Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Monday, June 02, 2003

The extent of terror and torture in Iraq manages to shock even someone who has spent years studying the situation.

In Saddam Hussein's Iraq, citizens suspected of disloyalty risked the possibility of torture, sometimes even at the hands of the nation's doctors, says a Hartford human rights activist just back from Iraq.

Maryam Elahi, director of Trinity College's human rights program, was told of mass graves and other atrocities as she interviewed doctors and spoke to residents of Basra in southeastern Iraq after Hussein's fall from power.

Although Elahi had studied Iraq's human rights abuses for more than a decade, she was surprised by the degree to which ordinary Iraqi citizens, including physicians, were complicit in Hussein's culture of terror.

Doctors, under the threat of torture themselves, were forced to cut off the ears of army deserters and others, she said.

"How absolutely evil," Elahi said from her Trinity office after returning from Iraq, where she spent six days in early May.

She traveled to Basra as part of a team representing Physicians for Human Rights, a Boston-based advocacy group. Basra was one of the first battlegrounds in the invasion of Iraq by U.S. and coalition forces.

"Once you go in, you really get a sense of the gravity, the scope of violations," she said. "Everyone we spoke to had been touched. This was a republic of terror. Everyone was terrified."

She said she was taken aback by the degree to which Iraqis spied on their neighbors. "There were huge incentives for people to be informants," she said. "This regime was comparable to Pol Pot in Cambodia, the Idi Amin regime in Uganda."

The Iraqis took her to a spot that was said to be a mass grave, a site that simply "looked like a dusty field. ... They buried people anywhere and everywhere," she said.

And, while she has no problem terming Saddam's regime "evil" she still thinks the war was "illegal and unjustified".

"I'm still very clear the war was wrong because I think about the precedent it set, but the world without Saddam Hussein any day is a better world."

< email | 6/02/2003 10:33:00 AM | link

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