T Nation

Clark Defending Hussien


Clark, Hussein Defender, May Put U.S. on Trial
The ex-attorney general, now a member of Iraqi's legal team, is known for flogging the political dimension rather than the criminal allegation.
By Borzou Daragahi
Times Staff Writer

November 29, 2005

BAGHDAD ? High-profile American lawyer Ramsey Clark came to the aid of Saddam Hussein on Monday, formally joining his team of attorneys. But although the former U.S. attorney general may have found the ultimate platform for his vehement opposition to the Iraq war, legal experts were divided over whether his participation would hurt or help the deposed dictator's case.

Clark, 77, has long been a champion of controversial causes and has had a roster of notorious clients, including a leader of the Rwandan genocide, former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Clark, who met with Hussein briefly before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, had for months advised the ousted strongman's team in his defense against murder charges.

Based on the Dallas native's performances in previous high-profile trials, legal observers say he is almost certain to bypass the specific allegations against Hussein and instead will try to turn the proceedings into a forum for airing his grievances against U.S. foreign policy.

In a Jan. 24 opinion article he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, Clark said he was willing to take up Hussein's cause because the court trying him "was illegitimate in its conception ? the creation of an illegal occupying power that demonized Saddam Hussein and destroyed the government it now intends to condemn by law."

But in Baghdad on Monday, Clark limited his criticism of the trial to more concrete matters. In a written statement, he urged the Iraqi tribunal trying Hussein and his co-defendants to bolster protection for defense attorneys, two of whom have been shot dead. When a fellow attorney tried to read the statement, a judge cut him off.

Officials with Iraq's government, made up mostly of Hussein's longtime enemies, reacted angrily to Clark's presence. They said the tall Texan would distract attention from what should be the trial's main focus: Hussein's alleged crimes against the Iraqi people.

"I guarantee you the Iraqi people will be outside in Baghdad at the courthouse demonstrating against Mr. Clark," Bassem Ridha, an advisor to Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, told CNN.

"He's here for propaganda," said Ali Dabagh, an Iraqi legislator who was among the few politicians in the courthouse.

Some legal experts say Clark's gambit may jeopardize Hussein's defense. Michael P. Scharf, a Case Western Reserve University legal scholar who trained lawyers for the trial and produces a blog devoted to the trial, said that for Clark, the question of Hussein's guilt or innocence is moot.

"He doesn't believe Saddam Hussein didn't commit crimes," Scharf said.

"But he's so angry that the U.S. started the war without U.N. Security Council authorization that he wants to turn the trial into a bully pulpit in which to indict the Bush administration's foreign policy."

But other trial-watchers said Clark has raised fair questions about the legality of the tribunal. Even in the U.S., they noted, courts are sometimes called upon to show that they have legitimate jurisdiction over certain cases.

"That is a fundamental principle of fair judicial process," said Diane M. Amann, a professor of international law at UC Davis. "That is a fairly routine question and entirely appropriate to bring before a new tribunal. It should be considered seriously."

Clark, the son of a U.S. Supreme Court justice, served as U.S. attorney general during the final years of the Lyndon B. Johnson administration.

He became increasingly active in leftist politics, opposing the Vietnam War and visiting communist Hanoi in 1972.

Over the years, he's been a vocal opponent of U.S. foreign policy and military intervention. He attended a 1980 conference in post-revolutionary Tehran focusing on U.S. wrongdoing. He defended the PLO against accusations brought by the family of a disabled Jewish man who was slain by militants aboard a cruise ship in 1986.

Clark's opposition to U.S. intervention in Iraq dates back to 1990, when he took part in the defense of American troops who refused to serve in the Persian Gulf War.

In a lengthy 2004 letter to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, he condemned the 2003 invasion as a gross violation of international law.

"A huge, all-powerful nation has assaulted a small prostrate, defenseless people halfway around the world with 'shock and awe' terror and destruction, occupied it and continues daily assaults," he wrote.

Some observers object to Clark's penchant for dragging such politically charged sentiments into criminal trials.

"He's a true believer of ultra-liberal causes," Scharf said. "What bothers me is that he tries to turn court cases into political shows."

Times staff writer Henry Weinstein in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

This stuff gives the Left a bad name.


Most, probably all, liberals are really fascists. Let this idiot spend 5 minutes in one of Saddam's chambers, watching his child be tortured to death while Saddam's minions held him down. Man, if only the libs could experience what they defend.


Actually, it gives lawyers a bad name. How the hell did you jump to blaming anyone else?


The whole thing looks doubtful i definitely agree. How could a country controled like a puppet rightly try a former ruler when its conquerers are making it all possible?

The point isn't to try him, but to humiliate and punish sadaam, to point our finger at him and admonish. Of course, he's a jerk and he will deserve what he gets, so it works for me. See? under the test of logic for the trial being fair it fails but it passes for the ethics of the situation so it works for me


It goes beyond being a lawyer. Saddam should get a fair defense.

Clark has stood up for nearly every tin-horn dictator with anti-American interests in my lifetime.

He has been a darling of the left for years. He is exactly the type of person Democrats should run from and denounce, just like the Republicans should run from the Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson types.

The trial of Hussien should have nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq. It should be about the crimes his regime has committed.


Ahahahahah! Omg, keep it up, you are bringing tears to my eyes...

I just love when people take the extreme worst case example of something (even if they aren't sure what the example really represents) and then try to plaster it on top of something else.


Whatever. Clark sucks. It says nothing about anything or anyone else




Taking something to its logical extremes, as I get you guys to do, is fun. You libs, taken to extremes, don't believe in freedom. You believe in big government. You are therefore evolving fascists.

I'm glad you love what I do.


You are sorely mistaken and don't understand the political spectrum at all. Liberals taken to there extremes are communists. And conservatives taken to their extremes are fascists. In multi-party systems such as France, a communist and fascist branch still exist, I believe. They sit from left to right. The communists farthest to the left and the fascists farthest to the right. The liberals sit closer to the communists and the conservatives sit closer to the fascists. This is how the names acronyms leftist and right-wing originated.


Modern Republicans don't believe in big government? The expansion of the governments duties and powers is unprecedented under this regime. Exponentially greater than traditional small-government Republicans of bygone eras. As big as liberals of the past. Instead of being spend-and-tax, however, they want to spend and not tax.


This is further proof that you sell your soul when you become a lawyer.


Amen! Absolute power corrupts absolutely.