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thanks suzie, , this is the type of stuff that people need to know, but does the iraqi government have any influence/control over what supplies goes to the 3 kurdish provinces? thanks peter ----- Original Message ----- From: "peter kiernan" <email@example.com> To: "AS-ILAS" <AS-ILAS@gmx.de>; "casi" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 7:28 PM Subject: Re: [casi] J.Goldberg's controversial article in The New Yorker > > Can any-one shed light on this excerpt of the New Yorker article? As I > understand it the allocation in oil for food for the 3 kurdish provinces is > run separately to the rest of the country. Indeed, this has been used by > pro-sanctions advocates who say that because the kurds are in control of > their part of the program, the life of kurds has improved (re infant and > child majority etc.), where as in Iraq Saddam Hussein is deliberately > starving his own people so that's why things haven't improved in the rest of > the country, and you can't blame the sanctions or the inadequecy of the > program. But he seems to be contradicting this assessment. Any thoughts? > > Peter Kiernan > > The oil-for-food program has one enormous flaw, he replied. When the program > was introduced, > the Kurds were promised thirteen per cent of the country's oil revenue, but > because of the terms of the agreement between Baghdad and the U.N.—a > "defect," Salih said—the government controls the flow of food, medicine, > and medical equipment to the very people it slaughtered. Food does arrive, > he conceded, and basic medicines as well, but at Saddam's pace. > > > ----- Original Message ----- > From: "AS-ILAS" <AS-ILAS@gmx.de> > To: "casi" <email@example.com> > Sent: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 5:31 PM > Subject: [casi] J.Goldberg's controversial article in The New Yorker > > > Dear casi members, > > Here's J.Goldberg's controversial article in The New Yorker > > FYI > > > Best > > Andreas > > EFFE > European Forum for Freedom in Education > Minorities Group > Research & Documentation & Analysis > > ---------------------------------- > > http://newyorker.com/fact/content/?020325fa_FACT1 > > > THE GREAT TERROR > by JEFFREY GOLDBERG > > In northern Iraq, there is new evidence of Saddam Hussein's genocidal war > on the Kurds—and of his possible ties to Al Qaeda. > > Issue of 2002-03-25 > Posted 2002-03-25 > In the late morning of March 16, 1988, an Iraqi Air Force helicopter > appeared over the city of Halabja, which is about fifteen miles from the > border with Iran. The Iran-Iraq War was then in its eighth year, and > Halabja was near the front lines. At the time, the city was home to roughly > eighty thousand Kurds, who were well accustomed to the proximity of > violence to ordinary life. Like most of Iraqi Kurdistan, Halabja was in > perpetual revolt against the regime of Saddam Hussein, and its inhabitants > were supporters of the peshmerga, the Kurdish fighters whose name means > "those who face death." > > A young woman named Nasreen Abdel Qadir Muhammad was outside her family's > house, preparing food, when she saw the helicopter. The Iranians and the > peshmerga had just attacked Iraqi military outposts around Halabja, forcing > Saddam's soldiers to retreat. Iranian Revolutionary Guards then infiltrated > the city, and the residents assumed that an Iraqi counterattack was > imminent. Nasreen and her family expected to spend yet another day in their > cellar, which was crude and dark but solid enough to withstand artillery > shelling, and even napalm. > > "At about ten o'clock, maybe closer to ten-thirty, I saw the helicopter," > Nasreen told me. "It was not attacking, though. There were men inside it, > taking pictures. One had a regular camera, and the other held what looked > like a video camera. They were coming very close. Then they went away." > > Nasreen thought that the sight was strange, but she was preoccupied with > lunch; she and her sister Rangeen were preparing rice, bread, and beans for > the thirty or forty relatives who were taking shelter in the cellar. > Rangeen was fifteen at the time. Nasreen was just sixteen, but her father > had married her off several months earlier, to a cousin, a thirty-year-old > physician's assistant named Bakhtiar Abdul Aziz. Halabja is a conservative > place, and many more women wear the veil than in the more cosmopolitan > Kurdish cities to the northwest and the Arab cities to the south. > > The bombardment began shortly before eleven. The Iraqi Army, positioned on > the main road from the nearby town of Sayid Sadiq, fired artillery shells > into Halabja, and the Air Force began dropping what is thought to have been > napalm on the town, especially the northern area. Nasreen and Rangeen > rushed to the cellar. Nasreen prayed that Bakhtiar, who was then outside > the city, would find shelter. > > The attack had ebbed by about two o'clock, and Nasreen made her way > carefully upstairs to the kitchen, to get the food for the family. "At the > end of the bombing, the sound changed," she said. "It wasn't so loud. It > was like pieces of metal just dropping without exploding. We didn't know > why it was so quiet." > > A short distance away, in a neighborhood still called the Julakan, or > Jewish quarter, even though Halabja's Jews left for Israel in the > nineteen-fifties, a middle-aged man named Muhammad came up from his own > cellar and saw an unusual sight: "A helicopter had come back to the town, > and the soldiers were throwing white pieces of paper out the side." In > retrospect, he understood that they were measuring wind speed and > direction. Nearby, a man named Awat Omer, who was twenty at the time, was > overwhelmed by a smell of garlic and apples. > > Nasreen gathered the food quickly, but she, too, noticed a series of odd > smells carried into the house by the wind. "At first, it smelled bad, like > garbage," she said. "And then it was a good smell, like sweet apples. Then > like eggs." Before she went downstairs, she happened to check on a caged > partridge that her father kept in the house. "The bird was dying," she > said. "It was on its side." She looked out the window. "It was very quiet, > but the animals were dying. The sheep and goats were dying." Nasreen ran to > the cellar. "I told everybody there was something wrong. There was > something wrong with the air." > > The people in the cellar were panicked. They had fled downstairs to escape > the bombardment, and it was difficult to abandon their shelter. Only > splinters of light penetrated the basement, but the dark provided a strange > comfort. "We wanted to stay in hiding, even though we were getting sick," > Nasreen said. She felt a sharp pain in her eyes, like stabbing needles. "My > sister came close to my face and said, 'Your eyes are very red.' Then the > children started throwing up. They kept throwing up. They were in so much > pain, and crying so much. They were crying all the time. My mother was > crying. Then the old people started throwing up." > Chemical weapons had been dropped on Halabja by the Iraqi Air Force, which > understood that any underground shelter would become a gas chamber. "My > uncle said we should go outside," Nasreen said. "We knew there were > chemicals in the air. We were getting red eyes, and some of us had liquid > coming out of them. We decided to run." Nasreen and her relatives stepped > outside gingerly. "Our cow was lying on its side," she recalled. "It was > breathing very fast, as if it had been running. The leaves were falling off > the trees, even though it was spring. The partridge was dead. There were > smoke clouds around, clinging to the ground. The gas was heavier than the > air, and it was finding the wells and going down the wells." > > The family judged the direction of the wind, and decided to run the > opposite way. Running proved difficult. "The children couldn't walk, they > were so sick," Nasreen said. "They were exhausted from throwing up. We > carried them in our arms." > > > Across the city, other families were making similar decisions. Nouri Hama > Ali, who lived in the northern part of town, decided to lead his family in > the direction of Anab, a collective settlement on the outskirts of Halabja > that housed Kurds displaced when the Iraqi Army destroyed their villages. > "On the road to Anab, many of the women and children began to die," Nouri > told me. "The chemical clouds were on the ground. They were heavy. We could > see them." People were dying all around, he said. When a child could not go > on, the parents, becoming hysterical with fear, abandoned him. "Many > children were left on the ground, by the side of the road. Old people as > well. They were running, then they would stop breathing and die." > > Nasreen's family did not move quickly. "We wanted to wash ourselves off and > find water to drink," she said. "We wanted to wash the faces of the > children who were vomiting. The children were crying for water. There was > powder on the ground, white. We couldn't decide whether to drink the water > or not, but some people drank the water from the well they were so > thirsty." > > They ran in a panic through the city, Nasreen recalled, in the direction of > Anab. The bombardment continued intermittently, Air Force planes circling > overhead. "People were showing different symptoms. One person touched some > of the powder, and her skin started bubbling." > > A truck came by, driven by a neighbor. People threw themselves aboard. "We > saw people lying frozen on the ground," Nasreen told me. "There was a small > baby on the ground, away from her mother. I thought they were both > sleeping. But she had dropped the baby and then died. And I think the baby > tried to crawl away, but it died, too. It looked like everyone was > sleeping." > > At that moment, Nasreen believed that she and her family would make it to > high ground and live. Then the truck stopped. "The driver said he couldn't > go on, and he wandered away. He left his wife in the back of the truck. He > told us to flee if we could. The chemicals affected his brain, because why > else would someone abandon his family?" > > As heavy clouds of gas smothered the city, people became sick and confused. > Awat Omer was trapped in his cellar with his family; he said that his > brother began laughing uncontrollably and then stripped off his clothes, > and soon afterward he died. As night fell, the family's children grew > sicker—too sick to move. > Nasreen's husband could not be found, and she began to think that all was > lost. She led the children who were able to walk up the road. > > In another neighborhood, Muhammad Ahmed Fattah, who was twenty, was > overwhelmed by an oddly sweet odor of sulfur, and he, too, realized that he > must evacuate his family; there were about a hundred and sixty people > wedged into the cellar. "I saw the bomb drop," Muhammad told me. "It was > about thirty metres from the house. I shut the door to the cellar. There > was shouting and crying in the cellar, and then people became short of > breath." One of the first to be stricken by the gas was Muhammad's brother > Salah. "His eyes were pink," Muhammad recalled. "There was something coming > out of his eyes. He was so thirsty he was demanding water." Others in the > basement began suffering tremors. > > March 16th was supposed to be Muhammad's wedding day. "Every preparation > was done," he said. His fiancée, a woman named Bahar Jamal, was among the > first in the cellar to die. "She was crying very hard," Muhammad recalled. > "I tried to calm her down. I told her it was just the usual artillery > shells, but it didn't smell the usual way weapons smelled. She was smart, > she knew what was happening. She died on the stairs. Her father tried to > help her, but it was too late." > > Death came quickly to others as well. A woman named Hamida Mahmoud tried to > save her two-year-old daughter by allowing her to nurse from her breast. > Hamida thought that the baby wouldn't breathe in the gas if she was > nursing, Muhammad said, adding, "The baby's name was Dashneh. She nursed > for a long time. Her mother died while she was nursing. But she kept > nursing." By the time Muhammad decided to go outside, most of the people in > the basement were unconscious; many were dead, including his parents and > three of his siblings. > > Nasreen said that on the road to Anab all was confusion. She and the > children were running toward the hills, but they were going blind. "The > children were crying, 'We can't see! My eyes are bleeding!' " In the chaos, > the family got separated. Nasreen's mother and father were both lost. > Nasreen and several of her cousins and siblings inadvertently led the > younger children in a circle, back into the city. Someone—she doesn't know > who—led them away from the city again and up a hill, to a small mosque, > where they sought shelter. "But we didn't stay in the mosque, because we > thought it would be a target," Nasreen said. They went to a