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[casi] Claims of Saddam's Genocide Far from Proven

Claims of Saddam's Genocide Far from Proven

" [....] "Why should we even be concerned about the veracity of these
allegations [i.e. of Saddam's genocide] ?
Not in any attempt--doomed to be futile--to rehabilitate Saddam Hussein, but
because the search for truth is its own justification, because the word
"genocide" must not be cheapened, and because the U.S. government must not
be handed another pretext to attack Iraq." [....] "


Memo on the Margin

Playing Devil`s AdvocateDecember 29, 2003

Memo To: Website Fans, Browsers, Clients
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: The record on Saddam's "Genocide"

If Saddam Hussein ever comes to trial, the charge of genocide will almost
certainly be at the top of the list. If he has a decent lawyer, this is the
one charge he is most likely to beat. I say that because I have more or less
played "devil's advocate" for Saddam and his regime since 1997, when I first
met the late Nizar Hamdoon, then the Iraqi Ambassador to the United Nations.
Those of you who have frequented this website know I have written
extensively on the subject, having been persuaded by all the existing
evidence that whatever else Saddam inflicted on Iraq, genocide was not one
of them. If I believed he did, I could not have played "devil's advocate,"
which was how I put it to Hamdoon. In February of this year, before
President Bush pulled the trigger, a report was posted at
that incorporated a good deal of what I had come up with. For some reason it
was never brought to my attention and with the advent of war the issue faded
away. Now that all the other reasons for the pre-emptive war have
evaporated, the issue has returned, and the February article by Robin Miller
is circulating again, which is how it came to my attention.

I'm posting it in its entirety here, along with a link to the original
because it does represent the only serious effort I've come across to vet my
forensics. There is only one error I found in it where Miller attributes to
Gordon Prather a quote of mine in the same article. That article is worth
reading in itself as it demolishes a 60 Minutes program that claimed to
prove the genocide with Dr. Prather's quotes much more scathing than the one
attributed to him in error. Miller lists several of my articles by title and
date. Each of them can be found my going to the memo archive on my home
page, The most important omission in Miller's
record as of February is my later finding that there were no Iraqi aircraft
involved in the gassing at Halabja in March of 1988 as Human Rights Watch
has asserted. W. Patrick Lang, who was the Defense Intelligence Agency
senior analyst at the time, assured me the Iranian and Iraqi armies used
artillery to fire their CW canisters at each other.

Please also note this in Miller's conclusion: "Why should we even be
concerned about the veracity of these allegations? Not in any
attempt--doomed to be futile--to rehabilitate Saddam Hussein, but because
the search for truth is its own justification, because the word "genocide"
must not be cheapened, and because the U.S. government must not be handed
another pretext to attack Iraq."

Claims of Saddam's Genocide Far from Proven

By Robin Miller

February 11, 2003 - Is it really true that Saddam Hussein "gassed his own
people" while committing genocide against Iraqi Kurds, images that have
become woven into the fabric of the American perception of Iraq?

Human Rights Watch, the respected New York City NGO, has long championed
these claims. According to its reports, "at least 50,000 and possibly as
many as 100,000 persons, many of them women and children, were killed out of
hand between February and September 1988," the victims being Iraqi Kurds
"systematically put to death in large numbers on the orders of the central
government in Baghdad." Iraq allegedly used chemical weapons in "forty
separate attacks on Kurdish targets" during a campaign that HRW
characterizes as genocide. The most prominent of these purported attacks was
the March 1988 "chemical assault" on the town of Halabja, in which the
number of dead, according to Human Rights Watch, was "in excess of 3,200,"
or perhaps "up to 5,000," or even "as many as 7,000."[1]

Horrifying claims, these, but how much of this is true?

We know that both Iran and Iraq used chemical weapons against one another in
their eight-year-long war, which ended with an August 20, 1988, cease-fire.
Most of Iraq's alleged assaults on the Kurds took place while this war was
raging, although Human Rights Watch claims the attacks extended into
September. Iraq has acknowledged using mustard gas against Iranian troops
but has consistently denied using chemical weapons against civilians.

We also know that Iraq, for what it called security reasons, forcibly
relocated--within Iraqi Kurdistan--Kurds living in certain areas, much as
Israel has done with the Palestinians and the U.S. did in Vietnam.

What Happened at Halabja?

The only verified Kurdish civilian deaths from chemical weapons occurred in
the Iraqi village of Halabja, near the Iran border, where at least several
hundred people died from gas poisoning in mid-March, 1988. We know that Iran
overran the village and its small garrison of Iraqi troops; what is
contested is who was responsible for the deaths--Iran or Iraq--and how large
the death toll was.

