Iraqi insurgents continue to strike deadly blows that hamper the restoration of civil order. While military targets get their share of the death, maiming and destruction, it is innocent Iraqi civilians who suffer the worst losses.
When Saddam Hussein was Iraq's dictator, he is believed to have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of civilians within his own country's borders. Now militant terrorists opposed to the formation of a democratic government in Iraq are continuing Saddam's murderous mayhem.
The possible charges against the former dictator are too numerous to contemplate. This is one reason why the Iraqi authorities are focusing on just 12 charges against Saddam, whose trial is expected to begin within weeks. Among those charges is one related to the deaths of thousands of Kurds by using poison chemicals.
Beginning the trial, which will be highly publicized in Iraq and around the world, may have a catalytic impact. Seeing the man who was so feared by so many standing before his accusers has the potential for galvanizing public sentiment internally and globally. Of particular interest will be to hear what defense, if any, Saddam's lawyers can present for the actions of someone who is generally considered a madman.
Saddam's trial also will be a bold step toward legitimizing the new government in Iraq. Already the country's political and bureaucratic processes are restoring essential government services. A display of justice at the highest levels will surely be a capstone in that process.