The United States as world court
"In a last-minute filing to the U.S. District Court of Washington, Saddam's lawyers asked for a temporary stay of execution because he is a defendant in a civil case in the same court and he has been prevented from being able to defend himself.
"'Saddam Hussein has not been informed of the civil action against him and has not been advised of his rights nor been allowed counsel to assist in his defense of the civil action,' the lawyers wrote in the court filing.
"They said Saddam had a constitutional right to defend himself and said the court had jurisdiction to ensure that Saddam's legal rights were protected."
The main thing I remember from the movie Falcon and the Snowman is a scene where one of our titular protaganists is about to undergo torture in a foreign prison. "You can't do this, I'm an American!" he insists. The torturer's response, quietly as the scene fades away: "This is not America."
The wacky last-minute petition did get one thing right: Defendants in a U.S. court have a right to defend themselves, even if they have a past as brutal dictators. The concept of a separate kind of justice for non-citizens, i.e. Guantanamo, is unique to the past few years and clearly unconstitutional - at least to anyone who reads the Constitution, an increasingly irrelevant exercise these days.
I suppose someone may argue that as long as the United States is being judge, jury and executioner of so many folks overseas, it may as well step in on this one. But the judge in this case did the only thing she could do - she threw up her hands and said, "Ain't my decision to make, bub."
Not that I especially think killing Saddam is a good thing. My attitude towards the death penalty mirrors the Vatican's, in point of fact: Killing a killer compounds one crime with another. "The death penalty is not a natural death. And no one can give death, not even the State" - well, sure the state can give death, but it isn't right.
But a U.S. court has no business telling the Iraqis what to do with their prisoner, even if U.S. forces imprisoned him first before handing him over. Granting the defendant's motion would have (or should have) been an exercise in futility for the U.S. judge.