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[casi] The Thatcher government - Iraq's 'Chemical Ally'

Dear list

I have a daily column in the Bristol Evening Post which I
use to write antiwar, antisanctions pieces.

I came up with a useful minor polemical device in response
tp the al=Majid 'Chemical Ali' stuff. Full article below.


Bristol Evening Post 1 April 2003

'Does Iraq have biological or chemical weapons, will it use
them, and with what effects? Iraqi chemical and biological
protection suits, gas masks and nerve gas  antidotes have
been found. British Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon called
this  "categorical proof" that Iraq has chemical weapons.
It is not quite so simple. US and British forces have this
gear too (indeed, the United States and Britain also have
chemical and biological weapons).  The equipment may also
have been kept to protect against attack by Iran, which
used chemical weapons in the 1980s against Iraq. The United
States has a few days ago authorised the use of
'non-lethal' gasses in Iraq with the aim of avoiding the
civilian casualties that result from conventional weapons.
In practice, non-lethal gasses can accidentally kill, as
happened with hundreds of Russian civilians taken hostage
by Chechen rebels recently. The 1997 Chemical Weapons
Convention bans the use of these agents in warfare. At the
end of the period when Iraq was being disarmed by the UN,
some of Iraq's chemical and biological weapons had not been
accounted for. These are very old and are likely to have
deteriorated into useless goo. Still, perhaps some have
survived and perhaps Iraq has secretly produced more. Many
sites suspected by the US and British of chemical or
biological weapons manufacture have been captured but
nothing has been found so far. The media are rightly
demonising General Ali Hassan al-Majid as "Chemical Ali"
for his role in carrying out gas attacks on the Iraqi Kurds
in 1988. There has been no demonising of the Thatcher
government which was Majid's "Chemical Ally". The British
government knowingly helped Iraq, with taxpayers' subsidy,
to build up facilities it expected would be used to produce
chemical weapons. When Majid gassed the Kurds the
Government was extremely reluctant to condemn the attacks.
Although there are fears of another chemical  weapon attack
on the Kurds, they have not been supplied with protective
clothing, gas masks, antidotes and decontamination units.
If Iraq does use chemical or biological weapons, how many
casualties can they inflict? Fortunately, it is difficult
to kill large numbers of  people with these weapons. This
is because you have to spread them over a  wide area which
requires you to use either spraying planes or many hundreds
of artillery shells. Missiles aren't much use as they
contaminate only a small  area. So, Iraq almost certainly
is incapable of inflicting "mass destruction" with these

Dr. Eric Herring
Department of Politics
University of Bristol
10 Priory Road
Bristol BS8 1TU
England, UK
Office tel. +44-(0)117-928-8582
Mobile tel. +44-(0)7771-966608
Fax +44-(0)117-973-2133

Network of Activist Scholars
of Politics and International Relations

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