John Prescott’s statement today that the circumstances of the execution of Saddam Hussein were "deplorable" cannot obscure the fact that the New Labour government broke British law by declining to oppose the judicial murder of the former Iraqi president. The government’s silence is just the latest of countless examples of New Labour’s contempt for the rule of law. The fact is that since the abolition of the death penalty in Britain in 1956, it has been official government policy to reject its use in other countries. Since Britain is an occupying power in Iraq following the unlawful overthrow of the Saddam government, it is legally responsible for what takes place in that country. Prescott, the deputy prime minister, cannot hide behind claims that the trial was organised by the Iraqi government. The proceedings were conducted under the auspices of the United States military, who created the kangaroo court that eventually decided that Saddam should hang. Saddam was handed over to the Iraqis only after the sentence had been confirmed. Prescott and New Labour are only embarrassed because the Iraqi authorities proved as brutal and callous in their behaviour as Saddam had to his opponents when it came to the hanging.
This is because the occupation forces have created a monster that to many Iraqis is far worse than life under Saddam. The basics of daily life like power, food and education barely exist in today’s Iraq. Under the Shia-dominated government, sectarian forces run riot. The police force, for example, is largely a cover for death squads and corruption. Figures leaked today show that 2,000 people were killed in Iraq in December, three-and-a-half times the number who died in January 2006. These numbers, which are certainly an under-estimate of the real picture of grief, far exceed the 3,000 US soldiers killed since March 2003. The killing of Saddam will only worsen matters because it is seen for what it was – victor’s "justice", where judges harangued the defendant and defence lawyers were killed. Proceedings were carefully orchestrated to prevent a proper hearing because that would undoubtedly have revealed the complicity of the United States and Britain in Saddam’s repression of the Kurds and the atrocities comitted during the war with Iran that London and Washington backed. The tens of thousands of extra soldiers that the Bush regime intends to send to Iraq in the near future will only intensify the destruction of a country that was invaded on a pretext. Which brings us to the New Year’s honours’ awards. Top of the list was one John Scarlett. He, you will remember, chaired the joint intelligence committee that produced the infamous assessment that contained fantasy statements about Iraq’s weapons’ capabilities. It was spiced up on government orders and was used by the Blairites as part of the justification for the invasion. For services to New Labour, Scarlett was made head of MI6, the counter-intelligence spy agency. On January 1 he was knighted. Arise Sir John of Dodgy Dossier. One day, Prescott, Blair, Scarlett and the rest will be brought to account for their activities which together have produced a living hell for millions of Iraqis. Let’s try and make sure that day is not too far off.
Paul Feldman, communications editor