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2005/12/20

"Je suis en colère envers ceux qui mélangent les crimes des Américains avec ceux de Saddam, sans commune mesure"

The youngest Hakim detained was only 14. His father and two brothers, together with 13 other relatives, were executed within the first weeks of detention. He and the rest were held in Abu Ghraib, 22 in a cell that measured 4mx6m. There was no running water and a hole in the corner served as a toilet. Recounting his detention in the book, Abdoul al-Hakim says: "The worst moments? It was all terrible, but the worst was the fear of being executed. Each time we heard the lock turn we were silent; it could be the moment to leave, for me, for another. I am angry with those who mix the crimes of the Americans with those of Saddam when they are not comparable."
The best riposte to the God-damn-America camp, Rebecca Weisser notes (merci à RV), is a scholarly and sober 700-page volume that has just been published.
Le Livre Noir de Saddam Hussein (The Black Book of Saddam Hussein) is a robust denunciation of Saddam's regime that does not fall into the trap of viewing everything in Iraq through a US-centric prism. The writers - Arabs, Americans, Germans, French and Iranian - have produced the most comprehensive work to date on the former Iraqi president's war crimes, assembling a mass of evidence that makes the anti-intervention arguments redundant.

…The obsession of many journalists and commentators with the fruitless hunt for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons has meant much of the evidence of Saddam's atrocities in liberated Iraq has been under-reported. Sinje Caren Stoyke, a German archeologist and president of Archeologists for Human Rights, catalogues 288 mass graves, a list that is already out of date with the discovery of fresh sites every week.

"There is no secret about these mass graves," Stoyke writes. "Military convoys crossed towns, full of civilian prisoners, and returned empty. People living near execution sites heard the cries of men, women and children. They heard shots followed by silence."

…Saadoun Kassab, an engineer who helped build Abu Ghraib in 1957, a prison that was designed to hold 4000 prisoners, was later to be held there for a year. He told Chris Kutschera, the book's editor: "When I was imprisoned in Abu Ghraib in 1985, there were 48,500 prisoners. I was imprisoned for eight months in a space 1mx1.5m, a box. I was sometimes in there for a fortnight without going outside. I wanted to be interrogated to get outside, to see daylight and human beings. All that because I said hello to Saad Saleh Jaber [son of a former Shi'ite prime minister from the time of the monarchy]. I saw people die."

…In Saddam's Iraq no one, not even the dictator's closest relatives and collaborators, was safe. Tariq Ali Saleh, a former Iraqi judge and the president of the Iraqi Jurists Association, writes that during the reign of the Baath party from 1968 to 2003, the security services arrested and imprisoned people without charging them, with no access to a lawyer or contact with their family. Everyone was targeted, including women and children. Torture was systematically used to secure confessions including beating, burning, ripping out finger nails, rape, electric shocks, acid baths and deprivation of sleep, food or water.
While the "robust denunciation of Saddam's regime that does not fall into the trap of viewing everything in Iraq through a US-centric prism", unfortunately the editor could not refrain from putting up precisely those parts of Bernard Kouchner's introduction that form an anti-American, pro-peace-camp diatribe on the back cover (see Présentation de l'éditeur).

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