small house > nearby, and Nasreen scrambled to find food and water for the children. By > then, it was night, and she was exhausted. > > > Bakhtiar, Nasreen's husband, was frantic. Outside the city when the attacks > started, he had spent much of the day searching for his wife and the rest > of his family. He had acquired from a clinic two syringes of atropine, a > drug that helps to counter the effects of nerve agents. He injected himself > with one of the syringes, and set out to find Nasreen. He had no hope. "My > plan was to bury her," he said. "At least I should bury my new wife." > After hours of searching, Bakhtiar met some neighbors, who remembered > seeing Nasreen and the children moving toward the mosque on the hill. "I > called out the name Nasreen," he said. "I heard crying, and I went inside > the house. When I got there, I found that Nasreen was alive but blind. > Everybody was blind." > > Nasreen had lost her sight about an hour or two before Bakhtiar found her. > She had been searching the house for food, so that she could feed the > children, when her eyesight failed. "I found some milk and I felt my way to > them and then I found their mouths and gave them milk," she said. > > Bakhtiar organized the children. "I wanted to bring them to the well. I > washed their heads. I took them two by two and washed their heads. Some of > them couldn't come. They couldn't control their muscles." > > Bakhtiar still had one syringe of atropine, but he did not inject his wife; > she was not the worst off in the group. "There was a woman named Asme, who > was my neighbor," Bakhtiar recalled. "She was not able to breathe. She was > yelling and she was running into a wall, crashing her head into a wall. I > gave the atropine to this woman." Asme died soon afterward. "I could have > used it for Nasreen," Bakhtiar said. "I could have." > > After the Iraqi bombardment subsided, the Iranians managed to retake > Halabja, and they evacuated many of the sick, including Nasreen and the > others in her family, to hospitals in Tehran. > > Nasreen was blind for twenty days. "I was thinking the whole time, Where is > my family? But I was blind. I couldn't do anything. I asked my husband > about my mother, but he said he didn't know anything. He was looking in > hospitals, he said. He was avoiding the question." > > The Iranian Red Crescent Society, the equivalent of the Red Cross, began > compiling books of photographs, pictures of the dead in Halabja. "The Red > Crescent has an album of the people who were buried in Iran," Nasreen said. > "And we found my mother in one of the albums." Her father, she discovered, > was alive but permanently blinded. Five of her siblings, including Rangeen, > had died. > > Nasreen would live, the doctors said, but she kept a secret from Bakhtiar: > "When I was in the hospital, I started menstruating. It wouldn't stop. I > kept bleeding. We don't talk about this in our society, but eventually a > lot of women in the hospital confessed they were also menstruating and > couldn't stop." Doctors gave her drugs that stopped the bleeding, but they > told her that she would be unable to bear children. > > Nasreen stayed in Iran for several months, but eventually she and Bakhtiar > returned to Kurdistan. She didn't believe the doctors who told her that she > would be infertile, and in 1991 she gave birth to a boy. "We named him > Arazoo," she said. Arazoo means hope in Kurdish. "He was healthy at first, > but he had a hole in his heart. He died at the age of three months." > > > I met Nasreen last month in Erbil, the largest city in Iraqi Kurdistan. She > is thirty now, a pretty woman with brown eyes and high cheekbones, but her > face is expressionless. She doesn't seek pity; she would, however, like a > doctor to help her with a cough that she's had ever since the attack, > fourteen years ago. Like many of Saddam Hussein's victims, she tells her > story without emotion. > > During my visit to Kurdistan, I talked with more than a hundred victims of > Saddam's campaign against the Kurds. Saddam has been persecuting the Kurds > ever since he took power, more than twenty years ago. Several old women > whose husbands were killed by Saddam's security services expressed a kind > of animal hatred toward him, but most people, like Nasreen, told stories of > horrific cruelty with a dispassion and a precision that underscored their > credibility. Credibility is important to the Kurds; after all this time, > they still feel that the world does not believe their story. > > A week after I met Nasreen, I visited a small village called Goktapa, > situated in a green valley that is ringed by snow-covered mountains. > Goktapa came under poison-gas attack six weeks after Halabja. The village > consists of low mud-brick houses along dirt paths. In Goktapa, an old man > named Ahmed Raza Sharif told me that on the day of the attack on Goktapa, > May 3, 1988, he was in the fields outside the village. He saw the shells > explode and smelled the sweet-apple odor as poison filled the air. His son, > Osman Ahmed, who was sixteen at the time, was near the village mosque when > he was felled by the gas. He crawled down a hill and died among the reeds > on the banks of the Lesser Zab, the river that flows by the village. His > father knew that he was dead, but he couldn't reach the body. As many as a > hundred and fifty people died in the attack; the survivors fled before the > advancing Iraqi Army, which levelled the village. Ahmed Raza Sharif did not > return for three years. When he did, he said, he immediately began > searching for his son's body. He found it still lying in the reeds. "I > recognized his body right away," he said. > > The summer sun in Iraq is blisteringly hot, and a corpse would be > unidentifiable three years after death. I tried to find a gentle way to > express my doubts, but my translator made it clear to Sharif that I didn't > believe him. > We were standing in the mud yard of another old man, Ibrahim Abdul Rahman. > Twenty or thirty people, a dozen boys among them, had gathered. Some of > them seemed upset that I appeared to doubt the story, but Ahmed hushed > them. "It's true, he lost all the flesh on his body," he said. "He was just > a skeleton. But the clothes were his, and they were still on the skeleton, > a belt and a shirt. In the pocket of his shirt I found the key to our > tractor. That's where he always kept the key." > > Some of the men still seemed concerned that I would leave Goktapa doubting > their truthfulness. Ibrahim, the man in whose yard we were standing, called > out a series of orders to the boys gathered around us. They dispersed, to > houses and storerooms, returning moments later holding jagged pieces of > metal, the remnants of the bombs that poisoned Goktapa. Ceremoniously, the > boys dropped the pieces of metal at my feet. "Here are the mercies of Uncle > Saddam," Ibrahim said. > > > 2. THE AFTERMATH > > The story of Halabja did not end the night the Iraqi Air Force planes > returned to their bases. The Iranians invited the foreign press to record > the devastation. Photographs of the victims, supine, bleached of color, > littering the gutters and alleys of the town, horrified the world. Saddam > Hussein's attacks on his own citizens mark the only time since the > Holocaust that poison gas has been used to exterminate women and children. > Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, who led the campaigns against the > Kurds in the late eighties, was heard on a tape captured by rebels, and > later obtained by Human Rights Watch, addressing members of Iraq's ruling > Baath Party on the subject of the Kurds. "I will kill them all with > chemical weapons!" he said. "Who is going to say anything? The > international community? Fuck them! The international community and those > who listen to them." > > Attempts by Congress in 1988 to impose sanctions on Iraq were stifled by > the Reagan and Bush Administrations, and the story of Saddam's surviving > victims might have vanished completely had it not been for the reporting of > people like Randal and the work of a British documentary filmmaker named > Gwynne Roberts, who, after hearing stories about a sudden spike in the > incidence of birth defects and cancers, not only in Halabja but also in > other parts of Kurdistan, had made some disturbing films on the subject. > However, no Western government or United Nations agency took up the cause. > > In 1998, Roberts brought an Englishwoman named Christine Gosden to > Kurdistan. Gosden is a medical geneticist and a professor at the medical > school of the University of Liverpool. She spent three weeks in the > hospitals in Kurdistan, and came away determined to help the Kurds. To the > best of my knowledge, Gosden is the only Western scientist who has even > begun making a systematic study of what took place in northern Iraq. > Gosden told me that her father was a high-ranking officer in the Royal Air > Force, and that as a child she lived in Germany, near Bergen-Belsen. "It's > tremendously influential in your early years to live near a concentration > camp," she said. In Kurdistan, she heard echoes of the German campaign to > destroy the Jews. "The Iraqi government was using chemistry to reduce the > population of Kurds," she said. "The Holocaust is still having its effect. > The Jews are fewer in number now than they were in 1939. That's not > natural. Now, if you take out two hundred thousand men and boys from > Kurdistan"—an estimate of the number of Kurds who were gassed or otherwise > murdered in the campaign, most of whom were men and boys—"you've affected > the population structure. There are a lot of widows who are not having > children." > > Richard Butler, an Australian diplomat who chaired the United Nations > weapons-inspection team in Iraq, describes Gosden as "a classic English, > old-school-tie kind of person." Butler has tracked her research since she > began studying the attacks, four years ago, and finds it credible. > "Occasionally, people say that this is Christine's obsession, but obsession > is not a bad thing," he added. > > Before I went to Kurdistan, in January, I spent a day in London with > Gosden. We gossiped a bit, and she scolded me for having visited a > Washington shopping mall without appropriate protective equipment. Whenever > she goes to a mall, she brings along a polyurethane bag "big enough to step > into" and a bottle of bleach. "I can detoxify myself immediately," she > said. > > Gosden believes it is quite possible that the countries of the West will > soon experience chemical- and biological-weapons attacks far more serious > and of greater lasting effect than the anthrax incidents of last autumn and > the nerve-agent attack on the Tokyo subway system several years ago—that > what happened in Kurdistan was only the beginning. "For Saddam's > scientists, the Kurds were a test population," she said. "They were the > human guinea pigs. It was a way of identifying the most effective chemical > agents for use on civilian populations, and the most effective means of > delivery." > > The charge is supported by others. An Iraqi defector, Khidhir Hamza, who is > the former director of Saddam's nuclear-weapons program, told me earlier > this year that before the attack on Halabja military doctors had mapped the > city, and that afterward they entered it wearing protective clothing, in > order to study the dispersal of the dead. "These were field tests, an > experiment on a town," Hamza told me. He said that he had direct knowledge > of the Army's procedures that day in Halabja. "The doctors were given > sheets with grids on them, and they had to answer questions such as 'How > far are the dead from the cannisters?' " > > Gosden said that she cannot understand why the West has not been more eager > to investigate the chemical attacks in Kurdistan. "It seems a matter of > enlightened self-interest that the West would want to study the long-term > effects of chemical weapons on civilians, on the DNA," she told me. "I've > seen Europe's worst cancers, but, believe me, I have never seen cancers > like the ones I saw in Kurdistan." > > According to an ongoing survey conducted by a team of Kurdish physicians > and organized by Gosden and a small advocacy group called the Washington > Kurdish Institute, more than two hundred towns and villages across > Kurdistan were attacked by poison gas—far more than was previously > thought—in the course of seventeen months. The number of victims is > unknown, but doctors I met in Kurdistan believe that up to ten per cent of > the population of northern Iraq—nearly four million people—has been exposed > to chemical weapons. "Saddam Hussein poisoned northern Iraq," Gosden said > when I left for Halabja. "The questions, then, are what to do? And what > comes next?" > > > 3. HALABJA'S DOCTORS > > The Kurdish people, it is often said, make up the largest stateless nation > in the world. They have been widely despised by their neighbors for > centuries. There are roughly