Anti-war demonstrators ignore Iraqi

Posted: Mar 13, 2003 12:00 AM

"Bush is a baby-killer," screamed the signs during an anti-war rally in London.

"Could I have the microphone for one minute to tell the people of my life?" a 78-year-old Iraqi exile asked Rev. Jesse Jackson during the anti-war demonstration. But according to the National Post, Jackson replied, "Today is not about Saddam Hussein. Today is about Bush and Blair and the massacre they plan in Iraq."

"Under the leadership of President Saddam Hussein," said Human Rights Watch's policy paper on Iraq, " . . . the Iraqi government has committed a vast number of crimes against the Iraqi people and others, using terror through various levels of police, military, and intelligence agencies to control and intimidate large segments of the Iraqi population. Two Iraqi groups in particular have suffered horrific abuses -- the Kurds in the north, and the Shi'a populations in the south. Two decades of oppression against Iraq's Kurds and Kurdish resistance culminated in 1988 with a genocidal campaign, and the use of chemical weapons, against Kurdish citizens, resulting in over 100,000 deaths. . . . Saddam Hussein and others . . . are responsible for a vast number of crimes that constitute genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The victims of such crimes include up to 290,000 persons who have been 'disappeared' since the late 1970s, many of whom are believed to have been killed."

In an article called "Saddam's Shop of Horrors," columnist Jeff Jacoby notes, "Amnesty International once listed some 30 methods of torture used in Iraq. They ranged from burning to electric shock to rape." Quoting the New Republic's Robert Kaplan, Jacoby writes that Robert Spurling, an American working in Baghdad, "had been taken away from his wife and daughters at Saddam International Airport and tortured for four months with electric shock, brass knuckles, and wooden bludgeons. His toes were crushed and his toenails ripped out. He was kept in solitary confinement on a starvation diet. Finally, American diplomats won his release. Multiply his story by thousands, and you will have an idea what Iraq is like to this day."

Jacoby also quotes the BBC interview of a former Iraqi torturer, now in a Kurdish prison: "'If someone didn't break, they'd bring in the family. . . . They'd bring the son in front of his parents, who were handcuffed or tied, and they'd start with simple tortures such as cigarette burns, and then if the father didn't confess, they'd start using more serious methods,' such as slicing off one of the child's ears or amputating a limb. 'They'd tell the father that they'd slaughter his son. They'd bring a bayonet out. And if he didn't confess, they'd kill the child.'"

In 1987-88, the Iraqi government sprayed scores of Kurdish villages with a combination of chemical weapons. Jacoby writes, "Scores of thousands of Kurds died horrible deaths. Of those who survived, many were left blind or sterile or crippled with agonizing lung damage. But most of the Kurds slaughtered in that season of mass murder were not gassed but rounded up and gunned down into mass graves. . . . In one village . . . after the males were taken to be killed, the women and small children were crammed into trucks and taken to a prison. One survivor, Salma Aziz Baban, described the ordeal to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg . . . in the New Yorker: . . . More than 2,000 women and children were crammed into a room and given nothing to eat. When someone starved to death, the Iraqi guards demanded that the body be passed to them through a window in the door. Baban's 6-year-old son grew very sick. 'He knew he was dying. . . . He started to cry so much.' He died in his mother's lap. 'We gave them the body. It was passed outside.' . . . Soon after, she pushed her way to the window to see if her child had been taken for burial. She saw 20 dogs roaming in a field where the dead bodies had been dumped. 'I looked outside and saw the legs and hands of my son in the mouths of the dogs. The dogs were eating my son.'"

Yet, at the anti-war march in London, the protestors never heard any of these voices. "Abdel-Majid Khoi," said the National Post, "son of the late Grand Ayatollah Khoi, Iraq's foremost religious leader for almost 40 years, spoke of the 'deep moral pain' he feels when hearing the so-called 'anti-war' discourse. 'The Iraqi nation is like a man who is kept captive and tortured by a gang of thugs,' Khoi said. 'The proper moral position is to fly to help that man liberate himself and bring the torturers to book. But what we witness in the West is the opposite: support for the torturers and total contempt for the victim.'"

But, then, as Rev. Jesse Jackson put it, "It's not about Saddam Hussein."