali Hassan Majid, nicknamed "Chemical Ali" for his role in a 1988 operation--code-named Al Anfal, or "the spoils"--that used chemical weapons to kill tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, according to the newspaper.
Majid, a cousin of the Iraqi president, was also responsible for putting down 1991 uprisings by northern Kurds and southern Shiites after the first Bush administration called for Iraqis to oust Hussein.
The Bush administration now favors a tribunal to try top officials inside a "free Iraq," with Iraqi and foreign judges, probably including Americans, according to administration officials.
The tribunal would prosecute the leadership--which could well expand beyond the original 12 after further investigations--for violations of both Iraqi law and international conventions.
After the trials of the top leaders, the next level--potentially dealing with hundreds or even thousands of offenses, because the war crimes go back a full generation--would be left to local courts, U.S. officials were quoted as saying by The LA Times.
High-ranking intelligence experts inside and outside the US government have reached a consensus that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would probably be toppled during a coup, headed by members of the leader’s inner circle in the final days or hours before American forces launch a major ground attack, the Washington Post reported.
In its Sunday edition, the newspaper said that faced with an imminent American assault and the choice of either being Saddam’s successors or being imprisoned or killed in the midst of the fighting, top-level officers or a group of military and other senior officials would take the chance to eliminate the Iraqi president, several top administration officials and intelligence experts have recently said.
"Someone will take action and cause it to happen," said one former top CIA officer with close ties to current thinking amongst intelligence officials. It was unclear how widespread this approach is within the US administration, however with military preparations for a possible attack underway, high-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld himself, have recently spoken publicly about Iraqis eliminating Hussein themselves, either by means of assassination or sending him into exile.
Meanwhile, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer picked up the theme last week, encouraging a coup d'état or assassination in reply to questions concerning the possible cost of a U.S.-led invasion. "The cost of a one-way ticket is substantially less than [the cost of war]," Fleischer made clear. "The cost of one bullet, if the Iraqi people take it on themselves, is substantially less than that."
Rumsfeld, for his part, told the House Armed Services Committee on September 18, "Saddam Hussein could decide that his future is limited and he'd like to leave". "Another way to do it would be to persuade enough people in Iraq the world would be a lot better world if that regime weren't there and they decided to change the regime."
The Bush administration promised Saturday its military forces would not enter Iraq as "conquerors" or treat the Iraqi people as a "defeated nation." Zalmay Khalilzad, a senior aide to President George W. Bush, said, "Should force be required, U.S. and coalition forces will liberate the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.”
"We will not enter Iraq as conquerors. We will not treat the Iraqi people as a defeated nation," he said, according to Reuters.
He also said it was unlikely Washington would support creation of a provisional post-Saddam government until after Iraq's "liberation.”
Khalilzad maded these comments to an annual conference sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Khalilzad, who oversees Iraq policy at the National Security Council, said the U.S. "mission in Iraq will be to serve the interests and the hopes of the Iraqi people..., a gifted and great people with ancient culture."
Long-term objectives include "establishing a broad-based representative and democratic government... that will renounce terror and weapons of mass destruction, respect international laws and norms, give all religious and ethnic groups a voice, adhere to the rule of law ... and become an example of peace and tolerance for the region as a whole," he said.
In the short-term, he promised Washington would "look to reunify Iraq... and maintain its territorial integrity."
The United States will "meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people," including immediately starting a major reconstruction program and possibly forgiving certain debts and other financial obligations, he said. (Albawaba.com)
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