6 US Troops Killed
Mass Grave Exhumed
A suicide bomber and guerrillas who detonated several roadside bombs killed 6 US troops on Wednesday.
Caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi threatened the inhabitants of Fallujah with a massive US military assault if they did not turn over Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and other foreign fighters suspected of being holed up in Fallujah. Since US attacks typically kill large numbers of civilians, Allawi appears to have been threatening collective punishment, which is a war crime.
Allawi’s president, Ghazi al-Yawir, complained bitterly only two weeks ago about the use of collective punishment against the inhabitants of Fallujah, likening it to Israeli policies in Gaza.
I have also just published an opinion piece on the subject.
Investigators delved into the contents of one of 40 mass graves identified in Iraq, discovering 300 bodies of Kurds killed in 1987 or 1988. The victims appear to have included a large number of women and children.
In the face of such horror (one little boy’s skeletal hand still grasped a plastic ball), it is hard to remember history dispassionately. But the context for this barbarous crime is part of the crime itself. The Kurds had sought greater autonomy from Baghdad for decades. In the later years of the Iran-Iraq War, some Kurdish groups sided with Iran against their own government, in hopes of winning independence. The Baath regime of Saddam Hussein replied with a virtual genocide, killing large numbers of Kurds, and employing in some instances poison gas, as at Halabjah. The sheer vindictiveness of the Anfal Campaign is demonstrated by the fact that so many of the villages targeted were far from the Iranian border and not obviously part of the war effort.
The Reagan administration, then strongly allied with Saddam, did not so much as issue a condemnation of the regime’s vicious attacks on the Kurds. Some congressmen spoke out. In 1983, Secretary of State George Schultz had sent Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad to meet with Saddam and explore an alliance. The meeting went well. But then later in 1983, the State Department issued a condemnation of Saddam for using chemical weapons at the front against Iran. Saddam was furious and almost called off the deal. Schultz then sent Rumsfeld back to Baghdad a second time, in 1984, this time with the message that the State Department condemnation was pro forma. So Donald Rumsfeld and George Schultz are guilty of having winked at the only major use of weapons of mass destruction in the modern Middle East. See “Rumsfeld, Bechtel and Iraq.”
So the Kurdish mass grave is not only a testament to Saddam’s monumental brutality. It is also a sad commentary on the immorality of US policies in the region in the 1980s under Reagan. It is not a legacy over which Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and other figures on the Right can take any pride in, or political comfort from.