SADDAM AND DONALD….In the LA Times today, Erwin Chemerinsky says this about Donald Rumsfeld’s condemnation of Iraqi treatment of American POWs:

Rumsfeld’s hypocrisy here is enormous. For two years, the Bush administration has ignored and violated international law and thus has undermined the very legitimacy of the treaties and principles that constitute the law of nations. Though we all hope, of course, for the quick and safe return of the American prisoners of war, the fact is that — unfortunately — Iraq and other nations may feel much freer today to violate international law in the way they treat war captives and the way they wage war.

Now, I would very much like to believe this since I think George Bush’s disdain for collective security and international treaties has serious long-term consequences, but I can’t. It’s just fantasy.

The plain fact is that Saddam Hussein is a nauseatingly vicious brute, and accounts of his longtime love of torture as both entertainment and an instrument of state policy are enough to make any civilized person sick. He has always felt free to violate international law ? not to mention every conceivable law of human decency ? and that has nothing to do with the fact that the United States abrogated the ABM treaty or is holding 600 al-Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Chemerinsky is almost certainly right that we should provide tribunals for the Guantanamo prisoners as required by the Geneva conventions, but the reason we should do this is precisely because we hold ourselves to infinitely higher standards than Saddam Hussein has ever held himself ? not because we think our example makes the slightest difference either to him or to his likeminded thugs in other countries. It is foolish to suggest otherwise.