The US-backed special tribunal in Baghdad signalled Monday that it will likely delay a verdict in thefirst trial of Saddam Hussein to November 5. Why hasn’t the mainstream mediaconnected the dots between the Saddam’s judgment day and the midtermelections?

Here’s how the story was reported pretty much everywhere: “An Iraqi court trying Saddam Hussein for thekilling of Shi’ite villagers in the 1980s could deliver a verdict onNovember 5, officials said, a ruling which could send the ousted leaderto the gallows…”

A possible death-sentence for Saddam and his top lieutenants on November 5? Now, shouldn’t that raise a few eyebrows somewhere? If you happento have a calendar close at hand, pull it over and take a quick look. That verdict would then come, curiously enough, just two days before themidterm elections. It’s the sort of thing that–you would think–thatany reporter with knowledge of the US election cycle (no less of howKarl Rove has worked these last years) would at least note in anarticle. But no, you can search high and low without finding areference to this in the mainstream media.

I must admit I hadn’t thought about this myself until a friend forwardedme “No Comment,” the e-mail newsletter that ScottHorton sends out from time to time. (“It’s intended as ironic. AllI do is comment.”) Horton, who likes to identify himself in hisnewsletter as an “obscure New York lawyer,” is actually an adjunctprofessor at the Columbia University Law School, as well as chairman ofthe International Law Committee at the New York City Bar Association. He makes frequent trips to Iraq, working as an attorney”representing arrested local-hire reporters of US media.”

Once he had pointed out the timing in his newsletter, I couldn’t get itout of my head and, since a Google search and a spin through variousmainstream articles on the changed verdict date, brought up only acouple of passingmentions online of its relationship to the US elections, I calledHorton directly. Here’s what he had to say when I asked whether hethought Karl Rove might have anything to do with this:

“For sure. That November 5 date is designed to show some progress inIraq. This is the last full news-cycle day in the US before theelections. It’ll be Monday. And the American public will see Saddamcondemned to death and see it as a positive thing.

“When you look at polling figures,” Horton said,” there have been threesignificant spike points. One was the date on which Saddam wascaptured. The second was the purple fingers election. The third wasZarqawi being killed. Based on those three, it’s easy to project thatthey will get a mild bump out of this.

“After all, almost every newspaper reserves space for Iraq reportingevery day. This just assures that they will have a positive news storyto feature. I find it amazing not that journalists don’t editorializeon this, but that they report the story without even noting that this isright before the midterm elections. That’s pretty amazing to me!

“This is not coincidence,” he continued. “Nothing in Iraq that’sset up this far in advance is coincidental. Look at Michael Gordon’sbook Cobra II. One of the points he drives home ishow everything in the battle for Baghdad was scripted for US mediaconsumption.

“In fact, in my experience, everything that comes out of Baghdad is verycarefully prepared for American domestic consumption.

“As for Saddam’s trial itself, I’ve spoken with dozens of lawyers andjudges in Iraq and they have a uniformly very negative opinion of thisspecial tribunal. Everybody — pretty consistently across the board,and despite the fact that there’s no love lost for Saddam himself–has ahigh level of irritation about the tribunal. Judges have said to me, ‘Iwouldn’t serve on that. I wouldn’t have anything to do with it. It’s ablot on our country.’ Their main point of criticism is its lack ofindependence. There is a team of American lawyers working as speciallegal advisors out of the US embassy, who drive the whole thing. Theyhave been involved in preparing the case and overseeing it from thebeginning. The trial, which is shown on TV, has mild entertainmentvalue for Iraqis, but they refer to it regularly as an American puppettheater.”

Still, scheduling the announcement of what will almost certainly be a futureexecution to give yourself one last shot at a bump in the polls?

Welcome to Bushworld.

[If you are interested in receiving Scott Horton’s “No Comment,” you canrequest it at [email protected]]