Said on the war

I supported this war. I did it in a queasy, compromising way ? like all the pro-war lefties I know. I have a phrase: “…conditional support”. I don’t feel any more comfortable now than I did before the invasion began but my support holds, although I’m keeping open the possibility that I’ve made an enormous mistake. It’ll probably be a brilliant article like this one, by Edward Said, a man I admire hugely, that convinces me I have:

“This is the most reckless war in modern times. It is all about imperial arrogance unschooled in worldliness, unfettered either by competence or experience, undeterred by history or human complexity, unrepentant in its violence and the cruelty of its technology. What winning, or for that matter losing, such a war will ultimately entail is unthinkable. But pity the Iraqi civilians who must still suffer a great deal more before they are finally ‘liberated’.”


  1. the man who wrote the article about the war being useless and cruel should read this it was in the New york Times newsletter
    Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
    An officer from the civil military operations center examines a grave near Kirkuk.
    ? Interactive Graphics
    Unmarked Graves Testify Silently to Iraq’s Decades of Grief
    By C. J. CHIVERS
    IRKUK, Iraq, April 17 ? The mounds stretch in rows for more than a quarter-mile across the hard, cracked earth at the edge of an industrial park here. Many are covered in weeds; all but two look undisturbed.

    They are unmarked graves, nearly 1,600 in neat lines. They are close enough together in places that it would seem the skull of one skeleton might be within a yard of another skeleton’s feet.

    The first of the potential mass graves has been found in this northern Iraqi city, between a Pepsi-Cola bottling plant and one of the mansions of a cousin of Saddam Hussein.

    It is a grim, dingy place, and judging by what Kurds described as the quick exhumation of two skeletons from mounds at the graveyard’s edge, it seems certain to be the hastily dug and anonymous resting place of hundreds of Iraq’s lost.

    For decades Iraq has been a land of grief and wasted lives, from the 500,000 soldiers and civilians thought to have died in the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988, to the untold tens of thousands of civilians who were killed or disappeared in crackdowns across the land Mr. Hussein ruled.

    Human rights organizations and Iraqi households have long awaited the collapse of Mr. Hussein’s Arab Baath Socialist Party, saying it would allow the beginning of the tedious process of accountability and the return to families of missing remains.

    The limits of public expectation were evident today. The death toll in Iraq has been large enough and the killing has spanned such a long stretch of the nation’s time that a gravesite can initially provide more questions than answers, as this one did today.

    As word spread of the discovery on the road beyond the bottling plant, and people gathered here, everyone seemed to have a different idea about who might be under this lumpy, sun-hardened dirt.

    One man, a Turkmen who works as a manager for the North Oil Company, thought they might be civilians he said the Iraqi army randomly seized from Kirkuk’s streets after quelling an uprising in 1991.

    “The soldiers grabbed anybody who was outside when they recaptured the city,” said the man, Jowdat Mustafa. “None of them have been seen again. We always thought they took them here.”

    Capt. Kowa Hawez, a Kurdish police supervisor who toured the remains, said the graves held a fraction of the Kurdish vanished. In the Iraqi government’s most notorious assaults on Kurdish villages, part of a campaign in 1988 known as the Anfal, 182,000 Kurds are estimated by aid organizations to have disappeared or died.

    “The Iraqi regime killed our families without justification and buried them like this,” the captain said. “These are our innocents.”

    Another man, an elderly Arab, wandered along the field today, and said the mounds held the anonymous remains of Iraqi soldiers killed nearly 20 years ago in the war Mr. Hussein started against Iran. The war was a conscripts’ hell, into which thousands of soldiers silently disappeared.

    Some men who claim to have been soldiers in the Iraqi Army also strolled these graves today, telling fearful stories from 12 and 15 years ago.

    One described being ordered to work here for five days in 1988, as trucks with stacks of coffins and bloody ambulances kept arriving with more dead. “Our officers told us that all of these people were hanged,” another said.

    It was a testimony to just how widespread and unsparing the killing has been that one man’s theory seemed as plausible as the next.

    Even the spare forensic details provided little help. Kurds said the first two graves to be exhumed held a headless man in Kurdish shirt with a tag that read “Unidentified #37” and a skeleton in a blood-stained track suit and whisps of long light-colored hair.

    Kurds said the second skeleton was the remains of a woman, but this was based more on a look at the length of hair than trained study.

    Kurdish police guarded the road to the mounds, and two American Army officers measured it and reported its coordinates to their command. They said they would try to verify who was in the earth here, and might guard it once they had a clearer idea.

    “This is really a question,” said Capt. David Downing, a civil affairs officer at the site. “We don’t know what this is.”

    Charles A. Forrest, executive director of Indict, a London-based organization that has been seeking war crimes against Mr. Hussein and senior Baath officials, said a period of methodical examination would be required at this site and the others almost certain to be found.

    He said teams of researchers and examiners were departing for Iraq to begin the work.

    “This is exactly what we expected would be found when the situation opened up,” he said. “Where are the bodies of the 182,000 Kurds killed in the Anfal? They have to be somewhere.”

    He was cautious, however, about finding conclusive answers soon. “Getting a thorough understanding of each site will be just a massive job,” he said.

    For now, as questions linger, the graves are a sad and lonely place, a blank on the map and on the mind.

    It is a condition that gives them enormous resonance. Each man who arrives can assign them whatever meaning he requires.

    Captain Hawez, the police officer, walked the graveyard this afternoon, head down, dust rising as he slowly strolled, his subordinates keeping a little distance. He seemed near to tears.

    His story was dark. “I loved a Kurdish girl,” he said. “The Iraqi regime took her when we were young.”

    He paused and swallowed, before explaining his reddened eyes. He said: “Every time I find new graves I feel like it is her in the ground.”

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