Saddam interrogation screened - in silence. The question is: Why?

By Robert Fisk

The Independent

14 June 2005

There he was, just as his victims looked on his own television screens, his words censored, his arguments unknown, his case as undemocratic as the "judicial" courts in which Saddam destroyed his own enemies.

The Iraqis - or, let us speak frankly, the Americans who tried to censor the old reprobate's previous court appearance - decided yesterday that his words would also be censored. That is Saddamism. This is how Saddam ran Iraq.

The words were obliterated. And now the Americans and their obedient, Shia-led government, are acting out the same Saddamite line.

The pictures, the BBC admitted, were "mute". What in God's name did this mean? Who emasculated the BBC to such a degree that it should say such a ridiculous thing? Why were they mute? The BBC didn't tell us.

If Saddam was really being charged with war crimes over the killings of Shias - which I hope he was - then why, in heaven's name, didn't we hear what he had to say? Why use the methods of Saddam himself? The silent film, the assumption of guilt? Or was Saddam telling the court that the United States was behind his regime, that Washington had given him the means to destroy the Halabja Kurds with gas?

How can we know? And when so many of our journalistic brethren failed to challenge the reason why this tape should be "mute", what does this say of us? We are told, by Saddam's jailers of course, that he is being questioned about the murder of Shia villagers south of Baghdad in 1982. I hope so. But how do we know?

The reality is that Saddam is from Iraq's past, something from the era before "our" insecurity and destruction and the rape and insurgency and death which has now overwhelmed Iraq.

Yes, there are those who would like to see Saddam brought to justice. But they want safety and law and order and freedom - freedom from us, too - before they care about this crazed old man's trial. But we insist the Iraqis have bread and circuses before they have freedom. And they must experience our democracy by understanding that the defendant in a court must be shut up and denied his own words in order to appear on the BBC.