Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

News Update Iraq

Remembering the Fall of Baghdad Three Years later

The intensive news coverage of the war in Iraq has, in some ways, given the international community a sense of understanding the situation on the ground, and, to some extent, what the Iraqi people are thinking and feeling about U.S. presence there. Watching news reports on car bombings, mosque attacks and body counts, along with positive stories of elections and the completion of a new constitution, however, cannot give outsiders a true sense of what it is like to live in this country in the middle of great turmoil and transition. Washington Post contributor and Baghdad resident Bassam Sebti, reflecting on the U.S.-led invasion three years ago, remembers some of the shock and fear that accompanied the first days of war, which still lingers in Iraq. Sebti writes:

“My aunt hurried to turn on the generator so we could look at the TV to see if it was true. The news came as shocking as thunder to us. "U.S. soldiers are gathering in front of the two main hotels in Baghdad," I recall the anchor of the Iranian Arabic-language station, al-Alam, saying.”

“A few days before the war started, one of my aunts had called. "Can we come and stay with you till the war is over?" she asked my mother.Without any hesitation, we said yes. As the fighting commenced and theAmericans closed in on Baghdad, my other aunt decided to come to our home as well to escape the horrible battle taking place at Baghdad's airport, near her house.
"There is a huge [Iraqi] tank in front of the house," she explained. By the time she arrived, we heard that Iraqi soldiers were deserting one after the other.”

“On April 4, the Iraqi army sealed our neighborhood. "The Americans are close," a friend and neighbor told me while I was looking at a U.S. warplane dropping bombs and firing rockets from a far distance. "No way out. We'll be dead if we stay," I told my neighbors. Within hours, they all fled. We were one of the only families left in the neighborhood when we finally decided that we had to leave.”

“April 9 was like all the preceding days. We woke up dizzy, unwilling to hear more tanks and bombs fall here and there. Silent, we all gathered at the table, staring at the food but unable to make ourselves eat. My sister sobbed. "I want to go back home. I want to die in our house. This is not life. This is hell," she said, making my mother cry as well.”

“When we moved to the living room, our deep depression and sorrow followed. While we were gazing at the TV screen, hearing and watching the news of Saddam's fall, we saw the image of his statue in Firdaus Square, surrounded by a crowd of Iraqis and U.S. soldiers and tanks. I stared in amazement as a soldier climbed the giant bronze figure and covered Saddam's visage with the American flag. My mother raised her hands to her mouth in shock. I finally realized that it was over: Our leader is gone and Iraq is occupied.”

To read the whole story, click here.

Hussein Trial

April 10, 2006

Saddam Hussein committed many crimes against the Iraqi people through the decades that his regime was in power, but now he is finally being brought to accountability for the genocidal acts committed against thousands of innocent civilians. He will be forced to answer for these crimes against humanity. However, it is unlikely that he will be tried for every person he killed – some victims of his regime have never been found.

The Kurdistan Regional Government posted the following from a New York Times editorial on the important implications of Hussein’s trial:

“The trauma of those attacks and the long postponement of justice greatly intensified the conviction of many Kurds that they could never live safely under Iraqi Arab rule. Since 1991, the Kurdish northeast has had an autonomous Kurdish government and not much concerned itself with trends in the Arab areas of Iraq, including the recent drift toward civil war. Had it been otherwise, the Kurds, who are largely Sunni by faith and relatively secular in their habits, could have applied a powerful brake to the divisive sectarian policies of the Shiite fundamentalist parties.”

“Mr. Hussein's first trial, in which he has now admitted ordering the execution of 148 men and boys from the Shiite village of Dujail to punish an assassination attempt, is now moving toward its final stage. If he is convicted and draws the expected death sentence, the genocide trial may never take place. That would be perverse.”

“This long-delayed genocide trial cannot fully right history's wrongs or bridge Iraq's dangerous ethnic and religious divisions. But it can help. It needs to proceed, with Saddam Hussein alive and in the dock.”

Click here to read the whole editorial.


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