Thursday, July 23, 2009

WWB: mass graves

Photo: Villagers pray beside a mass grave in Garani village after the May 3 airstrikes. © 2009 Private

WHAT WAR BRINGS: creation of mass graves

Before the invasion of Iraq, we were told (repeatedly) of the mass graves of Saddam. We were told that they contained between 300,000 and 400,000 bodies. I believe on a couple of occasions Bush claimed there were over 500,000 dead who were buried in mass graves.

And those of us with clear memories of the 1980’s wondered why Bush and Blair did not care about the mass graves of Saddam when they were being made.

In 2004, Blair finally admitted that his claim that 400,000 bodies had been found in mass graves was not true. He admitted that (at that time) only 5,000 bodies had been discovered. Here is a report from the Guardian (UK) newspaper:

At the heart of the questions are the numbers so far identified in Iraq's graves. Of 270 suspected grave sites identified in the last year, 55 have now been examined, revealing, according to the best estimates that The Observer has been able to obtain, around 5,000 bodies. Forensic examination of grave sites has been hampered by lack of security in Iraq, amid widespread complaints by human rights organisations that until recently the graves have not been secured and protected.

While some sites have contained hundreds of bodies - including a series around the town of Hilla and another near the Saudi border - others have contained no more than a dozen.

I have followed the news on Iraq closely since 2002, and I remember the mass graves of Hilla, which US AID filmed and had on some TV show. It was heartbreaking to see people searching for, and finding, the long dead bodies of their loved ones. I also remember thinking ‘how could they find them if there were tens of thousands of bodies?’ and the answer, of course, is that they could not have done so.

And sometimes after the report by the Guardian (UK) above, I saw pictures of a mass funeral of Kurdish bodies. The individuals were exhumed and sent up to the north of Iraq, and the grave itself had thousands of bodies in it. Individuals were not identified, but the grave was confirmed to be full of Kurds. They held a mass funeral for them.

It was a sight to see that many coffins, all covered with the Kurdish flag. Each coffin had a young girl standing beside it in formal dress, holding flowers for the ceremony. The coffins stretched for as far as the eye could see.

My estimate of the number of people Saddam put into mass graves would be between 10,000 to 20,000. And there are still many more sites to be evacuated, that most likely contain tens of bodies each from the Saddam regime and it’s killing sprees. And there are still sites being uncoverd.

Unfortunately, the end of Saddam did not mean the end of mass graves.

There are mass graves all over Iraq, some in plain sight and some hidden. Baghdad turned several soccer fields into graveyards, and did Fallujah.

In July 2007, I read that over 40,000 unidentified bodies had been buried near Najaf. These would be the bodies found from Baghdad to Basra, and would mostly be Shi’as.

Here are some findings of recently uncovered mass graves from the time of the American occupation:

May 25, 2009

DIALA / Aswat al-Iraq: Police forces on Monday found a mass grave of victims executed by al-Qaeda gunmen in the west of Baaquba, a media source said. “A mass grave of eight corpses was found in al-Katoun neighborhood in west of Baaquba on Monday (May 25),” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

May 26, 2009

Police forces on Tuesday discovered a mass grave of seven unknown corpses in a border region in western Anbar, according to a security source. “A detained man unveiled the presence of a mass grave of seven unidentified bodies killed by armed groups more than two years ago in western Anbar,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency

June 1, 2009 (picture)

Workers bury unidentified bodies in a mass grave in Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad June 1, 2009. About 50 unidentified bodies were buried in a mass grave in Baquba on Monday, a hospital morgue official said. REUTERS/Helmiy al-Azawi (IRAQ CONFLICT CRIME LAW)

June 2, 2009

The Iraqi army and police discovered 14 decomposed bodies, handcuffed and riddled with bullets, in a mass grave on Monday, police said. The bodies, which appeared to have been buried 12-18 months ago. were found near the village of al-Muradiya, 65 km (40 miles) northeast of Baghdad.

The above is just a sampling – a small sampling.

Afghanistan has had its share of mass graves also. Recently, attention has been paid to a disturbed mass grave site at Dasht-e-Leili that held thousands of bodies, and the actions that caused these Taliban prisoners to die. Physicians for Human Rights have been following the story for over seven and a half years now. Here is a report on that particular atrocity.

There were other mass graves found in Afghanistan in the last eight years.

October 9, 2002

Authorities in northern Afghanistan said Wednesday they have discovered several mass graves containing the corpses of hundreds of people allegedly massacred by the former Taliban regime. One mass grave in the district of Chamatal, about 24 miles west of the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, contained 350 bodies, said Mohammad Sardar Sayedi, spokesman for the main ethnic Hazara group, Hezb-e- Wahadat. All the dead were ethnic Hazaras _ among them women and children likely killed in 1998 when Mazar-e-Sharif fell in heavy fighting to the Taliban, Sayedi said.

April 13, 2007

The bodies of nearly 400 Afghan civilians killed during the communist regime that ended in 1992 have been found in a mass grave in northeastern Afghanistan, officials said. The grave was found by local farmers in a desert just outside Faizabad, the capital town of the remote Badakhshan province, deputy governor Shams-ul Rahman Shams told AFP.

And here is a rather recent mass grave in Afghanistan, caused by US bombing of Granai in Afghanistan.

May, 2009

A Kabul government commission determined that 140 civilians died; some local villagers claim that the figure is even higher.

The exact number of casualties is difficult to establish because many of the slain were buried in a common grave. Local residents say that the bodies were so mangled that it was hard even for close relatives to identify the remains. Villagers collected body parts and placed them in one grave, 10 metres long by three metres wide.

In addition to the mass burial site, more than 40 individual graves speak of the tragedy suffered by villagers on May 4. Two weeks later, some people were still searching among the rubble with picks and shovels, trying to find their loved ones.

New mass graves are being discovered in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and new mass graves are being created in Iraq and Afghanistan on a regular basis. People are still picking up picks and shovels after attending to the wounded, and digging around for body parts after US bombing runs.

If you support the continued occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, or the bombing of Pakistan, then you support WHAT WAR BRINGS: creation of mass graves.


Another nation is made out to be utterly depraved and fiendish, while one's own nation stands for everything that is good and noble. Every action of the enemy is judged by one standard - every action of oneself by another. Even good deeds by the enemy are considered a sign of particular devilishness, meant to deceive us and the world, while our bad deeds are necessary and justified by our noble goals, which they serve. ~ Eric Fromm

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