November 16, 2007

Iraqis Pass Test: Top Shiites Will Be Tried for Mass Murder

Hatched by Dafydd

A few days ago, we posted Iraq in the Balance: Will the Shia Prosecute Their Own?, that asked the question -- Will the majority Shia be willing to prosecute their own officials who commit a horrific string of human sacrifices... or does "retributative justice" apply only to Sunni terrorists?

We noted the mass-murder cases against two Shiite militia heads (Sadrites) who happened to be high muckety-mucks in the Ministry of Health: Former Deputy Health Minister Hakim al-Zamili, and Brig. Gen. Hamid al-Shammari, head of the Health Ministry security force. ("Happened to be," my eye; Muqtada Sadr demanded they be given those positions, presumably for the very task or murdering helpless Sunnis in hospital.)

A few days ago, the top Iraqi court said there was sufficient evidence to try the two for literally hundreds of gruesome murders they appear to have ordered. But there was a potential thorn in the ointment, as we noted in the earlier Big Lizards piece:

By a quirk of Iraqi law, ministries are allowed to block prosecution of their officials if they decree -- truthfully or not -- that those officials were "carrying out their official duties." Naturally, mass-murdering Iraqi Sunni is not one of the official duties of the Iraqi Health Ministry; but the Interior Ministry (the most powerful ministry in Iraq) has used this dodge in the past to prevent prosecution of rampaging police officials.

This is the crux of the point we made:

The consequences of this decision, no matter which way it falls, are so stark and existential that it's not unreasonable to say this opportunity will either make or break the new democratic Iraq.

The question is whether Iraq has truly turned towards the rule of law... or whether they have just substituted the new boss for the old boss, with business still as usual. And here is the answer in yesterday's New York Times:

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq has approved the trial of two Shiite former officials who are accused of killing and kidnapping hundreds of Sunnis, according to American advisers to the Iraqi judicial system.

The case, which could come to trial as early as this month, would be the first that involved bringing to trial such high-ranking Shiites for sectarian crimes.

An Iraqi judge ruled last month that there was sufficient evidence to try the two former officials, who held senior positions in the Health Ministry. But there had been concern that the ministry might try to block the case by invoking a section of the Iraqi criminal law that proscribes the prosecution of officials who are executing their official duties.

The approval to hold a trial was provided in a memo issued earlier this week by the acting health minister. Mr. Maliki has formally endorsed the decision, American officials said.

Take that, Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%)!

The Times understands the importance of this decision:

The case has emerged as a major test of the ability of Iraq’s judicial system to take on difficult cases, particularly those in which the accused are prominent Shiites.

“This case is as important, if not more important, than the Saddam Hussein case,” Michael Walther, a Justice Department official who leads a task force that is advising the Iraqi judicial system, said in a telephone interview. He added that a successful trial would demonstrate that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government “is ready to prosecute its own.”

Iraq certainly isn't out of the woods yet, not even on this one case: We still have to observe the trial itself to ensure that it's both fair to the defendants themselves and also thorough... not like the way the Jim Crow South used to "try" accused Klansmen (where the opening statement was sometimes immediately followed by a vote to acquit; no need for the jury even to retire).

But so far, the civilian government of Iraq, not just the Iraqi Security Forces, has chosen justice and modernity. If this trial continues appropriately, then we can say that one great pillar of a free, democratic, and stable society has been birthed in the heart of the Arab Middle East: an honest judicial system.

America, her military, and President George W. Bush in particular were the midwives of liberty.

When Sen. Reid and his Democratic friends hear about this, how many will be overjoyed -- and how many will be crushed with the disappointment of opportunity lost?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 16, 2007, at the time of 3:48 AM

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Nouri al-Maliki passed another small milestone in reconciliation yesterday, and the New York Times noticed the progress. Despite predictions that Maliki would protect his allies, the Iraqi Prime Minister approved the trial of two high-ranking Shi'ites ... [Read More]

Tracked on November 16, 2007 6:11 AM


The following hissed in response by: Pam

Dafydd, man have you ever been right about the Counter-insurgency. You even said some troops would be coming home. How many and when? So, here goes! What do you honestly think about next year's elections? Do the Republicans have a chance of retaining the WH? If so, who do you think the nominee will be? Please let me know!

The above hissed in response by: Pam [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2007 6:59 AM

The following hissed in response by: Fritz

This one action gives me more hope than any other single thing I've heard coming out of Iraq. It shows me that at least some of those in power understand what the goal is. This is truly good news.

The above hissed in response by: Fritz [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2007 7:18 AM

The following hissed in response by: David M

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 11/16/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

The above hissed in response by: David M [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2007 10:07 AM

The following hissed in response by: Marcus

Your scanning the news horizon for this story is a great example of the value of your blog. Good job.

Following up on Pam's questions: Is the stock market going back up?

The above hissed in response by: Marcus [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2007 12:53 PM

The following hissed in response by: Ostar

Of course, this will make all the nightly newscasts from our friendly MSM, right? I mean, they can't ignore the spin that these people killed hundreds of Sunnis...
Oh wait - it's also a powerful sign we are truly winning in Iraq. Dang.

The above hissed in response by: Ostar [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2007 1:30 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


Of course troops will come home; they already are. The president's first step is to cycle 30,000 back, effectively reversing the "surge" part of the counterinsurgency.

Once that has a chance to settle, he and subsequent presidents will slowly reduce troop levels until we reach an optimal holding force... probably somewhere around 25,000 to 35,000 total, moving up or down as the facts on the ground dictate. But that will take a few years.

