Videos of Saddam Hussein after his capture in December showed a docile, disheveled, wild-haired man looking like one of Los Angeles' homeless. His appearance Thursday in a Baghdad court was closer to the image he presented in his days of despotic rule, invasions of Iran and Kuwait, gassing of Kurds and killing of Shiite Muslims: an in-charge dictator.
"I am Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq," he insisted, and demanded that the judge introduce himself. He argued confidently that he could not be prosecuted for any actions during his presidency because the invasion that toppled him was illegal.
Hussein's arrogance and combativeness, if continued throughout a trial, could enhance his popularity among Iraqi dissidents and perhaps encourage more resistance to the country's new government.
Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has risen in the esteem of his backers with tirades during his trial by international jurists on charges of similar crimes against humanity. Milosevic has been on trial for more than two years; no end is in sight. Iraqis must ensure that Hussein's trial is speedier.