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imperialism & war

Did Saddam Gas the Kurds?

Everyone "knows" Saddam gassed "his own people." This "fact" is sited by people who support the current war effort, as well as by those who do not. But, really, how do we know? In light of Nayirah (the Kuwaiti girl who claimed to have witnessed mass infanticide by Iraqi soldiers, but rather turned out to be a Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter who was, very simply, lying through her teeth) we should, maybe, reconsider what we think we know about the gassing incident.
The New York Times, April 28, 1991

Copyright 1991 The New York Times Company
The New York Times

April 28, 1991, Sunday, Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section 1; Part 1; Page 13; Column 1; Foreign Desk

LENGTH: 500 words

Years Later, No Clear Culprit in Gassing of Kurds

BYLINE: By MICHAEL WINES, Special to The New York Times


American officials say irrefutable evidence shows that Iraq used chemical weapons against its Kurdish minority at least twice in 1988, but to this day the Iraqi Government's culpability for the most notorious massacre, at the town of Halabja, remains in dispute.

Local Kurds insist that an Iraqi Air Force plane dropped chemical bombs in mid-March 1988 on the city of 35,000, about 10 miles from the border with Iran, instantly killing more than 4,000 civilians. The raid triggered an exodus of tens of thousands of Kurds into Iran and made the city's name a rallying cry for Kurdish guerrillas battling Saddam Hussein's army. But American analysts since have cast doubt on that account. More recent studies suggest that both Iraq and Iran used chemical arms against Halabja and nearby villages in that period during fierce border fighting in the final months of the Iran-Iraq war.

Some experts now say that hundreds of civilians, not thousands, probably died in the attacks and that hundreds or thousands more were injured.

Both Sides Used Chemical Arms

"The fact is that both sides used chemical weapons," said a Bush Administration official who reviewed intelligence on the massacre. "There probably wasn't an attempt on either side to kill the villagers, but instead, they were fighting over the territory."

The officials said that their analysis does not lessen Iraq's overall responsibility for what some have called genocidal attacks on the Kurds.

Iraq has maintained that it has never used chemical weapons wantonly against civilians, but Administration analysts dispute that. "We have no doubt that Iraqis used chemical agents against the Kurds in 1988," one said. According to a 1988 investigation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, some 65,000 Kurds fled to Turkey in August of that year after Iraq dropped gas bombs on 30 villages.

Refugees in Turkey said that scores of civilians had died in the raids, and they showed symptoms consistent with exposure to mustard gas, a chemical agent that burns the skin and lungs. A United Nations inquiry also later concluded that the refugees had been subjected to Iraqi gas attacks.

Study Points to Iran

The deaths in and near Halabja occurred during a three-day battle that began on March 15, 1988. At the time, Iran held a swath of Iraqi territory, including Halabja and points west, to a large lake some 20 miles inside Iraq.

Reporters flown to the town by Iran's Government days after the massacre saw the bodies of 100 to 200 civilians who appeared to have died quickly. They were later shown survivors who appeared to have mustard-gas burns.

Iranian officials said at the time that the residents had been bombed with a combination of mustard and cyanide gases.

A study by an Army War College team, issued in February 1990, disputed Iran's contention that Iraq was responsibile for the Halabja massacre, saying that it seemed "that it was the Iranian bombardment that had actually killed the Kurds."
hmmm... 26.Sep.2002 11:14


Kuwaiti Ambassador's daughter... OK, was it 1991 when she was found to be lying? That's three years after the gassing was established to have occurred. So what's that got to do with anything?

The article you shared with us points to both Iraq and Iran as having been guilty, and that does not exonerate Iraq.

That's great if you don't want us to attack Iraq (many civilians will die as a direct result of our attacks) but I think the evidence shows that Iraq has used chemical weapons. Let's just let the inspectors go in there and find what they find. Before that happens, there can be no justification for a war. And afterwards, even if some weapons did turn up, it'll then be time to re-assess an appropriate course of action.


Yup, He Gassed 'em, With US Help 26.Sep.2002 12:07

War Mangler

Iraq did use chemical weapons on the Kurds. He did it with U.S. guvernment approval (Saddam was our ally at that time, since he was fighting the big, bad, Iranians.) The chemicals were supplied by U.S. corporations, and th U.S. guvernment said nothing at that time.

Think about it 26.Sep.2002 12:50

T. McCallister

The point I was trying to make regarding Nayirah is one that some people, sadly enough, need to be reminded of: governments lie and our government lies. More specifically, our government lied about a few things in order to gain support for going to war with Iraq the first time. The story of the gassing of the Kurds was a story which then and now continues to support the Hitler-like image that has been cultivated. How true is it? Does the report from the Army War College and the fact that we were in business with Saddam at the time before, during, and after his gassing of the Kurds, and fact that we supplied him with these weapons make you a little suspicious of these little bits of info we've just taken to be givens?

"The article you shared with us points to both Iraq and Iran as having been guilty, and that does not exonerate Iraq."

I did not mean to imply that it did. The point was to question the official line that Saddam absolutely, beyond a shaddow of a doubt, did this terrible thing. Because that is always something I hear when talking to people who believe we should go to war with Iraq again. Just another glib justification which most people can substantiate or account for -- they just know it.

maybe the us did it... 27.Sep.2002 02:21

who can tell?

the us military and cia have proven time and again that they will use all measuress available to them to wage war, declared and undeclared, around the world.

read, for example "bitter fruit", about the cia's actions during their overthrow of the democratically elected jacobo arbenz government in guatemala in 1954, for a start.

here's a link to bitter fruit:


I am sure there are other links on the web which would elaborate on the subject matter of the book.

the cia routinely uses planes and other vehicles marked with the identifications of other countries and even corporations. this allows them to fly around and appear to be something they are not.

they also use fake radio broadcasts and now internet communications to misdirect and deceive anyone they want. (again, see "bitter fruit")

this scary stuff was going on in 1954!! imagine how they have perfected the game in 50 years!!

it is NOTHING for the cia to disguise one of their own planes as the plane of any nation on earth.

i mention this to raise the question: perhaps the cia used a plane marked with iraqi insignia to use its own gas on the iraqi people as a test case and as a method to forever demonize saddam hussein.

i am not saying that this actually happened. How the hell would i know!?

it is just something to think about.

thinking 27.Sep.2002 11:33


Point well-taken. I don't trust our government any more than I trust Iraq's. What do you believe?

I believe that Saddam has shown us that he's the type of guy who would gas the Kurds. It's not in debate (ie it's independantly established) that he slaughtered the thousands who rose up against him during Gulf War I after the US backed out. What's it matter to him if he's killing thousands of people with bullets or with chemicals instead?

But more to the point, I believe that when governments lie, they do it for self-serving reasons. You can argue strongly that it's self-serving for the US gov't to point out that Saddam gassed the Kurds. You cannot (well, at least _I_ cannot) argue strongly that it's self-serving for our gov't to admit that it specifically enabled Saddam to acquire those chemicals and biological agents.

That's why I believe that Saddam at the very least HAD those chemicals. We can be pretty sure that chemicals were used even if we can't be sure who used them. I'm a big time skeptic, but I do believe that Saddam used those weapons. But it doesn't matter--that weapons use pales in comparison to what America has done to Iraq, and it pales in comparison to the humanitarian cost of a war.

If you can provide strong argument that Saddam didn't use them, that's great. But I think Saddam did, and so will most people who, like me, distrust the US government.

See you at the Oct 5 anti-war rally.