Day by day, Saddam Hussein’s top henchmen are being captured by the U.S.-led coalition. To people outside Iraq, the best known of those captured is Tariq Aziz, Saddam Hussein’s deputy prime minister. For years, it was Tariq Aziz -- with his sophisticated manner and superb command of English -- who went to the United Nations and other places seeking to justify the regime’s illegal and violent actions.
When Saddam Hussein’s forces brutally occupied Kuwait in 1990, it was Aziz who falsely claimed that the aggression was justified. After the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Aziz spent the next dozen years trying to persuade the world that the regime was not hiding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This, in the face of massive evidence to the contrary uncovered by U-N weapons inspectors.
Educated in literature and the fine arts, Tariq Aziz became editor of the Iraqi Baath Party newspaper in the 1960s. He became part of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle during the dictator’s murderous rise to power. Appointed information minister in 1974 and foreign minister in 1979, Aziz was there when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran and committed numerous war crimes, including the use of poison gas. He was there when Saddam Hussein’s forces murdered tens of thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s. And for three decades, he was there as countless Iraqis were imprisoned, tortured, mutilated, raped, and executed for trying to exercise fundamental rights.
But Tariq Aziz, the learned man who loved to quote Shakespeare, had nothing to tell the world about the crimes of the Saddam Hussein regime. Rather, his job was to help cover them up. The job of this privileged insider was to be Saddam Hussein’s front man -- the human face for an evil regime.
Now Tariq Aziz is out of a job and in custody along with a growing number of other criminals from the Saddam Hussein regime. “Step by step,” as President George W. Bush said, the citizens of Iraq “are reclaiming their own country. They’re identifying former officials who are guilty of crimes.”
And that’s not all. With the help of the U.S.-led coalition, Iraqis are working to establish a new government based on democratic principles, not lies and oppression. They are working, as President Bush put it, to “build a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people.”