As I struggle to find the words to describe the horror of what I have learned, I find myself doing more tossing and turning than mental writing. The lighted numbers on my alarm clock indicate that the hour is late: 2 a.m. Flipping on the lamp, I then reach for my Blackberry, which was awaiting me on the nightstand for this precise purpose. I quickly type a few thoughts and return to darkness and my attempts to frame this column in my sleepless bed.
Days earlier, I had met seven extraordinary Iraqis ? simple shopkeepers who now share far more than their mercantile experiences. What has bound them since 1994 are the unspeakable details of arrest, torture and their bizarre final sentences from Saddam Hussein ? the sawing off of their rights hands.
At a Heritage Foundation screening of the video "Remembering Saddam," that documents their horrific stories, my stomach churned with the description of what happened to the once healthy limbs after being sliced from their victims: The dismembered hands were put in jars of liquid and sent to Saddam Hussein.
Somewhere in the numerous storehouses or endless snaking underground dungeons beneath Iraq, along with boxes of gruesome photos and videotapes documenting the torture of millions of innocent Iraqi citizens discovered by American liberators, apparently there once sat jars of pickled human hands along with God knows what else.
As I sat in the dimly lit Allison Auditorium at the Heritage Foundation to view the remarkable documentary by Don North, one row ahead of me a man gently wept throughout the 50-minute production. As the screen flickered with footage of the "surgical" removal of a healthy human hand while the "patient" lies partially sedated, the man in front of me bowed his head and winced in pain as his tears began to flow more freely. The bloodied hand, now separated from its victim and tossed aside like a cancerous tumor, was his.
The story began in 1994 when Saddam Hussein ordered nine businessmen to jail for allegedly trading in foreign currency as opposed to the nearly worthless dinar. He then ordered that their right hands be cut off "to show what happens to those who undermine our economy."
A video camera was on hand to record the horrendous acts and to remind anyone who considered opposing the brutal dictator of the likely consequences.