The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Rubin! Roberts! Perle!

Hot on the heels of his success uncovering world's quietest A-Bomb explosion
under Iraq's Lake Rezzaza[1], intrepid journalist Gwynne Roberts interviews
another defector in another darkened hotel room and the resulting expose of
Saddam's 14 year-old dirty laundry in Halabja[2] (which, yes, still smells
incredibly foul) airs tonight on PBS (U.S.) in a newsprogram hosted by former
U.S. State Department spokesboy (and von Sponeck slanderer) Jamie Rubin, who
also acts as foil for Richard Perle, thus shielding producers from the charge of
unbalanced coverage.

Who said irony was dead?  Who said hackneyed New Yorker articles couldn't be
re-packaged for video?  Is that Pulitzer I smell?  Or is it merely the Rendon

Following is a New York Times recap of tonight's show (to which we were
previously alerted by Roger Stroope); the program's website is located here

Drew Hamre
Golden Valley, MN USA


[2] Glen Rangwala's post is the most authoritative:



July 11, 2002
Seeking to Link Iraq to Poison Gas and bin Laden

Many people were collapsing around us and dying," says a Kurdish man who
survived a poison gas attack. "The gas smelled of garlic and rotten apples." As
he recalls that day, we see videotape shot immediately after the attack. The gas
 a combination including the nerve gas sarin and cyanide  caused paralysis and
death so fast that the stonelike corpses littering the ground look flash-frozen,
fists clenched, one child's arm still lifted in the air.

The attack, launched by Saddam Hussein in 1988 in his own country, hit the town
of Halabja and was meant to punish the Kurds for their resistance to his
control. That story is only one part of tonight's extraordinary documentary
"Saddam's Ultimate Solution," the timeliest possible beginning to "Wide Angle,"
a 10-week PBS series on varied international issues. Only last week Iraq once
again refused to let United Nations weapons inspectors into the country, and
much front-page news has focused on the Bush administration's possible plans to
topple Mr. Hussein and on the role the Kurds might play in such a move.

In this hourlong film, its reporter and producer, Gwynne Roberts, travels to
Iraqi Kurdistan searching for links between Mr. Hussein and Osama bin Laden. He
is accompanied by a doctor studying the long-term effects of poison gas on the
towns and villages (more than 200 of them) attacked by Mr. Hussein in the late
1980's. The Hussein-Bin Laden connection is the more explosive subject. The
claims are chilling if true, but while the evidence is convincing it remains
unproved here. The effects of the poison gas, however, are viscerally,
undeniably horrifying. On both counts the narrative and the images in "Saddam's
Ultimate Solution" are as gripping as any drama.

The documentary includes black-and-white videotape taken immediately after Mr.
Hussein's first known chemical attack in April 1987 on a village called Scheich
Wassan. Taken by a Kurdish mercenary working with the Iraqis, the tape shows a
huge cloud hanging in the air, people helplessly throwing buckets of water on
the smoking ground, villagers wailing. Color video from 1991 shows skulls and
remnants of clothing being unearthed from a mass grave for victims of that
attack. Today the film shows shells from the missiles lying in a school
playground, a residue of poison gas still on them.

In Halabja the film captures an old woman's wizened face and body. Mr. Roberts
then tells us she is 16 years old; she was 3 when the poison gas hit. A man who
was a healthy 9-year-old at the time now has curvature of the spine. There is an
increase in babies born with cleft palates, Down syndrome and other disorders. A
sign over a large burial ground reads, in imperfect English, "The Graveyard for
Halabja Chemical Martyr."

While in Kurdistan, Mr. Roberts's investigation of the Hussein-Bin Laden tie
focuses on Al Ansar al Islam, a militant Islamic group (the Iraqi counterpart to
the Taliban in Afghanistan) with widely reported links to Mr. bin Laden's Queda.
Only one source faces the camera: Barham Salih, the prime minister of the
Kurdish Regional Government, who survived an assassination attempt. One of the
captured suspects claims to be a member of al Ansar and says he was recruited by
Al Queda agents in Jordan.

Two other men are filmed with their backs to the camera or lurking in shadows. A
man who is now a prisoner of the Kurds claims he was an Iraqi intelligence agent
and says that Aymar al Zawahiri, Mr. bin Laden's second in command, met with Mr.
Hussein in Iraq in 1992.

Even more alarming claims come from an Iraqi whom Mr. Roberts tracks down in
Turkey, his identity disguised by a jittery camera in a hotel room that shows
his hands, his feet, never his face. He says he worked in a chemical weapons
factory near Baghdad and that he actually saw Mr. bin Laden visit a terrorist
training camp in Iraq in 1998, when Al Queda members were about to "graduate"
from its program. "Saddam's Ultimate Solution" carefully couches all this
information in phrases like "if these claims are true," but it has a cumulative
credibility when added to similar stories from many other sources.

The trappings of the series are less successful. After each film either James
Rubin, a former spokesman for former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,
or Daljit Dhaliwal, the former anchor of "World News for Public Television,"
will interview an expert on the documentary's subject. Mr. Rubin's guest on
tonight's program is Richard Perle, a former assistant secretary of defense in
the Reagan administration. Mr. Perle offers an argument rather than analysis
when he says an American operation in Iraq will be "quicker and easier than many
people think," a matter of weeks not months. Mr. Rubin questions what he calls
this "optimistic scenario," but because it's not his role to take a position,
the Perle interview is the lopsided half of a debate. Still, in a television
landscape where network news is dominated by tiny sound bites and cable by
shouting heads, "Wide Angle" has a distinct and valuable place.

Saddam's Ultimate Solution

On most PBS stations tonight (check local listings)

Gwynne Roberts, producer and reporter; Andy Halper, senior producer; Stephen
Segaller, executive producer; Pamela Hogan, series producer; James P. Rubin,
host. Produced by 13/WNET New York.

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]