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Reply #85: Re: Re: Mass graves = bullshit. [View All]

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michael098762001 Donating Member (39 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-06-05 07:21 PM
Response to Reply #61
85. Re: Re: Mass graves = bullshit.
From Dissent,
the socialist quarterly,
>...Questioning Halabja
Genocide and the Expedient Political Lie
by Leo Casey
On a late March morning fifteen years ago, as the war between Iran and Iraq was winding down, the Iraqi army began an artillery barrage on Halabja, a Kurdish city situated about fifteen miles from the border with Iran. The people of Halabja first took that attack, and the subsequent bombing by the Iraqi air force, as a routine matter, the everyday consequence of living in a stronghold of a Kurdish Peshmerga militia then allied with Iran. But as they gathered in their shelters, it quickly became apparent that there was something dreadfully different about this bombardment. Heavy, dark yellow clouds formed close to the ground, and overwhelming smells, a mixture of sweet apples and garlic, followed by an odor of rotten eggs, pervaded the air. Birds and animals began to expire, and as the clouds gradually permeated the shelters, people became ill, some vomiting, some finding it hard to breathe, others experiencing skin burns and sharp, stabbing pains as their eyes and noses began to bleed. In panic, with many already dying and others blinded or paralyzed, the people of Halabja fled their city. Behind them lay thousands of dead (estimates range from 3,200 to 5,000). Many who escaped bear grim physical injuries from that day: blindness and major respiratory and skin diseases, cancers, and, in the next generation, congenitally malformed infants.

The bombing of Halabja with chemical gas was the opening salvo in what the Baathist Iraqi regime called its Anfal campaign, a term taken from the title of the eighth sura of the Quran, which calls upon Muslims to "strike terror into the hearts of the enemies of Allah." Human rights organizations have another name for that campaign: genocide. Although it is impossible to determine the exact number of Kurds who were annihilated in the two-year period during which the Anfal was waged, estimates range from a conservative low of 50,000 to Kurdish figures of 182,000. Kurds were forcibly removed from traditional villages, imprisoned in concentration camps, tortured, raped, and forced into exile. There was a total of forty known incidents involving the Iraqi use of chemical gas on the Kurds, including Halabja.

This essay is not an account of Halabja and the Anfal. Those events have been fully documented in the Human Rights Watch book Genocide In Iraq and told in painful detail in many other places. Rather, the story told here is about the efforts to deny the Baathist regime's use of poison gas on the Kurds, efforts that began as soon as the world first learned of Halabja and that have continued to this day. It is a tale of the politically expedient lie, in service of a denial of genocide.

The Evidence
I will begin with a brief summary of the volumes of evidence regarding what took place that day fifteen years ago in Halabja, as well as in other poison gas attacks on Kurdish civilians, and who was responsible for what happened. As soon as word of the gassing reached Iran with the fleeing residents of Halabja, the Iranian government brought international news media to the scene, and film of the devastation was soon aired on newscasts around the globe. Those horrifying scenes made Halabja into the Guernica of the Kurds, symbolizing the entire Anfal campaign of annihilation.

As powerful as the film of Halabja is, it is only a small portion of the evidence. In hundreds of eyewitness interviews conducted over the next few years, survivor after survivor identified the source of the gas at Halabja (and at other sites) as Iraqi military aircraft that flew low enough so that their markings were visible from the ground. Beginning in October of 1988, seven months after Halabja, a series of forensic investigations, some sponsored by Middle East Watch (now the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch) and Physicians for Human Rights and others organized by independent medical scientists, undertook medical examinations of survivors, conducted tests for trace chemicals on soil samples and bomb fragments, and performed autopsies of exhumed bodies. The results of a number of these studies were published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Based on these studies, scientists concluded that the victims of Halabja and other sites had been exposed, in the words of medical geneticist Christine Gosden, "to the highest doses of the most potent cocktails of chemical and biological nerve and mustard agents ever used against civilians." The nerve gases sarin and tubin, as well as mustard gas, are known to have been used, and there is good reason to believe that the nerve agent VX and biological weapons such as anthrax and mycotoxins may also have been employed at different times.