twenty-five million Kurds, most of them spread > across four countries in southwestern Asia: Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. > The Kurds are neither Arab, Persian, nor Turkish; they are a distinct > ethnic group, with their own culture and language. Most Kurds are Muslim > (the most famous Muslim hero of all, Saladin, who defeated the Crusaders, > was of Kurdish origin), but there are Jewish and Christian Kurds, and also > followers of the Yezidi religion, which has its roots in Sufism and > Zoroastrianism. The Kurds are experienced mountain fighters, who tend > toward stubbornness and have frequent bouts of destructive infighting. > > After centuries of domination by foreign powers, the Kurds had their best > chance at independence after the First World War, when President Woodrow > Wilson promised the Kurds, along with other groups left drifting and > exposed by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, a large measure of autonomy. > But the machinations of the great powers, who were becoming interested in > Kurdistan's vast oil deposits, in Mosul and Kirkuk, quickly did the Kurds > out of a state. > > In the nineteen-seventies, the Iraqi Kurds allied themselves with the Shah > of Iran in a territorial dispute with Iraq. America, the Shah's patron, > once again became the Kurds' patron, too, supplying them with arms for a > revolt against Baghdad. But a secret deal between the Iraqis and the Shah, > arranged in 1975 by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, cut off the Kurds > and brought about their instant collapse; for the Kurds, it was an ugly > betrayal. > > The Kurdish safe haven, in northern Iraq, was born of another American > betrayal. In 1991, after the United States helped drive Iraq out of Kuwait, > President George Bush ignored an uprising that he himself had stoked, and > Kurds and Shiites in Iraq were slaughtered by the thousands. Thousands more > fled the country, the Kurds going to Turkey, and almost immediately > creating a humanitarian disaster. The Bush Administration, faced with a > televised catastrophe, declared northern Iraq a no-fly zone and thus a safe > haven, a tactic that allowed the refugees to return home. And so, under the > protective shield of the United States and British Air Forces, the > unplanned Kurdish experiment in self-government began. Although the Kurdish > safe haven is only a virtual state, it is an incipient democracy, a home of > progressive Islamic thought and pro-American feeling. > > Today, Iraqi Kurdistan is split between two dominant parties: the Kurdistan > Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of > Kurdistan, whose General Secretary is Jalal Talabani. The two parties have > had an often angry relationship, and in the mid-nineties they fought a war > that left about a thousand soldiers dead. The parties, realizing that they > could not rule together, decided to rule apart, dividing Kurdistan into two > zones. The internal political divisions have not aided the Kurds' cause, > but neighboring states also have fomented disunity, fearing that a unified > Kurdish population would agitate for independence. > > Turkey, with a Kurdish population of between fifteen and twenty million, > has repressed the Kurds in the eastern part of the country, politically and > militarily, on and off since the founding of the modern Turkish state. In > 1924, the government of Atatürk restricted the use of the Kurdish language > (a law not lifted until 1991) and expressions of Kurdish culture; to this > day, the Kurds are referred to in nationalist circles as "mountain Turks." > Turkey is not eager to see Kurds anywhere draw attention to themselves, > which is why the authorities in Ankara refused to let me cross the border > into Iraqi Kurdistan. Iran, whose Kurdish population numbers between six > and eight million, was not helpful, either, and my only option for gaining > entrance to Kurdistan was through its third neighbor, Syria. The Kurdistan > Democratic Party arranged for me to be met in Damascus and taken to the > eastern desert city of El Qamishli. From there, I was driven in a Land > Cruiser to the banks of the Tigris River, where a small wooden boat, with a > crew of one and an outboard motor, was waiting. The engine spluttered; when > I learned that the forward lines of the Iraqi Army were two miles > downstream, I began to paddle, too. On the other side of the river were > representatives of the Kurdish Democratic Party and the peshmerga, the > Kurdish guerrillas, who wore pantaloons and turbans and were armed with > AK-47s. > "Welcome to Kurdistan" read a sign at the water's edge greeting visitors to > a country that does not exist. > > > Halabja is a couple of hundred miles from the Syrian border, and I spent a > week crossing northern Iraq, making stops in the cities of Dahuk and Erbil > on the way. I was handed over to representatives of the Patriotic Union, > which controls Halabja, at a demilitarized zone west of the town of > Koysinjaq. From there, it was a two-hour drive over steep mountains to > Sulaimaniya, a city of six hundred and fifty thousand, which is the > cultural capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. In Sulaimaniya, I met Fouad Baban, one > of Kurdistan's leading physicians, who promised to guide me through the > scientific and political thickets of Halabja. > > Baban, a pulmonary and cardiac specialist who has survived three terms in > Iraqi prisons, is sixty years old, and a man of impish good humor. He is > the Kurdistan coördinator of the Halabja Medical Institute, which was > founded by Gosden, Michael Amitay, the executive director of the Washington > Kurdish Institute, and a coalition of Kurdish doctors; for the doctors, it > is an act of bravery to be publicly associated with a project whose > scientific findings could be used as evidence if Saddam Hussein faced a > war-crimes tribunal. Saddam's agents are everywhere in the Kurdish zone, > and his tanks sit forty miles from Baban's office. > > Soon after I arrived in Sulaimaniya, Baban and I headed out in his Toyota > Camry for Halabja. On a rough road, we crossed the plains of Sharazoor, a > region of black earth and honey-colored wheat ringed by jagged, snow-topped > mountains. We were not travelling alone. The Mukhabarat, the Iraqi > intelligence service, is widely reported to have placed a bounty on the > heads of Western journalists caught in Kurdistan (either ten thousand > dollars or twenty thousand dollars, depending on the source of the > information). The areas around the border with Iran are filled with > Tehran's spies, and members of Ansar al-Islam, an Islamist terror group, > were said to be decapitating people in the Halabja area. So the Kurds had > laid on a rather elaborate security detail. A Land Cruiser carrying > peshmerga guerrillas led the way, and we were followed by another Land > Cruiser, on whose bed was mounted an anti-aircraft weapon manned by six > peshmerga, some of whom wore black balaclavas. We were just south of the > American- and British-enforced no-fly zone. I had been told that, at the > beginning of the safe-haven experiment, the Americans had warned Saddam's > forces to stay away; a threat from the air, though unlikely, was, I > deduced, not out of the question. > > "It seems very important to know the immediate and long-term effects of > chemical and biological weapons," Baban said, beginning my tutorial. "Here > is a civilian population exposed to chemical and possibly biological > weapons, and people are developing many varieties of cancers and congenital > abnormalities. The Americans are vulnerable to these weapons—they are > cheap, and terrorists possess them. So, after the anthrax attacks in the > States, I think it is urgent for scientific research to be done here." > > Experts now believe that Halabja and other places in Kurdistan were struck > by a combination of mustard gas and nerve agents, including sarin (the > agent used in the Tokyo subway attack) and VX, a potent nerve agent. > Baban's suggestion that biological weapons may also have been used > surprised me. One possible biological weapon that Baban mentioned was > aflatoxin, which causes long-term liver damage. > > A colleague of Baban's, a surgeon who practices in Dahuk, in northwestern > Kurdistan, and who is a member of the Halabja Medical Institute team, told > me more about the institute's survey, which was conducted in the Dahuk > region in 1999. The surveyors began, he said, by asking elementary > questions; eleven years after the attacks, they did not even know which > villages had been attacked. > > "The team went to almost every village," the surgeon said. "At first, we > thought that the Dahuk governorate was the least affected. We knew of only > two villages that were hit by the attacks. But we came up with twenty-nine > in total. This is eleven years after the fact." > > The surgeon is professorial in appearance, but he is deeply angry. He > doubles as a pediatric surgeon, because there are no pediatric surgeons in > Kurdistan. He has performed more than a hundred operations for cleft palate > on children born since 1988. Most of the agents believed to have been > dropped on Halabja have short half-lives, but, as Baban told me, > "physicians are unsure how long these toxins will affect the population. > How can we know agent half-life if we don't know the agent?" He added, "If > we knew the toxins that were used, we could follow them and see actions on > spermatogenesis and ovogenesis." > > Increased rates of infertility, he said, are having a profound effect on > Kurdish society, which places great importance on large families. "You have > men divorcing their wives because they could not give birth, and then > marrying again, and then their second wives can't give birth, either," he > said. "Still, they don't blame their own problem with spermatogenesis." > > Baban told me that the initial results of the Halabja Medical > Institute-sponsored survey show abnormally high rates of many diseases. He > said that he compared rates of colon cancer in Halabja with those in the > city of Chamchamal, which was not attacked with chemical weapons. "We are > seeing rates of colon cancer five times higher in Halabja than in > Chamchamal," he said. > > There are other anomalies as well, Baban said. The rate of miscarriage in > Halabja, according to initial survey results, is fourteen times the rate of > miscarriage in Chamchamal; rates of infertility among men and women in the > affected population are many times higher than normal. "We're finding > Hiroshima levels of sterility," he said. > > Then, there is the suspicion about snakes. "Have you heard about the > snakes?" he asked as we drove. I told him that I had heard rumors. "We > don't know if a genetic mutation in the snakes has made them more toxic," > Baban went on, "or if the birds that eat the snakes were killed off in the > attacks, but there seem to be more snakebites, of greater toxicity, in > Halabja now than before." (I asked Richard Spertzel, a scientist and a > former member of the United Nations Special Commission inspections team, if > this was possible. Yes, he said, but such a rise in snakebites was more > likely due to "environmental imbalances" than to mutations.) > > My conversation with Baban was suddenly interrupted by our guerrilla > escorts, who stopped the car and asked me to join them in one of the Land C > ruisers; we veered off across a wheat field, without explanation. I was > later told that we had been passing a mountain area that had recently had > problems with Islamic terrorists. > > > We arrived in Halabja half an hour later. As you enter the city, you see a > small statue modelled on the most famous photographic image of the Halabja > massacre: an old man, prone and lifeless, shielding his dead grandson with > his body. > > A torpor seems to afflict Halabja; even its bazaar is listless and somewhat > empty, in marked contrast to those of other Kurdish cities, which are well > stocked with imported goods (history and circumstance have made the Kurds > enthusiastic smugglers) and are full of noise and activity. "Everyone here > is sick," a Halabja doctor told me. "The people who aren't sick are > depressed." He practices at the Martyrs' Hospital, which is situated on the > outskirts of the city. The hospital has no heat and little advanced > equipment; like the city itself, it is in a dilapidated state. > > The doctor is a thin, jumpy man in a tweed jacket, and he smokes without > pause. He and Baban took me on a tour of the hospital. Afterward, we sat in > a bare office, and a woman was wheeled in. She looked seventy but said that > she was fifty; doctors told me she suffers from lung scarring so serious > that only a lung transplant could help, but there are no transplant centers > in Kurdistan. The woman, whose name is Jayran Muhammad, lost eight > relatives during the attack. Her voice was almost inaudible. "I was > disturbed psychologically for a long time," she