An estimated two-hundred ninety-thousand people are missing and believed to be buried in mass graves throughout Iraq. In a country of twenty-two million people, that is more than one percent of the population. The vast majority of the missing have not yet been found.
South of Baghdad, the remains of hundreds of Shiite Muslims and others have been unearthed from a mass grave. They were executed after an uprising against the Saddam Hussein regime following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. There are hundreds of bones wrapped in white cloth, and plastic bags contain clothing, shoes, and watches. Some have identification papers.
Paul Bremer is head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq. He says the mass graves justify the overthrow of Saddam Hussein:
“Mass graves bring home, in a way that is very dramatic, how truly bad this regime was.”
In another killing field one-hundred kilometers south of Baghdad, in Mahawil, more than two-thousand bodies have been exhumed. The remains are arranged in small piles. Each pile contains a skull, some bones, and clothing. Thousands of relatives of people who went missing under Saddam Hussein have gathered at the site hoping to identify loved ones.
According to U.S. Marine Captain David Romley, there could be as many as fourteen-thousand people buried at Mahawil. Captain Rowley says evidence is being gathered for future prosecutions:
“We are trying to find out for our purposes, we are photographing, we are videotaping, we are interviewing people to find out what the circumstances were about this site with the intent of providing that information to the Iraqi people and the judicial system.”
The countless victims of Saddam Hussein’s regime deserve to be accounted for. And those responsible for their murder deserve to face justice.