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RE: [casi] Churchill, gas and the Kurds

Dear Chris,

I should explain that I don't own the book. I borrrowed it
from a library about a year ago. So I was prepared to go back
and look up references - in case Daithi didn't have ready
access. I'd gladly do the same for you but if you live in
England, you should have no problems. Any university
library will carry it, especially in London.

> I've been looking for hard information
What would you consider "hard"? Perhaps your best bet would
be to speak to a librarian or better still to an archivist.

Henry Gonzalez, US Congressman, referred to this in the
House of Representatives on March 24, 1992:

     "But there again, where is the moral right? The first
     one to use gas against Arabs was Winston Churchill, the
     British, in the early 1920's. They were Iraq Arabs they
     used them against."

"Moral right" is of course the reason this piece of history
has now been dredged up again - by people who see contradictions
in the pious arguments of Messrs. Bush, Blair et al. And this
seems only fair. In 1998 Clinton denounced opponents to his
planned attack on Iraq for "not remembering the past".

> I remain unconvinced that the UK used chemical weapons
> in the middle east in the 1920s....
> but I'm open to correction.

Not easy. And if you'd rather not...

Churchill thought of it as poison gas - and so, apparently
did everyone else. The idea of using it was his alone. And
he is also is also to have given the authorization to the
RAF. He wanted gas to be used in addition to regular bombing:
"against recalcitrant Arabs as experiment". According to
Simons, gas was not dispensed in bombs.

The intention was to quell a growing rebellion in remote
villages. He met with objections but maintained that "we
cannot in any circumstances acquiesce in the non-utilisation
of any weapons which are available to procure a speedy
termination of the disorder which prevails on the frontier".

It seems Churchill wanted to cause "disablement", "discomfort
or illness, but not death".

In any case, to Churchill this was not a moral issue. Here
is part of a memo, so you can see it through his eyes. He
wrote this during WWII, when he contemplated using poison
gas, but never did:

[stamp, pen] Serial No. D. 217/4

1. I want you to think very seriously over this question of
poison gas. I would not use it unless it could be shown
either that (a) it was life or death for us, or (b) that it
would shorten the war by a year.

2. It is absurd to consider morality on this topic when
everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint
from the moralists or the Church.

On the other hand, in the last war bombing of open cities was
regarded as forbidden. Now everybody does it as a matter of
course. It is simply a question of fashion changing as she
does between long and short skirts for women.

3. I want a cold-blooded calculation made as to how it would
pay us to use poison gas, by which I mean principally mustard.
We will want to gain more ground in Normandy...

5. Although one sees how unpleasant it is to receive poison
gas attacks, from which nearly everyone recovers, it is
useless to protest that an equal amount of H. E. will not
inflict greater casualties and sufferings on troops and
civilians. One really must not be bound within silly
conventions of the mind whether they be those that ruled in
the last war or those in reverse which rule in this."

Cited in "The World as a Magical Gas Chamber"

Elga Sutter

-----------Original Message-----------
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2003 11:37:54 -0000
From: "Chris.Williams" <>
To: H Sutter <>,
Subject: RE: [casi] Churchill, gas and the Kurds

Dear Elga,

Please can you post the references from Simons' book to documents in the
Public Record Office? I will be ableto check them out next time I'm there.

I remain unconvinced that the UK used chemical weapons in the middle east
the 1920s. I've been looking for hard information on this for several
and have yet to find any, but I'm open to correction.

Chris Williams

> -----Original Message-----
> From: H Sutter []
> Sent: 03 January 2003 01:12
> To:
> Subject:      Re: [casi] Churchill, gas and the Kurds
> Dear Daithi,
> -- As to "reliable source":
> Geoff Simons has used primary documents e.g., from the British
> archives and other sources (no longer accessible to the
> public, I believe). The papers include memoranda between
> Churchill and his chiefs of staff. The book has a bibliography
> and all quotes are properly footnoted. - I have read the book
> and can look up any reference you need.
> (Geoff Simons: _Iraq: from Sumer to Saddam_, New York:
> St. Martin's Press, 1994 ISBN 0312102097.)
> And Churchill is quoted extensively in the article "British
> use of Chemical Weapons in Iraq". All quotes are from Simons'
> book. The most well-known quote is this:
> "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of
> gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against
> uncivilised tribes."
> -- "Did the RAF actually use chemical weapons after WW1?"
> Simons' examples are from the 1920s. If I remember correctly
> (from another source), no chemical weapons were used after
> the 1925 convention forbidding their use.
> -- As an aside, John Hemming's argument:
> "I do think the situation in Iraq is unique from a
> historical perspective", believes Mr. Hemming. Yet his
> "constitutional solution for Iraq" seems to condone an attack
> on Iraq on the grounds advanced by Bush - ignoring reality
> and historical facts. Mr. Hemming says:
>      "There are many similarities between Iraq and Yugoslavia.
>      Iraq is a country that has been dominated by a dictator
>      for a number of years. That dictator has kept control of
>      a country with substantial ethnic divisions for many years
>      thereby suppressing the impact of those divisions."
>      (Quoted from John Hemming's Website: Operation Desert Haven.)
> It is well to remember that oil and power are the driving
> forces behind the war argument, not dictators. Historically,
> the US has in fact _trained_ and assisted dictator regimes
> to kill and torture hundreds and thousands of their people,
> e.g., the Shah of Iran, the Somozas, or Suharto. But these
> were of course right-wing dictators who did not nationalize
> oil and other resources and thus impede western profits.
> (And does Mr. Hemming know that the "humanitarian" war
> against Yugoslavia was based on lies? The US Trade Department
> advanced the money for the pipeline project only a few days
> after the "victory". And the pipeline through Kosova is now up
> and running.)
> In Simons' book, Arab-Iraqis and Kurdish-Iraqis are cited
> who still remember the RAF attacks of the 1920s. And in a
> recent article by Dave Whyte (University of Leeds), Rumsfeld
> is quoted as approving this strategy in an attempt to justify
> a pre-emptive attack on Iraq:
>      "Maybe Winston Churchill was right. Maybe that lone voice
>      expressing concern about what was happening was right."
>      (Donald Rumsfeld August 2002)
> This article puts past and present in context: "War is
> Business, Business is War" by Dave Whyte; Newsletter Issue 11
> December-January 2002-2003 - I think you find it useful, Daithi.
> A peaceful New Year to all (and lots of fortitude),
> Elga Sutter
> P.S. On a recent visit to Ankara, Wolfowitz presented several
> billion dollars and the confirmation that KADEK has been
> put on the US terrorist list (KADEK = Congress for Freedom
> and Democracy in Kurdistan). "Continuation of insanity"
> comments a Kurdish website for the freedom of Abdullah Ocalan.
> -------- Original Message --------
> From: "Daithi O hArgain" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Thursday, January 02, 2003 12:16 PM
> Subject: [casi] Churchill, gas and the Kurds
> [ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]
> It's often said that Churchill contemplated (and supported) using gas
> against 'uncivilised peoples' such as Kurdish and Afghan tribesmen
> the 1920's.  Is there any hard historical evidence or reliable source
> this?  Did the RAF actually use chemical weapons after WW1? Apologies if
> this has already been discussed.  I couldn't find anything in the
> archives.
> Well done all for an excellent discussion site and hoping for a peaceful
> resolution. Daithi O hArgain
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