The Nazis, again

Posted: Jun 10, 2003 12:00 AM

The whole world is focused on what we've failed to find in Iraq -- to the point of neglecting what we have found. In doing so, the press is missing the significance of what the United States and Britain have achieved.

The banned weapons will eventually be accounted for. Of that there can be no doubt. But the more important story is that the coalition overthrew a regime that can fairly be compared with Nazi Germany. Such a deed would be applauded by the world -- if we lived in a better world.

The absolute numbers of those tortured, maimed and killed by the Ba'ath government will never be known. But some estimates say 1 million Iraqis were butchered by Saddam. American and British forces are finding mass graves throughout the country. Corpses of men, women and children were found. Even some of the children had been tortured before being executed. A columnist for a Lebanese newspaper wrote: "This barbarism, unprecedented in human history, was committed by Arab hands, by hands that found such delight in death and murder that the death squads would send the heads of the victims to Saddam Hussein's two sons in cardboard boxes. . . . These plastic bags in the mass graves contained bullet-riddled skulls, bodies wrapped in rags, tied in ropes, or dressed in worn pieces of clothing. . . . Ropes still tied a mother's bones to her infant's, and a father's to his son . . . "

U.S. forces have reportedly captured millions of pages of meticulous documents from the files of the security forces, detailing tortures and murders by the regime. According to Insight magazine, "A single document dated August 1989 lists the names of 87 people who were executed and a summary of each case. The alleged crimes included trespassing into forbidden zones and teaching the Kurdish language." In one police station in Nasiriya, survivors showed U.S. Marines the electric shock prods, electric chair, and other torture implements, as well as tons of surveillance equipment. The station was filled with pictures of burned bodies.

The Saddam regime apparently used photos of its torture victims to intimidate others, particularly the victims' families.

Insight tells the story of Fatima Faraj, a Kurd whose nephews were arrested by the regime in 1986. After two years, they were executed. The Republican Guards demanded that their father pay a fee for their burial. When he demanded a receipt, the guards turned over the bodies. The father took the bodies of his sons home in boxes. "Their entire bodies other than (beneath) their underwear were places of burn," Fatima sobbed. "There were two black spots on their necks. They looked as though they were whipped and kicked throughout their bodies." Another nephew survived his torture. "He was kicked so bad," Fatima testified. "They took out all his fingernails and toenails. . . . He had a nervous breakdown."

Writing in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, columnist Ahmed Al-Rab'i issued a "J'accuse" at fellow Arabs: "Is there not a single man of conscience who might be brought by these sights to . . . admit that he was mistaken, that he was unaware of the truth, that he was a victim of the misleading (Arab) media?" A Jordanian journalist declared the obvious: "The dictatorship of the Iraqi Ba'ath reached the level of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia . . . "

Any nation that marched into that torture chamber of a country and freed it deserves the world's gratitude. Instead, we have carping from all sides. Antiquities were stolen from the museum (by the way, only 47 unaccounted for out of the originally suggested 170,000), water and power supplies took more than a couple of weeks to stabilize, and we haven't yet laid hands on the well-hidden weapons of mass destruction. The weapons will be found. The rest is nonsense. The United States and Britain have done a magnificent thing. Even if nothing else follows from it -- no liberalization of the Arab world, no breakthrough between Israelis and Palestinians, no hobbling of the terror masters -- it will have been worth it.