Sonny Trimble's grave undertaking: unearthing the victims of Saddam's slaughter.

Watching the nation devolve into chaos, Trimble has come to learn that a healthy dose of fear keeps people alive there. "Anybody that says otherwise is a fool."

Since the invasion of Iraq, the United States government and its allies have shifted their focus from weapons of mass destruction to Hussein's alleged acts of genocide. Ironically, the second phase of the Anfal trial began this week, just as headlines described an increasingly precarious state of affairs in Darfur. Sudanese government militias there have slaughtered between 200,000 and 500,000 people in a long-running tribal war. The Bush administration has declared the Darfur killings genocide, but there does not appear to be a U.S.-backed plan for intervention on the table. To many, the scenario is an eerie reminder of George H. W. Bush's alliance with Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq War twenty years ago. While Hussein committed genocide, critics say, the elder Bush looked the other way to protect U.S. oil interests.

"Everybody knew Saddam was a son of a bitch, but he was our son of a bitch," observes Stephen Feinstein, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. "Intervening on genocide is not a very potent argument unless there's a national interest attached to it."

courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by Da
Michael "Sonny" Trimble
courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by Da
Michael "Sonny" Trimble

Trimble will head back to Iraq later this month and is likely to take the witness stand at Hussein's trial sometime in October. Initially the forensic archaeologist didn't plan to testify. He thought his voluminous reports would tell the stories of genocide themselves. "Then I realized if I didn't testify, that would be like not coming out for the third act in a Shakespeare play," he says. "That's where it all gets wrapped up."

Notes RCLO attorney Blinderman: "Sonny's job is to give voice to these victims."

For all of the questions that Trimble's work has answered, some troubling ones linger. He wonders how many people took part in the shootings, whether they were right-handed or left-handed, if they took turns. He wonders what they were thinking when they pulled the trigger.

"The Sioux have a line — only Native Americans could come up with this — they say when somebody wants to get rid of somebody else, they want to rub them out. Rub them like out dust. That's the best I have come up with."

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