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Re: [casi] J.Goldberg's controversial article in The New Yorker

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

----- Original Message -----
From: "peter kiernan" <>
To: "AS-ILAS" <>; "casi" <>
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
> 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
> 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
> was introduced,
> the Kurds were promised thirteen per cent of the country's oil revenue,
> 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" <>
> To: "casi" <>
> 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
> Best
> Andreas
> European Forum for Freedom in Education
> Minorities Group
> Research & Documentation & Analysis
> ----------------------------------
> 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
> 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,
> Saddam's soldiers to retreat. Iranian Revolutionary Guards then
> the city, and the residents assumed that an Iraqi counterattack was
> imminent. Nasreen and her family expected to spend yet another day in
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> 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
> 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
> see them." People were dying all around, he said. When a child could not
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> "And we found my mother in one of the albums." Her father, she discovered,
> was alive but permanently blinded. Five of her siblings, including
> 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
> 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.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> Saddam," Ibrahim said.
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> she goes to a mall, she brings along a polyurethane bag "big enough to
> 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
> 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
> the former director of Saddam's nuclear-weapons program, told me earlier
> this year that before the attack on Halabja military doctors had mapped
> 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
> 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
> 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?"
> 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
> 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
> 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
> President George Bush ignored an uprising that he himself had stoked, and
> Kurds and Shiites in Iraq were slaughtered by the thousands. Thousands
> 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
> haven, a tactic that allowed the refugees to return home. And so, under
> protective shield of the United States and British Air Forces, the
> unplanned Kurdish experiment in self-government began. Although the
> safe haven is only a virtual state, it is an incipient democracy, a home
> progressive Islamic thought and pro-American feeling.
> Today, Iraqi Kurdistan is split between two dominant parties: the
> 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
> 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
> 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
> crew of one and an outboard motor, was waiting. The engine spluttered;
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> a bare office, and a woman was wheeled in. She looked seventy but said
> 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
> 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,
> 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.
> 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.
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> them coats for the journey. "It was raining. I wanted them to have coats.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> door. Then the starvation started."
> The prisoners were given almost nothing to eat, and a single standpipe
> 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
> dogs. The dogs were eating my son." She stopped talking for a moment.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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,"
> said. "If just one comes back, that would be enough."
> 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.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> to Iraq's murder of "thousands of its own citizens—leaving the bodies of
> mothers huddled over their dead children." General Simko Dizayee, the
> 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
> 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
> a problem. If the Americans attack Saddam and don't get him, we're going
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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."
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> and even satellite television. For two days, the intelligence agency
> permitted me to speak with any prisoner who agreed to be interviewed. I
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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.
> are two schools of thought" in Al Qaeda, Karim Sinjari, the Interior
> Minister of Kurdistan's Democratic Party-controlled region, told me.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> saying this? Let me kill them.' "
> Rekut said that the peshmerga were killed in ritual fashion: "We put
> 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
> 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
> Ansar al-Islam stronghold near Halabja. The Kurds believe that two of
> 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
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> by asking him if he had been tortured by his captors. His eyes widened.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> colder. "Come back tomorrow," the senior official in the room said, "and
> we'll introduce you to someone who will answer that question."
> The man they introduced me to the next afternoon was a
> Iranian Arab, a smuggler and bandit from the city of Ahvaz. The
> intelligence officials told me that his most recent employer was bin
> 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."
> man now called Jawad did not meet Osama bin Laden that night. "They said
> 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
> to Kandahar and hold me in jail for twenty-one days while they
> 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
> 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.
> ordered him to establish a smuggling route across the Iraq-Iran border.
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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."
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> Kurds wasn't being used for advanced medical treatment. The oil-for-food
> program has one enormous flaw, he replied. When the program was
> the Kurds were promised thirteen per cent of the country's oil revenue,
> 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
> 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
> 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.,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> They should go ask the World Health Organization"—which reports to Sevan
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> government, no right to register the names of their new babies. In the
> 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
> 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
> so thick that it nearly pulled off my shoes. The people at the
> 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
> Saddam's regime, Kurdish leaders told me, Kurds who agree to "change"
> nationality are fined for having once claimed falsely to be Kurdish.)
> Another refugee, Shawqat Hamid Muhammad, said that her son had gone to
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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."
> 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
> 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,
> 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,
> my knowledge."
> Duelfer told me, "We kept pressing the Iraqis to discuss the concept of
> for aflatoxin. We learned that the origin of the biological-weapons
> is in the security services, not in the military—meaning that it really
> came out of the assassinations program." The Iraqis, Duelfer said,
> something else: they had loaded aflatoxin into two Scud-ready warheads,
> 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
> 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
> effective." When I asked Spertzel if other countries have weaponized
> aflatoxin, he replied, "I don't know any other country that did it. I
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> a very important psychological and political part." Makiya added, "They
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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,
> 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
> "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,
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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."
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