BAGHDAD, Iraq – The chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee met with the chief judge overseeing the Saddam Hussein trial on Tuesday, saying he's disappointed the court has allowed the former leader "to dominate" the trial.
Sen. Arlen Specter also said a U.S. general told him that recently announced U.S. troop reductions had been in the works since April and that more are on the way.
Specter, a Republican from Pennsylvania who met with Saddam in Iraq in 1990, was the first member of Congress to meet Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin. Before the meeting, Specter told reporters he's disappointed the judge has not always kept control.
"You have a butcher who has butchered his own people, a torturer who has tortured his own people," said Specter, speaking in the courtroom where Saddam is being tried. "The evidence ought to be presented in a systematic way which would show that there's been quite an accomplishment in taking [Saddam] out as opposed to letting him be a blusterbun and control the proceedings."
Specter, the former Philadelphia district attorney, said there's precedent in U.S. and international law to hold Saddam in contempt of court or have him tried in abstention, topics he said he intended to discuss with Amin.
Saddam has often grabbed the spotlight during his trial on mass murder charges. He has railed at the judge, refused to show up at one session, claimed he was tortured and openly prayed in court when the judge would not allow a recess.
"I have been disappointed the way the court has permitted Saddam to dominate the proceedings," the senator said.
Amin is not generally available for comment, but Judge Raid Juhi, who investigated the Saddam case for the court, said of Specter's comments: "We respect the various opinions. ... The judge has his own point of view. The defendants enjoy rights and it's up to the chief judge to run the hearings."
Specter said he met with Maj. Gen. Timothy E. Donovan, chief of staff for the U.S.-led international coalition, and was encouraged by his report, saying the picture in Iraq was better than what is conveyed in U.S. media.
Specter said Donovan told him the recent announcement by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that two battalions scheduled to go to Iraq would not be going had been in the works since the spring.
"I then asked him the next question, 'How about further reductions?' and he said they're in the planning stage but was noncommittal as to what they would be," Specter said.
The senator said that some in the United States had suggested the reduction was in response to political pressure, but said: "This is not so, if as Gen. Donovan says, that is a plan that's been in the pipeline since last April."
Specter, who will chair the hearings in January on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court, said the Bush nominee should be questioned about a memo he wrote when he worked at the Reagan Justice Department defending the right of government officials to order domestic wiretaps for national security.
Specter said the issue itself would not derail Alito's chances for the Supreme Court. "I think his answers will affect his chances, the questions will not affect his chances," he said.