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
HEADLINE: AFTER THE WAR;
Years Later, No Clear Culprit in Gassing of Kurds
BYLINE: By MICHAEL WINES, Special to The New York Times
DATELINE: WASHINGTON, April 27
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."
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article