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Dec-04-2010 05:11printcomments

The Insanity of Saddam Hussein's Human Meat Grinder

Shredding your way to war with lies...

Crossed swords of Saddam Hussein's parade field in Baghdad, Iraq
Crossed swords of Saddam Hussein's parade field in Baghdad. Photo by Justin King.

(SALEM / BAGHDAD) - I first heard of the 'human meat grinder' when I was in Baghdad, Iraq in 2008 on a particularly hot summer day, standing on Saddam Hussein's old parade ground.

Former Iraqi Pres. Saddam Hussein

I visited with a U.S. Army historian that day; it was a unique coincidence that we found each other beneath the famous crossed swords, as I'm always in the market for historical information.

We discussed several important points about the war that in his mind, really justified the Coalition's invasion of Iraq. I have to say that at the time, he was convincing.

And in all fairness, this man probably believed what he said to be true, I would like to think so.

This officer had heard the story that dated back to 2003, when information about the alleged 'human mean grinder' first hit the presses at the Independent with statements from Ken Joseph Jr., who was one of the anti-war human shields that had entered Iraq in 2003.

Joseph, who said he was a pastor with the Assyrian Church, apparently had a real change of heart after hearing horrible stories about Hussein's meat grinder in Baghdad.

He apparently went from peace activist to war advocate while he was there.

The Independent quoted Joseph saying:

"Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."

In '08 Baghdad soldiers said the grinder spit pieces of human
flesh into the Tigris River. Salem-News.com photo: Tim King

So now, all these years later, I was telling an associate about that terrible 'meat grinder' that Saddam and his Baathist party friends reportedly used to do away with their enemy's bodies, and she asked, "Do you know that for a fact"?

I replied, "Well, I was told about it by several people including a light colonel. I was told at one point that it was not visible, but 'just out of sight' from where I was standing."

I know I probably sounded a bit adamant; not over the top but hey, this is a story I've been telling for a couple of years now.

So I Googled, "baghdad saddam hussein's meat grinder" and quickly found Wikipedia's page about this awful device that by the sound of it, would have been a good addition to a Spanish Inquisition torture chamber. It turns out to be more ironic than expected.

As it turns out, this story is a big zero, with no proof whatsoever. Anyone out there reading this; the only legitimate argument is the missing proof. If I am wrong that is fine, but I don't think so.

It appears by all accounts that this story is just more high level piece of government designed propaganda specifically inserted into the minds of western people through media reports.

Marine Corps 'welcome' sign in Iraq. Photo by Tim King

It brings to mind the old adage, Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear. That expression still has a place in the world, maybe now more than ever.

We can add this staunch piece of propaganda to the pile. List it next to the WMD's that were never found, Iran's non-existent nuclear weapons program, Usama bin Laden's role as a 'blacksheep' in Saudi Arabia, Israel's peaceful intentions, and George W. Bush's 'Don't ask, Don't admit' military record.

It isn't that we've simply been had. This is a serious matter. The only thing any westerner has to ask and face is simple:

  • What would you do if you were born in Baghdad?
  • Isn't siding with an occupying force a total contradiction of anyone's natural born patriotism and credibility?
  • Isn't that a lot to ask of somebody?

I'll say this much; in a Red Dawn scenario, if the Iraqi people who side with Americans were indeed the Americans, they might be the first to rat their neighbor out and sew the red star on their shoulder.

I don't think that is universal by any means and there are many great Iraqi people who have worked with the Coalition, but to what eventual end?

Selling War

The plastic shredder into which Saddam and Qusay Hussein are said to have fed opponents of their Baathist rule, first came to light in press reports preceding the 2003 Invasion of Iraq.

Worldwide attention was focused on these allegations and they invariably created strong support for military action in Iraq. The decisions of various U.S. legislators in supporting the military invasion of Iraq, may have been different if they had known the meat grinder story was little more than an unfounded allegation.

Stories took full court advantage; articles had racy headlines like: "See men shredded, then say you don't back war".

It would take a full year for the officials channels to recognize that there never was evidence to support the existence of such a machine.

And I heard about it as a reporter in Baghdad from a field grade officer who specialized in war history for the U.S. Army. You would at least think he would have known four full years after the story was busted.

