June 10, 2003


Videotapes showing people being tortured and executed by Saddam Hussein's regime are being bought on the streets of Baghdad by Iraqis anxious to trace missing relatives.

Most of the tapes date from the Shia Muslim insurgency that erupted after the first President George Bush urged Iraqis to overthrow the former Iraqi leader in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War.

Many of the executions took place in Najaf and Karbala.

Some of the tapes show a man who appears to be Lieutenant General Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam Hussein, better known as "Chemical Ali", killing people.

A BBC correspondent who has seen some of the recordings says they are evidence of the atrocities of the former regime.

Some of my lefty correspondents seem to think they're scoring points by noting that Saddam killed a lot of people because George H.W. Bush didn't remove him in 1991. But I agree. Saddam was left in power because Bush and Powell feared (wrongly) a backlash from Americans after the "highway of death" footage of killed Republican Guards aired on TV. In addition there was -- misplaced -- concern that toppling Saddam would have been wrong, somehow, in light of the U.N. resolutions. I felt at the time that it was a big mistake to leave Saddam in power, and I still do. I don't quite understand, though, how people can say that we should have toppled him in 1991, but that it was wrong to do so in 2003.