On Villager’s Justice and (Dangers of) America as a Moral Compass

November 12, 2006

Following my previous post in defense of Saddam’s trial and sentencing, and my blatant finger-pointing at Arab states silence on the matter, and my arguing how this development falls lagically into the inexorable march of history, a reader by the name of Yasmiin has questioned whether the court and the Americans who facilitated it have the ‘moral grounds’ to try Saddam and sentence him to death (and has gone on to accuse the Iraqi government of bloodletting and me of being an establishment crook … but that is irrelevant and not serious.)

In response, to defend my view of justice -which I attribute to my illiterate late grandmother, a stalwart defender of justice that I have not seen the like of in my half a decades’ undoing in the American undergrad life- I posted the following response, which I then decided deserved its own entry into the blog.

I believe in my late grandmother’s view of justice -that is, justice often finds unlikely ways to manifest itself. Let me give you fair warning, this is not the tidy view of lawyer’s justice, but rather a mushy and diffuse form of villager’s justice that only the villager can afford (the kinds of F. Lee Bailey is way out of their league.)
From the standpoint of villager’s justice, what is important at the end of the day is that justice is done. If you are joining Ramsy Clark and the chorus of Saddam’s defendents who are protesting the trial for technical and legal ‘irregularities’, then be my guest. Yours truly has little faith left in the debauchery of justice that is the legal process -the same process that is known to acquit criminals and incriminate the innocent.
So even if I agree with what your (and Saddam’s – in many of his in-court outbursts) accusation that the court has no legal credentials or moral grounds to try him, it does not make a crucial difference in this view of justice. From the standpoint of his victims, even those who are not terribly amiable to the Americans, Saddam meets a fitting end for his innumberable crimes.
On a more general note, I feel that many people should really get a grip and guard themselves against the tendency to make ‘America’ -or for that matter, anything- their sole moral compass. Let me elaborate: I think there is a fashionable tendency to disagree with everything that America does, well, because of the simple fact that America does it. This is in a way making America a reverse moral compass -which is as dangerous as agreeing with everything America does because of that fact itself.
Here in Saddam’s trial, it is not anymore about the American or anti-American agenda -just because Americans helped organize the trial or made it possible -which mind you is not a little thing- does not mean that the process is automatically discredited or that Saddam did not deserve it. I find it inexcusable that a history of crimes so well documented -again a sign of divine, or even better, villager’s justice: it just so happens that both Nazi Germany and Saddam’s Iraq were such meticulous record-keepers of their exploits- should be ignored just because of the process or the people who carry it out.
Here is something you can take heart in: if you are right about Americans and their crimes, then be sure that the villagers justice will find a way to implement itself on them too. It is a harsh and unrelenting and unlikely form of justice.
As to my working with the crooks of a certain think-tank, well, you are simply too kind to credit me with undeserved loyalty to them. I am notoriously promiscuous and unloyal when it comes to taking up ideological positions and sticking by them. I have been an outsider and a gadfly wherever I have worked or studied in, and now that I see this huge tendency in the Muslim blogosphere of criticizing America, I find myself comfortable outside that mainstream too. A simple glance at the history of posts in this blog is enough to reveal the extent of my philosophical and political inconsistency and lack of card-board-box-ability.