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To: Sir Terence Clark; CASI list
Sir Terence states, concerning Halabja,
<reliable evidence of Iraqi responsibility became available ... much later.>
I am very pleased that Sir Terence has made this statement. In doing so, he has moved on from his exclusive concern with a side-issue (the purpose and timing of David Mellor's visit to Iraq in Spring 1988), to a direct comment on the substance of the CASI discussion, which was about the responsibility of the Saddam Hussein regime for the Halabja massacre. I was concerned that his three little words ("at the time") were too small in relation to the rather longer words "two conflicting versions of events", and that the effect, if not the intention, of his intervention was to recreate some of the confusion about who was responsible for Halabja. His latest posting has removed this danger.
I had also complained that Sir Terence had made no comment on other parts of my statement concerning "the UK government's nefarious alliance with the Saddam regime during the period when he was London's representative in Baghdad".
<the point of my intervention ... was not to comment on your view of British policy towards Iraq, as the facts are widely on record>
The facts which are on record represent only a tiny proportion of the totality of facts relevant to UK and US dealings with Saddam Hussein during the US/UK's covert alliance with Baghdad during the war with Iran. The rest of the facts are buried in secret files in Whitehall and in such places as Sir Terence's own memory.
One outstanding fact which is on the public record is the enormous extent of the deception and lies which ministers of the UK government at the time of Halabja perpetrated against Parliament and the people. This was, of course, the subject of the Scott enquiry, which was itself not a real enquiry but a damage-limitation exercise.
Andrew & Patrick Cockburn, in "Out of the Ashes - the Resurrection of Saddam Hussein", have some interesting things to say concerning the big issues which once again I invite Sir Terence to comment on:
"Prior to the invasion of Kuwait... Saddam's murderous regime evoked few complaints in the outside world. Even when he took to gassing his Kurdish subjects, governments in Washington, London, and other western capitals stayed mute, grateful that he was fighting the Islamic Republic of Iran." (p12)
Finally, Sir Terence quotes my closing paragraph: <Sir Terence is undoubtedly in a position to shed light on ... many ...questions of interest to the ordinary people of Iraq and the UK [note: I should have added "and to the people of Iran"]. It would be interesting to know, for instance, which arms deals he did help to arrange during the period in question (from, say, February 1988, which he describes as "well before Halabja", which took place on March 16th, to autumn of that year).>
<The short answer is none.>
I look forward to researching this subject further, and to asking some questions which might elicit the long answer.
Message text written by "John Smith"
>Sir Terence has set the record straight on one issue of fact, but he has used my inaccuracy to recreate some of the confusion about who carried out the attack on Halabja, an important issue which had been substantially settled by Glen's observations.
It is interesting what Sir Terence does and does not say in his brief
posting. He refers to the "two conflicting version of events", as if
responsibility for Halabja is an open question.>
Please read again what I wrote:
" Leaving aside the enormous difficulties of verifying at the time
either of the two conflicting versions of events, as they have been related on this List,"
You have overlooked the three little words "at the time" and created your own confusion! I was referring to the genuine difficulty all of us had in the aftermath of Halabja of verifying what had happened. Halabja was completely out of bounds to independent observers and while the indications pointed to Iraqi responsibility, there were also reports circulating of Iranian use of cyanide shells. Both these versions were aired on this List recently. I no longer recall when reliable evidence of Iraqi responsibility became available but it was I am sure only much later.
< He adroitly - or should I say maladroitly - sidesteps other parts of my statement: both the general point about the UK government's nefarious alliance with the Saddam regime during the period when he was London's representative in Baghdad, and the specific one about the UK government's role in protecting Saddam from UN censure for perpetrating the Halabja attack.>
You misunderstand the point of my intervention which was not to comment on your view of British policy towards Iraq, as the facts are widely on record, but purely to correct your unfounded allegations about the purpose and timing of David Mellor's visit to Iraq. You alleged: "the UK government sent David Mellor to Baghdad to negotiate a major arms contract while the bodies were still lying in the street [of Halbja]". I repeat that he did not negotiate any arms deals whatsoever and as his visit was 3 weeks before the attack on Halabja there were consequently no victims lying on the streets.
<Sir Terence is undoubtedly in a position to shed light on these and many other questions of interest to the ordinary people of Iraq and the UK. It would be interesting to know, for instance, which arms deals he did help to arrange during the period in question (from, say, February 1988, which he describes as "well before Halabja", which took place on March 16th, to autumn of that year).>
The short answer is none.