“The Biggest Thing Happening In the World”

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has an excellent profile of federal prosecutor Cliff Wardlaw, who spent 11 months in Iraq, helping to establish that country’s judiciary after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He hasn’t put the experience behind him:

He trained judges, checked courthouse security, examined prison conditions and worked to steer the Iraqi judiciary to an independent body, one separate from the country’s political leadership.

Since his return, his life has been suffused with the memories. And he is driven by the desire to go back.

Wardlaw saw first-hand the horrors of the Baathist regime:

He made friends with an eloquent and educated Iraqi judge who had puzzling dark brown scars across his face. The scars, Wardlaw learned, came from acid, dripped onto the man’s skin as punishment for refusing to issue death warrants during Saddam’s regime.

The most able and energetic Iraqi judge he worked with was murdered in an ambush.

Notwithstanding the danger and discomfort he experienced in Iraq, Wardlaw yearns to return:

He felt proud to be helping. And lucky to be witnessing history. Everything he has done since, he said, has seemed mundane. Less significant.

Inside the white walls of his Minneapolis office, his eyes widen when he talks about it: “This is the biggest thing happening in the world.” ***

“I have all my stuff packed,” he says. “Someone could call me, and in an hour I could go home and be ready to go.”


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