From Wikipedia:

Iraqi flag photo by Tim King Salem-News.com

The first mention of the plastic shredder came at a March 12, 2003 meeting, when James Mahon addressed the British House of Commons after returning from research in northern Iraq.

Ann Clwyd wrote in The Times six days later, an article entitled "See men shredded, then say you don't back war," saying that an unnamed Iraqi had said the Husseins used a shredder to gruesomely kill male opponents, and used their shredded bodies as fish food.[1] Later she would add that it was believed to be housed in Abu Ghraib prison, and spoke with an unidentified person who claimed the shredders were dismantled "just before the military got there".[2] Two days later Australian Prime Minister John Howard made reference to the "human-shredding machine".

Melanie Phillips wrote in The Daily Mail, saying that the machine resulted in "bodies...chewed up from foot to head". In William Shawcross' 2003 book Allies: The United States, Britain, Europe and the War in Iraq, he claimed that Saddam Hussein "fed people into huge shredders, feet first to prolong the agony".

The Sun's political editor Trevor Kavanagh wrote in February 2004 that "Public opinion swung behind Tony Blair as voters learned how Saddam fed dissidents feet first into industrial shredders."

Shredding the Allegation of Rev. Kenneth Joseph Jr.

It was CounterPunch that finally took the story from the man calling himself Rev. Kenneth Joseph Jr. to task. As it turns out, people actually involved in the Human Shield project said they had never heard of the guy.

Human shield activists suggested that if Joseph had indeed gone to Iraq, it was for different, more personal reasons. Some reportedly said that if he was there at all, he was likely "motivated by his campaign for 'Assyrian Independence' rather than the welfare of the Iraqi people in the face of an invasion," Wikipedia's page on the event relates.

But then even that scenario appeared to fade from real possibility when Bishop Mar Bawai Soro of the Assyrian Church, reportedly said that Joseph was not a pastor as he claimed, and had no connection to their organization.

However today, a search of the Assyrian Christian News Website reveals significant information about a Rev. Ken Joseph Jr. who is of Iraqi descent. I did not see a specific reference to the Human Shield project, which our writer Ken O'Keefe was very involved in, but every indication is there to indicate that Rev. Kenneth Joseph Jr. is authentic; contrary to statements currently posted on Wikipedia and also with other media sources.

I don't believe this impacts the reality of the point that Saddam Hussein's alleged meat grinder was propaganda, released at a key time to influence the support of a devastating war based on false intelligence. Still, it has been heavily reported that Joseph possibly never have existed, and that does not seem to be the case. Hopefully both Ken O;Keefe and Ken Joseph Jr. will share their thoughts in the comments or for a follow-up article

More Meat Grinder Myths?

Residents of al Dujayl clean up after a deadly 2008 car bomb explosion. Photo
below shows main blast in al Dujayl, Iraq. 2008 Salem-News.com photo by Tim King

One interesting article published by the International Center for Transitional Justice, His Country Lost, Saddam Tries to Rule in Court, by Bloomberg's Ann Woolner, suggests that the meat grinder is tied to a failed assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein in the early 1980's. Either way it seems startlingly clear that the meat grinder notion helped convict the Iraqi leader and contributed to his death sentence.

Woolner wrote: "They spoke of mass arrests, infants included, in the town of Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against Hussein in 1982. People were beaten and raped, burned and tortured with electrical shocks, they said. One witness said he saw a meat grinder with human hair and blood beneath it."

This is interesting, as there is no reference to the fact that the town of al Dujayl was the place where an elaborate plot was hatched to kill the Iraqi president in a deadly surprise attack, as he traveled through this Shi'ite village with his motorcade.

That is what led to the retaliation against these people in 1982. It was an extremely significant event that left several members of Hussein's presidential security team dead and wounded, but the president himself uninjured.

I was told that the old people had been in prison for a long time. But what is a national leader supposed to do when an entire town works in unison, obviously without success, to take their lives, killing some of the president's men in the process? I think we would call it Terrorism and Treason here in the US.

So why would people in this Shi'ite town have wanted to kill their president?

Because he was progressive; a liberal thinker, which is contrary to how he was portrayed in western press.

According to Wikipedia:

"To the consternation of Islamic conservatives, Saddam's government gave women added freedoms and offered them high-level government and industry jobs. Saddam also created a Western-style legal system, making Iraq the only country in the Persian Gulf region not ruled according to traditional Islamic law (Sharia). Saddam abolished the Sharia courts, except for personal injury claims."

