The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Iraqi Mass Graves From Multiple Causes

Iraqi Mass Graves From Multiple Causes

By Mark Gery
M.E. Times
12-12 03

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 147)

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

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 White House.

Mark Gery MA is an Iraqi Analyst from the Orange County Peace Coalition and
a member of The Education For Peace in Iraq Center, Washington DC.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]