New York Times
January 31, 2003

Did Saddam Gas His Own People?

U.S. control of Iraq would bring Israel badly needed water

by Stephen C. Pelletiere

. . . 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. . . .

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. . . .

The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent -- that is, a cyanide-based gas -- which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.

. . . it may be more important that Iraq has the most extensive river system in the Middle East. . . .

Before the Persian Gulf war, Iraq had built an impressive system of dams and river control projects, the largest being the Darbandikhan dam in the Kurdish area. And it was this dam the Iranians were aiming to take control of when they seized Halabja. In the 1990's there was much discussion over the construction of a so-called Peace Pipeline that would bring the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates south to the parched Gulf states and, by extension, Israel.


"GENOCIDE IN IRAQ: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds," Human Rights Watch, July 1993

Enver Masud, "Why Iraq May be Next," The Wisdom Fund, November 19, 2001

[Then US Secretary of State George Schultz and commerce secretary George Baldridge also lobbied for the delivery of Bell helicopters equipped for "crop spraying". It is believed that US-supplied choppers were used in the 1988 chemical attack on the Kurdish village of Halabja, which killed 5000 people.--Norm Dixon, " How the US armed Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons," Green Left Weekly, August 28, 2002]

["As Iraq's use of poison gases in war and in peace was public knowledge, the question arises: what did the United States administration do about it then? Absolutely nothing. Indeed, so powerful was the grip of the pro-Baghdad lobby on the administration of Republican President Ronald Reagan that it got the White House to foil the Senate's attempt to penalise Iraq for its violation of the Geneva Protocol on Chemical Weapons to which it was a signatory. This made Saddam believe that the US was his firm ally - a deduction that paved the way for his brutal invasion and occupation of Kuwait and the 1991 Gulf war, . . ." -- " When US turned a blind eye to poison gas," the Observer (UK), September 1, 2002]

["Why didn't Tony Blair and George Bush mention Saddam Hussein's most terrible war crime? Why, in all their "dossiers", did they not refer to the 5,000 young men and women who were held at detention centres when their families -- of Iranian origin -- were hurled over the border to Iran just before President Saddam invaded Iran in 1980?

Could it be because these 5,000 young men and women were used for experiments in gas and biological warfare agents whose ingredients were originally supplied by the United States?"--Robert Fisk, "Did Saddam's army test poison gas on missing 5,000?," The Independent, December 13, 2002]

Joe Quandt, "The Lion, On His Den," The Wisdom Fund, December 20, 2002

Jude Wanniski, "Iraq Questions and Answers," Polyconomics

[At least 5,000 were killed in a poison gas attack by Iraqi aircraft at the height of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988. Mr Powell visited grave sites, lit a candle of remembrance and promised that Ali Hassan al-Majid, the Iraqi believed to have ordered the massacre and who is now in US custody, would be judged by an Iraqi court.

Unmentioned by Mr Powell was that in 1988 the Americans were supporting Saddam in his titanic conflict with Iran and that the CIA urged US diplomats at the time to suggest that the mass gassing may have been the work of Iran.--Robert Fisk, "Powell draws a veil over killings as he tours Iraq," Independent, September 16, 2003

[Since 1984, Turkey has killed some 30,000 Kurds, scattered some 2 million refugees, and depopulated more than 3000 villages. Turkish forces have used napalm, poison gas and other chemical weapons against the Kurds - and 80% of the weapons have come from the U.S. A program of assassinations has been carried out against Kurdish jouralists, intellectuals and politicians, and thousands more have been imprisoned.--Mark Zepezauer, "Boomerang! How our covert wars have created enemies across the Middle East and brought terror to America," Common Courage Press, 2003, p.105]

Aaron Glantz, "Iraqi General: US Helped Us as We Used Chemical Weapons," Inter Press Service, June 13, 2004

[Downing Street has admitted to The Observer that repeated claims by Tony Blair that '400,000 bodies had been found in Iraqi mass graves' is untrue, and only about 5,000 corpses have so far been uncovered.--Peter Beaumont, "PM admits graves claim 'untrue'," The Observer, July 18, 2004]

[HRW's experts have not been able to find the missing 100,000 bodies it said were of Kurds who had been rounded up and trucked south of Kurdistan, machine-gunned to death, and buried in mass graves.--Jude Wanniski, "Fallujah and Those Mass Graves,", November 6, 2004]

[ . . . there was also an attempt by one of the "Halabja deniers," Stephen Pelletiere, writing on the New York Times op-ed page in early 2003, to revive claims that most chemical casualties in Halabja were the result of Iranian gas.--Joost Hiltermann, "Blowback from the Iraq-Iran War," Harpers, July 5, 2007]

[Saddam "launched an invasion of Iran in September 1980. The ensuing war lasted eight years, devastated the Iranian economy and cost Iran as many as one million casualties, including thousands who were killed or incapacitated by chemical weapons. Iraq saw between 160,000 and 240,000 killed."--Stephen Kinzer, "Inside Iran's Fury: Scholars trace the nation's antagonism to its history of domination by foreign powers," Smithsonian Magazine, October 2008]

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