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[casi] A memo from Jude Wanniski

That is revelevant to some of the recent discussion.

Basically its points are that
1) Everyone dies and leaves a corpse sooner or later
2) Iraq has been an exceptionally violent place for more than 30 years

Therefore, the presence of a remains or even a large collection of remains does not in itself 
represent an atrocity.  For example if the US encourages an uprising, and if for example, members 
of exile organisations such as the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution sends in at least 8000 
fighters from Iran.  Then such people are either going to succeed or probably be killed trying to 
do so, however undesirable this might be (although executions after surrender would be a war crme).

Although, there is some thing ironic about this whole controversy when concerning an occupation 
regime that "does not do body counts".

At present we are being overwhelmed with a flood of media reports say 100 bodies found here or 78 
here that seem totally unsubstantiated, but in total create an impression that a well established 
and documented mass grave situation exists when quite clearly it does not.

To me the most cynical exercise was HRW going to a cemetary at Muhammed Sakran, digging up one 
grave, photographing contents and then announcing the discovery of a mass grave of 1000 political 
prisoners.  It doesnt get more cynical than that (again something the academic crowd kept very 
silent about here).

It seems to be close to bordering on racist libel, directed at Iraqis in particular and Muslims in 
general.  The fact that issue is being used by factions in Iraq to consolidate their own power and 
control in a post war Iraq simply confirms that the replacement regime will be every bit as alien 
to the interests of the ordinary Iraqi as Saddam Hussein was.  But we all already knew that.

Memo follows.

Memo To: Howell Raines, NYTimes executive editor
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: All those bodies

Over the last several weeks, Howell, your paper has run several accounts of “mass graves” being 
unearthed in Iraq. Because it is now becoming clearer by the day that Iraq had no “weapons of mass 
destruction,” when our government decided to incinerate roughly 25,000 Iraqi civilians and 
soldiers, mass graves now seem one of the new justifications for our pre-emptive war. And the Times 
has been leading the charge in discovering them. You of course realize by now that I have been 
correct in warning you that Iraq has had no WMD since 1991, and may not have actually had any 
before that. I’m not expecting you to say I was right, but I do hope you will take my advice in 
urging your reporters in Iraq to be more careful in their reports of “mass graves.”

The very first report, as I recall, was of mass graves that turned out to be cemeteries. But 
because the news accounts on CNN repeated incessantly that they were “mass graves,” it simply 
confirmed the public’s predisposition to believe that Saddam Hussein was a genocidal maniac. Ever 
since, the Times has been reporting on bodies being turned up by the hundreds or thousands in one 
place or another, and in each instance the dispatch suggests that these were the result of Saddam’s 

My caution is the result of having consulted experts in the history of Iraq, who tell me there are 
most certainly mass graves all over the country, because it has been at war since 1958. That is, 
“Nineteen Fifty Eight,” when the monarchy fell. I’m advised that most of the slaughter that 
occurred over this period was in these early years of civil war, when there really were men and 
families lined up along ditches, machine-gunned or in other ways executed. There are also stories 
of “mass graves” that followed the 1991 Gulf War, when the USA urged the Shi’ites in the South and 
Kurds in the North of Iraq to take up arms against the Baghdad regime. I think even Human Rights 
Watch would have to say that “rebels” who are trying to kill “loyalists” should expect to either 
succeed or pay the consequences, as they did when the USA was nowhere around to back them up.

In an e-mail I received a few days ago from Joost Hilterman, the lawyer for Human Rights Watch who 
for the last decade has been the most insistent in arguing Saddam committed genocide. There has 
been a conflict with our intelligence agencies on this matter, as they have acknowledged there has 
been no evidence that Saddam Hussein used WMD against his own people. It has been Hilterman’s 
position that when the regime ended and a search could begin, mass graves containing upward of 
100,000 Iraqi Kurds would be found in mass graves. He and Human Rights Watch originally believed 
they had been “gassed,” but now contend they were rounded up in the final months of the Iran-Iraq 
war, trucked to remote areas south of Kurdistan, machine-gunned to death, and buried in mass 
graves. As far as I know, these are the only alleged “acts of genocide” by the Baghdad government 
over the years, as Hilterman has acknowledged that the Iraqi Kurds who died at Halabja in March 
1988 were caught between th
e warring Iraqi and Iranian armies. You may recall the CIA’s senior analyst covering that war at 
the time, Dr. Stephen Pelletiere, on Jan. 18 this year wrote an article for your editorial page 
asserting the official finding that the while both sides used gas, the deaths that caused such an 
uproar when they were shown in photographs were actually killed by the gas the Iranians possessed.

Now if Hilterman is right, and the mass graves he believes are waiting to be discovered are soon 
found, that will end this matter at least in my mind once and for all. I would be most surprised if 
they are found and verified by forensic experts as victims of machine-gunned genocide 15 years ago. 
If they are not found, I’d have to conclude that the assertions of genocide that President Bush 
cited again and again to justify war in his own mind will be as false as the assertions about 
hidden weapons of mass destruction. Wouldn’t you?

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