Nearly six years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and two years after Saddam Hussein’s conviction and execution for slaughtering hundreds of thousands of his own citizens, the Islamic nation’s High Tribunal is trying to ensure Saddam’s memory is both clouded and preserved with a museum featuring artifacts of, and documents recounting, the myriad atrocities the former Iraqi dictator committed during his 24 years in power.
Gruesome Evidence and Artifacts on Display
The museum, set to open to the Iraqi public at the beginning of March in Baghdad’s International Zone, will serve as a permanent home for a collection of physical and documentary evidence of Saddam’s atrocities which has been criss-crossing Iraq for the public’s view since March 2008.
Hanging apparati — hooks and bloody nooses — used to asphyxiate countless Iraqi men, women, and children will be displayed, as well as torture devices like “a man-shaped metal cage where,” according to reports, “Saddam’s son Uday used to lock underperforming athletes for weeks at a time — and set them naked under the burning sun, the metal searing their flesh,” as well as a table, formerly housed in the basement of the Mukhabarat — Saddam’s intelligence agency — to which victims were strapped before being burned with irons or having electric currents transmitted through syringes into their urethras.
The museum will display pictures of hangings and of victims’ bodies, as well as the personal effects of some of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis murdered and dumped in one of dozens of mass graves by Saddam’s regime. These artifacts, according to a report, “include combs, identity cards, a rosary…and bloodstained clothes.”
Also on display, according to a museum worker who spoke with reporters on the condition of anonymity, will be documents from the trial, including “the final decision and the execution order,” so that “people will be able to see his guilt for themselves.”
The facility will also include a research center with a virtual library housing nearly 26 million documents detailing Saddam’s atrocities while dictator, from his orders to exterminate the Kurds in northern Iraq with chemical weapons, to his command that nearly 150 Iraqis – including children – be tortured (some by being put through flesh-ripping meat grinders) and slaughtered in response to a failed 1982 attempt on his life.
History Outweighs Reconciliation
“We thought that people might forget the works committed by dictators who committed horrible acts against them,” said Judge Arif Abdel-Razaq al-Shaheen, chief justice of the High Tribunal, which sentenced Saddam to death two years ago and which is currently trying Ali Hassan al-Majeed (known as “Chemical Ali” for his role in gassing thousands of Iraqi Kurd civilians, and already twice sentenced to death by the same tribunal) and former Iraqi vice president Tariq Aziz for their roles in slaughtering tens of thousands of opponents of Saddam’s ruling Ba’ath Party.
Though the peace in Iraq remains frail, and another hurdle is rapidly approaching with provincial elections scheduled for January 31, al-Shaheen maintains that keeping Saddam’s memory alive is more important than even temporarily sweeping the contentious figure under the rug for the purpose of “national reconciliation.”
“This museum is about history,” al-Shaheen said. “History must not be forgotten.”
The man who purged hundreds of military leaders and fellow Ba’athists shortly after taking power, brutally tortured and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his own countrymen, sent a million more to their deaths in war, raped hundreds of young women, had his critics’ tongues cut out of their heads, and sent tens of thousands of dollars to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers as a reward for the killing of Jews must be remembered for being every bit the terrible tyrant he was — and, thanks to the dedication of the new Iraqi government, Saddam’s real legacy will live on.