MartiniPundit

Random thoughts and insights – always shaken, never stirred

The Rule of Law

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A remarkable thing happened in Iraq today. The Rule of Law sprouted.

By putting Saddam Hussein on trial in an Iraqi court for crimes he committed against his own people, an Arab nation has taken the first steps out of the byzantine barbarism that has characterized so much of life in that part of the world. Many have compared this to the Nuremberg Trials, or that of Slobodon Mlosevic in The Hague, but the true parallel is to Charles I, King of England from 1625 to 1649.

Now, Charles I was not the monster Saddam so manifestly is. He was at odds with his people for a variety of reasons: religious, financial, political, and mostly, on the liberties of the people. He famously fought a war against Parliament, and lost. Put on trial by that body and accused of treason, he was condemned and on January 30, 1649, executed. Parliament had largely pre-ordained the outcome, and the charge itself – treason – was ludicrous given the definition of treason at the time was an act against the crown, but it was a trial, conducted under the rule of law, and the accused was given the right to mount a defense. Charles I paid the price for losing a war, but the way he paid that price was new.

English kings had been deposed and murdered before. Edward II was deposed by his Queen and her lover and quietly murdered. Richard II was deposed by his cousin and quietly murdered. Henry VI was deposed, allowed to live for a decade in custody but then was quietly murdered after his supporters failed in an uprising. Edward V was deposed by his uncle and quietly murdered. (Most probably by that uncle, Richard III, but some have argued that he was murdered by Richard’s foe and successor Henry VII.)

Thus we see the primary means of disposing of a troublesome ex-king was a knife in the dark. This changed in 1587 when Elizabeth I, in the height of the fears over a Spanish invasion, ordered the trial, and eventually the execution of her cousin and heir Mary, Queen of Scots. This was a little different, involving as it did international intrigue and Mary was not Queen of England. However, the difference was that she was tried and sham though it was, it represented a break with the previous practice. When Charles I’s time came, a trial was required. The Rule of Law had trumped the medieval rule of the sword.

Which brings us back to Iraq. Arab strongmen like Saddam have ruled by the sword and the gun for generations. Today, Iraq took a giant step forward to a different and better way. To be sure, Saddam will be found guilty and hanged someday soon, but it will not be a bullet in the dark, it will be justice.

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Written by martinipundit

October 19, 2005 at 10:54 pm

Posted in GWOT, History

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