told me as Baban > translated. "I believed my children were alive." Baban told me that her > lungs would fail soon, that she could barely breathe. "She is waiting to > die," he said. I met another woman, Chia Hammassat, who was eight at the > time of the attacks and has been blind ever since. Her mother, she said, > died of colon cancer several years ago, and her brother suffers from > chronic shortness of breath. "There is no hope to correct my vision," she > said, her voice flat. "I was married, but I couldn't fulfill the > responsibilities of a wife because I'm blind. My husband left me." > > Baban said that in Halabja "there are more abnormal births than normal > ones," and other Kurdish doctors told me that they regularly see children > born with neural-tube defects and undescended testes and without anal > openings. They are seeing—and they showed me—children born with six or > seven toes on each foot, children whose fingers and toes are fused, and > children who suffer from leukemia and liver cancer. > > I met Sarkar, a shy and intelligent boy with a harelip, a cleft palate, and > a growth on his spine. Sarkar had a brother born with the same set of > malformations, the doctor told me, but the brother choked to death, while > still a baby, on a grain of rice. > > Meanwhile, more victims had gathered in the hallway; the people of Halabja > do not often have a chance to tell their stories to foreigners. Some of > them wanted to know if I was a surgeon, who had come to repair their > children's deformities, and they were disappointed to learn that I was a > journalist. The doctor and I soon left the hospital for a walk through the > northern neighborhoods of Halabja, which were hardest hit in the attack. We > were trailed by peshmerga carrying AK-47s. The doctor smoked as we talked, > and I teased him about his habit. "Smoking has some good effect on the > lungs," he said, without irony. "In the attacks, there was less effect on > smokers. Their lungs were better equipped for the mustard gas, maybe." > > We walked through the alleyways of the Jewish quarter, past a former > synagogue in which eighty or so Halabjans died during the attack. Underfed > cows wandered the paths. The doctor showed me several cellars where > clusters of people had died. We knocked on the gate of one house, and were > let in by an old woman with a wide smile and few teeth. In the Kurdish > tradition, she immediately invited us for lunch. > > She told us the recent history of the house. "Everyone who was in this > house died," she said. "The whole family. We heard there were one hundred > people." She led us to the cellar, which was damp and close. Rusted yellow > cans of vegetable ghee littered the floor. The room seemed too small to > hold a hundred people, but the doctor said that the estimate sounded > accurate. I asked him if cellars like this one had ever been > decontaminated. He smiled. "Nothing in Kurdistan has been decontaminated," > he said. > > > 4. AL—ANFAL > > The chemical attacks on Halabja and Goktapa and perhaps two hundred other > villages and towns were only a small part of the cataclysm that Saddam's > cousin, the man known as Ali Chemical, arranged for the Kurds. The Kurds > say that about two hundred thousand were killed. (Human Rights Watch, which > in the early nineties published "Iraq's Crime of Genocide," a definitive > study of the attacks, gives a figure of between fifty thousand and a > hundred thousand.) > > The campaign against the Kurds was dubbed al-Anfal by Saddam, after a > chapter in the Koran that allows conquering Muslim armies to seize the > spoils of their foes. It reads, in part, "Against them"—your enemies—"make > ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, > to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah and your enemies, > and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. > Whatever ye shall spend in the cause of Allah, shall be repaid unto you, > and ye shall not be treated unjustly." > > The Anfal campaign was not an end in itself, like the Holocaust, but a > means to an end—an instance of a policy that Samantha Power, who runs the > Carr Center for Human Rights, at Harvard, calls "instrumental genocide." > Power has just published " 'A Problem from Hell,' " a study of American > responses to genocide. "There are regimes that set out to murder every > citizen of a race," she said. "Saddam achieved what he had to do without > exterminating every last Kurd." What he had to do, Power and others say, > was to break the Kurds' morale and convince them that a desire for > independence was foolish. > > Most of the Kurds who were murdered in the Anfal were not killed by poison > gas; rather, the genocide was carried out, in large part, in the > traditional manner, with roundups at night, mass executions, and anonymous > burials. The bodies of most of the victims of the Anfal—mainly men and > boys—have never been found. > > One day, I met one of the thousands of Kurdish women known as Anfal widows: > Salma Aziz Baban. She lives outside Chamchamal, in a settlement made up > almost entirely of displaced families, in cinder-block houses. Her house > was nearly empty—no furniture, no heat, just a ragged carpet. We sat on the > carpet as she told me about her family. She comes from the Kirkuk region, > and in 1987 her village was uprooted by the Army, and the inhabitants, with > thousands of other Kurds, were forced into a collective town. Then, one > night in April of 1988, soldiers went into the village and seized the men > and older boys. Baban's husband and her three oldest sons were put on > trucks. The mothers of the village began to plead with the soldiers. "We > were screaming, 'Do what you want to us, do what you want!' " Baban told > me. "They were so scared, my sons. My sons were crying." She tried to bring > them coats for the journey. "It was raining. I wanted them to have coats. I > begged the soldiers to let me give them bread. They took them without > coats." Baban remembered that a high-ranking Iraqi officer named Bareq > orchestrated the separation; according to "Iraq's Crime of Genocide," the > Human Rights Watch report, the man in charge of this phase was a brigadier > general named Bareq Abdullah al-Haj Hunta. > > After the men were taken away, the women and children were herded onto > trucks. They were given little water or food, and were crammed so tightly > into the vehicles that they had to defecate where they stood. Baban, her > three daughters, and her six-year-old son were taken to the Topzawa Army > base and then to the prison of Nugra Salman, the Pit of Salman, which Human > Rights Watch in 1995 described this way: "It was an old building, dating > back to the days of the Iraqi monarchy and perhaps earlier. It had been > abandoned for years, used by Arab nomads to shelter their herds. The bare > walls were scrawled with the diaries of political prisoners. On the door of > one cell, a guard had daubed 'Khomeini eats shit.' Over the main gate, > someone else had written, 'Welcome to Hell.' " > > "We arrived at midnight," Baban told me. "They put us in a very big room, > with more than two thousand people, women and children, and they closed the > door. Then the starvation started." > > The prisoners were given almost nothing to eat, and a single standpipe spat > out brackish water for drinking. People began to die from hunger and > illness. When someone died, the Iraqi guards would demand that the body be > passed through a window in the main door. "The bodies couldn't stay in the > hall," Baban told me. In the first days at Nugra Salman, "thirty people > died, maybe more." Her six-year-old son, Rebwar, fell ill. "He had > diarrhea," she said. "He was very sick. He knew he was dying. There was no > medicine or doctor. He started to cry so much." Baban's son died on her > lap. "I was screaming and crying," she said. "My daughters were crying. We > gave them the body. It was passed outside, and the soldiers took it." > > Soon after Baban's son died, she pulled herself up and went to the window, > to see if the soldiers had taken her son to be buried. "There were twenty > dogs outside the prison. A big black dog was the leader," she said. The > soldiers had dumped the bodies of the dead outside the prison, in a field. > "I looked outside and saw the legs and hands of my son in the mouths of the > dogs. The dogs were eating my son." She stopped talking for a moment. "Then > I lost my mind." > > She described herself as catatonic; her daughters scraped around for food > and water. They kept her alive, she said, until she could function again. > "This was during Ramadan. We were kept in Nugra Salman for a few more > months." > > In September, when the war with Iran was over, Saddam issued a general > amnesty to the Kurds, the people he believed had betrayed him by siding > with Tehran. The women, children, and elderly in Nugra Salman were freed. > But, in most cases, they could not go home; the Iraqi Army had bulldozed > some four thousand villages, Baban's among them. She was finally resettled > in the Chamchamal district. > > In the days after her release, she tried to learn the fate of her husband > and three older sons. But the men who disappeared in the Anfal roundups > have never been found. It is said that they were killed and then buried in > mass graves in the desert along the Kuwaiti border, but little is actually > known. A great number of Anfal widows, I was told, still believe that their > sons and husbands and brothers are locked away in Saddam's jails. "We are > thinking they are alive," Baban said, referring to her husband and sons. > "Twenty-four hours a day, we are thinking maybe they are alive. If they are > alive, they are being tortured, I know it." > > Baban said that she has not slept well since her sons were taken from her. > "We are thinking, Please let us know they are dead, I will sleep in peace," > she said. "My head is filled with terrible thoughts. The day I die is the > day I will not remember that the dogs ate my son." > > Before I left, Baban asked me to write down the names of her three older > sons. They are Sherzad, who would be forty now; Rizgar, who would be > thirty-one; and Muhammad, who would be thirty. She asked me to find her > sons, or to ask President Bush to find them. "One would be sufficient," she > said. "If just one comes back, that would be enough." > > > 5. WHAT THE KURDS FEAR > > In a conversation not long ago with Richard Butler, the former weapons > inspector, I suggested a possible explanation for the world's indifference > to Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons to commit genocide—that the > people he had killed were his own citizens, not those of another sovereign > state. (The main chemical-weapons treaty does not ban a country's use of > such weapons against its own people, perhaps because at the time the > convention was drafted no one could imagine such a thing.) Butler reminded > me, however, that Iraq had used chemical weapons against another > country—Iran—during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. He offered a simpler > rationale. "The problems are just too awful and too hard," he said. > "History is replete with such things. Go back to the grand example of the > Holocaust. It sounded too hard to do anything about it." > > The Kurds have grown sanguine about the world's lack of interest. "I've > learned not to be surprised by the indifference of the civilized world," > Barham Salih told me one evening in Sulaimaniya. Salih is the Prime > Minister of the area of Kurdistan administered by the Patriotic Union, and > he spoke in such a way as to suggest that it would be best if I, too, > stopped acting surprised. "Given the scale of the tragedy—we're talking > about large numbers of victims—I suppose I'm surprised that the > international community has not come in to help the survivors," he > continued. "It's politically indecent not to help. But, as a Kurd, I live > with the terrible hand history and geography have dealt my people." > > Salih's home is not prime ministerial, but it has many Western comforts. He > had a satellite television and a satellite telephone, yet the house was > frigid; in a land of cheap oil, the Kurds, who are cut off the Iraqi > electric grid by Saddam on a regular basis, survive on generator power and > kerosene heat. > > Over dinner one night, Salih argued that the Kurds should not be regarded > with pity. "I don't think one has to tap into the Wilsonian streak in > American foreign policy in order to find a rationale for helping the > Kurds," he said. "Helping the Kurds would mean an opportunity to study the > problems caused by weapons of mass destruction." > > Salih, who is forty-one, often speaks bluntly, and is savvy about > Washington's enduring interest in ending the reign of Saddam Hussein. > Unwilling publicly to exhort the United States to take military action, > Salih is aware that the peshmerga would be obvious allies of an American > military strike against Iraq; other