The best evidence is a 1990 report by the Strategic Studies Institute of the
U.S. Army War College.[2] It concluded that Iran, not Iraq, was the culprit
in Halabja. Lead author Stephen Pelletiere, who was the CIA's senior
political analyst on Iraq throughout the Iran-Iraq war, has described his
group's findings:

"The great majority of the victims seen by reporters and other observers who
attended the scene were blue in their extremities. That means that they were
killed by a blood agent, probably either cyanogens chloride or hydrogen
cyanide. Iraq never used and lacked any capacity to produce these chemicals.
But the Iranians did deploy them. Therefore the Iranians killed the

Pelletiere says the number of dead was in the hundreds, not the thousands
claimed by Human Rights Watch and the U.S. administration. To this day, the
CIA concurs.[4]

While the War College report acknowledges that Iraq used mustard gas during
the Halabja hostilities, it notes that mustard gas is an incapacitating,
rather than a killing, agent, with a fatality rate of only two percent, so
that it could not have killed the hundreds of known dead, much less the
thousands of dead claimed by Human Rights Watch.[5]

According to the War College reconstruction of events, Iran struck first,
taking control of the town. The Iraqis counterattacked using mustard gas.
The Iranians then attacked again, this time using a "blood agent"--cyanogens
chloride or hydrogen cyanide--and re-took the town, which Iran then held for
several months. Having control of the village and its grisly dead, Iran
blamed the gas deaths on the Iraqis, and the allegations of Iraqi genocide
took root via a credulous international press and, a little later, cynical
promotion of the allegations for political purposes by the U.S. State
Department and Senate.[5a]

Pelletiere described his credentials in a recent New York Times op-ed:

"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."[6]

Was There an Ongoing Campaign of Genocide?

Pelletiere also rejects the larger claim that, aside from whatever happened
at Halabja, Saddam Hussein engaged in a months-long campaign of genocide
against Iraqi Kurds that killed 50,000, 100,000, or more. Calling this is a
"hoax, a non-event,"[7] he explains that:

"This one is extremely problematical since no gassing victims were ever
produced. The only evidence that gas was used is the eye-witness testimony
of the Kurds who fled to Turkey, collected by staffers of the U.S. Senate.
We showed this testimony to experts in the military who told us it was
worthless. The symptoms described by the Kurds do not conform to any known
chemical or combination of chemicals."[8]

Pelletiere also says that international relief organizations who examined
the Kurdish refugees in Turkey failed to discover any gassing victims.[9]

Another skeptic is Milton Viorst, long-time Middle East correspondent for
the New Yorker and author of a dozen books. He visited Kurdish areas in Iraq
when the gassing allegations surfaced in 1988 and reported that:

"From what I saw, I would conclude that if lethal gas was used, it was not
used genocidally--that is, for mass killing. The Kurds compose a fifth of
the Iraqi population, and they are a tightly knit community. If there had
been large-scale killing, it is likely they would know and tell the world.
But neither I nor any Westerner I encountered heard such allegations.

Nor did Kurdish society show discernible signs of tension. The northern
cities, where the men wear Kurdish turbans and baggy pants, were as bustling
as I had ever seen them."

Crucially, Viorst reported that:

"Journalists visiting the Turkish camps saw refugees with blistered skin and
irritated eyes, symptoms of gassing. But doctors sent by France, the United
Nations and the Red Cross have said these symptoms could have been produced
by a powerful, but non-lethal tear gas."[10]

In his 1994 book "Sandcastles," Viorst added to his account:

"On returning home, I interviewed academic experts; none unequivocally ruled
out the use of gas, but the most reliable among them were doubtful. It was
only Washington, and particularly Congress--although, conspicuously, not the
U.S. embassy in Baghdad, which was in the best position to know--that stuck
stubbornly to the original story, and this persistence bewildered the

In "Sandcastles," Viorst also described Iraq's Kurdish resettlement program:

"Saddam, after the cease-fire, sent in his army to stamp out Kurdish
insurgency once and for all. He ordered his troops to go as far as the
Iranian border and depopulate a swath of territory eight or ten miles deep,
neutralizing for all time an area that had served the rebels as sanctuary.

Saddam's objectives were understandable; his tactics were characteristically
brutal. The army dynamited dozens of villages into rubble and dispatched
thousands of inhabitants from their ancestral homes to newly built
"resettlement villages" far in the interior. In the process, sixty thousand
Kurds crossed the border into Turkey, where they told journalists they were
fleeing from attacks of gas. The Iraqis angrily denied the charge, but
Secretary of State Shultz claimed it was true, and the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, without investigating, proposed a bill to impose heavy
sanctions on Iraq. With the pro-Israeli lobby fanning the fire, the bill
nearly passed. But in the Turkish refugee camps, international teams of
doctors were more skeptical of the refugees' claims, saying their
examinations did not confirm the use of gas at all."

(Both Pelletiere and Viorst primarily address claims of Iraq's gassing of
the Kurds because this was the original formulation of the genocide
allegations. Only later did these allegations evolve into claims that Iraq's
killing methods had included gassing, bombing and mass executions. [11a])

A third dissenting voice, oddly enough, is the CIA. Its October 2002
dossier, "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs," identifies only 10
instances of reported Iraqi use of chemical weapons, and none of these were
directed specifically at the Kurds. All occurred during the Iran-Iraq war;
seven were directed only against Iranians, and in three cases, including
Halabja, the victims included both Iranians and Kurds, thus supporting
Iraq's contention that it used mustard gas only in military operations
against Iran.[12]

Significantly, the CIA claims only 20,000 casualties--dead and wounded
combined--in Iraq's alleged campaign against the Kurds, as opposed to Human
Rights Watch's assertion of 50,000 to 100,000 deaths. Given the tendency of
the U.S. government to magnify claims of Saddam's criminality, the CIA's
estimates should be interpreted as maximum possible figures.

