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]

Re: [casi] The Big Lie about Saddam Gassing the Kurds

Dear Mark

Stephen Pelletiere's article on the ambiguities of the Halabja gassing was
in News, 29/01-05/02/03 (4).

I was about to append  Glen Rangwala's reply to this argument when I
realised it was actually addressed to you! So you obviously disagree with
it. In the current article Pelletiere is making the - I think - more
fundamental point that, whoever actually did it, the Halabja gassing was an
incident in a very bloody and confused war, not a gratuitous act of
wickedness out of the blue. In which case the government's line isn't so
much a matter of lying as being economical with the truth. Though it has
also been said that gas was used against the Kurds AFTER the end of the
Iraq/Iran war and I would like to know more about that.

Best wishes


> From: "Mark Parkinson" <>
> Date: Thu, 07 Aug 2003 15:40:40 +0100
> To:
> Subject: [casi] The Big Lie about Saddam Gassing the Kurds
> I don't remember this article being posted to CASI at the time.
> 31 January 2003
> MECHANICSBURG, Pa.  It was no surprise that President Bush, lacking
> smoking-gun evidence of Iraq's weapons programs, used his State of
> the Union address to re-emphasize the moral case for an invasion:
> "The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons
> has already used them on whole villages, leaving thousands of his own
> citizens dead, blind or disfigured."
> The accusation that Iraq has used chemical weapons against its
> citizens is a familiar part of the debate. The piece of hard evidence
> most frequently brought up concerns the gassing of Iraqi Kurds at the
> town of Halabja in March 1988, near the end of the eight-year Iran-
> Iraq war. President Bush himself has cited Iraq's "gassing its own
> people," specifically at Halabja, as a reason to topple Saddam
> Hussein.
> But the truth is, all we know for certain is that Kurds were
> bombarded with poison gas that day at Halabja. We cannot say with any
> certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds. This is not
> the only distortion in the Halabja story.
> I am in a position to know because, as the Central Intelligence
> Agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war,
> and as a professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000, I was
> privy to much of the classified material that flowed through
> Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf. In addition, I headed
> a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war
> against the United States; the classified version of the report went
> into great detail on the Halabja affair.
> This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came
> about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq
> used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the
> town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The
> Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that
> exchange. But they were not Iraq's main target.
> And the story gets murkier: immediately after the battle the United
> States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a
> classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence
> community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was
> Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.
> The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the
> battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies,
> however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent  that is,
> a cyanide-based gas  which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who
> are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to
> have possessed blood agents at the time.
> These facts have long been in the public domain but, extraordinarily,
> as often as the Halabja affair is cited, they are rarely mentioned. A
> much-discussed article in The New Yorker last March did not make
> reference to the Defense Intelligence Agency report or consider that
> Iranian gas might have killed the Kurds. On the rare occasions the
> report is brought up, there is usually speculation, with no proof,
> that it was skewed out of American political favoritism toward Iraq
> in its war against Iran.
> I am not trying to rehabilitate the character of Saddam Hussein. He
> has much to answer for in the area of human rights abuses. But
> accusing him of gassing his own people at Halabja as an act of
> genocide is not correct, because as far as the information we have
> goes, all of the cases where gas was used involved battles. These
> were tragedies of war. There may be justifications for invading Iraq,
> but Halabja is not one of them.
> In fact, those who really feel that the disaster at Halabja has
> bearing on today might want to consider a different question: Why was
> Iran so keen on taking the town? A closer look may shed light on
> America's impetus to invade Iraq.
> We are constantly reminded that Iraq has perhaps the world's largest
> reserves of oil. But in a regional and perhaps even geopolitical
> sense, it may be more important that Iraq has the most extensive
> river system in the Middle East. In addition to the Tigris and
> Euphrates, there are the Greater Zab and Lesser Zab rivers in the
> north of the country. Iraq was covered with irrigation works by the
> sixth century A.D., and was a granary for the region.
> Before the Persian Gulf war, Iraq had built an impressive system of
> dams and river control projects, the largest being the Darbandikhan
> dam in the Kurdish area. And it was this dam the Iranians were aiming
> to take control of when they seized Halabja. In the 1990's there was
> much discussion over the construction of a so-called Peace Pipeline
> that would bring the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates south to the
> parched Gulf states and, by extension, Israel. No progress has been
> made on this, largely because of Iraqi intransigence. With Iraq in
> American hands, of course, all that could change.
> Thus America could alter the destiny of the Middle East in a way that
> probably could not be challenged for decades  not solely by
> controlling Iraq's oil, but by controlling its water. Even if America
> didn't occupy the country, once Mr. Hussein's Baath Party is driven
> from power, many lucrative opportunities would open up for American
> companies.
> All that is needed to get us into war is one clear reason for acting,
> one that would be generally persuasive. But efforts to link the
> Iraqis directly to Osama bin Laden have proved inconclusive.
> Assertions that Iraq threatens its neighbors have also failed to
> create much resolve; in its present debilitated condition  thanks to
> United Nations sanctions  Iraq's conventional forces threaten no
> one.
> Perhaps the strongest argument left for taking us to war quickly is
> that Saddam Hussein has committed human rights atrocities against his
> people. And the most dramatic case are the accusations about Halabja.
> Before we go to war over Halabja, the administration owes the
> American people the full facts. And if it has other examples of
> Saddam Hussein gassing Kurds, it must show that they were not pro-
> Iranian Kurdish guerrillas who died fighting alongside Iranian
> Revolutionary Guards. Until Washington gives us proof of Saddam
> Hussein's supposed atrocities, why are we picking on Iraq on human
> rights grounds, particularly when there are so many other repressive
> regimes Washington supports?
> Stephen C. Pelletiere is author of "Iraq and the International Oil
> System: Why America Went to War in the Persian Gulf."
> Stephen C. Pelletiere New York Times
> Mark Parkinson
> Bodmin
> Cornwall
> _______________________________________________
> 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:

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]