More than 100 children held in a prison celebrated their freedom as US marines rolled into northeast Baghdad amid chaotic scenes which saw civilians loot weapons from an army compound, a US officer said.
Around 150 children spilled out of the jail after the gates were opened as a US military Humvee vehicle approached, Lieutenant Colonel Fred Padilla told an AFP correspondent travelling with the Marines 5th Regiment.
"Hundreds of kids were swarming us and kissing us," Padilla said.
"There were parents running up, so happy to have their kids back."
"The children had been imprisoned because they had not joined the youth branch of the Baath party," he alleged. "Some of these kids had been in there for five years."
Just as disturbing is the fact that we knew this "Children's Prison" existed for quite some time. This prison was mentioned specifically by weapons inspector Scott Ritter in a September 2002 interview with Time magazine [emphasis mine]:
- "The prison in question is at the General Security Services headquarters, which was inspected by my team in Jan. 1998. It appeared to be a prison for children--toddlers up to pre-adolescents--whose only crime was to be the offspring of those who have spoken out politically against the regime of Saddam Hussein. It was a horrific scene. Actually I'm not going to describe what I saw there because what I saw was so horrible that it can be used by those who would want to promote war with Iraq, and right now I'm waging peace."
So here we have the deliberate withholding of testimony to horrible crimes against children by Mr. Ritter, in the interests of "waging peace."
I'm not sure what else I can say about this.