Dissecting the Genocide Reports

Several reports issued by Human Rights Watch (HRW) form the backbone of the
gassing and genocide claims, the principal report being "Genocide in Iraq:
The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds."[12a] (Physicians for Human Rights,
another prominent American NGO, collaborated with HRW.) But the reports'
evidentiary basis is remarkably thin, consisting entirely of (1) interviews
of 350 Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1992 and 1993, four and five years after
the events; (2) exhumations of grave sites in three villages; and (3)
examination of documents taken by Kurdish rebels from captured Iraqi
government offices.[13]

According to Human Rights Watch, these years-after-the-fact interviews were
sufficient to allow the detailed reconstruction of a two-year period (from
mid-1987 to mid-1989) of alleged continuous repression of the Kurds. Yet all
reports--and in particular atrocity reports--of refugees and their political
supporters must be viewed with caution. In the absence of corroborating
physical evidence, it's folly to speak with the certainty exuded in the HRW

The political environment in which the interviews took place--interviewers
from the U.S., a country strongly supporting the Kurdish movement, working
hand-in-hand with representatives of the U.S. State Department and the U.S.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee--particularly undermines the credibility
of these refugee accounts.[13a] The interviewees had every reason to attempt
to please Human Rights Watch, which was in a position to help the Kurdish
cause through publication of these atrocity reports.

And, incredibly, Human Rights Watch makes assertions of genocide despite the
extreme paucity of physical evidence. Of the three exhumed grave sites, one
yielded 26 bodies of men and boys executed by firing squad.[14] Certainly
this was an atrocity, but this leaves 99,974 bodies unaccounted for. The
other two grave sites--revealing only five separately-buried individuals who
had died from unknown causes--supplied no evidence supporting allegations of

Human Rights Watch's explanation is that the other 99,974 people were
"trucked to remote areas and machine-gunned to death, their bodies bulldozed
into mass graves" that have never been found.[16] HRW also claims that "the
Iranian forces in Halabja had managed to bury an estimated 3,000 victims of
the March 16 chemical attack in mass graves under a thin layer of dirt in
the complex of Anab. Four years later, the corpses were still there, and
they were beginning to pollute the local groundwater." How do they know
this? We have no idea, as no evidence whatsoever is provided.[17]

And this brings us back to CIA analyst Stephen Pelletiere's question: If
100,000 people were slaughtered, where are the bodies?

There are several other reasons to doubt the accuracy of the Human Rights
Watch reports:

1. Others who have investigated the situation have not reached similar
conclusions. Only two American groups (HRW and Physicians for Human Rights),
working with Saddam Hussein's two sworn enemies, the Kurdish opposition and
the U.S. government, have.[18]

2. The reports do not even mention the existence, much less consider the
weight, of contrary evidence. Although the 90-page War College report had
been in the public domain for three years when HRW published "Genocide in
Iraq" in 1993, the earlier assessment goes unmentioned. Nor is there any
consideration of Milton Viorst's nearly contemporaneous, firsthand
observations. No serious assessment of any question--much less of claims of
genocide--wholly ignores contrary evidence.

3. The reports, and HRW's handling of them, reveal an unmistakable political
bias in favor of Iraq's Kurdish movement. "Genocide in Iraq" describes
offices of the Iraqi national government--the country's
internationally-recognized sovereign--as a "puppet administration," while
HRW worked closely with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the main
opposition groups.[19]

And, in an astonishingly revealing decision, Human Rights Watch released its
newest report on Iraq--"The Iraqi Government Assault on the Marsh Arabs,"
purporting to detail "a fifteen-year campaign by the central government to
eliminate" the Marsh Arabs--on January 25, at a time when its release could
only have inflamed public opinion against Iraq's central government.[20]

4. There simply is no proof of what agent--a legal chemical agent such as
tear gas, an illegal chemical agent, or a nonchemical agent--caused the
symptoms described in the Human Rights Watch reports. The most that HRW can
say is that the injuries reported by the Kurds were "consistent with"
exposure to mustard gas. But this fails to eliminate other possible causes.
Moreover, we know from Stephen Pelletiere that mustard gas simply doesn't
kill large numbers of people. And, in any event, Iran also used mustard

An example of conclusions reached without convincing evidence--or even any
significant evidence--of causation can be found in the Human Rights Watch
report "The Destruction of Koreme During The Anfal Campaign." This report
describes the exhumation of the bodies of two persons allegedly killed by a
"chemical weapons attack" in the Kurdish village of Birjinni. Yet all HRW
can say is that "forensic examination of the two skeletons was limited to
determining whether there was any sign of trauma or perimortem violence that
might contradict the account of the villagers that the two decedents were
overcome by chemical weapons. No indications contrary to death by chemical
agents were found." In fact, there is absolutely no indication of how these
two persons died. To use this as conclusive evidence of a "chemical weapons
attack" is preposterous.[22]

5. The various HRW statements exhibit both "claim creep"--the tendency, over
time, to assert ever-larger numbers of victims--and fundamental change in
the nature of the claim. In its 1993 report, "Genocide in Iraq," HRW claimed
that the number of victims was "at least 50,000 and possibly as many as
100,000 persons." By 2003, that number had grown to a firm 100,000. The
gender breakdown of the victims also changed. In 1993 "many" of the victims
were women and children; by 2003 all 100,000 victims were men and boys. Or
maybe by 2003 it was only the men and boys who were "trucked to remote areas
and machine-gunned to death, their bodies bulldozed into mass graves," while
the women and girls were killed on site. HRW doesn't tell us; but, in any
event, there are still no bodies, whether male or female, to corroborate any
of this.[23]

6. On several occasions, Human Rights Watch reports explicitly invoke the
Holocaust. Readers are told that "like Nazi Germany, the Iraqi regime
concealed its actions in euphemisms";[24] that "the parallels [between the
Holocaust and the alleged campaign against the Kurds] are apt, and often
chillingly close";[25] and that "until [Lidice], there were supposedly only
two possible attitudes for a conqueror toward a village that was considered
rebellious."[26] Resort to this deep well of emotionality is necessary only
when the facts themselves are insufficient to convince.