What do you honestly think about next year's elections? Do the Republicans have a chance of retaining the WH? If so, who do you think the nominee will be?

Both Republicans and Democrats always have "a chance" in an election; it's never a foregone conclusion. It all depends upon how well both sides campaign.

The only thing I'm reasonably sure about is that Fred Thompson isn't going anywhere. But the GOP nominee could be any one of the big three: Giuliani, McCain, or Romney (in alphabetical order).

(Unlike Hugh Hewitt, I don't think McCain's campaign is necessarily dead; he's so right on the war that it might overshadow McCain-Feingold and the Gang of Fourteen... not likely, but neither is it politically impossible.)

It looks more and more like Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. The guy I was predicting, Al Gore, decided for his own reasons not to get into the race; and the remaining competitors to Hillary are even worse at campaigning than she.

In the general presidential election, voters generally vote for president according to the following issues, more or less in this order:

  1. Political party. Most voters vote strictly according to political party. For the rest, the following criteria are considered:
  2. Security. Which candidate will keep my family safe?
  3. Stability. Who will maintain business more or less as usual? (Voters tend to be change-averse; even in a "change" election, voters want change back to some fondly remembered previous state of things -- whether reality or fantasy -- not to some new and different state.)
  4. Economics. Who will cause my family's finances to improve?
  5. Scandal. Which party has the least amount of very recent scandal attached to its name? Is the main scandal about sex or money? The latter trumps the former, unless the sex involves perversity: Simple adultery rarely moves any votes.
  6. Foreign affairs. Who sounds stronger and more certain about his position on foreigners and all that stuff? This category includes immigration, whether the voter is pro or con any particular issue.
  7. Ideology. Who says the right talking points on My Favorite Ideological Issue?

Note: For Senate and House elections, different and much more district-specific issues dominate; so don't try to use this to predict who will win the Senate race in Louisiana, for example.

More important than turning independents, these criteria drive turnout, and turnout decides elections. This will be a high-turnout election to begin with, with a polarizing figure like Hillary Clinton running; so the question is, which candidate wins on enough of these issues to galvanize more of his or her party loyalists and independent leaners?

A handful of voters will focus on one or the other of these criteria to the exclusion of all others -- Second-Amendment or abortion absolutists, for example, who are stuck on criterion 7. But they're much more a factor in fund raising than the actual vote.

I like the Republican nominee, whoever it is, on criteria 2, 3, and 6; Democrats have an advantage on 1 (their fanatics are more fanatical than our fanatics) and on 5 and possibly 4; neither has an advantage on 7.

Since neither party has a real "sweep" of important criteria, the election will depend upon the actual degree of advantage: How much of an edge in party affiliation do the Democrats have? Will the Abramoff scandal still have legs a whole cycle later, when only one Republican seat (I think) is currently held by someone tainted by this issue? And will the William Jefferson scandal and other Democratic scandals end up neutralizing this issue altogether?

Can the Democrats rally and put up a credible claim to care about national security? Or will they continue their feckless quest to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, even as our victory in Iraq becomes clearer? And will the Republican nominee latch onto some deep economic issue that grabs voters' attention, as Reagan did with his tax cuts and regulatory reform?

None of these questions can even be accurately guessed at today, a year out from the election. Nor do polls particularly matter yet; the bulk of voters simply aren't paying any serious attention to the election yet.

As my Magic 8-Ball keeps saying lately, "Ask again later."


Following up on Pam's questions: Is the stock market going back up?

Of course it will. It always does... eventually. Are you asking "how long is eventually?" See my 8-Ball's repetitive answer above.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 16, 2007 5:08 PM

The following hissed in response by: Pam

Dafydd, thanks for your response. I was hoping for more from Fred! I do hope you're right about McCain since he's my second choice. I'll vote for Rudy if it comes to that, but I don't want it to come to that. I just don't know about Mitt; he's such a flip flopper. I mean a Republican version of John Kerry, ya know!

The above hissed in response by: Pam [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 17, 2007 3:11 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


I just don't know about Mitt; he's such a flip flopper. I mean a Republican version of John Kerry, ya know!

Actually, that's a bum rap; you're repeating a Democratic talking point that Giuliani started using.

The distinction between Kerry and Romney is that Kerry would flip one way, flop the other, and then flip back, depending on his audience. He would do this in the same campaign, the same Senate session... sometimes on the same bill, as when he was against the $87 billion before he was for it, before he was against it again.

Romeny's changes of mind, however, occur over the course of years... and all in the same direction: to the right. Romney's pattern is consistent with the usual one that people tend to grow more conservative as they grow older.

In that sense, Romney didn't flip-flop; he wised up. That is a very big distinction.

Too, some of the supposed Romney "flip-flops" simply comprise him saying nice things about Democrats who worked with him on various projects... instead of, say, spitting in their faces. But Ronald Reagan was well known for magnanimity in praising liberals who collaborated with him on crafting bipartisan solutions to serious problems. Should we call Ronald Reagan a flip-flopper, too?

You should never attack your own for arriving later than you: That's a good way to discourage liberals and moderates from mending their ways. Free-marketarians, such as myself, welcome Mitt Romney to the fold like the prodigal son.

I don't care what he thought about capitalism and same-sex marriage back when he ran for the Massachusetts Senate against Ted Kennedy; I care what he thinks about them now, as he runs for president, after rescuing the Olympics, making hundreds of millions of dollars, serving as governor of a state, and desperately trying to stop the judicial imposition of same-sex marriage.

Conversion from dark to light is a good thing, not something to be used as a bludgeon against the converted.


The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 17, 2007 5:18 PM

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