Saddam’s Mass Graves
Today’s NYT covers a team excavating one of Saddam Hussein’s many mass graves.
Raid Juhi, chief investigative judge for the Iraqi court now trying Mr. Hussein in another case, said during a visit here on Saturday that the court had documentary evidence, and statements from witnesses, showing that at least 100,000 Shiites, and possibly 180,000, died in the 1991 repression.
The trial of Mr. Hussein and his associates for what is known among the Shiites as the “intifada,” or rebellion, could be still a year or more off. The Iraqi tribunal has only one courtroom, in Mr. Hussein’s old Baath Party headquarters in Baghdad. The first trial in a series planned for the ousted Iraqi dictator, involving the brutal aftermath of a failed assassination attempt in 1982 against Mr. Hussein in the mainly Shiite town of Dujail, is not expected to end before late summer.
The tribunal will then hear a second case, involving accusations that 50,000 Kurds were killed in what is called the Anfal offensive, which reached its peak in 1988.
The proximity of the rebel threat here echoes the events of 1991, when Mr. Hussein, in Baghdad, quickly marshaled the death squads that spread out across Iraq’s southern provinces to extinguish the Shiite uprising. Of the 200 mass graves the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry has registered in the three years since the American-led invasion, the majority are in the south. One, at Mahawil, about 50 miles south of Baghdad, is believed to hold as many as 10,000 to 15,000 victims, Mr. Juhi said.
Two other sites, one at Hatra, near Mosul in the north, and another at Muthanna, near the southern city of Samawa, have been exhaustively examined by Mr. Trimble’s team. The remains of more than 300 victims from those locations, killed during the Anfal campaign, are stored in chilled containers at a high-technology laboratory at the Baghdad international airport.
Such stories are a useful reminder of what Iraq was like before the Coalition invasion. As horrible as Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and other crimes committed under our watch may be, they are isolated and the offenders being investigated and punished by our government. That’s in rather stark contrast to systematic slaughter carried out as a matter of government policy.
Update: Cori Dauber notes that “this front-page, above the fold story” is in stark contrast to the general media indifference to Saddam’s atrocities and ongoing trial. Ditto the proprietor of Blue Crab Boulevard, who snarks, “Not exactly the happy, kite-flying place Michael Moore likes to talk about, was it?”