New Documentary - 'The Trial You'll Never See'
Published Tuesday, October 26th, 2004
Europe - 14:56 GMT

Gina Doggett

What if Saddam Hussein were to have a genuinely fair trial? That is the central question of a hard-hitting documentary to be aired on French television Tuesday.

Michel Despratx of France’s Canal Plus television teamed with independent Canadian filmmaker Barry Lando to produce “The Trial of Saddam Hussein, the Trial You’ll Never See.”

The 43-minute film begins with frank and graphic highlights of Saddam’s brutal reign. But it soon delves into a history of collusion going back to the cataclysmic Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when Washington, fully aware that Saddam was using mustard and nerve gas against Iranian civilians, calculated that it was better to keep backing him as the lesser of two evils.

“There are your options. Neither one palatable,” says retired Air Force Captain Rick Fontana in the film. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is shown in a clip from Iraqi television shaking hands with Saddam in 1983 when he was President Ronald Reagan’s special representative for the Middle East.

Shown the clip 20 years later, Rumsfeld mused, “Where did you get this video? … Isn’t that interesting? There I am.”

Copies of the documentary have been ordered by television outlets in Canada, Japan and Australia, but “American stations are not interested,” Despratx told AFP.

One of the most notorious episodes of Saddam’s rule was the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in northern Halabja, an atrocity which drew little international condemnation.

In the heat of the Iran-Iraq war, news programmes mentioned it without naming Saddam, leaving open the suggestion that the Iranians were responsible.

“That was the diplomatic language of the time,” said former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas.

“The West closed its eyes a little bit… Iraq was a strategic country for the balance of the region,” adds Peter Galbraith, top adviser to the Senate foreign relations committee at the time.

According to Gilbraith, “nobody wanted to upset Saddam Hussein, and if Kurds getting gassed was something that would cause troubles, neither the Reagan nor the Bush administration wanted to hear a word about it.”

Another part of the film deals with the numerous companies which supplied Saddam with chemical weapons. “Our estimation is that Germany supplied far more than anyone else to Iraq’s chemical weapons programme, but the French certainly were important suppliers,” says Gary Milhollin, an expert on arms proliferation.

The 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait provides another scathing indictment of the US collusion with Saddam. The film shows a meeting between then-US Ambassador April Glaspie and Saddam eight days before the invasion in which she assures him that Washington will take “no position in the event of any border conflict between Iraq and Kuwait.”

Four months later, the United States and its allies unleashed the first Gulf War, removing Saddam from Kuwait, but leaving him in Baghdad to dispense new terror to his people, killing 300,000 Shiites who rose up against him at the encouragement of the first President George Bush, broadcast repeatedly on Iraq Radio.

In the north, the Kurds also rose up, only to be crushed once again. Galbraith says in the film: “Having called for the uprising the Bush administration then decided they didn’t want it to succeed.”

The damaging consequences of 12 years of international sanctions against Iraq, during which at least half a million children under five died of disease, according to the UN childrens fund (UNICEF), are also examined in the film.

The deliberate destruction of Iraq’s water system during the war led to outbreaks of typhoid and other waterborne diseases, and the embargo prevented Iraq from importing the parts needed to repair the system, the film reveals.


Article courtesy of Agence France-Presse