I think that it is a shame that the courts allowed Augusto Pinochet to escape punishment because of alleged, and real, medical problems. Former dictators should not be immune from prosecution for torture, murder, war crimes and other human rights abuses.

Chuck Mann
Greensboro NC

Saddam Hussein

I would like to thank the PWW for publishing the article by Salam Ali of the Iraqi Communist Party (PWW 12/2-8). It would be good to see key documents of many different communist, socialist and workers parties published as a regular feature.

However, I have a serious concern about the position taken in this document vis a vis the trial and death sentence for Saddam Hussein.

I oppose the death penalty, not for sentimental, pacifist or religious reasons, but because it is used in so many places as a tool of class, sectarian, gender, race or ethnic domination. To fight to abolish the death penalty worldwide helps with the struggle to abolish it in individual countries.

Even though I am aware of the outrageous suffering caused by Saddam Hussein to the people of Iraq and its neighbors, it would have set a precedent for the rest of the region and world to stop short of the ultimate penalty. It would make a nice contrast with the practices in neighboring Iran and Saudi Arabia, and indeed Texas, when George Bush was governor and signed off on the execution of 150 convicts. But that is up to the Iraqi people.

There have also been serious questions about the procedure. The way the judge was replaced certainly raised eyebrows. The trouble with a flawed process is not just that the innocent sometimes get condemned, but that in politically charged cases like this one, the guilty get turned into martyrs. And surely one doesn’t want Saddam to be a perpetual martyr for Baathist intransigents.

A third concern is that apparently, Saddam was tried for only a fraction of the crimes of which he is credibly accused, and to which Salam Ali refers. For example, evidently there was a cutoff date, which assured that he was not accused of the murder of Iraqi communists and other leftists before he became president and in the earlier years of his presidency. I do not know the motive for the narrowness of the indictment, but I do know that it prevented a thorough airing of the complicity of U.S. imperialism in Saddam’s criminal career. To leave this out of the procedures creates the impression that Saddam was always the enemy of imperialism and that, in fact, the only relationship of imperialism to Saddam was to “rescue” the Iraqi people from his despotism. In fact, U.S. imperialism helped to put him and his Baathist colleagues in power at the time Colonel Qasem was overthrown, and connived with him in some of his most brutal acts.

Imperialism should have been in the dock with Saddam. Perhaps that was not possible under the conditions of occupation, but it should be clearly understood and pointed out anyway.

Emile Schepers
Northern Virginia

Landless in Montana

What an outrage that the state of Montana tickets a hunter who mistakenly shoots a game animal on Ted Turner’s private estate. This is taking private property rights too far. The people of Montana, the homeless and landless poor should occupy this private estate and divide this property between them so they won’t be landless anymore. We need land reform for our landless poor in Montana. Abolish all large private property estates and landless poor of our state and nation.

Say, Ted Turner, give up your large private estate to the landless poor of our state and nation or we the people will take this land from your thieving capitalist hands. Power to the landless people.

Daniel Gawain Waters
Troy MT

Indigenous peoples

I was listening to WBAI broadcast a meeting of indigenous people and their representatives from around the world. One of the speakers was a man from Bolivia who said the indigenous people of Bolivia had, for years, tried to work with groups on the left to achieve independence. Finally, a socialist group (I believe a Marxist group) allowed the indigenous people to join them and promised not to betray their dreams of independence. The indigenous people and the socialist grouping achieved power and the indigenous peoples of Bolivia were saved from having international capital ravage their lands and natural resources.

It is my sincerest wish that the international communist movement recognize the struggles of the indigenous peoples throughout the world and aid them from being ravaged by global capital. I hope that we can open our eyes, minds, and hearts to their struggles, not only for sake of self-determination of indigenous peoples throughout the world, but for sake of all mankind.

G. De Santis
Via e-mail