- In the past few months the graves of thousands of civilians
have been unearthed in war-torn Iraq. Not surprisingly, the White House
wasted no time in declaring the dead to be prime examples of Saddam Hussein's
brutality and a further justification for the US-led invasion.
- But a check of the historical record on this matter reveals
yet another calculated distortion by the US administration and its supporters.
- At the end of the 1991 Gulf War legions of Shia radicals
- the kind we've seen clamoring for an Islamic state - assaulted and killed
anyone associated with Iraq's secular government. Urged to 'take matters
into their own hands' by the first Bush administration and wrongly believing
that Iraq's army had been destroyed, armed militants went from city to
city in southern Iraq mercilessly butchering scores of innocents.
- As put forth by regional analyst Sandra Mackay: "The
rebels utilized their guns and numbers to seize the civilian operatives
of the Baath government while former Shia conscripts turned on officers
of the army. They hung their captives from rafters of an Islamic school,
shot them in the head before walls turned into execution chambers, or simply
slit their throats at the point of capture.' (The Reckoning: Iraq and the
Legacy of Saddam Hussein, page 24)
- Dilip Hiro, another Iraqi historian, documents atrocities
in the holy city of Kerbala: "Insurgents had attacked the army headquarters
and seized weapons They decapitated or hanged 75 military officials, some
of them Shia, and tortured many more." (Desert Shield To Desert Storm:
The Second Gulf War, page 402)
- All said, several thousand policemen, clerks, military
personnel and employees of the government were slain, according to Omar
Ali, another regional authority. (See Crisis in the Arabian Gulf, page
- Meanwhile in northern Iraq, Kurdish separatists were
gearing up for their own shot at the regime. As far back as 1961 - seven
years before Saddam Hussein came to power - they had been staging violent
attacks on Iraq's central government, trying to leverage off a piece of
the country to form their own fledgling state.
- Accepting Washington's pronouncements about a vanquished
Iraqi military, up to 400,000 Kurds undertook a ferocious spree of mayhem
that rivaled that of the Shia. According to Mackay, in Kirkuk "no
one bothered to count how many servants of Baghdad were shot, beheaded,
or cut to shreds with the traditional dagger stuck in the cummerbund of
every Kurdish man. By the time Kurdish rage had exhausted itself, piles
of corpses lay in the streets awaiting removal by bulldozers." (The
Reckoning, page 26)
- This unrestrained carnage, documented by several additional
sources, is what the White House (and the media) characterize as "rising
up against Saddam".
- Unfortunately for the Kurdish and Shia murderers, Iraq's
army was far from destroyed. After withdrawing from Kuwait in accordance
with US mandates, the Republican Guards and other units regrouped and commenced
a methodical campaign to hunt down the assailants and restore order. Using
tanks, artillery, mortars, and helicopter gunships, they subdued city after
city in succession.
- In the north hundreds of thousands of Kurds took flight
to the rocky mountains bordering Iran and Turkey. There they stood, cold
and hungry, until the Bush administration began airlifting emergency supplies
- a tacit admission of partial responsibility for their plight.
- In the south the Shia who fought back were easily overwhelmed
and killed, while hundreds more were executed at point of capture, their
bodies immediately buried in accordance with Islamic law. This is the principal
source of the mass graves of Iraq.
- What government in the world would refrain from using
all necessary means to quell a violent uprising of this kind? No one denies
that the regime's response was swift and merciless, or that many innocents
were caught up in the retaliation and destruction. But if blame is assigned,
shouldn't it start with the instigators of the carnage along with the foreign
government who misled them about the forces they were going up against
and yet egged them on?
- Like claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
or Baghdad's links to Al Qaeda, the mass graves of Iraq are another example
of history and reality being distorted to fit the ulterior motives of the
- Mark Gery MA is an Iraqi Analyst from the Orange County
Peace Coalition and a member of The Education For Peace in Iraq Center,