Monday, April 14, 2003

Iraqi Stories European Liberals Never Bothered To Read

If it was a mid-east apologist professor from CAIR, they read him ... but not actual Iraqis who have lived there.

Pictures of dead Iraqis, with their necks slashed, their eyes gouged out and their genitals blackened, fill a bookshelf. Jail cells, with dried blood on the floor and rusted shackles bolted to the walls, line the corridors. And the screams of what could be imprisoned men in an underground detention center echo through air shafts and sewer pipes.

''This is the place where Saddam made people disappear,'' said an Iraqi soldier named Iyad Hussein, 37, describing Iraq's Military Intelligence Directorate in the northwestern suburb of Kadimiya. ''It is a chamber of death.''

The secrets of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror are beginning to emerge. Iraqi civilians who had long feared speaking out about the atrocities for fear of government retribution are revealing in detail what the Iraqi dictator and his regime inflicted on some of the country's 26 million people.

They paint a picture of arrests, killings and torture that have led human rights groups to condemn the Iraqi leader in the strongest terms. The groups have charged that tens of thousands of Iraqis, from Kurds in the north to Shiites in the south, were tortured and killed after Saddam seized power in 1979.

Thousands were arrested on charges ranging from criticizing the Iraqi leader to cooperating with the United States.

Only a few walked out of the jails alive.

Some Iraqis are already coming forward with tales of atrocities. Many allegedly were carried out here at the Military Intelligence Directorate.

''I was beaten, refrigerated naked and put underground for one year because I was a Shiite and Saddam is a Sunni,'' said Ali Kaddam Kardom, 37. He said he was arrested in the central city of Karbala on March 10, 2000. He returned to the facility in Baghdad this weekend, he said, to help rescue any Iraqis who still might be imprisoned there.

The Bush administration has said it would seek out evidence of the Saddam regime's covert programs -- from its efforts to enrich top officials as its citizens starved, to the development of banned weapons. Last week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said rewards would be offered to individuals who provide information on biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programs.

Rumsfeld also said that though Saddam appeared to be gone, ''we still must capture, account for or otherwise deal'' with him and senior Iraqi leaders.

Initially, U.S. forces will have to rely on testimony from survivors of Saddam's brutality because some of the key documentary evidence has disappeared, U.S. officials said. When U.S. forces entered the headquarters of the once- feared Iraqi Intelligence Service, across town from the Military Intelligence Directorate, they found the place had been cleaned out even before the Baghdad looters arrived, a U.S. intelligence official said Sunday. Looters have destroyed evidence at other government agencies.

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