Scene of tragic car bomb blast that killed 32. Photo: Tim King

So yes, Saddam Hussein was unpopular with these folks because he wasn't religious enough. And this is the leader the United States soiled its reputation pursuing and killing while driving Iraq into the darkest depths of war torn despair. And every Iraqi that tried to defend their nation against the unjustified invasion was deemed a 'terrorist'. I was in this same town, al Dujayl, in Oct. 2008, just after a car bomb exploded outside of a busy market across from an Iraqi Police (IP) station, killing 32 people and injuring between 30 and 50.

A 101st Airborne Lieutenant at the time explained: "An unknown insurgent comes up and brings the vehicle, either targeting the IP station across the street or the market. Detonates the vehicle right around 18:00, the time when most people have stopped fasting for Ramadan and have gone to the market, or restaurants around the market area to eat dinner, or get food for dinner, and blew the vehicle up."

Now I feel compelled to question whether it really was an 'insurgent' who set that bomb off, at this point how can we be sure it was not a Coalition member? Or, if not perhaps Coalition money paid for it to drive the war effort and further terrify and divide the local populace?

Since we know that British soldiers were caught by Iraqi police posing as Arabs in a vehicle laden with deadly weapons, and that it led to a bloody shootout that left people on the Coalition side dead, we know we can't believe anything they say without real corroborating evidence.

Learning our Lessons

This story confirms what many have always known; that almost every statement issued to justify the war was fabricated. There was never a justifiable reason for the invasion of Iraq.

Now I will question whether any of the other horrible stories are true, like the ones about Saddam Hussein's son's habit of plucking married women out of their husband's arms as they walked down the street in Baghdad. I suspect that is probably fiction also at this point.

How about the 72 virgins story, how many millions have heard of this? It is another piece of western fantasy. There is not a shred of evidence in the Holy Qur'an to substantiate that crazy assertion. The only people who will tell you about it are westerners who believe it, and people from the Mideast willing to sell out the truth. Even if there is a bizarre remote example of this having happened, it still flies in the face of everything we know about the history of Islam.

People suggested that the war was over oil, and that is absolutely true as it turns out, though it certainly hasn't meant relief in domestic gas prices.

The only political benefactor to the chaos and disarray in the Middle east brought about by the wars, is Israel. Like President Mahmoud Ahmadenajad in Iran, Saddam Hussein was supportive of the Palestinian cause and openly criticized Israel's illegal occupation of the post-1967 borders.

Hana Levi Julian with Arutz Sheva, the International Israel News Agency, wrote at the time of Saddam Hussein's death:

As the noose was slipped around his neck, and the trapdoor about to open for him to plunge to his death, Hussein called out, 'Allah is great. The nation will be victorious, and Palestine is Arab.'

She related how in Israel, the death of Saddam Hussein was welcomed.

Former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, writing for Ynet, explained, "We have no reason to mourn the death of Saddam... Let us not forget the dozens of Scuds he fired at Israel with the intent of killing innocent people. This cruel dictator did everything he could to harm the State of Israel and the stability of the Middle East. For years he aided and funded Palestinian terrorism in the territories and within the State of Israel."

The Magnitude and Reality of War

Iraq is in shambles, and don't believe the people who tell you otherwise. Some areas are certainly more miserable than others, but no society can exist with a million of their own citizens killed by an invading occupying power and still be happy, successful, or by any means fortunate.

Don't get me wrong, the Iraqi people will survive; those who have survived have grown very strong and rugged over the last few years, but they are fragmented and damaged by a cruel senseless war that gained nothing at all, for anyone.

Famous scene in
Kuwait from the
first Gulf War.
A U.S. Air Force
slaughter zone;
The Highway
of death
Image of scene
17 years later.
The Iraqi forces
were all killed
while retreating.
photo by Tim King

Bush killed so many more Iraqi's than Hussein did; the numbers aren't even slightly comparable. And why did Saddam Hussein go after the Kurds? He went for them because the first Pres. Bush encouraged them to stand up and revolt.

Then American politicians turned their backs after setting them up for the big fall.

That was a cold move from the George Herbert Walker Bush Administration. The United States had absolutely no good reason for going to Iraq either time.

