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[casi-analysis] Re: What Happened in Halabja

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(My apologies to moderator for first version replete with spelling errors,
I think I've eliminated most.  Thanks)

Dear all,

Having worked directly with Professor Christine Gosden since her visit to
Halabja in 1998, I feel it necessary to respond to Tom Young's statements
and conclusions from his visit to the community and its hospital.  I too have
recently visited the community and know individuals who have lived and worked
there during the attacks in throughout the period since.

To suggest that Halabja is simply facing the same problems of other rural
Kurdish towns and villages is to studiously ignore some irrefutable facts, not
least of which is the well documented genocidal tendencies of the former Iraqi
regime towards the Kurds, which included the use widespread use of mustard gas
(see Human Rights Watch - whose findings are also mischaracterized by Mr.

When Prof. Gosden visited the hospital in 1998, a radio broadcast informed
people in advance that she would arrive with a number of Kurdish doctors
prepared to provide limited treatment.  More than 700 people showed up, all
complaining of problems they believed were caused by chemical weapons
exposures in 1988. The injuries evidenced in these people may or may not have
been caused by chemical weapons. Without advanced genetic testing and/or
forensic evidence of weapons agents used in the community it is truly
impossible to say.  But a preponderance of testimonial evidence, knowledge of
Iraqi WMD programs and well documented effects of mustard gas all continue to
point to long-term effects of weapons exposure in this population.

Because the data collected in during Professor Gosden's first visit could not
be considered unbiased, an additional regionwide survey was undertaken by
Prof. Gosden and a consortium of local doctors.  The results of this survey,
when published, should remove any doubts created by the less than scientific,
and certainly biased accounts of individuals such as Tom Young and Mr.
al-Obaidi, and even Mr. Pelletiere.

While Mr. Young's hospital visit sounds quite uncharacteristic when compared
with my own and others' who work in the community, I will afford him
benefit of the doubt that he is not twisting reality to fit a not-so-hidden
political agenda, and respond to his assertions.

Given continued limits on diagnostic capacity and a complete lack of cancer
treatment anywhere in Kurdistan (as someone with knowledge of the effects
of UN sanctions should well understand), it is not surprising that leukemia
and other cancer patients are not turning up in droves at the hospital in

As WKI works closely with doctors and others in Halabja to this day, I can't
imagine which physician, nurses (and pharmacists?) gave him an impression that
"deformed" babies, skin cancers, neurological disorders, or blindness were not
frequent.  All of these conditions, associated with exposure to mustard gas,
are clearly evident throughout the community to all those living and working
in Halabja.  Clinical video studies conducted by doctors in the maternity and
other wards of the Halabja hospital and three others in Kurdish cities provide
horrible evidence to contradict Mr. Young's findings, including numerous
extremely rare congenital abnormalities and cancers. Furthermore, any
member of Halabja's medical staff would be quick to point out that Halabja
residents seeking advanced or specialized treatment (and there are no evidence
based treatments for exposures to chemical weapons) would seek such treatment
in Suleymania or even Baghdad or Mosul, as is the local custom.

In Halabja alone, there are more than 400 residents who were blinded in the
attack or lost sight in its aftermath.  There are currently hundreds of
children who do not attend school because of neurological impairment, and
while their disorders cannot be definitively linked to mustard or nerve
agents, their existence in high numbers cannot be refuted.  A survivor
support group is increasingly active in the town, and I am sure each and every
one would be more than pleased to show their scars to Mr. Young so he might be
better informed when he offers observations in the future.

Clearly, Mr. Young's examination of the hospital was cursory, unscientific and
guided by the intention to debunk Professor Gosden's observations. (In any
event, I would wager that Professor Gosden's biased ascertainment is far more
prescient that Mr. Young's).  To suggest that problems found in Halabja are
similar to those found in other rural Kurdish areas subjected to conflict and
deprivation mimics the  "fog of war" theory upon which many who would deny
Iraqi government involvement in Halabja's tragedy subsist.

