Saturday, July 31, 2004

Iraqi general should be freed

Tuesday 27th July 2004

The United States' failure to practice what it preaches in Iraq could prove costly in the larger battle for control of the country. The hypocrisy is already painful for individuals.

The administration has held a top Iraqi scientist in solitary confinement for 17 months without any charges. The most obvious interpretation is that Lt. Gen. Amir al-Saadi is being hidden away because he told a truth that's embarrassing to the Bush administration. Serving as Iraq's chief negotiator with U.N. inspectors, he tried to show his country had abandoned its weapons of mass destruction programs.

Anne Garrels, National Public Radio's distinguished correspondent in Iraq, reported Monday that a string of U.S. officials, including former occupation leader L. Paul Bremer, believe al-Saadi should be released. And international law requires release unless the Iraqi government presses charges, which it won't, according to NPR's "Morning Edition" report ( 19 ).

Ironically, the general never joined the Baath Party, refused an order from Saddam Hussein to divorce his German-born wife and had a brother executed by the dictator. He surrendered himself almost as soon as U.S. troops arrived, and apparently cooperated.

According to NPR, it would take a decision by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or his deputy Paul Wolfowitz to release al-Saadi. Even a belated release would be fair to him. But it also might have larger implications. The Boston Globe recently reported that other Iraqi scientists are so angered by al-Saadi's treatment that they remain suspicious of U.S. intentions.


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