George Will

The attempts of ``internationalists'' to hijack Saddam's prosecution are partly for the purpose of derogating the importance and legitimacy of nation-states generally. But Iraqi nationhood -- currently tenuous as a political and psychological fact -- can be affirmed by entrusting it with the trial. By serving Iraq's national memory, the trial can be a nation-building event.

The Nuremberg tribunal, although necessary as a means of civilizing vengeance, raised troubling questions not only because of its Stalinist component but because an ex post facto taint attached to the charge of ``crimes against humanity.'' But Iraqis, not the abstraction ``humanity,'' were Saddam's victims, and should be his prosecutors.

Israel's 1961 prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, although an admirable demonstration of implacable yet measured justice, did, to some critics, carry the blemish of the kidnapping from Argentina that made it possible. But there was no nonsense about Eichmann being tried by ``the international community'' for crimes against ``humanity.'' He was tried by the nation summoned into existence by crimes in which he participated. Iraq is similarly the discrete locus of the great grievance against Saddam.

Ripples from Saddam's capture will -- and should -- radiate through America's domestic politics. The question of Saddam's trial, like the war itself, raises profound issues that divide America's parties. They are issues about the rights of nations, and the importance of defending them against the self-aggrandizement of international institutions of questionable competence, legitimacy and accountability.

Furthermore, no Democrat is running for president as a little ray of

sunshine, but John Kerry used the occasion Sunday morning to tell Fox News that although the capture was good, the administration still has not done enough about AIDS. Can someone that tone-deaf govern?

Howard Dean was more gracious than he was when Saddam fled Baghdad. Then Dean said ``I suppose'' that Saddam's removal was a good thing. Saddam's capture was the third element in last week's trifecta for George W. Bush, coming after Al Gore strengthened the candidacy of Bush's preferred opponent, and the Dow passed 10,000. But perhaps Sunday's euphoria among the vast majority of next November's voters will cause Democrats to pause on their double-time march toward nominating the one serious candidate of whom it can be indisputably said that, were he president, Saddam would still be a president.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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