Saddam: Butcher of Baghdad....Or "Assertive Nationalist Leader"?

In the field of media criticism, conservatives have taken up the idea of objectivity, of making a press presenting itself as objective live up to the pledge and give conservatives a chance. Liberals mock the idea of objectivity, creating a stick-figure caricature that objectivity means putting truth and falsehood side by side and not distinguishing between the two.

That would seem to be the kind of objectivity the Washington Post is presenting on the trial of Saddam Hussein. He is not presented as a mass-murdering, torturing dictator. It’s time for balancing perceptions. On the front page of the paper edition (and mysteriously missing from the front page of the website) is Jackie Spinner's report. Under a picture of Saddam, the headline reads: "Hussein: ‘I Don’t Acknowledge This Court’: Iraqi Defiant As Trial Opens and Then Recesses Until November." He’s just an "Iraqi"? We can’t even get a weaselly word like "Strongman"? (If I'd been in Baghdad, I'd have recommended they at least humiliate the tyrant with a Phil Spector courtroom Afro.)

Spinner reported: "Broadcast on live television, the proceedings enthralled Iraqis all over the country. Many cheered the sight of a man they view as a demon being brought to justice; those who maintain loyalty to Hussein as an assertive nationalist leader expressed dismay at his humiliation." That caricatures the reality of a dictatorship into mere perception: "the man they view as a demon"? Spinner later described him as merely "the former Iraqi leader."

Spinner quotes Saddam uncritically as he claims: "I don't have hatred against any of you," he said, "but we have to speak to rights and respect the people's will in choosing me. I don't acknowledge this court with all respect to its figures. I stick to my constitutional rights as president of Iraq state."

The anti-Saddam side gets to speak in, believe it or not, paragraph 27. "He must be executed as many times as martyrs fell on the soil of Iraq and every woman raped in the Iraqi prisons," Shahristani told reporters. "This is the day all the Iraqis waited for, for a long time. Today they saw the tyrant and his henchman in the cage. The bloodshed didn't go in vain. It was a candle in the path of freedom and democracy which God blessed us with."

Iraq Washington Post
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