Captured Iraqi Documents

Human Rights Watch also relies heavily on Iraqi government documents
captured by the Kurdish opposition. These documents have made their way to
the Iraq Research and Documentation Project within the Center for Middle
Eastern Studies at Harvard University. The IRDP--which, like Human Rights
Watch, has collaborated with the U.S. State Department--has posted a few of
the documents on its website. After appointing the documents with suitably
provocative names like "Bureaucratic Beheading" and "A Professional Rapist,"
the website makes wild claims about the significance of some of them.
Consider the document titled "Admission of Chemical Use," which provides in
its entirety:[27]

"We have been informed of the following:

1- The Iranian enemy has supplied the saboteurs' families in the villages
and rural areas along the border with pharmaceutical drugs, especially
anti-chemical medicaments; and they [the Iranian enemy] are training them to
use syringes for this purpose and to wear protective head masks.

2- There exist approximately 100 saboteurs from various gangs of saboteurs
in the Werta region, al-Sadiq district. They are along the Khanqawa route in
order to stop the force accompanying the Village Deportation Committees,
albeit most of the families in this region have left to Iran.

Please verify information and notify us within 24 hours."

The IRDP interpretation is:

"This document is very important because it vitiates any claim by the
government of Saddam Husayn that it did not use chemical weapons against its
Kurdish population. The date, provenance and text of the document lend
undeniable proof to the regime's genocide campaign, known as Anfal, against
the Kurds. The Iraq regime's use of chemical weapons as part of the Anfal
campaign was so widespread, the Iranians had to supply the Kurds with
anti-chemical protectives."

While this is one possible interpretation, the document could also be either
(1) a simple statement of fact, or (2) a warning that the Iranians, who also
used gasses (blood agents and mustard gas), had issued medical supplies and
protective clothing to their supporters and might be themselves preparing to
launch a chemical attack. We just don't know. It's ludicrous to anoint this
short document an "Admission of Chemical Use" by Iraq.

Nerve Gas Allegations

Physicians for Human Rights, which collaborated with Human Rights Watch, has
also issued a number of reports. Most make claims similar to those in the
HRW reports and are subject to the same objections.[28] One of its reports,
though, is sufficiently important to require separate examination. This is
"Nerve Gas Used in Northern Iraq on Kurds," released on April 29, 1993.
According to this report, a PHR team collected soil samples on June 10,
1992, from bomb craters near the Kurdish village of Birjinni in northern
Iraq. The Iraqi military is claimed to have bombed Birjinni on August 25,

The samples were then analyzed by a British laboratory, which reported
"unequivocal" residues of methylphosphonic acid (MPA) and isopropyl
methylphosphonic acid (iPMPA) as well as "degradation products of mustard
gas." MPA is a product of the hydrolysis (reaction with water) of any of
several nerve agents, and iPMPA (which the report incorrectly calls
"isipropyl" methylphosphonic acid) is a product of the hydrolysis of

Assuming the samples were authentic and the proper conditions (if any) for
hydrolysis of sarin were present, this finding is significant. Sarin, then,
may have been a factor in the deaths of four Birjinni villagers reported
that day. However, sarin is odorless,[31] and, according to Human Rights
Watch, the villagers reported various distinctive odors from the bombs:
"pleasant, at first. It smelled of apples and something sweet"; it smelled
like "pesticides in the fields"; "it became bitter." To accept this account,
it also must be possible for Iraq to have combined sarin and mustard gas
either with each other or with a third substance, as the villagers reported
three waves of four bombs, all apparently identical.[32]

Other sources also claim that Iraq has used nerve gas. The CIA says that
Iraq used nerve agents six times: five times against only Iranian troops,
and at Halabja against both Iranians and Kurds. Four of the six instances
involve the cruder tabun, rather than sarin, and the agents allegedly used
on the other two occasions are unspecified.[33] Rick Francona, a retired
U.S. Air Force intelligence officer who was a liaison to the Iraqi military,
puts the figure at four times in 1988.[34]

Other Advocates of the Genocide Claims

There are other champions of the genocide claim. One is Jeffrey Goldberg,
whose 18,000-word story, "The Great Terror," in the March 25, 2002, issue of
the New Yorker [35] forms the basis of the U.S. State Department's website
on alleged Iraqi genocide.[36] Goldberg's story is long on lurid details; we
are told, for instance, that one woman, Hamida Mahmoud, died while nursing
her two-year-old daughter. Goldberg also follows the Human Rights Watch
formula in invoking the Nazis: "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."

