West Has Bloodied Hands
By Eric Margolis
Sun" -- -- Who was the first high government
official to authorize use of mustard gas against rebellious
Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq?
If your answer was Saddam Hussein's cousin, the notorious
"Chemical Ali" -- aka Ali Hassan al-Majid -- you're wrong.
The correct answer: Sainted Winston Churchill. As colonial
secretary and secretary for war and air, he authorized the RAF
in the 1920s to routinely use mustard gas against rebellious
Kurdish tribesmen in Iraq and against Pashtun tribes on British
India's northwest frontier.
Iraq's U.S.-installed regime has just announced al-Majid, one of
Saddam's most brutal henchmen, will stand trial next week for
Al-Majid is accused of ordering the 1988 gassing of Kurds at
Halabja that killed over 5,000 civilians. He led the bloody
suppression of Iraq's Shias, killing tens of thousands. These
were the same Shias whom former U.S. president George Bush
called to rebel against Saddam's regime, then sat back and did
nothing while they were crushed.
The Halabja atrocity remains murky. The CIA's former Iraq desk
chief claims Kurds who died at Halabja were killed by cyanide
gas, not nerve gas, as is generally believed.
At the time, Iraq and Iran were locked in the ferocious last
battles of their eight-year war. Halabja was caught between the
two armies that were exchanging salvos of regular and chemical
munitions. Only Iran had cyanide gas. If the CIA official is
correct, the Kurds were accidentally killed by Iran, not Iraq.
But it's also possible al-Majid ordered an attack. Kurds in that
region had rebelled against Iraq and opened the way for invading
What's the difference between the U.S. destroying the rebellious
Iraqi city of Fallujah and Saddam destroying rebellious Halabja?
What difference does it make if you're killed by poison gas,
artillery or 2,000-pound bombs?
"Chemical Ali" was a brute of the worst kind in a regime filled
with sadists. I personally experienced the terror of Saddam's
sinister regime over 25 years, culminating in threats to hang me
as a spy.
Saddam Hussein and his entourage should face justice. But not in
political show trials just before U.S.-"guided" Iraqi elections
nor in Iraqi kangaroo courts. They should be sent to the UN's
war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where Saddam should be charged
with the greatest crime he committed -- the invasion of Iran,
which caused one million casualties.
Britain, the U.S., Kuwait and Saudi Arabia convinced Iraq to
invade Iran, then covertly supplied Saddam with money, arms,
intelligence, and advisers. Meanwhile, Israel secretly supplied
Iran with $5 billion US in American arms and spare parts while
publicly denouncing Iran for terrorism.
Up to their ears
Who supplied "Chemical Ali" with his mustard and nerve gas? Why,
the West, of course. In late 1990, I discovered four British
technicians in Baghdad who told me they had been "seconded" to
Iraq by Britain's ministry of defence and MI6 intelligence to
make chemical and biological weapons, including anthrax, Q-fever
and plague, at a secret laboratory at Salman Pak.
The Reagan administration and Thatcher government were up to
their ears in backing Iraq's aggression, apparently with the
intention to overthrow Iran's Islamic government and seize its
oil. Italy, Germany, France, South Africa, Belgium, Yugoslavia,
Brazil, Chile and the USSR all aided Saddam's war effort against
Iran, which was even more a victim of naked aggression than was
Kuwait in 1991.
I'd argue senior officials of those nations that abetted
Saddam's aggression against Iran and supplied him with chemicals
and gas should also stand trial with Ali and Saddam.
What an irony it is to see U.S. forces in Iraq now behaving with
much the same punitive ferocity as Saddam's army and police --
bombing rebellious cities, arresting thousands, terrorizing
innocent civilians, torturing captives and sending in tanks to
In other words, Saddamism without Saddam. A decade ago, this
column predicted that when the U.S. finally overthrew Saddam, it
would need to find a new Saddam.
Finally, let's not forget that when Saddam's regime committed
many of its worst atrocities against rebellious Kurds and
Shiites, it was still a close ally of Washington and London. The
West paid for and supplied Saddam's bullets, tanks, gas and
germs. He was our regional SOB.
Our hands are very far from clean.
© Toronto Sun
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