Gaunt, pale and weary but distinctively impertinent, Saddam Hussein emerged from a hunger strike for closing defense arguments today in the first trial examining the alleged crimes of his deposed government.
The former Iraqi president, sturdy though fed through a tube for more than two weeks and hospitalized for the last three days, lashed out at Judge Raouf Rashid Abdel Rahman and his court-appointed lawyers as well as the U.S. invaders, who toppled his dictatorship.
“You are my enemy,” said Hussein, jabbing his finger at the court-appointed lawyer assigned to present his defense in lieu of his own attorneys, who have boycotted the trial. “Why do you impose yourself as an enemy of the Iraqi people?”
The attorney, his voice digitally disguised, continued reading from a final defense statement that stretched 75 pages.
“I don’t want my history to be stained by this,” Hussein interrupted.
“You don’t write the history,” the judge retorted. “The people write it.”
“Yes,” said Hussein, who claimed he was forced to attend today’s session and repeatedly asked to leave, “the people and the people’s heroes.”
The hunger strike did not enfeeble Hussein’s determination to turn the trial, ostensibly concerned with reprisals taken against Shiite villagers following a 1982 assassination attempt against the then-president, into a theatrical commentary on Iraq’s current affairs.