What Goldberg doesn't tell his readers is that he has dual Israeli/American
citizenship and served in the Israeli defense forces a few years back.[37]
Or that he purposefully ignored the War College report, which, of course,
reached quite different conclusions.[38]

In a curious detail, Goldberg, following the Human Rights Watch narrative
concerning Halabja, asserts that the Iraqis dropped wave after wave of gas
bombs on the city after Iranian troops had taken it, yet the Iranians never
reported any gas casualties.

Another piece of Goldberg's narrative that doesn't fit--and this is true of
the accounts of all of the genocide advocates--is that mustard gas generally
doesn't have any immediate effects, yet the Kurds in these stories are
portrayed as experiencing blistering, and sometimes falling dead, almost
immediately. According to a December 2002 fact sheet from the British Health
Department, "mustard gas does not usually cause pain at the time of
exposure; symptoms may be delayed for 4 to 6 hours"; only "occasionally" are
"nausea, retching, vomiting and eye smarting" reported immediately.[39]
Similarly, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control explains that "mustard gas
burns your skin and causes blisters within a few days."[40] Other sources

Interestingly, Goldberg's piece was immediately incorporated into the Bush
administration's propaganda efforts.[42] Goldberg's article--placed in the
"Fact" section of the New Yorker--can easily be interpreted as part of the
joint U.S./Israeli campaign against Saddam Hussein. Goldberg himself
vehemently supports the "removal" of Saddam.[43]

Another purveyor of the genocide claim is Christine Gosden, a professor of
medical genetics at the University of Liverpool medical school. Although a
convert to the cause only after her 1998 visit to Halabja, she's a true
believer.[44] In these few years she has made herself into a terrorism
expert who has testified before Congress [45] and co-authored a recent
virulent commentary with the executive director of the Washington Kurdish

Gosden hasn't added any new evidence to our understanding of events,
although she's upped the ante of total alleged deaths to 200,000 [47] while
adding "possibly biological and radiological weapons" to the list of agents
allegedly used by Iraq against the Kurds. [48]

One expert who's been particularly scathing about Gosden's claims is Dr.
Gordon Prather, a nuclear physicist who was assistant secretary of the U.S.
Army for science and technology in the Reagan years and informed himself on
chemical agents because of his oversight responsibilities in that realm.
Responding to Gosden's genocide claims, Prather is emphatic:[49]

"Your lady doctor's assertion that Iraq bombed 280 villages with poison gas
is a joke you should have seen without a fact-checker. There were hundreds
of villages cleared by Baghdad on the Iraqi border, but the residents were
moved to new villages built for them in the interior. Western journalists
were invited in to observe the process, including Karen Eliot House of the
Wall Street Journal, now the president of Dow Jones International."

Finally, there's Gwynne Roberts, a British television reporter who visited
Kurdish refugee camps in 1988. He also entered Iraqi territory and brought
back shell fragments on which a British laboratory reportedly found traces
of mustard gas.[50] But Roberts never identified where the fragments came
from, [51] and both Iran and Iraq are known to have used mustard gas.

Roberts' most startling report was an alleged massacre at Bassay Gorge, in
northern Iraq, on August 29, 1988, in which between 1,500 and 4,000 people,
mainly women and children, were supposedly killed by a mixture of various
nerve gasses. The absence of bodies was explained by their having been
burned by Iraqi troops wearing gas masks.[52]

Stephen Pelletiere, the CIA analyst, says that the U.S. military closely
studied these reports but found them groundless.[53]

The Ultimate Assessment

So what, then, does all this evidence tell us?

We know Saddam is a bad guy. We know he has killed people. But those aren't
the questions. The allegations at issue are vastly more serious: that he
purposefully murdered at least 50,000 (or 100,000, or 200,000, depending on
the speaker's fervor) in an attempt to decimate Iraqi Kurds as a people, and
that he used chemical weapons on 40 occasions during this campaign.

What hard evidence is there? One grave with 26 (or 27) bodies of people
killed by bullets, not chemicals, and traces of two gasses at one location
where four people died. That's it.

Only someone who wanted to be deceived would consider this adequate proof of


1. Human Rights Watch's reports on Iraq can be accessed here. These reports
were originally issued by Middle East Watch, which later merged with other
organizations to form Human Rights Watch.

A recent op-ed claims 6800 chemical deaths at Halabja. See Joost R.
Hiltermann, "America Didn't Seem to Mind Poison Gas," International Herald
Tribune, January 17, 2003. Hiltermann was through 1994 the director of the
Kurds' Project of Middle East Watch. As he's currently writing a book on
chemical weapons use during the Iran-Iraq war, this book will presumably
seek to further canonize the Human Rights Watch perspective.

2. This report--Stephen C. Pelletiere, Douglas V. Johnson II, and Leif R.
Rosenberger, "Iraqi Power and US Security in the Middle East," Strategic
Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College--was released to the public in
1990. Much of the material in this report also appears in Marine Corps
document FMFRP 3-203, "Lessons Learned: Iran-Iraq War," dated December 10,

In 2001 Praeger Publishers published a book, "Iraq and the International Oil
System: Why America Went to War in the Gulf," by the report's lead author,
Stephen Pelletiere. It has sold 30,000 copies at a pricey $70 and ranks 818
in sales at

3. This summary of the report's findings is taken from a column by British
freelance writer Kevin Dowling , "Top US Intel Expert Brands Tony Blair A
Liar Over Iraq," Globe-Intel, October 10, 2002. The column was originally
circulated on Irish author Gordon Thomas' Globe-Intel mailing list.

