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Remember Halabja

Twelve years ago -- in the forenoon of March 16, 1988 -- Iraqi warplanes
attacked the Kurdish township of Halabja with chemical weapons.  The attack
killed as many as 5,000 civilians, injured many more, and caused tragic
medical symptoms which linger to this day.  Beneath the horror of Halabja
roil complexities which foreshadow today's events:

>> Multiple villains: The gassing of Halabja occurred during the closing
months of the Iran-Iraq war.  It's widely held that Iranian forces used gas
at Halabja, also, and may have caused some of the casualties.  

>> Involvement of the West: The chemical weaponry used at Halabja is
believed to be of German origin.

>> War by proxy: The West and much of the Arab world supported (to varying
degrees) Saddam Hussein during the conflict in an effort to contain
revolutionary Iran. 

>> Indifference: Due to medical issues stemming from the attack, health
needs in Halabja remain desperate even today ... but continue to be ignored.

>> Exploitation after death: Halabja has become a recurring sound-bite in
the demonization of Saddam Hussein (who's "used weapons of mass destruction
against his own people") and is often cited as justification for maintaining

Decades from now, when sanctions have ended and Saddam is dust, these
complexities will be forgotten.  But "Halabja" will linger -- like Guernica,
Hiroshima, Amiriyah, or Dresden -- as a reminder of what civilians faced
this bloody century.

This note references:
- Christine Gosden's moving piece (posted by Harriet Griffin last year):
- Christopher Hitchens' acerbic article:
- U.S. Government Whitepaper (1998) which notes Iranians also used chemical
weapons near Halabja:
- Jude Wanniski's 'Memo from the Margin' on Halabja (... cautionary note:
Mr. Wanniski is an energetic writer who delights in being a contrarian,
perhaps sometimes at the expense of inconvenient facts or his better
judgement. ...):
- The Iraq Foundation's page devoted to Halabja:
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