Jewish World Review June 17, 2003 / 17 Sivan, 5763
Weapons of mass destruction in plain view
But by far the most compelling reason for the war -- which the Bush administration needlessly and unwisely underplayed -- was that there was no other way to end the horrors that Hussein was so persistently and savagely inflicting on his people.
As Scott Simon of National Public Radio recently said, the "largest source of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was the regime of Saddam Hussein against the Iraqis."
On the pages of The New York Times -- and in multi-signatured ads by anti-war organizations, academics and true believers in the United Nations -- were calls for other ways to deal with Hussein. They included charges that the United States had become a rogue nation and that, because of its might, was exceedingly dangerous to the future legitimacy of international law.
But a June 1 New York Times front-page story gruesomely recounted the grief of relatives of Iraqis trying to find the bones and other identifications of husbands, fathers, mothers and children in Hussein's mass graves. Interviewed in the article was Sandra L. Hodgkinson, who has been documenting some of the sites for the State Department. She said that the mass graves are everywhere. "Literally every neighborhood and town is reporting possible gravesites, and from all different periods of time."
After 35 years of Hussein, human rights groups "estimate that nearly 300,000 Iraqis are missing and probably were executed," Times reporter Susan Sachs wrote. "Tens of thousands more, according to Iraqi opposition groups, may have been imprisoned and tortured."
And the mass graves keep being exposed. Sachs describes young men from nearby villages carefully wrapping "the unclaimed bones in strips of white muslin" and "sometimes in a simulation of the Muslim tradition of washing the dead, they tenderly stroke the exposed skulls."
I saw many of the mass demonstrations against the war. Already well known then in reports by human rights organizations and in the media was the existence of Hussein's torture chambers. They were never mentioned in those anti-war rallies.
On Jan. 26, before the war began and as the protesting rallies and outraged ads grew more urgent, The New York Times descried the Fedayeen Saddam -- a paramilitary group headed by Hussein's oldest son, 38-year-old Uday -- who would, "masked and clad in black, make the women kneel in busy city squares, along crowded sidewalks, or in neighborhood plots, then behead them with swords. The families of those victims have claimed they were innocent of any crime, save that of criticizing Hussein."
If the American-led coalition had not gone in, then who would have stopped the filling of the graves, the cutting out of tongues of "disloyal" Iraqis, the electric shocks and pulling out of fingernails in the torture chambers?
More U.N. inspectors? France? Germany? Russia? U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan? The same Annan who was deadly silent during the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and, this year, kept insisting that Hussein could be negotiated with?
Could the United Nations Human Rights Commission have stopped the piling of bodies into the mass graves, or imposed sanctions to stop the tortures? The commission commanded by Sudan, Cuba, Libya, China, Zimbabwe and Syria -- countries ruled by some of the world's cruelest tyrants?
The 24-hour news cycle blurs memory, but I hope that at least some of the unquestionably well-intentioned anti-war activists here will now have read Suriya Abdel Khader accounts in The New York Times.
Put into custody after her four brothers had been arrested (families were rounded up, considered guilty by unavoidable association) Khader -- after the savage beatings and electric shocks -- "would find herself once again in a fetid cell, a room so crowded that most prisoners could only stand. The women died upright, then slumped to the floor."
Survivors of Nazi boxcars told of similar vertical deaths, and so have accounts of the terminal overcrowding on American slave ships.
When I wrote of why I had refused to join the anti-war demonstrations or sign the outraged ads, friends with whom I had marched against the Vietnam War were appalled by my apostasy. But when I asked them for alternatives, they spoke of giving the United Nations more time. One said that "we have to abide by the rule of law."
Whose rule is that? The United Nations Security Council and the Human Rights Commissions? What rule of law allows the merciless torture and slaughter of innocent civilians?
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