Monday, July 05, 2004

Did Saddam gas the Kurds

In a recent article Stephen C. Pelletiere wrote:

It was no surprise that President Bush, lacking smoking-gun evidence of Iraq's weapons programs, used his State of the Union address to re-emphasize the moral case for an invasion: "The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages, leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or disfigured."

The accusation that Iraq has used chemical weapons against its citizens is a familiar part of the debate. The piece of hard evidence most frequently brought up concerns the gassing of Iraqi Kurds at the town of Halabja in March 1988, near the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war. President Bush himself has cited Iraq's "gassing its own people," specifically at Halabja, as a reason to topple Saddam Hussein.

But the truth is, all we know for certain is that Kurds were bombarded with poison gas that day at Halabja. We cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds. This is not the only distortion in the Halabja story.

I am in a position to know because, as the Central Intelligence Agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and as a professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000, I was privy to much of the classified material that flowed through Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf. In addition, I headed a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States; the classified version of the report went into great detail on the Halabja affair.

This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that exchange. But they were not Iraq's main target.

And the story gets murkier: immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

Yes, the DIA did a report immediately after but, in the last 16 years quite a bit of evidence has come to light that disproves this. The documents can be found here.

During the Iran-Iraq war the Kurds sought the help of the Iranians in their insurgency. Because of this, Iraq launched the Anfal operations. It started with bombing cities then moved to ethnic cleansing and finally, when these measures didn't work, Saddam sent his brother in law, Ali Hasan al-Majid, better known as, Chemical Ali.

39 seperate attacks were launched over a 2 day period, March 16 and 17 1988. In the city of Halabja alone, 5000 died. Many, to this day, are born with birth defects due to the gassing of the Kurds.

High Iraqi officials, including Vice-Premier Tariq Aziz, have since admitted using chemical weapons against the Kurds. Last year, Radio Free Iraq broadcast the allegation by a former brigadier general in Saddam's air force that the command to use "extraordinary" weapons against Halabjah came from the president himself.

I do find it funny that this man, all of a sudden, has come out with this information, even though it is false. 3 presidents, the U.N. and Human Rights Watch all agree that Iraq used chemical weapons. Thousands of pages of evidence show he used them yet, people are jumping on this story as if it were a gold strike. People talk about intelectual integrity, how about these same people gaining some.