Iraq’s Mass Graves Could Hold 300,000 victims

U.S. officials announce that Saddam killed 300,000 people and buried them in 263 mass graves. They also point out that these graves date from when Saddam was America’s ally in the Gulf.

The top human rights official for the “CPA”:http://www.cpa-iraq.org/ says Saddam Hussein killed at least 300,000 opponents and buried them in 263 mass graves located around the country.

Sandy Hodgkinson [the U.S. official in charge of disinterring these hellish pits] said the administration has been sending forensic teams to investigate those grave sites reported to U.S. officials. So far, the existence of about 40 graves has been confirmed.
“We have found mass graves with women and children with bullet holes in their heads,” she said.

Hodgkinson said the majority of people buried in the mass graves are believed to be Kurds killed by Saddam in the 1980s after rebelling against the government and Shiites killed after an uprising following the 1991 Gulf War.
President Bush has referred to Iraqi mass graves frequently in recent months, saying they provide evidence that the war to drive Saddam from power was justified.

Without WMD or convincing ties to al Qa’ida, Bush’s pointing to Saddam’s well-documented brutality as justification for March’s invasion seems a little thin, since Hodgkinson says the graves date from 1983 to 1991. Saddam’s Iraq was a U.S. client state until Saddam invaded Kuwait that year, touching off the Gulf War.
Hameda Farag, 46.JPGHameda Farag, 46, a victim of 1988 Halabja attack, photographed in Halabja’s single hospital. It was near sunset when she smelled something odd. “I didn’t know it was a chemical attack until I fled to Iran,” she said. She was pregnant at the time and lost the child. Since then, she has had three miscarriages and now can no longer have children. At the time, the U.S. didn’t care. ®2002, Christopher AllbrittonThese mass graves don’t surprise me. I witnessed the aftermath of Saddam’s viciousness when I interviewed victims of the 1988 gas attack in Halabja last year (the largest single attack in the Anfal campaign that saw multiple gassings of smaller villages across Iraqi Kurdistan.) What I’m curious about, however, is the seeming lack of mass graves _after_ the 1991 Gulf War. Are there none? Did Saddam clean up his act after his defeat from Kuwait? I find that hard to believe. In “this post”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/000474.php, the debate in the comments section focuses on balancing the actual number of Iraqis killed in the war (between 11,000 and 15,000) versus the “hundreds of thousands of people that will not be tortured and put to death in Saddam’s ‘security’ apparatus, and who would have been if we had not gone to war,” according to commenter Gary Robinson.
I’m not trying to use Gary’s words against him; he has a valid point. But what if the sanctions imposed on Iraq and “strong inspections, as apparently Iraq was willing to sign on for in order to avoid war”:http://www.nytimes.com/2003/11/06/politics/06INTE.html, was keeping not only Saddam’s WMD aspirations in check, but also his thuggish instincts toward his subjects? In the absence of mass graves from the 1990s to the present, how can we say that we saved more Iraqis by going to war than if we hadn’t? And to broaden the picture, can we say it was worth it to bog down a good chunk of the U.S. military — that could be used to fight terrorism elsewhere — and damage so many international institutions if Saddam weren’t brutalizing his people to the degree that he was said to be doing?
I don’t know the answers to these questions because there is no evidence — so far — that Saddam was filling graves with “hundreds of thousands” when he was Public Enemy No. 1. Instead, the evidence points to him filling them when he was an ally of America. Until other or more recent evidence shows up, supporters of the war should realize that by pointing to these graves as justification for invading Iraq and causing the actual deaths of tens of thousands, many of them civilians, they’re pointing out that the United States, too, has the blood of Saddam’s victims on its hands. Anyone want to bet the Iraqis don’t know this?

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