Along with his defense attorneys, Saddam Hussein probably should have hired some image consultants. He's apparently learned nothing of the well-tested Hollywood ploy of using a high-profile trial to gain worldwide sympathy.
Angry, defiant and churlishly hanging onto his title as president of Iraq, Saddam perfectly played the role hoped for by the Bush administration and the rest of his enemies around the globe. Perhaps he doesn't realize yet that this trial will shape perceptions forever about the U.S-led regime change and the war between Islamic extremists and anti-terrorism forces.
Once a bully, always a bully. Yet here was a bully with the power to exterminate hundreds of thousands of lives. If he wants to promote that image, he is doing all of us a great favor.
Unfortunately, great risks remain for the United States and the Bush administration as the trial resumes next month.
Saddam's lawyers say they will mount a defense that accuses the U.S. with complicity in any crimes the former Iraqi leader carried out. After all, he was largely an ally before he invaded Kuwait. And don't think he has an all-Arab defense team. Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who served under Lyndon Johnson, is assisting Saddam's defense.
His legal team also will try to introduce the U.S. invasion of Iraq as an example of international crime, claim the Iraqi legal system is an American-created charade and turn the tide of world opinion on broad political hyperbole.
The televised trial could turn into a free-for-all, and it will be a test of the judicial panel to keep it focused on Saddam. Iraqi censors will be able to cut short outbursts, which is unfortunate and carries the greatest potential to undercut the truth of the trial.
We believe in open courts and open trials. American advisers to the Iraqi judges should reaffirm their faith in the system they have created and in the people's ability to sort truth from fiction. Let us hear and see everything. We have nothing to fear from Saddam - and he will prove it.