Las Vegas Sun

November 12, 2019

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Where I Stand — Mike O’Callaghan: Lest we forget Saddam

Mike O'Callaghan is the Las Vegas Sun executive editor.

IN MAY when the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia indicted President Slobodan Milosevic, this action dismissed the theory that a sitting head of state can't be indicted by such a tribunal. So why hasn't Iraq's Saddam Hussein been indicted?

Sen. Harry Reid, in an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2000, reminds his colleagues and the White House that, "during the 105th Congress, the United States Senate, on March 13, 1998, passed S.Con.Res.78, a resolution urging the president to call upon the 'United Nations to form an international criminal tribunal for the purpose of indicting, prosecuting and imprisoning Saddam Hussein and any other Iraqi officials who may be found responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide, and other violations of international humanitarian law ...' "

Reid, in addition to action taken against Yugoslavia, points to the indicting of 44 persons, capturing 37 of them and so far convicting five for the violation of humanitarian law in Rwanda. So far the United States has spent about $150 million for the international criminal tribunals in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.

What's Reid's case against Saddam Hussein? The senator submits a list that includes: "The public testimony of witnesses and victims has indicated that Iraqi officials violated Articles 31 and 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention by subjecting Kuwaiti civilians to physical coercion, suffering and extermination in order to obtain information; and

"In violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, from Jan. 18, 1991, to Feb. 25, 1991, Iraq did fire 39 missiles on Israel in 18 separate attacks with the intent of making it a party to war and with the intent of killing or injuring innocent civilians, killing two persons directly, killing 12 people indirectly (through heart attacks, improper use of gas masks, choking), and injuring more than 200 persons ..."

Having had the experience of taking Israeli children to sealed rooms when the sirens awakened them at night to warn of incoming Scuds, I'm pleased that Reid's amendment included these attacks. Saddam Hussein did everything possible to drag Israel into the war by aiming his missiles at that country's most populated areas. There was no attempt to hit military targets because the missiles weren't very accurate. Heavily populated Tel Aviv was a big and easy target for the high explosives.

Reid also reminds us that even prior to Desert Storm the Iraqis were warned. "Resolution 674, adopted by the United Nations Security Council on Oct. 29, 1990, the Council demanded that Iraq cease mistreating and oppressing Kuwaiti nationals in violation of the Convention and reminded Iraq that it would be liable for any damage or injury suffered by Kuwaiti nationals due to Iraq's invasion and illegal occupation ..."

Reid doesn't overlook the death and destruction created by the Iraqi burning of 700 Kuwaiti oil wells. This he declares is "environmental terrorism." Also the Iraqi attempt to assassinate former President George Bush is recalled.

If this isn't enough, the amendment reminds us that "Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials have systematically attempted to destroy the Kurdish population in Iraq through the use of chemical weapons against civilian Kurds, campaigns in 1987-88 that resulted in the disappearance of more than 150,000 persons and the destruction of more than 4,000 villages, the placement of more than 10 million land mines in Iraqi Kurdistan, and ethnic cleansing in the city of Kirkuk ... "

This charge can be documented by files and photos taken out of northern Iraq in May 1992. The Kurds took me to the jails where tortured prisoners had dug their fingernails into the stone walls. Some villages didn't have one stone left on top of another stone after Saddam Hussein's army had punished them for some imagined infraction. Just being a Kurd was reason enough for Iraqi forces to execute young and old Kurds whenever the opportunity arose.

As the world again begins to do business with other terrorist nations like Libya, further attempts are being made to relax restrictions and embargoes against Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Before our country begins to play the economic game of forgive-and-forget for the sake of oil, Reid wants the president and secretary of state to take action.

According to Reid, what's sauce for Milosevic's goose should be sauce for Saddam Hussein's gander.

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