For other commentary by Stephen Pelletiere, see:


Stephen Pelletiere, "A War Crime or an Act of War?," New York Times, January
31, 2003.

Roger Trilling, "Fighting Words: The Administration Builds Up Its Pretext
for Attacking Iraq," Village Voice, May 1-7, 2002.

Douglas V. Johnson and Stephen C. Pelletiere, "Iraq's Chemical Warfare," The
New York Review of Books, November 22, 1990.

4. Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs, October 2002.

5. "Appendix B: Chemical Weapons," from "Lessons Learned: Iran-Iraq War,"
referenced in footnote 2, states:

"For comparison, during WWI, the U. S. Army suffered some 70,552 gas
casualties requiring hospitalization.

Of these, 1,221 died. Deaths on the battlefield attributed to gas are
recorded as 200, but on WWI battlefields, cause of death was often difficult
to ascertain."

5a. For a description of the role of the U.S. State Department and Senate in
promoting the genocide allegations, see "Saddam Hussein: From Ally to Enemy"
(April 9, 2002)

6. Stephen Pelletiere, "A War Crime or an Act of War?," New York Times,
January 31, 2003.

7. Jude Wanniski, "What Happened at Halabja?," April 23, 2002 (quoting
Pelletiere's 2001 book "Iraq and the International Oil System: Why America
Went to War in the Gulf").

Economist and activist Jude Wanniski is the writer most responsible for
keeping alive questions about the veracity of the genocide claims. His other
contributions include:


"Saddam Did Not Commit Genocide!" (February 3, 2003)

"The CIA Reports on Saddam's Gassings" (October 8, 2002)

"Dr. Stephen Pelletiere, V.I.P. (September 18, 2002)

"100,000 Men and Boys, Machine-Gunned to Death!!" (August 14, 2002)

"Iraq & The Christian Science Monitor" (May 22, 2002)

"Pure Propaganda on '60 Minutes'" (May 14, 2002)

"Saddam Hussein: From Ally to Enemy" (April 9, 2002)

"Letters From an Iraqi Expatriate" (March 26, 2002)

"Bush & Cheney Are Misinformed" (March 25, 2002)

"In Defense of Saddam Hussein" (December 14, 2000)

"Did Saddam Hussein Gas His Own People?" (November 18, 1998)

For his efforts, Wanniski has been charged with denying genocide. See
Timothy Noah, "Jude Wanniski's Genocide Denial; Wherein the Supply-Side Guru
Disputes, against All Evidence, Saddam's Gassing of the Kurds," Slate, April
1, 2002.

8. Douglas V. Johnson and Stephen C. Pelletiere, "Iraq's Chemical Warfare,"
The New York Review of Books, November 22, 1990.

9. See Jude Wanniski, "Did Saddam Hussein Gas His Own People?," November 18,
1998. This cites Chapter 5 of "Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle
East," referenced in footnote 2.

10. Viorst's article was published on page six of the October 7, 1998,
edition of the International Herald Tribune under the title "Iraq and the
Kurds: Where Is the Proof of Poison Gas?" Portions of it are online here and

11. This is an excerpt from Sandcastles beginning on page 50.

11a. For a recounting of Human Rights Watch's change of position, see Jude
Wanniski, "Iraq & The Christian Science Monitor" (May 22, 2002).

12. "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs," October 2002.

12a. Human Rights Watch's reports on Iraq can be accessed here. These
reports were originally issued by Middle East Watch, which later merged with
other organizations to become Human Rights Watch.

13. These evidentiary sources are described in "A Note on Methodology" from
HRW's principal report, "Genocide in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the

13a. In "Preface & Acknowledgements" in "Genocide in Iraq," Human Rights
Watch offers its appreciation to "Peter Galbraith, then senior advisor to
the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Ambassador Charles Dunbar,
formerly of the U.S. Department of State." For a description of the role of
the U.S. State Department and Senate in promoting the genocide allegations,
see "Saddam Hussein: From Ally to Enemy" (April 9, 2002). Peter Galbraith,
who took a leading role in these promotional activities, was a senior
advisor to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1979 to 1993, then
becoming the first U.S. ambassador to Croatia. See the U.S. Embassy in
Croatia. From 1962 until 1993, Charles Dunbar was a State Department
Officer, including postings as Ambassador to Yemen and Qatar.

14. HRW reports are inconsistent on the number of people killed at this site
(the Kurdish village of Koreme). "A Note on Methodology," referenced in
footnote 13 just above, states that 26 bodies were recovered, but the
separate report, "The Anfal Campaign in Iraqi Kurdistan: The Destruction of
Koreme," says that 27 men and boys were executed.

15. One of the two other exhumations was of three children's graves near the
village of Erbil. Since these graves were within the "graveyard of a complex
where survivors of the Anfal [Iraq's alleged campaign against the Kurds]
were taken," it is unclear what Human Rights Watch believes is established
by evidence that people who weren't killed in the alleged campaign later
died of other causes. See "A Note on Methodology."

The other exhumation site was near the village of Birjinni; two bodies were
exhumed, with results that, objectively speaking, were wholly inconclusive.
The HRW report states:

"Exhumations of chemical weapons victims: Under the direction of the
forensic team's scientific head and chief anthropologist, the skeletal
remains of two of the four apparent victims of the chemical attack were
exhumed. The forensic team was told that these two skeletons were those of
the grandfather and the small boy who had died in the attack. The skeletons
of the other two victims, buried in the cave, were not exhumed.

