September 28, 2003

Atrocity Seen From Outer Space

This is what ethnic "cleansing" looks like.

Behold a satellite photo of a Kurdish neighborhood in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 1997.


Here is the same neighborhood in 1998.


Saddam Hussein destroyed more than 3,000 Kurdish towns and villages in this way. Some were so thoroughly annihilated there is little evidence they ever even existed.

Thanks to Bill Herbert for the photos.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 28, 2003 11:33 PM

there is little evidence they ever even existed.

Obviously, Michael, then they never did exist. It was just another Bush lie concocted to grab oil for the Jews.

P.S. - First!

Posted by: George at September 29, 2003 06:10 AM

Won't make a difference, Michael: the pro-war humanitarians are already angry about just this sort of thing and the "yes, but..." people... will shrug, say "Yes, but..." and make whatever point they feel like making. Then the geopolitical pro-war types will lay on the yes-butters, then get attacked by the multilateralists, who will be then insulted by the unilateralists, the anti-Bush paranoids will start up again with their angry chattering about both the Once and Future election and everybody ends up glaring at each other.


Maybe I shouldn't post on Monday mornings.


PS: I agree with what you were saying with those pictures and text, just so you know.

Posted by: Moe Lane at September 29, 2003 06:11 AM

Me too, me two/ three! Great photos. Good point.

Glenn R. says that one interesting thing about Dean is that he doesn't want to pull out until Iraq is democratic. That's a pretty powerful future oriented plank. What with the good news coming out of Iraq, as well as continuing problems, there might well be so much progress that all the dems agree that booting Saddam was, on balance, good (but, blah blah Bush bad blah).

And then Bush looks weaker.
(Warning George, my GMT -1 gives me a BIG advantage on Michael's great blog, which I usually choose not to exercise!)

Posted by: Tom Grey at September 29, 2003 08:57 AM

I'm confused - does this necessarily mean that the residents were massacred (ala Hama Rules), or that they were simply moved before their residences were destroyed?

Posted by: Jase at September 29, 2003 09:50 AM

What, are you trying to put Kimmit out of a job? Perhaps he is not just a troll for this blog, but he will have a hard time proving it.

I suspect that if the Kurds were moved, the movement would make the Trail of Tears look like a spring outing. It is very easy to forget all the many essential details that go into making a village or community work. Food, water, shelter, power, employment, medical treatment, and access to goods are all requirements. Impeding any of these causes problems for people staying in one place. Moving hundreds of families can be done by extremely competant and sympathetic officials with a limited amount of pain over a long period when a lot of expense is made. The displacements of riverside towns by the TVA and BPA are examples of this. Uprooting an entire community and then putting them at the mercy of the Baathist party would be death of a thousand cuts. Doing so in a single year indicates that most of the inhabitants of that village are now buried.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at September 29, 2003 11:44 AM

These Kurds were killed. In some instances Kurdish dwellings were stolen for use by Arabs. The structures are useful, after all.

When the houses were demolished, they had people in them.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 29, 2003 11:56 AM

It's not hard to get an approximation of the number of people involved. From the photos, find the area - you should be able to get the scale from the original photo, then estimate the population density - most likely high.

Given the treatment of the Kurds in 1988 (Halabja), it's probably not likely that Saddam lined up hundreds of air-conditioned Greyhound busses outside the compound to whisk the people to their new summer homes before it was levelled.

Posted by: Mike at September 29, 2003 12:09 PM

In 1991 Kurdish neighborhoods in Kirkuk were strafed with helicopter gunships. The people, not the houses, were the targets.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 29, 2003 01:45 PM

The truth about these photos has very litle to do with whether or not they prove or even suggest that Saddam was up to no good. No, if these photos were produced by a Democrat administration the same folks pooh, poohing them would be offering them to the world in the exact same manner that Mr. Totten is, along with the same indignation currently absent from the NYT et al.

The moral to the real tale of these photos lies closer in the reaction, then, of the GOP during Clinton's many forays with the U.S. military. Were there charges that he had gone nuts, had gone crazy with U.S. power and might, tossing around our weight like an uncontrolable arrogant cowboy?

I would suggest that the Left has currently lost it's mind, not Bush and those that support him. Forget all pretense of rationality when it comes to the Left these days. As Grant once said of Sherman long before The March, "He is gone in the head." Perhaps there is a future "march" in store for the Left. But I have my doubts.

Posted by: Marc S. Lamb at September 30, 2003 01:37 PM

During Clinton's interventions, there were certainly voices on the Republican side that said that they didn't think that the interventions were sufficiently justified by US interests. Of course, that reflects ideological differences; the Right tends to be more concerned about foreign policy acting in US interests, whereas the Left is traditionally more concerned with moral purity.

The sensible center of both parties finds ways to balance these tensions, by acting as morally as possible while advancing strategic interests, or by advancing strategic interests while acting morally, etc.

