Civilisation is coming home

What was the single greatest moment of the twentieth century? The tearing down of the Berlin Wall? The Moon landing? I would nominate an event that was not televised and nowhere near as famous as the other two. The moment Hermann Goering said "probably".

According to Airey Neave's description of the Nuremberg Trials, Goering had performed extremely well under the cross examination of the lead prosecutor, Robert Jackson. Initially he strongly denied involvement in the shooting of 50 British prisoners of war. But David Maxwell-Fyfe's cross examination ground him down. He first claimed to have been on vacation at the time the order was issued, but his diary showed his vacation ended the previous week. Maxwell-Fyfe pressed home his advantage. Did Goering know of the illegal order? Finally, Goering responded "probably". The credibility of the trial had been saved.

There was another such moment in Baghdad this week. Baghdad: the home of civilisation, in the country which invented cities, commerce and writing

Most of the world's greatest state criminals have never faced trial. Hitler and Himmler committed suicide. Mao, Stalin, Khomeini and Lenin died in their beds. Kim Jong Il and Castro are still in power. But just occasionally a few of these monsters are held accountable. It began in Nuremberg and continues today in The Hague and in Baghdad.

Dictators everywhere should tremble a bit. Some day they just might have to answer for their crimes.

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