Here’s the exact quote, as reported in the New York Times Dec. 7:
“I am Saddam Hussein!” the former ruler said repeatedly, shaking his fist. “Like the path of Mussolini, to resist occupation to the end, that is Saddam Hussein,” he said.
Clark, son of a Supreme Court judge appointed by President Harry Truman, made his mark in the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson with his role as a Justice Department official in drafting the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act, liberal landmarks of the age.
But for most of the past 40 years, he has steered an unconventional passage of his own. It has been a journey that has taken him on many a far-flung venture abroad to embrace some of the era’s most notorious figures. It is a remarkable roll call, the men who have had him at their side at times of confrontation with Washington: Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, Slobodan Milosevic of the former Yugoslavia, Charles Taylor of Liberia.
Then there is Saddam. The two men met in Baghdad for the first time during the 1991 Gulf war, and at least four more times during the 1990s, when Clark opposed the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and renewed when he failed to comply with UN inspectors searching for unconventional weapons.
Now, Clark is one of three foreigners – the others are a Qatari and a Jordanian – on Saddam’s five-man defense team, and Clark finds himself again explaining how a former Texas liberal finds himself working in support of a man as notorious as Saddam.
One thing that seems reasonably certain is that Clark is not in it for the money. Asked about his fee for representing Saddam, Clark said, “Not a penny,” adding that he had taken no fee from many, more contentious clients.
[A]long with more scholarly arguments, Clark mixed personal observations that suggested a sympathy for Saddam that has little in common with the widely shared view of him as a psychopathic dictator. Clark still slips into calling his client “President Saddam.”
At his trial, Saddam is charged with crimes against humanity in the killing of 148 men and teenage boys from the Shiite town of Dujail after an assassination attempt against Saddam there in 1982.
But Clark suggested that Saddam’s secret police had reason to act harshly against Shiite assassins who, he said, almost certainly had political links to Shiite-ruled Iran, then at war with Iraq.
In the interview, Clark linked his earlier legal career, fighting racial prejudice in the American South and apartheid in South Africa, with the seemingly crankier course he has taken since. In both periods, he said, he was engaged in confronting prejudice, prevailing against people “who have a habit of seeing the world in black and white, as good and evil, of demonized characters stripped of all humanity.”
That, he said, was what America had done to Saddam, and, in a way to Clark.
“I know something about that, because I get a little bit of that demonization myself,” he said.
We have always argued that pseudo-left rhetoric aside, Clark and his International Action Center are objectively pro-fascist. But even the blatantly fascistic Slobodan Milosevic was pretty slick with the pseudo-left jive, allowing at least a small window of deniability. With Saddam’s latest histrionics, that window has just closed.
We are especially curious how Uruknet, an ostensibly “leftist” Italian website which engages in abject Saddam-glorification, will respond to their hero’s invocation of Il Duce.
We must reiterate that Saddam is entitled to a fair trial and vigorous legal defense. That isn’t the issue here. The issue is Clark’s (and the IAC’s) continual political defense of Saddam and his atrocities.
A more full account from the Baltimore Sun, Dec. 6:
BAGHDAD, Iraq // Two former prisoners stood in an Iraqi courtroom yesterday and offered eyewitness accounts of torture, executions and imprisonment under Saddam Hussein. But their testimony was almost overshadowed by Hussein and his fellow defendants, who dominated the courtroom with a series of shouting matches with witnesses and a brief walkout by their defense team.
“Don’t interrupt me!” Hussein shouted angrily at the judge, who had tried with little success to make him stick to questioning the witnesses. Later, Hussein pounded on the lectern and his microphone, comparing himself to Mussolini and insisting he is the rightful ruler of Iraq.
Hussein and his seven co-defendants are being tried on charges that they were responsible for killing more than 140 Shiite Muslims from the village of Dujail in the summer of 1982 after a failed assassination attempt.
The first witness, Ahmad Hassan Muhammad, 38, riveted the courtroom with testimony about torture he said he witnessed after his arrest in 1982.
Standing 10 feet from Hussein, he briefly broke down in tears as he recalled his brother being tortured with electrical shocks in front of their 77-year-old father. He also said he saw a meat grinder with human hair and blood underneath it at a military police headquarters.
Through much of Muhammad’s account, Hussein and his fellow defendants listened in silence. At times, Hussein appeared contemplative, resting his head on one palm. Several times he laughed, once during Muhammad’s narrative of his torture and imprisonment.
At other times, shouting and insults threatened to undermine the gravity of the proceedings.
At one point, Hussein appeared to threaten the judge, saying, “When the revolution of the heroic Iraq arrives, you will be held accountable.”
Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin replied: “This is an insult to the court. We are searching for the truth.”
Before the trial adjourned until today, Hussein repeatedly interrupted testimony. “This game must not continue. If you want Saddam Hussein’s neck, you can have it,” he said.
“I am not afraid of execution,” said Hussein, who then addressed the judge, saying, “I realize there is pressure on you, and I regret that I have to confront one of my sons. But I’m not doing it for myself. I’m doing it for Iraq. I’m not defending myself. But I am defending you.”
Early in the day, the defense team, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, walked out after the judge refused their request to challenge the legitimacy of the court. The defendants could not leave the dock, but they became increasingly angry and boisterous, arguing and shouting at the judge, who said the lawyers could present their motions in writing.
“Why don’t you just execute us?” yelled Barzan Ibrahim al-Hassan al-Tikriti, Hussein’s half-brother and fellow defendant.
Later, al-Tikriti stood up and began shouting wildly and spitting at a man in the gallery who he said had threatened him. The judge called for order, but it remained unclear who, if anyone, had made the threat. Throughout the day, the unarmed court officers seemed reluctant to discipline the defendants as they stood up, shouted and interrupted the judge, the witnesses and their lawyers.
Initially, the defense team appeared intent on delaying the trial, a tactic that has been apparent in the court’s two earlier sessions, Oct. 19 and Nov. 28. But after a recess Amin yielded and allowed the lawyers to make their cases.
Clark, who spoke first and was given five minutes, said the defense lawyers were not being given adequate protection. He reminded the judge that two of the team’s 13 members have been assassinated since the trial began Oct. 19, calling one of the murdered lawyers “a hero to truth and justice.”
Clark said it was impossible to conduct a fair trial if the lawyers’ safety could not be ensured, and he protested when Amin cut him off briskly after his time was up.
Another member of the legal team, Najeeb al Nuaimi, was granted 16 minutes to question the legitimacy of the trial. He repeated arguments that members of Hussein’s legal team have made, saying international law prohibited the creation of a tribunal during an occupation.
He also appealed to Iraqi nationalism, saying, “We think this land has become more American than Arab.” That brought a swift rebuke from Amin, who said, “The land is Iraqi, not American.”
See our last post on Iraq.