I'm afraid that parts of the radical left have decided that advancing US strategic interests is actually a strong negative. Strong enough to actually outweigh dealing with moral concerns like tyrants committing genocide.

Posted by: John Thacker at October 2, 2003 10:28 AM

The facts and the chronology suggested here are about as screwed up as they could possibly be, and they are screwed up in ways that obscure enlightening nuances about Saddam and Iraq's Kurds.

Since Michael Totten's link doesn't seem to work for purposes of references, start here:

The photograph is clearly captioned: "Ancient Citadel before Clearing Operation Kirkuk Iraq" and "Before 1977"

The next one shows considerable clearing, albeit of only a part of the area covered in the previous photo, and at a different angle, and probably at a very different time of day. It is captioned "Ancient Citadel After Clearing Operation Kirkuk, Iraq. Regime Destroys Kurdish Neighborhoods." and "After: July 1998."

Michael Totten comments: "These Kurds were killed. In some instances Kurdish dwellings were stolen for use by Arabs. The structures are useful, after all. / When the houses were demolished, they had people in them."

Source cited? None. What is this "Ancient Citadel" anyway, and what function did it serve in Kirkuk prior to Sept 1997? The "before" photo looks distinctly different from the surrounding neighborhoods. Was it a neighborhood? What was it, and what was the purpose of the clearing operation, and what was the political context?

An Iraqi archeologist weighed in on this subject in 1999:

The credibility problems are obvious: this is a guy who can't go public with anything compromising the regime of the time, but it is nevertheless a possible explanation.

A Kurdish human rights group offered this in May 2001 -- it was being turned into a fortress again by Saddam:

This is certainly credible, and any allegations of mistreatment or human rights violations are likely to be exaggerated here if anything, given the source. But what are we told there? That the inhabitants of citadel site itself were primarily Turkmen, not Kurds, and offered only "meager compensation." Damn, weren't you hoping to learn about live babies on bayonets?

Let's learn a little more about Kirkuk, and from the regional government of one of the Kurdish factions who ... reprint an article from that socialist surrender-monkey rag, the New York Times!

... in which it is said, among other things, "If nothing else, the post-Hussein struggle for prevalence is a battle of dubious statistics. The main ethnic groups Kurds, Turkmens and Arabs all claim that they make up more than half the city. (The fourth group, mostly Assyrian Christians, constitute about 3 percent of the population, and admit it.) / No reference is too obscure."

And yet we have Michael Totten asserting without a shred of evidence, doubt or qualification: "These Kurds were killed. In some instances Kurdish dwellings were stolen for use by Arabs. The structures are useful, after all. / When the houses were demolished, they had people in them."

They were killed. Or their houses were just stolen, so the structures were used. Or no, they weren't used, they were demolished. Or ... what, Michael? Did you do any fact-checking here?

Let's go to the political context. Yes, Saddam had huge numbers of Kurds killed at various times, huge numbers relocated. Nobody denies that. But each time, this wasn't some unprovoked genocide (in any racialist sense of the word). Each time, the U.S. had provided encouragement and support for going up against Saddam, and then (usually waking up to the complexities of the rivalries among Kurdish groups, and to the realities of going up against Saddam, and to the absurd ambitions of the people like Chalabi, of which more later) withheld support at critical moments. Bush Sr. encouraged Kurdish rebellion -- then left them to be slaughtered. Congress, under the Clinton administration, funded efforts to unite some Kurdish factions against Saddam, then refused to go along with anything that would draw the U.S into militarily defending an initiative that was otherwise doomed to fail. (It's an old story. Henry Kissinger, on some similar sellout of the Kurds in the early 1970s, whined "We are not missionaries." We can only hope that his #1 protege, Paul Bremer, has a little more missionary zeal.)

Everyone of these debacles only strengthened the rule of Saddam Hussein.

And that's just what happened up until 1995. Here, we have some Kurds inviting Saddam's troops into their territory to deal with trouble stirred up by Ahmed Chalabi:

"Indeed, in 1996 an ill-organized INC offensive in northern Iraq, where Chalabi had assembled about 1,000 fighters, was half-heartedly backed by the CIA. Not only did Saddam Hussein's troops not defect en masse, as predicted by Chalabi, but one of the INC's key allies, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, chose to ally itself with Baghdad, inviting the Iraqi army back into northern Iraq's Kurdish areas for a mop-up exercise."

[Source ]

By 1997, the form of things should have been clear: Saddam has yielded autonomy to various Kurdish groups to the north, and is largely at peace with them, even working with them on occasion. What's the quid pro quo? Saddam gets what Saddam really wants: yet more control of Kirkuk, which sits over 6% of the world's reserves of oil. There was no question of slaughtering many more Kurds anywhere, much less in Kirkuk, around the time these photos were taken -- the fix was already in. And Kurds were happy enough with the status quo (at their official levels anyway) to voice opposition to the U.S. invasion.

Posted by: Michael Turner at October 4, 2003 05:46 AM


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