The opinion expressed by Mr. al-Obaidi, who is well-known for slanderous and
unsubstantiated allegations, which Mr. Young also shares with the CASI list,
is full of deliberate distortions and outright lies.  I'd like to share my
response to the editors of al-Jazeera (which they will surely ignore):

"To the Editors of al-Jazeera:

Mr. al-Obaidi has once again woven quite a piece of fallacious slander
in  "What
Happened in the Kurdish Halabja."  The racism permeating the piece
speaks well enough to his motivations, so I will only address some of the
gross inaccuracies that are quite easily confirmed.

While I, Mike Amitay, am indeed the son of Morris, that is about the only
thing Mr. al-Obaidi gets right about me. I have never had anything to do with
Frank Gaffney and the Center for Security Policy or JINSA. With malice or
ignorance, Mr. al-Obaidi has clearly mistaken me for my father, assigning me
positions held by my father in both these organizations.  (Subsequent to my
submission, Al-Jazeera changed Amitay  "junior" in the original posting to
"senior", acknowledging their error and undermining the veracity of the
author). That I do not share the political beliefs of my father is beside the
point.  To label me  "the Zionist Mike Amitay" based on my father's beliefs is
intellectual putrescence at its finest.

While I vaguely know Moti Zaken (whom I have never met) and had brief contact
with the long defunct Israel-Kurdish Friendship League, I can only
assert that neither had any no role in establishment or funding of the
Washington Kurdish Institute.  While Zaken could easily attest to this
himself, so too could examination of WKI's financial or organizational
records, open to public scrutiny as WKI is a 501 (c) (3) organization.  The
unsupported assertion that WKI's Board Members, who in any event are not
directly involved in day-to-day management of WKI, are  "well known for their
connection with the Israeli Mossad", is a patently ridiculous statement by any
measure of journalistic integrity or personal knowledge of these individuals.

One must give credit to Mr. al-Obaidi for his ability to use Google in finding
the names of Board Members and others.  One could just as easily peruse Mr.
al-Obaidi's web personna and learn about the circumstances of his "flight"
from Iraq, the bogus "opposition" political organization he claims to run, and
his close cooperation with virulent anti-Semites and Ba'athists.

While WKI is indeed examining the long-term effects of chemical weapons on
civilians, we hope to publish our findings in peer-review scientific journals
before sharing them with reputable journalists. Mr. al-Obaidi's rehashing the
US Army War College report does underscore the need for forensic evidence
collection from attack sites, including Halabja, and from survivors throughout
Iraq and Iran, where chemical weapons were also used. We have strenuously
advocated that thorough independent investigations be carried out to determine
what weapons agents have been used throughout Iraq. While disappointing that
such a blatant concoction of racism, slander and falsehood would appear under
the al-Jazeera banner, it is not really surprising.

Mike Amitay, Washington, D.C."

While Mr. Young might indeed be intrigued by the  "fog of war" argument put
forward by Pelletiere, Jude Wanniski and al-Obaidi, the blatant racism and
political bias inherent in al-Obaidi's  "opinion", leads me to question his
motives in sharing it with the CASI list.  As long as there is are doubts
about both who is responsible for Halabja and what the long-term medical and
environmental implications are, the people will remain beyond meaningful

There is a real need to illuminate the problems facing people in Halabja and
elsewhere, and it is clear that only scientific evidence will clear
the  "fog of
war" which continues to so conveniently serves many different agendas.  I have
no doubt that Mr. Pelletiere will high on the list of witnesses called upon by
Saddam and Chemical Ali's defense lawyers, and I have no doubt he will relish
this opportunity, though whether or not he actually testifies about the
motivations of the US government in pinning the attack on Iran remains to be
seen.  In some ways, the DOD War College report is just the prompting needed
for further examination, yet this has yet to happen.

It is impossible for me to understand why no one has bothered to gather
forensic evidence related to weapons used in the attacks on Halabja and
elsewhere.  Whether determining culpability, or learning how to better protect
and treat survivors, any number of reasons would appear compelling.  Anyone
truly interested in helping the people in Halabja, Kurdistan, Iraq, Iran, or
anywhere such weapons were used or might be used, should be calling for
comprehensive environmental and medical testing/treatment, not trashing a
scientist who has dedicated her life to helping these people and finding
answers which we all seek.

Mike Amitay, WKI

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