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[casi-analysis] casi-news digest, Vol 1 #131 - 2 msgs

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Today's Topics:

   1. Blair admits Iraq mass graves claim 'untrue' (Alison Gundle)
   2. Iraq,Saddam's trial and the war (Muhamed Ali)


Message: 1
Subject: Blair admits Iraq mass graves claim 'untrue'
Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2004 17:21:36 +0100
From: "Alison Gundle" <>
To: <>

PM admits graves claim 'untrue'

Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor
Sunday July 18, 2004
The Observer <>

Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Bl=
air that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' is untrue, an=
d only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered.
The claims by Blair in November and December of last year, were given wides=
pread credence, quoted by MPs and widely published, including in the introd=
uction to a US government pamphlet on Iraq's mass graves.
In that publication - Iraq's Legacy of Terror: Mass Graves produced by USAI=
D, the US government aid distribution agency, Blair is quoted from 20 Novem=
ber last year: 'We've already discovered, just so far, the remains of 400,0=
00 people in mass graves.'
On 14 December Blair repeated the claim in a statement issued by Downing St=
reet in response to the arrest of Saddam Hussein and posted on the Labour p=
arty website that: 'The remains of 400,000 human beings [have] already [bee=
n] found in mass graves.'
The admission that the figure has been hugely inflated follows a week in wh=
ich Blair accepted responsibility for charges in the Butler report over the=
 way in which Downing Street pushed intelligence reports 'to the outer limi=
ts' in the case for the threat posed by Iraq.
Downing Street's admission comes amid growing questions over precisely how =
many perished under Saddam's three decades of terror, and the location of t=
he bodies of the dead.
The Baathist regime was responsible for massive human rights abuses and mur=
der on a large scale - not least in well-documented campaigns including the=
 gassing of Halabja, the al-Anfal campaign against Kurdish villages and the=
 brutal repression of the Shia uprising - but serious questions are now eme=
rging about the scale of Saddam Hussein's murders.
It comes amid inflation from an estimate by Human Rights Watch in May 2003 =
of 290,000 'missing' to the latest claims by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad=
 Allawi, that one million are missing.
At the heart of the questions are the numbers so far identified in Iraq's g=
raves. Of 270 suspected grave sites identified in the last year, 55 have no=
w been examined, revealing, according to the best estimates that The Observ=
er has been able to obtain, around 5,000 bodies. Forensic examination of gr=
ave sites has been hampered by lack of security in Iraq, amid widespread co=
mplaints by human rights organisations that until recently the graves have =
not been secured and protected.
While some sites have contained hundreds of bodies - including a series aro=
und the town of Hilla and another near the Saudi border - others have conta=
ined no more than a dozen.
And while few have any doubts that Saddam's regime was responsible for seri=
ous crimes against humanity, the exact scale of those crimes has become inc=
reasingly politicised in both Washington and London as it has become cleare=
r that the case against Iraq for retention of weapons of mass destruction h=
as faded.
The USAID website, which quotes Blair's 400,000 assertion, states: 'If thes=
e numbers prove accurate, they represent a crime against humanity surpassed=
 only by the Rwandan genocide of 1994, Pol Pot's Cambodian killing fields i=
n the 1970s, and the Nazi Holocaust of World War II.'
It is an issue that Human Rights Watch was acutely aware of when it compile=
d its own pre-invasion research - admitting that it had to reduce estimates=
 for the al-Anfal campaign produced by Kurds by over a third, as they belie=
ved the numbers they had been given were inflated.
Hania Mufti, one of the researchers that produced that estimate, said: 'Our=
 estimates were based on estimates. The eventual figure was based in part o=
n circumstantial information gathered over the years.'
A further difficulty, according to Inforce, a group of British forensic exp=
erts in mass grave sites based at Bournemouth University who visited Iraq l=
ast year, was in the constant over-estimation of site sizes by Iraqis they =
met. 'Witnesses were often likely to have unrealistic ideas of the numbers =
of people in grave areas that they knew about,' said Jonathan Forrest.
'Local people would tell us of 10,000s of people buried at single grave sit=
es and when we would get there they would be in multiple hundreds.'
A Downing Street spokesman said: 'While experts may disagree on the exact f=
igures, human rights groups, governments and politicians across the world h=
ave no doubt that Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and=
 their remains are buried in sites throughout Iraq.'
Web address of article:,690=


Message: 2
Subject: Iraq,Saddam's trial and the war
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2004 13:14:05 +0100
From: "Muhamed Ali" <>
To: <>

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

Shadow of Saddam still falls over survivors

Two men who cheated dictator's death squads describe their mixed
feelings at being asked to testify against him

Rory McCarthy in Hilla
Thursday July 22, 2004
The Guardian <>,2763,1266275,00.html



WMD did pose a threat

William Shawcross
Wednesday July 21, 2004
The Guardian <>

Tony Blair was quite right yesterday to say that it was "absurd" to
claim that anyone reading the prewar intelligence reports could think
that Iraq's weapons were not a problem.,2763,1265568,00.html



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