Originally created 01/18/06

Iraq's Ito was right to quit

Pity Saddam Hussein's former judge. Rizgar Amin's feelings were hurt because, he says, the public criticized his handling of the trial. So he resigned.

Well, good riddance. The public had cause to criticize. Rizgar was to Saddam's trial what Judge Lance Ito was to O.J. Simpson's. He let the defense, composed of Saddam and seven other former members of the regime, take over the courtroom.

To Iraqis, who have been free of Saddam's tyranny for only a few years, it was scary to see Saddam and his equally intimidating half-brother, Barzan al-Tikriti, dominate the proceedings with their rants and temper tantrums.

It gave rise to fears of a return to power. That might seem farfetched to us, but not to them. Saddam, who ruled with an iron fist for decades, still has a powerful residual grip on the nation.

If the judge couldn't control him, who could?

The trial was to be a forum for Iraq's nascent democratic government to establish credibility with the people - and the Islamic world - by exposing Saddam's criminal regime to the light of day and bringing him and his henchmen to justice.

Instead, the old Baathists turned the courtroom into an anti-government, anti-American propaganda forum. And Rizgar let it happen. He said he just wanted to show his court was fair and reasonable. What it showed was his court couldn't control the tyrant.

For a while, the government was reluctant to accept Rizgar's resignation. It shouldn't have been. Rizgar didn't seem to understand the difference between being fair and being permissive, or even indulgent - nor did he want to learn.

He couldn't stand the heat, so he was right to get out of the kitchen. Just as there are American judges better than Ito, there must be Iraqi judges better than Rizgar.


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