Kurds have been making that argument > for years. It is not often noted in Washington policy circles, but the > Kurds already hold a vast swath of territory inside the country—including > two important dams whose destruction could flood Baghdad—and have at least > seventy thousand men under arms. In addition, the two main Kurdish parties > are members of the Iraqi opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, > which is headed by Ahmad Chalabi, a London-based Shiite businessman; at the > moment, though, relations between Chalabi and the Kurdish leaders are > contentious. > > Kurds I talked to throughout Kurdistan were enthusiastic about the idea of > joining an American-led alliance against Saddam Hussein, and serving as the > northern-Iraqi equivalent of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance. President > Bush's State of the Union Message, in which he denounced Iraq as the > linchpin of an "axis of evil," had had an electric effect on every Kurd I > met who heard the speech. In the same speech, President Bush made reference > to Iraq's murder of "thousands of its own citizens—leaving the bodies of > mothers huddled over their dead children." General Simko Dizayee, the chief > of staff of the peshmerga, told me, "Bush's speech filled our hearts with > hope." > > Prime Minister Salih expressed his views diplomatically. "We support > democratic transformation in Iraq," he said— half smiling, because he knows > that there is no chance of that occurring unless Saddam is removed. But > until America commits itself to removing Saddam, he said, "we're living on > the razor's edge. Before Washington even wakes up in the morning, we could > have ten thousand dead." This is the Kurdish conundrum: the Iraqi military > is weaker than the American military, but the Iraqis are stronger than the > Kurds. Seven hundred Iraqi tanks face the Kurdish safe haven, according to > peshmerga commanders. > General Mustafa Said Qadir, the peshmerga leader, put it this way: "We have > a problem. If the Americans attack Saddam and don't get him, we're going to > get gassed. If the Americans decided to do it, we would be thankful. This > is the Kurdish dream. But it has to be done carefully." > > The Kurdish leadership worries, in short, that an American mistake could > cost the Kurds what they have created, however inadvertently: a nearly > independent state for themselves in northern Iraq. "We would like to be our > own nation," Salih told me. "But we are realists. All we want is to be > partners of the Arabs of Iraq in building a secular, democratic, federal > country." Later, he added, "We are proud of ourselves. We have inherited a > devastated country. It's not easy what we are trying to achieve. We had no > democratic institutions, we didn't have a legal culture, we did not have a > strong military. From that situation, this is a remarkable success story." > > > The Kurdish regional government, to be sure, is not a Vermont town meeting. > The leaders of the two parties, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, are > safe in their jobs. But there is a free press here, and separation of > mosque and state, and schools are being built and pensions are being paid. > In Erbil and in Sulaimaniya, the Kurds have built playgrounds on the ruins > of Iraqi Army torture centers. "If America is indeed looking for Muslims > who are eager to become democratic and are eager to counter the effects of > Islamic fundamentalism, then it should be looking here," Salih said. > > Massoud Barzani is the son of the late Mustafa Barzani, a legendary > guerrilla, who built the Democratic Party, and who entered into the > ill-fated alliance with Iran and America. I met Barzani in his > headquarters, above the town of Salahuddin. He is a short man, pale and > quiet; he wore the red turban of the Barzani clan and a wide cummerbund > across his baggy trousers—the outfit of a peshmerga. > > Like Salih, he chooses his words carefully when talking about the > possibility of helping America bring down Saddam. "It is not enough to tell > us the U.S. will respond at a certain time and place of its choosing," > Barzani said. "We're in artillery range. Iraq's Army is weak, but it is > still strong enough to crush us. We don't make assumptions about the > American response." > > One day, I drove to the Kurdish front lines near Erbil, to see the forward > positions of the Iraqi Army. The border between the Army-controlled > territory and the Kurdish region is porous; Baghdad allows some > Kurds—nonpolitical Kurds—to travel back and forth between zones. > > My peshmerga escort took me to the roof of a building overlooking the Kalak > Bridge and, beyond it, the Iraqi lines. Without binoculars, we could see > Iraqi tanks on the hills in front of us. A local official named Muhammad > Najar joined us; he told me that the Iraqi forces arrayed there were > elements of the Army's Jerusalem brigade, a reserve unit established by > Saddam with the stated purpose of liberating Jerusalem from the Israelis. > Other peshmerga joined us. It was a brilliantly sunny day, and we were > enjoying the weather. A man named Aziz Khader, gazing at the plain before > us, said, "When I look across here, I imagine American tanks coming down > across this plain going to Baghdad." His friends smiled and said, > "Inshallah"—God willing. Another man said, "The U.S. is the lord of the > world." > > > 6. THE PRISONERS > > A week later, I was at Shinwe, a mountain range outside Halabja, with > another group of peshmerga. My escorts and I had driven most of the way up, > and then slogged through fresh snow. From one peak, we could see the > village of Biyara, which sits in a valley between Halabja and a wall of > mountains that mark the Iranian border. Saddam's tanks were an hour's drive > away to the south, and Iran filled the vista before us. Biyara and nine > other villages near it are occupied by the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam, > or Supporters of Islam. Shinwe, in fact, might be called the axis of the > axis of evil. > > We were close enough to see trucks belonging to Ansar al-Islam making their > way from village to village. The commander of the peshmerga forces > surrounding Biyara, a veteran guerrilla named Ramadan Dekone, said that > Ansar al-Islam is made up of Kurdish Islamists and an unknown number of > so-called Arab Afghans—Arabs, from southern Iraq and elsewhere, who trained > in the camps of Al Qaeda. > > "They believe that people must be terrorized," Dekone said, shaking his > head. "They believe that the Koran says this is permissible." He pointed to > an abandoned village in the middle distance, a place called Kheli Hama. > "That is where the massacre took place," he said. In late September, > forty-two of his men were killed by Ansar al-Islam, and now Dekone and his > forces seemed ready for revenge. I asked him what he would do if he > captured the men responsible for the killing. > > "I would take them to court," he said. > > When I got to Sulaimaniya, I visited a prison run by the intelligence > service of the Patriotic Union. The prison is attached to the > intelligence-service headquarters. It appears to be well kept and humane; > the communal cells hold twenty or so men each, and they have kerosene heat, > and even satellite television. For two days, the intelligence agency > permitted me to speak with any prisoner who agreed to be interviewed. I was > wary; the Kurds have an obvious interest in lining up on the American side > in the war against terror. But the officials did not, as far as I know, > compel anyone to speak to me, and I did not get the sense that allegations > made by prisoners were shaped by their captors. The stories, which I later > checked with experts on the region, seemed at least worth the attention of > America and other countries in the West. > > The allegations include charges that Ansar al-Islam has received funds > directly from Al Qaeda; that the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein has > joint control, with Al Qaeda operatives, over Ansar al-Islam; that Saddam > Hussein hosted a senior leader of Al Qaeda in Baghdad in 1992; that a > number of Al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan have been secretly brought > into territory controlled by Ansar al-Islam; and that Iraqi intelligence > agents smuggled conventional weapons, and possibly even chemical and > biological weapons, into Afghanistan. If these charges are true, it would > mean that the relationship between Saddam's regime and Al Qaeda is far > closer than previously thought. > > When I asked the director of the twenty-four-hundred-man Patriotic Union > intelligence service why he was allowing me to interview his prisoners, he > told me that he hoped I would carry this information to American > intelligence officials. "The F.B.I. and the C.I.A. haven't come out yet," > he told me. His deputy added, "Americans are going to Somalia, the > Philippines, I don't know where else, to look for terrorists. But this is > the field, here." Anya Guilsher, a spokeswoman for the C.I.A., told me last > week that as a matter of policy the agency would not comment on the > activities of its officers. James Woolsey, a former C.I.A. director and an > advocate of overthrowing the Iraqi regime, said, "It would be a real shame > if the C.I.A.'s substantial institutional hostility to Iraqi democratic > resistance groups was keeping it from learning about Saddam's ties to Al > Qaeda in northern Iraq." > > The possibility that Saddam could supply weapons of mass destruction to > anti-American terror groups is a powerful argument among advocates of > "regime change," as the removal of Saddam is known in Washington. These > critics of Saddam argue that his chemical and biological capabilities, his > record of support for terrorist organizations, and the cruelty of his > regime make him a threat that reaches far beyond the citizens of Iraq. > "He's the home address for anyone wanting to make or use chemical or > biological weapons," Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi dissident, said. Makiya is the > author of "Republic of Fear," a study of Saddam's regime. "He's going to be > the person to worry about. He's got the labs and the know-how. He's > hellbent on trying to find a way into the fight, without announcing it." > > On the surface, a marriage of Saddam's secular Baath Party regime with the > fundamentalist Al Qaeda seems unlikely. His relationship with secular > Palestinian groups is well known; both Abu Nidal and Abul Abbas, two > prominent Palestinian terrorists, are currently believed to be in Baghdad. > But about ten years ago Saddam underwent something of a battlefield > conversion to a fundamentalist brand of Islam. > > "It was gradual, starting the moment he decided on the invasion of Kuwait," > in June of 1990, according to Amatzia Baram, an Iraq expert at the > University of Haifa. "His calculation was that he needed people in Iraq and > the Arab world—as well as God—to be on his side when he invaded. After he > invaded, the Islamic rhetorical style became overwhelming"—so overwhelming, > Baram continued, that a radical group in Jordan began calling Saddam "the > New Caliph Marching from the East." This conversion, cynical though it may > be, has opened doors to Saddam in the fundamentalist world. He is now a > prime supporter of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and of Hamas, paying > families of suicide bombers ten thousand dollars in exchange for their > sons' martyrdom. This is part of Saddam's attempt to harness the power of > Islamic extremism and direct it against his enemies. > > Kurdish culture, on the other hand, has traditionally been immune to > religious extremism. According to Kurdish officials, Ansar al-Islam grew > out of an idea spread by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the former chief of the > Egyptian Islamic Jihad and now Osama bin Laden's deputy in Al Qaeda. "There > are two schools of thought" in Al Qaeda, Karim Sinjari, the Interior > Minister of Kurdistan's Democratic Party-controlled region, told me. "Osama > bin Laden believes that the infidels should be beaten in the head, meaning > the United States. Zawahiri's philosophy is that you should fight the > infidel even in the smallest village, that you should try to form Islamic > armies everywhere. The Kurdish fundamentalists were influenced by > Zawahiri." > > Kurds were among those who travelled to Afghanistan from all over the > Muslim world, first to fight the Soviets, in the early nineteen-eighties, > then to join Al Qaeda. The members of the groups that eventually became > Ansar al-Islam spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan, according to > Kurdish intelligence officials. One Kurd who went to Afghanistan was Mala > Krekar, an early leader of the Islamist movement in Kurdistan; according to > Sinjari, he now holds the title of "emir" of Ansar al-Islam. > > In 1998, the first force of Islamist terrorists