In the end, there never has been a shred of evidence to confirm the existence of this reported body disposal machine

One witness at Saddam's trial in December 2005 claimed to have seen it. Saddam's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, barracked the witness, shouting he "should act in the cinema."

Journalist Brendan O'Neill challenged the existence of the shredder in The Spectator and The Guardian in February 2004. Then again in February 2010, he published the article titled, "Neither Amnesty International nor Human Rights Watch, in their numerous investigations into human rights abuses in Iraq, had ever heard anyone talk of a human-shredding machine."

The shredding machine story has been compared to the story of Iraqi soldiers "throwing babies from incubators" during the invasion of Kuwait in October 1990. Wikipedia explains that this influential report was presented as the 'eye-witness testimony' of a 15-year old Kuwaiti girl named Nurse Nayirah. Years later it emerged that she was the daughter of Saud bin Nasir Al-Sabah, Kuwait's ambassador to the United States, and that the story itself was entirely the creation of the Hill & Knowlton public relations firm employed by the Kuwaitis.


Saddam Hussein's alleged shredder From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Assyrian Christian News - About Ken Joseph Jr.

Dec-09-2005: International Center for Transitional Justice

Feb-04-2010: The media's tall tales over Iraq - Brendan O'Neill Guardian UK

Dec-31-2006: Moments Before Death, Saddam Hussein: ┬┤Palestine is Arab┬┤by Hana Levi Julian - Arutz Sheva Israel news

Aug-01-2010: Great American Heroes: Ho Chi Minh, Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden - Tim King Salem-News.com

Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 65 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Sejong Camus June 9, 2013 11:13 pm (Pacific time)

You had a good premise to your story, and set out examining the evidence and pursuing the root of the alleged shredder well. You decently established no solid evidence against it.

Then you started declaring your own opinions, which you never give any support for - this was propaganda, other car bombings were propaganda to promote the war, the war was "absolutely" about oil.

How can you so clearly dissect flawed reasoning in others' arguments and then immediately turn around and use similarly flawed and loosely substantiated reasoning yourself?

Tim King: I wrote this story in a very hot state, I felt burned, I had just discovered that I'd been lied to yet again by the USA, and had to swallow that jagged pill.  Thanks for sharing your thoughts,you raise good unarguable points.

Anonymous December 4, 2011 7:53 am (Pacific time)

It wasn't a meat grinder but a commercially available plastic shredder. Saddam's son, Uai, oversaw many executions as described by Iraqui soldiers. Solders said that the doomed who fed in head first were lucky to have a quick death rather than feet first. There are many soldiers who seen this but the typical lliberal response is to keep asking "where's the proof".

Editor: Right, proof, it is required in courts and news stories.  You would think a single photograph might exist?  I think it is fantasy, I think I was duped by the Army in Baghdad and that they were conveying propaganda explained to them in earnest.  

xexon December 6, 2010 9:06 am (Pacific time)

The only difference between us and Saddam is we're more smooth about it. Of course, the company you keep says a lot too. Remember this?: http://www.grupo-utopia.com/blog/isou/Hypocrisy/rumsfeld-saddam.jpg

Anonymous December 6, 2010 2:19 am (Pacific time)

National lies
They are no surprise
Through training and drill
People learn how to kill
There is never an excuse
Uncle Sam's head is in a noose

Anonymous December 5, 2010 3:55 pm (Pacific time)

I agree with you on this Tim..I wonder, as so many want to put down other countries, why do they not look at their own country? The U.S. has the highest per capita of people in prison..Millions in prison for non-violent crimes. We are being radiated and felt up at airports. We start wars from lies..We torture..We "indefinately detain without representation".. The proof now comes out that the mainstream media got bailed out, while Salem-news, will get nothing but new taxes. Trillions to banks, while people go homeless, expanded wars, Haiti is infested with cholera, which is easy and cheap to fix but nobody will help, ...actually, I have a about 3 more pages to write, but will stop now. Lets not EVEN get into building 7, which the evidence is overwhelming that it was controlled demolition... dear gosh.. :-(

Joe Kelsall December 5, 2010 2:55 pm (Pacific time)

Saddam Hussein would not have to improvise a 'human meat grinder'. Such a machine is available for abbatoir use in crushing cattle bones. The bones are thrown into a stainless steel funnel that they slide down before being crushed to an unrecognisable mush. Whoever started the rumour was obviously unaware that such a mchine existed.

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