‘Dead Men Tell No Tales’–But If They Did, the Times Suggests They Would Not Speak Well of Saddam Hussein

If Ramsey Clark is looking for something to get outraged about, maybe he should visit the Blue Man’s grave?  Source of photo:  the online version of the NYT article cited below.   

 

(p. A1) ON THE EDGE OF THE ASH SHAM DESERT, Iraq, June 3 — Among experts on the American-led team investigating Iraq’s mass graves, the skeletal remains lying face-up at the rear of the tangled grave here have been given a name — the Blue Man — that speaks for a sorrowful familiarity developed by some of those who work with victims of mass murder.

But more than his blue shirt, and his blue-striped trousers, what distinguishes the remains is the way they speak for the terror of death under Saddam Hussein.  The man was thrown backward by automatic weapons fire, his eyes blindfolded and his arms tied behind his back, his skull jerked upward at the neck, his fleshless mouth gaping, his two rows of teeth stretched apart, as though in a primal scream.

Together, in the late winter of 1991, at least 28 men were executed here, crowded together in a pit their killers scraped with a backhoe from the desert floor.  Rounded up along the alleyways of their native city, they were forced aboard a bus or truck and driven out along an isolated highway.

After barely half an hour’s journey, the grim caravan turned down a bumpy track, halting just far enough into the desert for gunfire to be muffled from passing traffic.

The end would have come quickly, the forensic experts said, victims stumbling out of the vehicle, herded into the pit, then pushed forward into a shallow cut not much wider or longer than a stretch limousine.  At the last moment, judging by the pile of bodies, the victims surged backward, perhaps in terror at the sound of rifles being readied for fire.

Among the bodies, the experts have located at least 80 spent cartridges from Kalashnikov rifles, which were the weapon of choice among the killers of Mr. Hussein’s secret police.

Michael Trimble, who is called Sonny, the leader of the mass-graves team that set up camp beside an escarpment in Iraq’s western desert last month, is a 53-year-old forensic archaeologist from St. Louis.  He is a veteran of other sites of mass killings around the world, on assignment from a civilian post with the Army Corps of Engineers.

Standing above the pit where the desert victims died, he said the 120-member team here, now in their third week of excavation and examination of two mass-grave sites, were sustained through days of punishing 130-degree heat by an urge to bring justice for the victims.

"When you work with these people for some time," he said, referring to the remains, "you get real attached to them, you feel real bad about what happened to them, and you want to do whatever you can to bring their killers to account."

 

For the full story, see:

JOHN F. BURNS. "Uncovering Iraq’s Horrors in Desert Graves." The New York Times  (Monday, June 5, 2006):   A1 & A10. 

If Bush’s spirit breaks “evil will indeed triumph”

Natan Sharansky was a political prisoner for nine years in the Soviet Union.  He is articulate and passionate.  But I am not so sure he is right in almost equating freedom and democracy.

While I was an undergraduate at Wabash College, Ben Rogge arranged for Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn to visit campus for a week.  Kuehnelt-Leddihn was an improbable walras of a man.  On my first encounter with him, I was stunned to hear him arguing that a monarchy embued with noblese oblige would be more likely to defend freedom, than would a democracy.  At first I thought the conclusion was patently absurd.  But over time, I gradually came to believe that although it was probably a false conclusion, it was not an absurd one. 

History, and modern experience, provide us many examples of democracies that severely restrict the freedom of their citizens.  And perhaps, for a time, freedom can thrive under enlightened monarchs, or dictators?

I hope, and still believe, that democracy is the system of government most likely, most of the time, to promote freedom.  If so, then what Bush is trying to do, may eventually leave the world safer, and more free:

 

Critics rail against every step on the new and difficult road on which the United States has embarked.  Yet in pointing out the many pitfalls which have not been avoided and those which still can be, those critics would be wise to remember that the alternative road leads to the continued oppression of hundreds of millions of people and the continued festering of the pathologies that led to 9/11.

Now that President Bush is increasingly alone in pushing for freedom, I can only hope that his dissident spirit will continue to persevere.  For should that spirit break, evil will indeed triumph, and the consequences for our world would be disastrous.

 

For the full commentary, see:

Sharansky, Natan.  "Dissident President."  The Wall Street Journal  (Mon., April 24, 2006):  A15.

Near Ancient Babylon in Iraq, “the streets pulsate with life”

BabylonMap.jpg Source of map:  http://www.nytimes.com/2006/04/18/world/middleeast/18babylon.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

 

(p. A1) Ancient Babylon, celebrated as a fount of law, writing and urban living, sits just outside the modern-day city of Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad.  Hilla is neither haunted by Sunni insurgents nor overwhelmed by Shiite militias.  And though it has a mix of Shiites and Sunnis, it has not been afflicted by the sectarian violence that has paralyzed so many other heterogeneous parts of Iraq.

Factories are churning, Iraqi security forces are patrolling and the streets pulsate with life — children bounding to school, crowds wading into markets, taxis gliding by.

. . .

(p. A6) The American military still maintains bases near Babylon, but next month, in a sign of how relatively stable the area has become, most troops will pull out and head north to Baghdad, where they are needed more.