crossed the Iranian border > into Kurdistan, and immediately tried to seize the town of Haj Omran. > Kurdish officials said that the terrorists were helped by Iran, which also > has an interest in undermining a secular Muslim government. "The terrorists > blocked the road, they killed Kurdish Democratic Party cadres, they > threatened the villagers," Sinjari said. "We fought them and they fled." > The terrorist groups splintered repeatedly. According to a report in the > Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, which is published in London, Ansar > al-Islam came into being, on September 1st of last year, with the merger of > two factions: Al Tawhid, which helped to arrange the assassination of > Kurdistan's most prominent Christian politician, and whose operatives > initiated an acid-throwing campaign against unveiled women; and a faction > called the Second Soran Unit, which had been affiliated with one of the > Kurdish Islamic parties. In a statement issued to mark the merger, the > group, which originally called itself Jund al-Islam, or Soldiers of Islam, > declared its intention to "undertake jihad in this region" in order to > carry out "God's will." According to Kurdish officials, the group had > between five hundred and six hundred members, including Arab Afghans and at > least thirty Iraqi Kurds who were trained in Afghanistan. > > Kurdish officials say that the merger took place in a ceremony overseen by > three Arabs trained in bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan, and that these men > supplied Ansar al-Islam with three hundred thousand dollars in seed money. > Soon after the merger, a unit of Ansar al-Islam called the Victory Squad > attacked and killed the peshmerga in Kheli Hama. > > > Among the Islamic fighters who were there that day was Rekut Hiwa Hussein, > a slender, boyish twenty-year-old who was captured by the peshmerga after > the massacre, and whom I met in the prison in Sulaimaniya. He was > exceedingly shy, never looking up from his hands as he spoke. He was not > handcuffed, and had no marks on the visible parts of his body. We were > seated in an investigator's office inside the intelligence complex. Like > most buildings in Sulaimaniya, this one was warmed by a single kerosene > heater, and the room temperature seemed barely above freezing. Rekut told > me how he and his comrades in Ansar al-Islam overcame the peshmerga. > > "They thought there was a ceasefire, so we came into the village and fired > on them by surprise," he said. "They didn't know what happened. We used > grenades and machine guns. We killed a lot of them and then the others > surrendered." The terrorists trussed their prisoners, ignoring pleas from > the few civilians remaining in the town to leave them alone. "The villagers > asked us not to slaughter them," Rekut said. One of the leaders of Ansar > al-Islam, a man named Abdullah al-Shafi, became incensed. "He said, 'Who is > saying this? Let me kill them.' " > Rekut said that the peshmerga were killed in ritual fashion: "We put cloths > in their mouths. We then laid them down like sheep, in a line. Then we cut > their throats." After the men were killed, peshmerga commanders say, the > corpses were beheaded. Rekut denied this. "Some of their heads had been > blown off by grenades, but we didn't behead them," he said. > > I asked Rekut why he had joined Ansar al-Islam. "A friend of mine joined," > he said quietly. "I don't have a good reason why I joined." A guard then > took him by the elbow and returned him to his cell. > > > The Kurdish intelligence officials I spoke to were careful not to oversell > their case; they said that they have no proof that Ansar al-Islam was ever > involved in international terrorism or that Saddam's agents were involved > in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But they do have > proof, they said, that Ansar al-Islam is shielding Al Qaeda members, and > that it is doing so with the approval of Saddam's agents. > Kurdish officials said that, according to their intelligence, several men > associated with Al Qaeda have been smuggled over the Iranian border into an > Ansar al-Islam stronghold near Halabja. The Kurds believe that two of them, > who go by the names Abu Yasir and Abu Muzaham, are high-ranking Al Qaeda > members. "We don't have any information about them," one official told me. > "We know that they don't want anybody to see them. They are sleeping in the > same room as Mala Krekar and Abdullah al-Shafi"—the nominal leaders of > Ansar al-Islam. > > The real leader, these officials say, is an Iraqi who goes by the name Abu > Wa'el, and who, like the others, spent a great deal of time in bin Laden's > training camps. But he is also, they say, a high-ranking officer of the > Mukhabarat. One senior official added, "A man named Abu Agab is in charge > of the northern bureau of the Mukhabarat. And he is Abu Wa'el's control > officer." > > Abu Agab, the official said, is based in the city of Kirkuk, which is > predominantly Kurdish but is under the control of Baghdad. According to > intelligence officials, Abu Agab and Abu Wa'el met last July 7th, in > Germany. From there, they say, Abu Wa'el travelled to Afghanistan and then, > in August, to Kurdistan, sneaking across the Iranian border. > > The Kurdish officials told me that they learned a lot about Abu Wa'el's > movements from one of their prisoners, an Iraqi intelligence officer named > Qassem Hussein Muhammad, and they invited me to speak with him. Qassem, the > Kurds said, is a Shiite from Basra, in southern Iraq, and a twenty-year > veteran of Iraqi intelligence. > > Qassem, shambling and bearded, was brought into the room, and he genially > agreed to be interviewed. One guard stayed in the room, along with my > translator. Qassem lit a cigarette, and leaned back in his chair. I started > by asking him if he had been tortured by his captors. His eyes widened. "By > God, no," he said. "There is nothing like torture here." Then he told me > that his involvement in Islamic radicalism began in 1992 in Baghdad, when > he met Ayman al-Zawahiri. > > Qassem said that he was one of seventeen bodyguards assigned to protect > Zawahiri, who stayed at Baghdad's Al Rashid Hotel, but who, he said, moved > around surreptitiously. The guards had no idea why Zawahiri was in Baghdad, > but one day Qassem escorted him to one of Saddam's palaces for what he > later learned was a meeting with Saddam himself. > > Qassem's capture by the Kurds grew out of his last assignment from the > Mukhabarat. The Iraqi intelligence service received word that Abu Wa'el had > been captured by American agents. "I was sent by the Mukhabarat to > Kurdistan to find Abu Wa'el or, at least, information about him," Qassem > told me. "That's when I was captured, before I reached Biyara." > > I asked him if he was sure that Abu Wa'el was on Saddam's side. "He's an > employee of the Mukhabarat," Qassem said. "He's the actual decision-maker > in the group"—Ansar al-Islam—"but he's an employee of the Mukhabarat." > According to the Kurdish intelligence officials, Abu Wa'el is not in > American hands; rather, he is still with Ansar al-Islam. American officials > declined to comment. > > The Kurdish intelligence officials told me that they have Al Qaeda members > in custody, and they introduced me to another prisoner, a young Iraqi Arab > named Haqi Ismail, whom they described as a middle- to high-ranking member > of Al Qaeda. He was, they said, captured by the peshmerga as he tried to > get into Kurdistan three weeks after the start of the American attack on > Afghanistan. Ismail, they said, comes from a Mosul family with deep > connections to the Mukhabarat; his uncle is the top Mukhabarat official in > the south of Iraq. They said they believe that Haqi Ismail is a liaison > between Saddam's intelligence service and Al Qaeda. > > Ismail wore slippers and a blanket around his shoulders. He was ascetic in > appearance and, at the same time, ostentatiously smug. He appeared to be > amused by the presence of an American. He told the investigators that he > would not talk to the C.I.A. The Kurdish investigators laughed and said > they wished that I were from the C.I.A. > > Ismail said that he was once a student at the University of Mosul but grew > tired of life in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Luckily, he said, in 1999 he > met an Afghan man who persuaded him to seek work in Afghanistan. The > Kurdish investigators smiled as Ismail went on to say that he found himself > in Kandahar, then in Kabul, and then somehow—here he was exceedingly > vague—in an Al Qaeda camp. When I asked him how enrollment in an Al Qaeda > camp squared with his wish to seek work in Afghanistan, he replied, "Being > a soldier is a job." After his training, he said, he took a post in the > Taliban Foreign Ministry. I asked him if he was an employee of Saddam's > intelligence service. "I prefer not to talk about that," he replied. > > Later, I asked the Kurdish officials if they believed that Saddam provides > aid to Al Qaeda-affiliated terror groups or simply maintains channels of > communication with them. It was getting late, and the room was growing even > colder. "Come back tomorrow," the senior official in the room said, "and > we'll introduce you to someone who will answer that question." > > > 7. THE AL QAEDA LINK > > The man they introduced me to the next afternoon was a twenty-nine-year-old > Iranian Arab, a smuggler and bandit from the city of Ahvaz. The > intelligence officials told me that his most recent employer was bin Laden. > When they arrested him, last year, they said, they found a roll of film in > his possession. They had the film developed, and the photographs, which > they showed me, depicted their prisoner murdering a man with a knife, > slicing his ear off and then plunging the knife into the top of the man's > head. > > The Iranian had a thin face, thick black hair, and a mustache; he wore an > army jacket, sandals, and Western-style sweatpants. Speaking in an almost > casual tone, he told me that he was born in 1973, that his real name was > Muhammad Mansour Shahab, and that he had been a smuggler most of his adult > life. > > "I met a group of drug traffickers," he said. "They gave us drugs and we > got them weapons," which they took from Iran into Afghanistan. In 1996, he > met an Arab Afghan. "His name was Othman," the man went on. "He gave me > drugs, and I got him a hundred and fifty Kalashnikovs. Then he said to me, > 'You should come visit Afghanistan.' So we went to Afghanistan in 1996. We > stayed for a while, I came back, did a lot of smuggling jobs. My > brother-in-law tried to send weapons to Afghanistan, but the Iranians > ambushed us. I killed some of the Iranians." > > He soon returned with Othman to Afghanistan, where, he said, Othman gave > him the name Muhammad Jawad to use while he was there. "Othman said to me, > 'You will meet Sheikh Osama soon.' We were in Kandahar. One night, they > gave me a sleeping pill. We got into a car and we drove for an hour and a > half into the mountains. We went to a tent they said was Osama's tent." The > man now called Jawad did not meet Osama bin Laden that night. "They said to > me, 'You're the guy who killed the Iranian officer.' Then they said they > needed information about me, my real name. They told Othman to take me back > to Kandahar and hold me in jail for twenty-one days while they investigated > me." > > The Al Qaeda men completed their investigation and called him back to the > mountains. "They told me that Osama said I should work with them," Jawad > said. "They told me to bring my wife to Afghanistan." They made him swear > on a Koran that he would never betray them. Jawad said that he became one > of Al Qaeda's principal weapons smugglers. Iraqi opposition sources told me > that the Baghdad regime frequently smuggled weapons to Al Qaeda by air > through Dubai to Pakistan and then overland into Afghanistan. But Jawad > told me that the Iraqis often used land routes through Iran as well. Othman > ordered him to establish a smuggling route across the Iraq-Iran border. The > smugglers would pose as shepherds to find the best routes. "We started to > go into Iraq with the sheep and cows," Jawad told me, and added that they > initiated this route by smuggling tape recorders from Iraq to Iran. They > opened a store, a front, in Ahvaz, to sell electronics, "just to establish > relationships with smugglers." > > One day in 1999, Othman got a message to Jawad, who was then in Iran. He > was to smuggle himself across the Iraqi border at Fao, where a car would > meet him and take him to a village near Tikrit, the headquarters of Saddam > Hussein's clan. Jawad was then taken to a meeting at the house of a man > called Luay, whom he described as the son of Saddam's father-in-law, Khayr > Allah Talfah. (Professor Baram, who has long followed Saddam's family, > later told me he believes that Luay, who is about forty years old, is close > to Saddam's inner