By Al DooleyJanuary 8, 2007
ST. LOUIS (Army News Service, Jan. 8, 2007) - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers archaeologist Dr. Michael "Sonny" Trimble has been to Iraq five times in the last two years, for a total of 17 months.
He hasn't gone there to shed light on the ancient history of what many people call the cradle of civilization. Rather, he's gone there to lead an effort to gather and document accurate evidence and decisively tell the story of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis allegedly murdered by Saddam Hussein and his regime over the last two decades.
"I want to give his victims their voices," Trimble said. "I want them to be able to tell the world what happened to them."
Trimble has led a team of archaeologists, forensic anthropologists, photographers, collections managers, archivists, and a broad range of other specialists to sort, catalog and preserve exhumed items for future applications.
The team also included a legal specialist to ensure the results would be "air tight" legal records of events and findings.
Their work, for the Justice Department's Regime Crimes Liaison Office in Baghdad has turned up a lot of details. Searching in mass graves, the team found and meticulously documented more than just skeletons. Due to the soil's nature in much of Iraq, victims' clothing with its original colors, toys and even official identity documents have been preserved and recovered.
"We've gained a great respect for these people - not simply as remains, which we of course, handled with great care - but as the people they were when they lived," Trimble said.
Trimble journeyed to Iraq one more time recently. This time, on Nov. 30 he sat in a witness chair for four hours at the trial of Saddam Hussein, being tried with several other Baath Party officials in the Anfal trial.
During Trimble's testimony, the deposed dictator, other defendants and defense attorneys scrutinized him intensely. Trimble firmly delivered a detailed report of findings from investigating mass graves of Kurdish people from northern Iraq, who were put to death following alleged insurrection there.
The defendants, including Hussein, questioned Trimble for an hour. The defendants had long stated these were legitimate operations of a government defending itself against internal insurrection. Information from the studies of Trimble's group firmly contradicted those claims.
Detailed evidence, including the chilling fact that 60 percent of the bodies exhumed were of children under the age of 12, demonstrated the untruths of the defense's position.
Trimble said his final goal is to have the remains of the exhumed returned to their families.