A few years ago, I began work on a crime novel set in Iraq. I borrowed the name of a real-life person, Muhsin Khadr al-Khafaji, as a writing prompt. Taking this man’s name seemed like nothing since my character was entirely fictitious and all resemblances purely coincidental.
As I revised the manuscript, I felt I owed it to myself to find out who the real man was. Al-Khafaji was number 48 on the list of “Most Wanted Baathists,” the Three of Diamonds in the US military’s deck of cards.
I had only the grim outlines of the real al-Khafaji’s story. He was sought for his participation in the bloody suppression of the 1991 popular uprisings against Saddam’s regime, and captured on February 7, 2004.
The events of 1991 may be largely forgotten in the United States, but not in Iraq. Encouraged by the fiery rhetoric of President George H. W. Bush, Shi‘a and Kurds rose up against the Baathist state. They might have succeeded were it not for the brutality of loyalists like al-Khafaji. By the time the rebellion was over, one hundred thousand civilians had been killed.
With a bad taste in my mouth, I set out to find what happened to al-Khafaji after his arrest. (More here)