The Origin of the Denials
During the Gulf War and the popular uprisings that followed it, significant stores of Iraqi Baathist government documents and tapes were seized, mostly by the Kurdish Peshmerga. Ample documentation of the plans and the implementation of the poison gas attacks was found, including a tape of a particularly damning speech by the chief architect and executioner of Anfal, Ali Hassan al-Majid. Hassan says of the Kurds, "I will kill them all with chemical weapons. Who is going to say anything? The international community? Fuck the international community and those who listen to them!"

Every group that has examined this question-the UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and others-has come to the same conclusion: that the Iraqi Baathist regime used poison gas on its Kurdish population during the Anfal campaign, in Halabja and at other sites. There simply is no reasonable doubt.

Yet no sooner had the pictures of the dead of Halabja appeared on television screens than the campaign to deny Iraqi responsibility began. The initial impetus for these efforts came from within the U.S. government. To understand how this came to pass, one must examine the Iraq policy of the United States during the 1980s.

Following the Iranian Islamist Revolution, the seizing of hostages from the American embassy, and the Iraqi invasion of Iran, Ronald Reagan's administration entered into "an enemy of my enemy" alliance with the Baathist state: it became an American proxy in its war with Iran. When Iran temporarily gained the upper hand in the war, the United States provided Iraq with "detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for air strikes, and bomb assessment damage," a New York Times investigative report concluded. German, British, and American corporations sold Iraq military hardware, arms technology, advanced computers, and key ingredients for the manufacture of missiles and chemical and biological weapons, with the active approval of the U.S. government, according to PBS Frontline, Washington Post, and Newsweek reports. Among the items purchased by Iraq, these reports determined, were American-built helicopters that were used, U.S. government officials concluded, in poison gas attacks on the Kurds. The Reagan State Department also approved, before being overruled by the Pentagon, the sale to Iraq of 1.5 million atropine injectors, a drug used to counter the effects of chemical weapons.

The first reports of the use of chemical weapons by the Iraqis referred to battles against Iranian troops, and the U.S. government attempted to shift the blame onto the Iranians. As the evidence mounted, and especially after Halabja, the Reagan administration finally issued public condemnations of the use of poison gas. At first, the statements criticized both Iraq and Iran; eventually, they specifically cited and decried the Iraqi use of poison gas against the Kurds. But at no time, the New York Times reports, did the Reagan administration end the top-secret program through which more than sixty officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency provided the Iraqi government with intelligence information and battle plans that facilitated the use of chemical weapons. Instead, Reagan and then the first Bush administration officials fought back congressional efforts to place sanctions on Iraq for its use of poison gas at Halabja. The Pentagon "wasn't so horrified by Iraq's use of gas," one of the veterans of the DIA program told the Times. "It was just one more way of killing people-whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn't make any difference."

It was this context that produced the ur-text of Kurdish genocide denial-a 1988 DIA report suggesting that Iran, not Iraq, was responsible for the use of poison gas at Halabja. This report, and a subsequent Army War College study and book incorporating its argument, provide one single piece of evidentiary conjecture for placing responsibility on the Iranians: film and eyewitness reports of the dead at Halabja indicated that their mouths and extremities had turned blue, and such symptoms were consistent with exposure to blood agents using cyanide, which, it was argued, only the Iranians were known to use. None of the authors of these documents, the most notable of whom was Stephen Pelletiere, the senior CIA political analyst of Iraq during the Anfal campaign and later professor at the Army War College, had any expertise in medical and forensic sciences, and their speculation doesn't stand up to minimal scrutiny. To begin, it is not true that Iran alone used blood agent weapons. A 1991 DIA report concluded that "Iraq is known to have employed . . . a blood agent, hydrogen cyanide gas... against Iranian soldiers, civilians, and Iraqi Kurdish civilians."
<SNIP cont. @ >
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