White House Launches Campaign To Politicize Saddam Verdict Ahead of Midterm Elections

The verdict in the trial of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was recently postponed until November 5, two days before the U.S. midterm elections. Media Matters has questioned whether “the date for the verdict’s release [was] set to provide maximum political benefit for the administration and congressional Republicans.”

Asked today whether the verdict would be a factor in the U.S. elections, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said, “You are absolutely right, it will be a factor.” Snow said the verdict “may fit into a larger narrative about an Iraqi government that has been doing what the president has said all along.” He portrayed the decision as yet another turning point for Iraq. “This is a benchmark episode, where the Iraqi people are taking control of their own destiny,” he said.

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The day Hussein was captured, President Bush addressed the nation. He said the capture “marks the end his of the road…for all who bullied and killed in his name.” For ordinary Iraqis, it was “further assurance that the torture chambers and the secret police are gone forever.” Bush said, “A hopeful day has arrived. All Iraqis can now come together and reject violence and build a new Iraq.”

In the three years since, all of these claims have come undone. Since Hussein was captured:

2,358 U.S. soldiers have died, roughly 85 percent of the total U.S. fatalities during the Iraq war. — Iraq has “become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement.” [Link] — Torture in Iraq “may be worse now than it was under Saddam Hussein, with militias, terrorist groups and government forces disregarding rules on the humane treatment of prisoners,” the U.N.’s anti-torture chief said in September. [Link] — Prospects for the “new Iraq” have fallen sharply. The 10-member bipartisan commission that is charged with assessing Bush’s Iraq strategy has reportedly “ruled out the prospect for victory.” [Link]

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Full transcript:

KUDLOW: Tony Snow, thanks for coming on the program. Let me begin with this question: Is there a November surprise come out of Iraq? Will the Iraqi court find a guilty verdict for Saddam Hussein and a possible death sentence? Rumors are flying that it’s going to come down this Sunday, November 5th — which of course will dominate the political news cycle, in the last two days in the midterms. Tony what can you tell us about this?

SNOW: Larry that is when this verdict is scheduled to come down. I’m not going to tell you what it will be, because I don’t know. But you are absolutely right, it will be a factor. But you know what, it may fit into a larger narrative about an Iraqi government that has been doing what the president has said all along which is developing the capacity to sustain itself, defend itself and govern itself and to help us out on the war on terror. And you have an Iraqi economy, as you know, that is getting stronger and the military is getting stronger and more assertive in going after terrorist elements and separatist elements within their midst and those are the kinds of things. Slowly but surely you are seeing come to fruition. It is a tough war. The enemy does not want to lose, they are dug in and they are going to fight to the finish but this important thing is you do see signs within Iraq that the government itself is taking steps to make sure there is no new era of Saddam Hussein and know new era of terror.

KUDLOW: Tony, getting Saddam Hussein on the sentence, a possible death sentence, for all of the hundreds of thousands of atrocities for which he is directly responsible. Will that be used in the last 48 hours, as an important justification for the war in iraq?

SNOW: No. i mean, you are no going to use a court verdict as a justification. The justification, though, a little bit of it lies on what you just described which is a Saddam Hussein who killed tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, simply because he didn’t like them or they disagreed with him. What you now have is an Iraq where people are fighting and working actively to bid a democracy where they don’t have to worry about that kind of reign of terror in the future. This is a benchmark episode, where the Iraqi people are taking control of their own destiny and saying to the world, we will not be — we are going to be free, trust us, watch usu, help us and that is what the United States is doing and that’s what we are going to do. We are going to finish the job.