 

For the full story, see: 

Gentleman, Jeffrey.  "Babylon Awaits an Iraq Without Fighting."   The New York Times (Tues., April 18, 2006):  A1 & A6.

The Creation of “Freedom” in Iraq

 

Freedom.jpg "Freedom" (oil painting by Esam Pashwa). Source of image: http://www.artvitae.com/art.asp?art_id=1571&bhcp=1

 

When Saddam Hussein fell, artist Esam Pashwa pulled down a huge poster of Sadam and painted a mural underneath. The gesture, and the art, attracted the attention of art expert Peter Falk, who contacted and encouraged Pashwa. He learned that Pashwa, in addition to his art, has served as a translator for the coalition forces in Iraq. Falk has organized a show of Pashwa’s work in a New York gallery.

As of 2/1/06, the "Freedom" oil painting above was offered for sale through the gallery. For more information: Peter Hastings Falk Hastings Art Management Services, Inc. P.O. Box 833 Madison, CT 06443 203.245.4761 peterfalk@comcast.net

(The source of most of the information in the entry above, was a CNN report/interview entitled "The Art of War" that was broadcast on 2/1/06. It is viewable at CNN.com at: http://www.cnn.com/video/partners/clickability/index.html?url=/video/world/2006/02/01/intv.art.of.war.cnn)

 

“Now we feel free”




The photos are by Ashley Gilberston, and the source was the online version of the article cited below.

The American invasion has been a bittersweet episode in the lives of many Iraqis here. In two afternoons of interviews in the parks this week, with both Shiites and Sunnis, mostly secular working people, they said the dangers that had shrunk their lives in certain ways had come along with new advantages.
Hind Jabr, a 16-year-old in a head scarf with bangles on her wrists, spoke proudly of the red Toyota her parents bought used two years ago. The salaries of her mother, a teacher, and her father, a police officer, have jumped since 2003. “We were suffering under Saddam,” said Ms. Jabr, sitting on a stone ledge that overlooked the lake. “It was safer, but we couldn’t get things.”
. . .
For Mr. Sadiq, there was a lesson in the day’s serenity. “Don’t focus on these bombs – they will end definitely,” he said. “What’s most important now is that Iraqis feel comfortable inside themselves. Now we feel free.”

For the full article, see:
SABRINA TAVERNISE. “In a City of Mayhem, a Respite in the Park.” THE NEW YORK TIMES (Fri., January 13, 2006): A4.

Sunnis Reject Car Bombings: “Bush has said it correctly”

Iraqi woman with purple ink on finger, indicating she has voted. (Photo by Matt Dunham/AP; photo source: http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/international/20051216_IRAQ_FEATURE/blocker.html)
Optimistic news on Iraq appears on the first page of the Fri., Dec. 16, 2005 New York Times (not often identified as a lackey supporter of Bush administration foreign policy). Here is an excerpt from the article:

(A1) BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 15 – Ali is only 9 years old. But when he and his buddies broke away from a street soccer game to drop into a polling station in Baghdad’s Adhamiya district at noon on Thursday, Ali, a chirpy, tousle-haired youngster, seemed to catch the mood of the district’s Sunni Arab population as well as anybody.
“We don’t want car bombs, we want security,” he said. Yards away, Sunni grown-ups were casting ballots in classrooms where the boys would have been studying Arabic or arithmetic or geography – “Boring, boring!” said Ali – had the school not been drafted for use as one of 6,000 polling stations across Iraq.
On a day when the high voter turnout among Sunni Arabs was the main surprise, Ali and his posse of friends, unguarded as boys can be, acted like a chorus for the scene unfolding about them. A new willingness to distance themselves from the insurgency, an absence of hostility for Americans, a casual contempt for Saddam Hussein, a yearning for Sunnis to find a place for themselves in the post-Hussein Iraq – the boys’ themes were their parents’, too, only more boldly expressed.
. . .
(A15) “Before, we had a dictator, and now we have this freedom, this democracy,” said Emad Abdul Jabbar, 38, a teacher acting as supervisor at the Ahrar school polling site. “This time, we have a real election, not just the sham elections we had under Saddam, and we Sunnis want to participate in the political process.”
A 60-year-old merchant, Abdul Kader al-Saffar, and his wife, Ammal Abdul Razzaq, 40, who voted with their three sons, agreed. “We have found candidates in this election we can trust,” Mr. Saffar said, referring to the Iraqi Consensus Front, a moderate Sunni group that had several of its political workers killed during the campaign.
Another thing many Sunnis seemed to agree on was the possibility of a reconciliation between the Americans and the Sunnis, and a distancing of the Sunnis from some of the Al Qaeda-linked insurgent groups. Many were critical of American troops, saying, as Mr. Saleh did, that “they came as liberators, but stayed on as occupiers.” But pressed on the question of an American troop withdrawal, most seemed cautious, favoring a gradual drawdown.
“Let’s have stability, and then the Americans can go home,” said Mr. Sattar, the store owner. Told that this sounded similar to President Bush’s formula for a troop withdrawal, he replied: “Then Bush has said it correctly”.

For the full article, see:
JOHN F. BURNS. “Freedom From Fear Lifts Sunnis in Iraqi Election.” The New York Times (Fri., December 16, 2005): A1 & A15.