Posted by Sadie from ? (220.127.116.11) on Tuesday, April 08, 2003 at 3:34PM :
Interesting how Assyrians, people who've resided in both Iraq & Iran (among other places in the Middle East) were used as warriors & not peace makers in the region. We have a trans-Middle Eastern identity, & we could have used it to help bring harmony to the region. My great grandfather, the Assyrian minister who relocated from somewhere near Mardin-Midyat to Basra during the persecution, consulted regularly with his Muslim counterparts when he was in Iraq. They say he was a very wise man, respected by everyone with whom he spoke.
April 7, 2003
New York Times
Evidence Contradicts Rumors of Torture
by Judith Miller
ZUBAYR, Iraq, April 6 — A poignant bit of unfinished history caught up with the current campaign against Saddam Hussein today, as American and British officials combed through a makeshift morgue for Iraqi and Iranian soldiers killed in the 1980's in a war most Iraqis are too young to remember.
The 664 thin wooden coffins at the morgue, containing the remains of 408 men, were stacked in neat rows, some five coffins high in a warehouse in what the officials called a former Iraqi artillery complex. A bone occasionally protruded from one of the plastic bags in the coffins containing all that remained of a young soldier — an identity tag, a wallet, a piece of uniform soaked in blood turned brown with age, pictures of loved ones, and occasionally some money.
Investigators from the United States 75th Exploitation Task Force arrived here this morning from their camp in northern Kuwait. The task force, charged with documenting war crimes, had come to investigate what initial descriptions of the site suggested was a center for torture and execution.
But in just a few hours, Chief Warrant Officer Dan Walters, the leader of the task force's Criminal Investigation Division unit, said a preliminary examination of the remains and some of the thousands of pages of documents that were abandoned in a building next to the warehouse suggested that atrocities had probably not occurred here. Rather, he said, Iraqis had apparently been processing the remains and preparing to exchange them with Iran.
"Their wounds were consistent with combat deaths, not executions," said Mr. Walters, whose team is supported by the 75th Field Artillery Brigade, normally based in Fort Sill, Okla. "So far," he added, "there are no indications that war crimes were committed here."
An estimated million people were killed in the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, which Mr. Hussein initiated against the fledgling Iranian Islamic government, his first war as president. The conflict ended in an uneasy truce. But Iraq claimed victory in the war, which nearly bankrupted the government and paved the way for the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It was in the war with Iran that Mr. Hussein ordered the use of poison gas against enemy forces for the first time, as he did against Iraqi Kurds. But members of the forensic team examining the remains said they had found no trace of chemicals or biological agents on or near the remains.
Iran had seconded the Iraqi government's assertion that the site had been used to process and exchange prisoner of war remains from the war. Brig. Gen. Mirfeisal Baqerzadeh, the head of Iran's search and recovery committee of those missing in action, had said that the bodies were found in recent months in joint recovery operations in Iran and southern Iraq, but that the exchange had not taken place because of the American-led invasion.
Some early news reports by correspondents traveling with the British forces who stumbled on the site on Saturday suggested that it had been used for torture.
But Capt. Thomas D. Jagielski, who is leading the war crimes team known as "mobile exploitation team delta," or MET Delta, said the suspected "torture chambers" described in some reports were apparently makeshift offices separated by hastily erected mud-brick partitions. Here, Iraqis had apparently documented the identities of the dead.
About 85 percent of the dead were Iraqis, Mr. Walters said. The rest are believed to be Iranian. The men are believed to have been killed sometime in the mid-1980's. But MET Delta members said they had asked the Army's Institute of Pathology, in Washington, to send out a forensic anthropologist to help determine the exact time and manner of their deaths.
Mr. Walters said efforts would be made in the coming days and weeks to return the remains to the families of the Iranians and Iraqis.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
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