Exhumation of the two skeletons confirmed that one was that of an old man,
approximately sixty years old. Relatives identified him as the grandfather
on the basis of artifacts and clothing found with the skeleton in the grave.
The second skeleton was that of a young boy, approximately five years old.
He was identified as the grandson on the basis of clothing. Forensic
examination of the two skeletons was limited to determining whether there
was any sign of trauma or perimortem violence that might contradict the
account of the villagers that the two decedents were overcome by chemical
weapons. No indications contrary to death by chemical agents were found. The
skeletons were then reburied in new graves in accordance with Islamic

Conclusions concerning the chemical weapons attack: The forensic team found
nothing in the evidence of the exhumation and the archaeological
investigation that was inconsistent with the account of the chemical weapons
attack given by village witnesses. On the contrary, the lack of trauma to
either skeleton supports the villagers' account."

See "The Destruction of Koreme During The Anfal Campaign."

16. See the Letter to the editor from Hanny Megally published in the New
York Times on August 13, 2002. (Scroll down to the third letter.) Megally is
identified as the executive director of the Middle East and North Africa
Division of Human Rights Watch.

17. Amazingly, this allegation is placed only in a footnote, accompanied by
no supporting evidence. See footnote 32 in "The March 16 Chemical Attack on
Halabja" within "Genocide in Iraq."

18. Accounts by the U.S. State Department and Kurdish opposition groups are
obviously corrupted by self-interest. United Nations documents should be
checked, however.

19. See "Preface & Acknowledgements" in "Genocide in Iraq."

20. "Iraq: Devastation of Marsh Arabs," January 25, 2003.

Human Rights Watch entered the Iraqi fray again on February 6 with its
publication of "Ansar al-Islam in Iraqi Kurdistan."

21. According to Stephen Pelletiere, Iran employed a non-persistent form of
mustard gas while Iraq developed a heavier, more persistent form of the gas,
and much of the mustard gas that was used at Halabja carried the Iranian
signature. See British freelance writer Kevin Dowling , "Top US Intel Expert
Brands Tony Blair A Liar Over Iraq," Globe-Intel, October 10, 2002. The
column was originally circulated on Irish author Gordon Thomas' Globe-Intel
mailing list.

22. Online here.

23. The 1993 statements are in "Preface & Acknowledgements" in "Genocide in
Iraq"; the 2003 statements are from Hanny Megally's letter to the New York
Times referenced in footnote 16. (Scroll down to the third letter.)

24. The complete passage, from "Preface & Acknowledgements" in "Genocide in
Iraq" is as follows:

"The phenomenon of the Anfal, the official military codename used by the
government in its public pronouncements and internal memoranda, was well
known inside Iraq, especially in the Kurdish region. As all the horrific
details have emerged, this name has seared itself into popular
consciousness -- much as the Nazi German Holocaust did with its survivors.
The parallels are apt, and often chillingly close."

25. The complete passage, from "Introduction" in "Genocide in Iraq," is as

"Like Nazi Germany, the Iraqi regime concealed its actions in euphemisms.
Where Nazi officials spoke of "executive measures," "special actions" and
"resettlement in the east," Ba'athist bureaucrats spoke of "collective
measures," "return to the national ranks" and "resettlement in the south."
But beneath the euphemisms, Iraq's crimes against the Kurds amount to
genocide, the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical,
racial or religious group, as such."

26. The complete paragraph, a quotation from Albert Camus' The Rebel,
appears at the beginning of "The Destruction of Koreme During The Anfal
Campaign" and is as follows:

"Until [Lidice], there were supposedly only two possible attitudes for a
conqueror toward a village that was considered rebellious. Either calculated
repression and cold-blooded execution of hostages, or a savage and
necessarily brief sack by enraged soldiers. Lidice was destroyed by both
methods simultaneously ... Not only were all the houses burned to the
ground, the hundred and seventy-four men of the village shot, the two
hundred and three women deported, and the three hundred children transferred
elsewhere to be educated in the religion of the Fuhrer, but special teams
spent months at work leveling the terrain with dynamite, destroying the very
stones, filling in the village pond, and finally diverting the course of the
river. After that, Lidice was really nothing more than a mere possibility
... To make assurance doubly sure, the cemetery was emptied of its dead, who
might have been a perpetual reminder that once something existed in this

27. The IRDP is online here. The cited documents are all available under
"Selected Documents."

28. Physicians for Human Rights' reports on Iraq can be accessed here. Its
first interviews with Kurdish refugees took place in October 1988, still
some six weeks after the reported attacks.

