Can You Call It “Victor’s Justice” If We Haven’t Actually Won?

I’ve been reading a book from 1986 called Sacred Rage: The Wrath of Militant Islam. It’s by Robin Wright, who now works for the Washington Post and is one of the better reporters around on the Mideast. Here’s an excerpt:

After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Middle East had begun witnessing a virulent new strain of terrorism that spread like an infectious virus…

The early targets were not Western. Many incidents were spectacular and well publicized: the 1981 plot to overthrow the government of Bahrain and install an Islamic republic; sabotage and assassination attempts over an extended period against the President of Iraq; the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, and uprisings that year and the next in the oil fields of Saudi Arabia; the assassination Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981.

Did you notice that sentence in the middle?

…sabotage and assassination attempts over an extended period against the President of Iraq

I hope you did, because we’ve put Saddam Hussein on trail and will almost certainly execute him for his response to this “virulent terrorism”—specifically, ordering the executions of 148 people after a 1982 assassination attempt against him in the Iraqi town of Dujail.

And Sacred Rage is par for the course. From 1982-90, the New York Times mentioned Dujail exactly zero times, while very occasionally saying things like “[Saddam] has survived a number of assassination attempts.” (Don’t even ask about U.S. television.)

By contrast, Nexis shows 386 references to Dujail on TV and radio since we invaded Iraq. Paula Zahn did a segment on the hideous treatment of one woman from Dujail.


BEFORE SADDAM DISOBEYS ORDERS: Not only does the U.S. media maintain total silence about Saddam’s ghastly deeds in Dujail, on occasion they actually adopt his perspective—i.e., that he’s dealing with “virulent terrorism.”

AFTER SADDAM DISOBEYS ORDERS: Great wailing and gnashing of teeth about his hideous crimes in Dujail, filled with details about the suffering of people whose lives (all of a sudden) have some value.

You can understand why Saddam may be a little bitter about this.