circle.) At the meeting, with Othman present, Mukhabarat > officials instructed Jawad to go to Baghdad, where he was to retrieve > several cannisters filled with explosives. Then, he said, he was to arrange > to smuggle the explosives into Iran, where they would be used to kill > anti-Iraqi activists. After this assignment was completed, Jawad said, he > was given a thousand Kalashnikov rifles by Iraqi intelligence and told to > smuggle them into Afghanistan. > > > A year later, there was a new development: Othman told Jawad to smuggle > several dozen refrigerator motors into Afghanistan for the Iraqi > Mukhabarat; a cannister filled with liquid was attached to each motor. > Jawad said that he asked Othman for more information. "I said, 'Othman, > what does this contain?' He said, 'My life and your life.' He said > they"—the Iraqi agents—"were going to kill us if we didn't do this. That's > all I'll say. > > "I was given a book of dollars," Jawad went on, meaning ten thousand > dollars—a hundred American hundred-dollar bills. "I was told to arrange to > smuggle the motors. Othman told me to kill any of the smugglers who helped > us once we got there." Vehicles belonging to the Taliban were waiting at > the border, and Jawad said that he turned over the liquid-filled > refrigerator motors to the Taliban, and then killed the smugglers who had > helped him. > > Jawad said that he had no idea what liquid was inside the motors, but he > assumed that it was some type of chemical or biological weapon. I asked the > Kurdish officials who remained in the room if they believed that, as late > as 2000, the Mukhabarat was transferring chemical or biological weapons to > Al Qaeda. They spoke carefully. "We have no idea what was in the > cannisters," the senior official said. "This is something that is worth an > American investigation." > > When I asked Jawad to tell me why he worked for Al Qaeda, he replied, > "Money." He would not say how much money he had been paid, but he suggested > that it was quite a bit. I had one more question: How many years has Al > Qaeda maintained a relationship with Saddam Hussein's regime? "There's been > a relationship between the Mukhabarat and the people of Al Qaeda since > 1992," he replied. > > Carole O'Leary, a Middle Eastern expert at American University, in > Washington, and a specialist on the Kurds, said it is likely that Saddam > would seek an alliance with Islamic terrorists to serve his own interests. > "I know that there are Mukhabarat agents throughout Kurdistan," O'Leary > said, and went on, "One way the Mukhabarat could destabilize the Kurdish > experiment in democracy is to link up with Islamic radical groups. Their > interests dovetail completely. They both have much to fear from the > democratic, secular experiment of the Kurds in the safe haven, and they > both obviously share a hatred for America." > > > 8. THE PRESENT DANGER > > A paradox of life in northern Iraq is that, while hundreds, perhaps > thousands, of children suffer from the effects of chemical attacks, the > child-mortality rate in the Kurdish zone has improved over the past ten > years. Prime Minister Salih credits this to, of all things, sanctions > placed on the Iraqi regime by the United Nations after the Gulf War because > of Iraq's refusal to dismantle its nonconventional-weapons program. He > credits in particular the program begun in 1997, known as oil-for-food, > which was meant to mitigate the effects of sanctions on civilians by allowi > ng the profits from Iraqi oil sales to buy food and medicine. Calling this > program a "fantastic concept," Salih said, "For the first time in our > history, Iraqi citizens—all citizens—are insured a portion of the country's > oil wealth. The north is a testament to the success of the program. Oil is > sold and food is bought." > I asked Salih to respond to the criticism, widely aired in the West, that > the sanctions have led to the death of thousands of children. "Sanctions > don't kill Iraqi children," he said. "The regime kills children." > > This puzzled me. If it was true, then why were the victims of the gas > attacks still suffering from a lack of health care? Across Kurdistan, in > every hospital I visited, the complaints were the same: no CT scans, no > MRIs, no pediatric surgery, no advanced diagnostic equipment, not even > surgical gloves. I asked Salih why the money designated by the U.N. for the > Kurds wasn't being used for advanced medical treatment. The oil-for-food > program has one enormous flaw, he replied. When the program was introduced, > the Kurds were promised thirteen per cent of the country's oil revenue, but > because of the terms of the agreement between Baghdad and the U.N.—a > "defect," Salih said—the government controls the flow of food, medicine, > and medical equipment to the very people it slaughtered. Food does arrive, > he conceded, and basic medicines as well, but at Saddam's pace. > > On this question of the work of the United Nations and its agencies, the > rival Kurdish parties agree. "We've been asking for a four-hundred-bed > hospital for Sulaimaniya for three years," said Nerchivan Barzani, the > Prime Minister of the region controlled by the Kurdish Democratic Party, > and Salih's counterpart. Sulaimaniya is in Salih's territory, but in this > case geography doesn't matter. "It's our money," Barzani said. "But we need > the approval of the Iraqis. They get to decide. The World Health > Organization is taking its orders from the Iraqis. It's crazy." > > Barzani and Salih accused the World Health Organization, in particular, of > rewarding with lucrative contracts only companies favored by Saddam."Every > time I interact with the U.N.," Salih said, "I think, My God, Jesse Helms > is right. If the U.N. can't help us, this poor, dispossessed Muslim nation, > then who is it for?" > > Many Kurds believe that Iraq's friends in the U.N. system, particularly > members of the Arab bloc, have worked to keep the Kurds' cause from being > addressed. The Kurds face an institutional disadvantage at the U.N., where, > unlike the Palestinians, they have not even been granted official observer > status. Salih grew acerbic: "Compare us to other liberation movements > around the world. We are very mature. We don't engage in terror. We don't > condone extremist nationalist notions that can only burden our people. > Please compare what we have achieved in the Kurdistan national-authority > areas to the Palestinian national authority of Mr. Arafat. We have spent > the last ten years building a secular, democratic society, a civil society. > What has he built?" > > Last week, in New York, I met with Benon Sevan, the United Nations > undersecretary-general who oversees the oil-for-food program. He quickly > let me know that he was unmoved by the demands of the Kurds. "If they had a > theme song, it would be 'Give Me, Give Me, Give Me,' " Sevan said. "I'm > getting fed up with their complaints. You can tell them that." He said that > under the oil-for-food program the "three northern governorates"—U.N. > officials avoid the word "Kurdistan"—have been allocated billions of > dollars in goods and services. "I don't know if they've ever had it so > good," he said. > > I mentioned the Kurds' complaint that they have been denied access to > advanced medical equipment, and he said, "Nobody prevents them from asking. > They should go ask the World Health Organization"—which reports to Sevan on > matters related to Iraq. When I told Sevan that the Kurds have repeatedly > asked the W.H.O., he said, "I'm not going to pass judgment on the W.H.O." > As the interview ended, I asked Sevan about the morality of allowing the > Iraqi regime to control the flow of food and medicine into Kurdistan. > "Nobody's innocent," he said. "Please don't talk about morals with me." > > > When I went to Kurdistan in January to report on the 1988 genocide of the > Kurds, I did not expect to be sidetracked by a debate over U.N. sanctions. > And I certainly didn't expect to be sidetracked by crimes that Saddam is > committing against the Kurds now—in particular "nationality correction," > the law that Saddam's security services are using to implement a campaign > of ethnic cleansing. Large-scale operations against the Kurds in Kirkuk, a > city southeast of Erbil, and in other parts of Iraqi Kurdistan under > Saddam's control, have received scant press attention in the West; there > have been few news accounts and no Security Council condemnations drafted > in righteous anger. > > Saddam's security services have been demanding that Kurds "correct" their > nationality by signing papers to indicate that their birth records are > false—that they are in fact Arab. Those who don't sign have their property > seized. Many have been evicted, often to Kurdish-controlled regions, to > make room for Arab families. According to both the Kurdistan Democratic > Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, more than a hundred thousand > Kurds have been expelled from the Kirkuk area over the past two years. > > Nationality correction is one technique that the Baghdad regime is using in > an over-all "Arabization" campaign, > whose aim is to replace the inhabitants of Kurdish cities, especially the > oil-rich Kirkuk, with Arabs from central and southern Iraq, and even, > according to persistent reports, with Palestinians. Arabization is not new, > Peter Galbraith, a professor at the National Defense University and a > former senior adviser to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says. > Galbraith has monitored Saddam's anti-Kurdish activities since before the > Gulf War. "It's been going on for twenty years," he told me. "Maybe it's > picked up speed, but it is certainly nothing new. To my mind, it's part of > a larger process that has been under way for many years, and is aimed at > reducing the territory occupied by the Kurds and at destroying rural > Kurdistan." > > "This is the apotheosis of cultural genocide," said Saedi Barzinji, the > president of Salahaddin University, in Erbil, who is a human-rights lawyer > and Massoud Barzani's legal adviser. Barzinji and other Kurdish leaders > believe that Saddam is trying to set up a buffer zone between Arab Iraq and > Kurdistan, just in case the Kurds win their independence. To help with > this, Barzinji told me last month, Saddam is trying to rewrite Kirkuk's > history, to give it an "Arab" past. If Kurds, Barzinji went on, "don't > change their ethnic origin, they are given no food rations, no positions in > government, no right to register the names of their new babies. In the last > three to four weeks, hospitals have been ordered, the maternity wards > ordered, not to register any Kurdish name." New parents are "obliged to > choose an Arab name." Barzinji said that the nationality-correction > campaign extends even to the dead. "Saddam is razing the gravestones, > erasing the past, putting in new ones with Arab names," he said. "He wants > to show that Kirkuk has always been Arab." > > Some of the Kurds crossing the demarcation line between Saddam's forces and > the Kurdish zone, it is said, are not being expelled but are fleeing for > economic reasons. But in camps across Kurdistan I met refugees who told me > stories of visits from the secret police in the middle of the night. > > Many of the refugees from Kirkuk live in tent camps built on boggy fields. > I visited one such camp at Beneslawa, not far from Erbil, where the mud was > so thick that it nearly pulled off my shoes. The people at the camp—several > hundred, according to two estimates I heard—are ragged and sick. A man > named Howar told me that his suffering could not have been avoided even if > he had agreed to change his ethnic identity. > > "When you agree to change your nationality, the police write on your > identity documents 'second-degree Arab,' which they know means Kurd," he > told me. "So they always know you're a Kurd." (In a twist characteristic of > Saddam's regime, Kurdish leaders told me, Kurds who agree to "change" their > nationality are fined for having once claimed falsely to be Kurdish.) > > Another refugee, Shawqat Hamid Muhammad, said that her son had gone to jail > for two months for having a photograph of Mustafa Barzani in his > possession. She said that she and her family had been in the Beneslawa camp > for two months. "The police came and knocked on our door and told us we > have to leave Kirkuk," she said. "We had to rent a truck to take our things > out. We were given one day to leave. We have no idea who is in our house." > Another refugee, a man named Ibrahim Jamil, wandered over to listen to the > conversation. "The Arabs are winning Kirkuk," he said. "Soon the only > people there will be Arabs, and Kurds who call themselves Arabs. They say > we should be Arab. But I'm a Kurd. It would be easier for me to die than be > an Arab. How can I not be a Kurd?" > > Peter Galbraith told me that in 1987 he witnessed the destruction of > Kurdish villages and cemeteries—"anything that was