29. Online here. This information was re-released on March 21, 1995, two
days after the sarin incident in the Tokyo subways. See "Nerve Agent Sarin
Identified in 1993 as Chemical Weapon Used Earlier by Iraq Against Kurdish

30. The results of this analysis were published in a scientific journal. See
Robin M. Black, Raymond J. Clarke, Robert W. Read and Michael T.J. Reid,
"Application of Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry and Gas
Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry to the Analysis of Chemical Warfare
Samples, Found to Contain Residues of the Nerve Agent Sarin, Sulphur Mustard
and Their Degradation Products," Journal of Chromatography A, Volume 662,
Issue 2, 25 February 1994, Pages 301-321. The abstract provides as follows:

"Samples of clothing, grave debris, soil and munition fragments, collected
from the Kurdish village of Birjinni, were analysed by GC-MS with selected
ion monitoring (SIM) for traces of chemical warfare agents and their
degradation products. Positive analyses were confirmed, where possible, by
full scan mass spectra, or at low concentrations by additional GC-MS-SIM
analysis using chemical ionisation, by higher resolution GC-MS-SIM, and by
GC-tandem mass spectrometry using multiple reaction monitoring. Sulphur
mustard and/or thiodiglycol were detected in six soil samples; isopropyl
methylphosphonic acid and methylphosphonic acid, the hydrolysis products of
the nerve agent sarin, were detected in six different soil samples. Trace
amounts of intact sarin were detected on a painted metal fragment associated
with one of these soil samples. The results demonstrate the application of
different GC-MS and GC-MS-MS techniques to the unequivocal identification of
chemical warfare agent residues in the environment at concentrations ranging
from low ppb to ppm (w/w). They also provide the first documented
unequivocal identification of nerve agent residues in environmental samples
collected after a chemical attack."

The article may be purchased for $30 here.

31. See this document.

32. For villagers' accounts of the attack on Birjinni, see "The Chemical
Weapons Attack on Birjinni" in "The Destruction of Koreme During The Anfal
Campaign" (Human Rights Watch, January 1993), and "'Apples and Something
Sweet': The Chemical Attacks of August 25, 1988" in "Genocide in Iraq"
(Human Rights Watch, July 1993).

The Physicians for Human Rights report on the soil samples (see footnote 29)
states that (1) researchers took three samples from each of four bomb
craters, (2) all six samples from two of the craters showed breakdown
products of sarin, and (3) all six samples from the other two craters showed
breakdown products of mustard gas. No sample revealed either no gas traces
or traces of both gases. It could therefore be the case that sarin and
mustard gas were not mixed together, but rather were each mixed with
whatever substance produced the "plume of black, then yellowish smoke"
reported by villagers.

33. See "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs," October 2002.

34. Steve Duin, "An Eyewitness to Iraq's Way of Waging War," The Oregonian,
August 25, 2002 (reviewing Francona's 1999 book "Ally to Adversary").
Francona's website is here while Duin's review is here.

35. Online here.

36. "The Lessons of Halabja: An Ominous Warning."

37. Jude Wanniski, "What Happened at Halabja?," April 23, 2002.

38. Village Voice reporter Roger Trilling (see footnote 42) asked Goldberg
about this omission:

"In a telephone interview with the Voice, Goldberg explained why he had
chosen to elide the position of the military and intelligence communities
from his piece. 'I didn't give it much thought, because it was dismissed by
so many people I consider to be experts,' he told me. 'Very quickly into
this story, I decided that I support the mainstream view--of Human Rights
Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, the State Department, the UN, and
various Kurdish group--that the Iraqis were responsible for Halabja. In the
same way, I didn't give any merit to the Iraqi denials.'"

39. See this document.

40. See this document.

41. See also this document (symptoms appear 4-24 hours later) and this
document (symptoms appear 1-6 or more hours later).
42. Roger Trilling, "Fighting Words: The Administration Builds Up Its
Pretext for Attacking Iraq," Village Voice, May 1-7, 2002.

43. See Goldberg's comments posted on Slate:

"I will end what could quickly devolve into a rant by posing this question
to you: Does it in fact even matter if Saddam is connected to al-Qaida? In
other words, why look for a smoking gun when a dozen already exist? This is
a man who has attacked, unprovoked, four of his country's neighbors; a man
who has committed genocide and used chemical weapons on civilians; a man who
is clearly obsessed with the development of weapons of mass destruction; and
a man who uses homicide and rape as a tool of governance. Isn't he worthy,
by these deeds alone, of removal?"

44. See Christine Gosden, "Why I Went, What I Saw," The Washington Post,
March 11, 1998, page A19.

45. See "Testimony of Dr. Christine M. Gosden Before the Senate Judiciary
Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government and the Senate Select
Committee on Intelligence on Chemical and Biological Weapons Threats to
America: Are We Prepared?; Wednesday, April 22nd 1998 at 2:30 pm."

46. Christine Gosden and Mike Amitay, "Lesson of Iraq's Mass Murder," The
Washington Post, June 2, 2002, page B7.

47. She told Jeffrey Goldberg this; see his "The Great Terror" discussed

48. See "Lesson of Iraq's Mass Murder" cited in footnote 46.

49. Dr. Prather's statements are reported in Jude Wanniski, "Pure Propaganda
on '60 Minutes,' May 14, 2002.

50. See "Reply by Edward Mortimer" in "Iraq's Chemical Warfare," The New
York Review of Books, November 22, 1990.

51. British freelance writer Kevin Dowling , "Top US Intel Expert Brands
Tony Blair A Liar Over Iraq," Globe-Intel, October 10, 2002. The column was
originally circulated on Irish author Gordon Thomas' Globe-Intel mailing

52. Same as above.

53. Same as above.

54. And why should we even be concerned about the veracity of these
allegations? Not in any attempt--doomed to be futile--to rehabilitate Saddam
Hussein, but because the search for truth is its own justification, because
the word "genocide" must not be cheapened, and because the U.S. government
must not be handed another pretext to attack Iraq.

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