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Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Tariq Aziz surfaces

In today's news, former Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz took the stand as a defense witness in the trial of Saddam Hussein and others. Prominent in the press coverage was his appearance:
The 70-year-old Aziz, a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister, took the stand wearing checkered pajamas and looking pale. Aziz, who is in U.S. custody, has complained of health problems and his family has been pressing for him to be released temporarily for medical treatment.
But nowhere was there any elaboration. Is this some surprising new development? Hardly. Here's what I wrote back in August, 2005, when Aziz had just had his first visit from his family (one of many gross violations of international law in his treatment) after 28 months of solitary confinement (after voluntarily surrending to the Americans, just like another one of the Iraqi "disappeared," Gen. Amer al-Saadi):
"He looked like he had turned 80," his wife, Violette, told The Times [That's The Times of London, by the way; the U.S. media doesn't cover stories like this]. "He was frail and too tired to walk, even inside the small meeting room. He had to lean against his American military escort to move a step down.

"Much of his thick hair and moustache had shed and greyed," she added, tears running down her cheeks.

She said that he had lost more than 30lb (14kg). Doctors had pulled out most of his decaying teeth to make way for dentures. He was taking more than a dozen pills a day to control high blood pressure, diabetes and heart problems.
As I wrote then and to the best of my knowledge to date, Tariq Aziz has not been charged with any crimes. His continued detention is itself a violation of all norms of international law.

As for today's testimony in the Dujail case, the broadcast media provided little detail, but buried in some of the print coverage was this information:

He turned the accusations around, saying members of the Shiite Dawa Party--which carried out the shooting attack on Saddam--should be put on trial. He pointed to Dawa leaders who, since Saddam's fall, have become leaders of Iraq's first elected governments: current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and his predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Speaking in a hoarse voice, he said the Dujail attack was "part of a series of attacks and assassination attempts by this group (Dawa), including against me." He said that in 1980, Dawa activists threw a grenade at him as he visited a Baghdad university, killing civilians around him.

"I'm a victim of a criminal act conducted by this party, which is in power right now. So put it on trial. Its leader was the prime minister and his deputy is the prime minister right now and they killed innocent Iraqis in 1980," he said.
It's safe to say Aziz' wish won't be granted.

Since we're talking about Prime Minister al-Maliki, I'll close with today's other news: al-Maliki "said Wednesday he believed Iraqi forces were capable of taking over security around the country within 18 months." An interesting assertion considering it took five months to simply form a "government," one which still lacks an actual defense or interior minister, the two most important positions when it comes to "taking over security." And also not to mention (ok, I'm going to mention it) something I've mentioned many times before--the chances that security in Iraq could be established without the use of planes and tanks is nil, and the chances that the U.S. government is going to give Iraq control of planes and tanks is also nil.

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