A Fair Trial For Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein speaks to his unidentified lawyers at his trial held under tight security in a court set up within Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone in Iraq, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005. Hussein and other men face charges that they ordered the killing in 1982 of nearly 150 people in the mainly Shiite village of Dujail north of Baghdad after a failed attempt on the former dictator's life.
Weekly commentary by CBS Evening News anchor and Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer.
If we had forgotten what a charmer he is, we were all reminded last week when we saw an unrepentant Saddam Hussein arguing with the judge, insulting the prosecutor and getting into a shoving match with a guard in that Iraqi courtroom. That the trial is being held in an Iraqi courtroom bothered some people, including some human-rights groups that I admire. Can he get a fair trial in Iraq, they ask? If he tried — if he is tried there, isn't it a foregone conclusion that he will get the death penalty?

My answer is yes. I expect he will. But that is no reason to move the trial. A fair trial does not mean structuring it in such a way that he might get off if he says he's sorry. It means laying out the evidence in a truthful, accurate way. Since the evidence is overwhelming, it's difficult to see how he could beat the rap wherever he is tried.

Defining fairness is a lot like defining objectivity in a news story. Objectivity does not mean that when you write a story about Hitler's evils, you are required to say, 'On the other hand, he really did do a lot of good for the German economy.' Objectivity means getting to the overriding truth, and sometimes it has no good side, except that it's true.

Moving Saddam's trial won't change the facts in this case or Saddam. The officials in Baghdad should just get on with this, and then get on to something else. Saddam does deserve fairness, but so, too, do his victims and their families.