Saddam’s trial

There was no legal reason for Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s long-time foreign minister, to testify at the despot’s trial, as he did last Wednesday. Aziz was not in the Shiite village of Dujail in July 1982 when would-be assassins fired at the tyrant’s convoy. Nor was he there when Saddam’s men took revenge, massacring hundreds of men and boys of the village. But whether it was to protect his family or pilfered assets, Aziz felt compelled to re-enact his old role as Saddam’s loyal flatterer, a silver-tongued consigliore who showed the courtroom that he still can call his old boss a “man of the law” with a straight face.

Ludicrous as his performance was, Aziz served a useful purpose. He reminded Iraqis and the rest of the world just how vicious and cynical Saddam’s republic of fear was. Amid the chaos of sectarian warfare in Iraq, it has become all too easy to forget the nightmare of Saddam’s killing fields.

But there can be no more damning judgment on the blunders of the Bush administration than the bitter reflection of Iraqis who gather at the site of a car bombing and mutter that conditions are worse today than under Saddam’s regime. The benefit of Aziz’s testimony is that it revived memories of the old regime’s cruelty, underlining the need to keep Saddamists from returning to power. — The Boston Globe