Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Saddam: What would Churchill do?

Should the Americans have shot Saddam Hussein? Or turned him over to some international tribunal? It’s hard to believe the result would be worse than the farce of a trial that’s set to resume on January 24.
One suspects the debate within the administration back in 2003 was not unlike that revealed in the minutes of Winston Churchill’s war cabinet from 1942 to 1945, which were just made public this week by the British National Archives. “If Hitler falls into our hands we shall certainly put him to death,” Churchill told the cabinet in the summer of 1942. Hitler was not some figurehead manipulated by others, “this man is the mainspring of evil.” Churchill, perhaps joking, suggested an electric chair might be used to finish him off, something appropriate “for gangsters” that could be borrowed from the Americans. In 1945, as the war was coming to an end, Churchill said a trial for the top Nazis would be “a farce,” agreeing with his home secretary, who said, “This mock trial is objectionable. It is really a political act.” After Adolf Hitler’s suicide, however, the British bowed to the pressure of their allies. The Americans wanted a semblance of law; Stalin wanted a show trial. At Nuremberg, both got their wishes.
The National Archives, Kew, U.K.: Cabinet Secretaries' Notebooks from WWII
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