related to Kurdish > identity," he said. "This was one of the factors that led me to conclude > that it is a policy of genocide, a crime of intent, destroying a group > whole or in part." > > > 9. IRAQ'S ARMS RACE > > > In a series of meetings in the summer and fall of 1995, Charles Duelfer, > the deputy executive chairman of the United Nations Special Commission, or > UNSCOM—the now defunct arms-inspection team—met in Baghdad with Iraqi > government delegations. The subject was the status of Iraq's > nonconventional-weapons programs, and Duelfer, an American diplomat on loan > to the United Nations, was close to a breakthrough. > > In early August, Saddam's son-in-law Hussein Kamel had defected to Jordan, > and had then spoken publicly about Iraq's offensive biological, chemical, > and nuclear capabilities. (Kamel later returned to Iraq and was killed > almost immediately, on his father-in-law's orders.) The regime's > credibility was badly damaged by Kamel's revelations, and during these > meetings the Iraqi representatives decided to tell Duelfer and his team > more than they had ever revealed before. "This was the first time Iraq > actually agreed to discuss the Presidential origins of these programs," > Duelfer recalled. Among the most startling admissions made by the Iraqi > scientists was that they had weaponized the biological agent aflatoxin. > > Aflatoxin, which is produced from types of fungi that occur in moldy > grains, is the biological agent that some Kurdish physicians suspect was > mixed with chemical weapons and dropped on Kurdistan. Christine Gosden, the > English geneticist, told me, "There is absolutely no forensic evidence > whatsoever that aflatoxins have ever been used in northern Iraq, but this > may be because no systematic testing has been carried out in the region, to > my knowledge." > > Duelfer told me, "We kept pressing the Iraqis to discuss the concept of use > for aflatoxin. We learned that the origin of the biological-weapons program > is in the security services, not in the military—meaning that it really > came out of the assassinations program." The Iraqis, Duelfer said, admitted > something else: they had loaded aflatoxin into two Scud-ready warheads, and > also mixed aflatoxin with tear gas. They wouldn't say why. > > In an op-ed article that Duelfer wrote for the Los Angeles Times last year > about Iraqi programs to develop weapons of mass destruction, he offered > this hypothesis: "If a regime wished to conceal a biological attack, what > better way than this? Victims would suffer the short-term effects of > inhaling tear gas and would assume that this was the totality of the > attack: Subsequent cancers would not be linked to the prior event." > > United Nations inspectors were alarmed to learn about the aflatoxin > program. Richard Spertzel, the chief biological-weapons inspector for > UNSCOM, put it this way: "It is a devilish weapon. Iraq was quite clearly > aware of the long-term carcinogenic effect of aflatoxin. Aflatoxin can only > do one thing—destroy people's livers. And I suspect that children are more > susceptible. From a moral standpoint, aflatoxin is the cruellest weapon—it > means watching children die slowly of liver cancer." > > Spertzel believes that if aflatoxin were to be used as a weapon it would > not be delivered by a missile. "Aflatoxin is a little tricky," he said. "I > don't know if a single dose at one point in time is going to give you the > long-term effects. Continuous, repeated exposure—through food—would be more > effective." When I asked Spertzel if other countries have weaponized > aflatoxin, he replied, "I don't know any other country that did it. I don't > know any country that would." > > > It is unclear what biological and chemical weapons Saddam possesses today. > When he maneuvered UNSCOM out of his country in 1998, weapons inspectors > had found a sizable portion of his arsenal but were vexed by what they > couldn't find. His scientists certainly have produced and weaponized > anthrax, and they have manufactured botulinum toxin, which causes muscular > paralysis and death. They've made Clostridium perfringens, a bacterium that > causes gas gangrene, a condition in which the flesh rots. They have also > made wheat-cover smut, which can be used to poison crops, and ricin, which, > when absorbed into the lungs, causes hemorrhagic pneumonia. > > According to Gary Milhollin, the director of the Wisconsin Project on > Nuclear Arms Control, whose Iraq Watch project monitors Saddam's weapons > capabilities, inspectors could not account for a great deal of weaponry > believed to be in Iraq's possession, including almost four tons of the > nerve agent VX; six hundred tons of ingredients for VX; as much as three > thousand tons of other poison-gas agents; and at least five hundred and > fifty artillery shells filled with mustard gas. Nor did the inspectors find > any stores of aflatoxin. > > Saddam's motives are unclear, too. For the past decade, the development of > these weapons has caused nothing but trouble for him; his international > isolation grows not from his past crimes but from his refusal to let > weapons inspectors dismantle his nonconventional-weapons programs. When I > asked the Iraqi dissident Kanan Makiya why Saddam is so committed to these > programs, he said, "I think this regime developed a very specific ideology > associated with power, and how to extend that power, and these weapons play > a very important psychological and political part." Makiya added, "They are > seen as essential to the security and longevity of the regime." > > Certainly, the threat of another Halabja has kept Iraq's citizens > terrorized and compliant. Amatzia Baram, the Iraq expert at the University > of Haifa, told me that in 1999 Iraqi troops in white biohazard suits > suddenly surrounded the Shiite holy city of Karbala, in southern Iraq, > which has been the scene of frequent uprisings against Saddam. (The Shiites > make up about sixty per cent of Iraq's population, and the regime is > preoccupied with the threat of another rebellion.) The men in the white > suits did nothing; they just stood there. "But the message was clear," > Baram said. " 'What we did to the Kurds in Halabja we can do to you.' It's > a very effective psychological weapon. From the information I saw, people > were really panicky. They ran into their homes and shut their windows. It > worked extremely well." > > Saddam's weapons of mass destruction clearly are not meant solely for > domestic use. Several years ago in Baghdad, Richard Butler, who was then > the chairman of UNSCOM, fell into conversation with Tariq Aziz, Saddam's > confidant and Iraq's deputy Prime Minister. Butler asked Aziz to explain > the rationale for Iraq's biological-weapons project, and he recalled Aziz's > answer: "He said, 'We made bioweapons in order to deal with the Persians > and the Jews.' " > > Iraqi dissidents agree that Iraq's programs to build weapons of mass > destruction are focussed on Israel. "Israel is the whole game," Ahmad > Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, told me. "Saddam is > always saying publicly, 'Who is going to fire the fortieth missile?' "—a > reference to the thirty-nine Scud missiles he fired at Israel during the > Gulf War. "He thinks he can kill one hundred thousand Israelis in a day > with biological weapons." Chalabi added, "This is the only way he can be > Saladin"—the Muslim hero who defeated the Crusaders. Students of Iraq and > its government generally agree that Saddam would like to project himself as > a leader of all the Arabs, and that the one sure way to do that is by > confronting Israel. > > In the Gulf War, when Saddam attacked Israel, he was hoping to provoke an > Israeli response, which would drive America's Arab friends out of the > allied coalition. Today, the experts say, Saddam's desire is to expel the > Jews from history. In October of 2000, at an Arab summit in Cairo, I heard > the vice-chairman of Iraq's Revolutionary Command Council, a man named > Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, deliver a speech on Saddam's behalf, saying, "Jihad > alone is capable of liberating Palestine and the rest of the Arab > territories occupied by dirty Jews in their distorted Zionist entity." > > Amatzia Baram said, "Saddam can absolve himself of all sins in the eyes of > the Arab and Muslim worlds by bringing Israel to its knees. He not only > wants to be a hero in his own press, which already recognizes him as a > Saladin, but wants to make sure that a thousand years from now children in > the fourth grade will know that he is the one who destroyed Israel." > > It is no comfort to the Kurds that the Jews are now Saddam's main > preoccupation. The Kurds I spoke with, even those who agree that Saddam is > aiming his remaining Scuds at Israel, believe that he is saving some of his > "special weapons"—a popular euphemism inside the Iraqi regime—for a return > visit to Halabja. The day I visited the Kalak Bridge, which divides the > Kurds from the Iraqi Army's Jerusalem brigade, I asked Muhammad Najar, the > local official, why the brigade was not facing west, toward its target. > "The road to Jerusalem," he replied, "goes through Kurdistan." > > > A few weeks ago, after my return from Iraq, I stopped by the Israeli > Embassy in Washington to see the Ambassador, David Ivry. In 1981, Ivry, who > then led Israel's Air Force, commanded Operation Opera, the strike against > the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad. The action was ordered by Prime > Minister Menachem Begin, who believed that by hitting the reactor shortly > before it went online he could stop Iraq from building an atomic bomb. > After the attack, Israel was condemned for what the Times called > "inexcusable and short-sighted aggression." Today, though, Israel's action > is widely regarded as an act of muscular arms control. "In retrospect, the > Israeli strike bought us a decade," Gary Milhollin, of the Wisconsin > Project, said. "I think if the Israelis had not hit the reactor the Iraqis > would have had bombs by 1990"—the year Iraq invaded Kuwait. > Today, a satellite photograph of the Osirak site hangs on a wall in Ivry's > office. The inscription reads, "For General David Ivry—With thanks and > appreciation for the outstanding job he did on the Iraqi nuclear program in > 1981, which made our job much easier in Desert Storm." It is signed "Dick > Cheney." > > "Preëmption is always a positive," Ivry said. > > Saddam Hussein never gave up his hope of turning Iraq into a nuclear power. > After the Osirak attack, he rebuilt, redoubled his efforts, and dispersed > his facilities. Those who have followed Saddam's progress believe that no > single strike today would eradicate his nuclear program. I talked about > this prospect last fall with August Hanning, the chief of the B.N.D., the > German intelligence agency, in Berlin. We met in the new glass-and-steel > Chancellery, overlooking the renovated Reichstag. > > The Germans have a special interest in Saddam's intentions. German industry > is well represented in the ranks of foreign companies that have aided > Saddam's nonconventional-weapons programs, and the German government has > been publicly regretful. Hanning told me that his agency had taken the lead > in exposing the companies that helped Iraq build a poison-gas factory at > Samarra. The Germans also feel, for the most obvious reasons, a special > responsibility to Israel's security, and this, too, motivates their desire > to expose Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction programs. Hanning is tall, > thin, and almost translucently white. He is sparing with words, but he does > not equivocate. "It is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in > three years," he said. > > There is some debate among arms-control experts about exactly when Saddam > will have nuclear capabilities. But there is no disagreement that Iraq, if > unchecked, will have them soon, and a nuclear-armed Iraq would alter > forever the balance of power in the Middle East. "The first thing that > occurs to any military planner is force protection," Charles Duelfer told > me. "If your assessment of the threat is chemical or biological, you can > get individual protective equipment and warning systems. If you think he's > going to use a nuclear weapon, where are you going to concentrate your > forces?" > > There is little doubt what Saddam might do with an atomic bomb or with his > stocks of biological and chemical weapons. When I talked about Saddam's > past with the medical geneticist Christine Gosden, she said, "Please > understand, the Kurds were for practice." > > > > _______________________________________________ > Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. > To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss > To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org > All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk > _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk