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FLASHBACK: What do Fallujah and Halabja have in Common?

Ghali Hassan

What do Fallujah and Halabja have in common? They are both in Iraq. Both share a history of destruction and atrocity by foreign invaders. Halabja and Fallujah are the epitome of distortion, destruction and needless war crimes.
On 16 March 1988, the town of Halabja in the far northwestern Iraq was attacked with artillery shells containing poisoning gas, leaving many civilians dead. Evidence showed that they have been killed by cyanide-based gas, as indicated by medical examinations of their bodies. The Iranian government used the atrocity as propaganda tools against Iraq. Western journalists and TV reporters were hurried to the Iranian-occupied town to provide the perfect PR. Iraq was accused of "gassing its own people".

The fabricated story continues today to justify the many atrocities committed by the US and its allies against the Iraqi people. There was not a single credible evidence to prove that Iraqi troops were in Halabja that day, and that Iraq was responsible for the chemical attacks on the town. Iraqi troops evacuated the town few days before the Iranian attacks, and eventual occupation of the town by Iranian troops.Immediately after the attacks, the US Defence Intelligence Agency (USDIA) investigated and produced a "classified" report that showed clearly that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.

Iraq had never produced cyanide-based gas, or as it is known Cyanogens chloride, the "blood agent". Studies have shown that the chemical agent used exclusively by the Iranian army throughout the eight-year war, not the Iraqi army. Another report prepared by US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute revealed that, "[t]he 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 [perpetrated this attack] killed the Kurds".

Professor Stephen Pelletiere who co-authored the Army War College’s report with Dr. Douglas Johnson wrote in the New York Times on 32 January 2003, "We cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds". Pelletiere was 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 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", writes Professor Pelletiere.

At the end of the eight-year Iran-Iraq war and the emergence of a "victorious" Iraq, the US and Israel were set to destroy Saddam and the Iraqi army. A new crisis has to be manufactured. Iraq being singled out for destruction, and the best the US and the West can start with is Halabja. It is a card that the US administration played very well because it plays well with the Western media and Western public. Saddam demonisation began with Halabja. Overnight, Saddam turned from a "friend" of the West to enemy number one. Halabja was very useful for the first US War against Iraq in 1991, and remains useful for the second
US War in 2003.

Prior to US War against Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration and Tony Blair saw Halabja as a useful propaganda tool to demonise the regime of Saddam Hussein and to garner support for their violations of international law. Jeffrey Goldberg, an ex Israeli Army officer, provided the ammunition for George Bush and Tony Blair. Goldberg, writing in The New Yorker, accused Iraq of committing a "Holocaust" in Iraq. The lie has been repeated in order to evolve into "truth".

"Since the 1991 Gulf War, the demonisation of Saddam has become a linchpin of U.S. foreign policy, and his solo turn as killer of Kurds has passed beyond question. Likewise, Halabja has become an Alamo for human rights and Kurdish rights groups, who have used it ever since for their own often admirable purposes", writes Roger Trilling of Village Voice. According to a telephone interview with Roger Trilling, Goldberg explained the reason for his chosen position. 'I didn't give it much thought, because it was dismissed by so many people I consider to be experts’, he said. '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 groups—that
the Iraqis were responsible for Halabja. In the same way, I didn't give any merit to the Iraqi denials’. Furthermore, "[t]his last piece of Goldberg's was a truly disgraceful piece of brown-nosing (of Rumsfeld, Tenet et al.), devoid of even the pretensions of independent journalism", writes Alexander Cockburn of CounterPunch.org.

The Halabja atrocity is cleverly used to divide the Arab-Kurdish community in Iraq. The Kurds prove worthy US "friends" in the Occupation of Iraq. Most of the so-called "Iraqi army" recruits serving as cannon fodder for the Occupation are Kurds from the peshmerga militia fighting alongside the US marines in Fallujah and Mosul against Iraqi Resistance. The Iraqis see them as collaborators and traitors. Frictions between Iraqi Kurds and Arabs are on the rise.

Like the fabricated tale of Iraqi soldiers taking babies out of incubators in Kuwait, which provided the pretext to attack Iraq in 1991, Halabja proved useful again to justify attacking Iraq in 2003. This time the story is not taken by Amnesty International, but by the US-sponsored NGO, Human Right Watch (HRW), whose job is to watch human rights abuse outside the US, specifically, in countries that do not agree with US policy. HRW claimed and repeatedly accused Iraq of committed "genocide" against the Kurds. The war was sold as a "humanitarian" and "just war" against Saddam.

However, the US Army War College’s report noted that mustard gas used by Iraqi troops is an incapacitating agent with fatality rate of only 2%, and it could not have killed thousands of known dead. The report completely discredits the HRW allegations. According to Professor Pelletiere, the allegations that Saddam was engaged in systematic campaign of genocide against Iraqi Kurds were a "hoax, a non-event". "This one is extremely problematical since no gassing victims were ever produced. The only evidence that gas was used is the eyewitness 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", he explained. Milton Viorst, a long-time Middle East correspondent for the New Yorker, also supports Pelletiere evidence.

Recent report from Iraq revealed that the US authority in Iraq informed Saddam’s lawyers that the charges of Halabja and 'genocide’ were dropped due to insufficient evidence. It seems that the Halabja story may prove worthy propaganda against Iran now than against Saddam.

The fabricated story of Halabja provided the PR for the invasion of Iraq. After the hoax of WMD and terrorism has been exposed, the Bush administration led by the Zionist Paul Wolfowitz and their allies are denying that these were the real reasons for the war. From George Bush to Colin Powell and Tony Blair, all of them evoked the "humanitarian" and "just war" clichés as the reasons for attacking Iraq. Without any substantiated evidence, Western journalists, pundits and 'liberal’ intellectuals followed the line and repeatedly accused Iraq of this fabricated lie. Of course, the reasons to attack Iraq remain
conspicuous: the control of vital resources in the region and support for Israel’s aggression.

The whole nation of Iraq evolved into being Saddam, and the person Saddam evolved into being Iraq. The Iraqi people were the victims, who happened to be "in the wrong place at the wrong time". Everyone was talking about Saddam. Hundred of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, but not Saddam.

With the exception of few honourable voices in the West, no body care about the death of Iraqis. We waited desperately to hear anyone of those Western and American "moralists", who condemned Iraq under Saddam regime, to condemn the US atrocity in Iraq and particularly Fallujah. The atrocity of Fallujah met with silence in the West. 'The full force of America's arsenal of terror, including F-16s, C-130s, Abrams tanks, and Apache Helicopters were unleashed on the city’ writes Mike Whitney. The City of 300,000 people has been bombed to rubble by all kinds of terror bombs. Illegal napalm bombing, phosphorous bombing, and cluster bombing by US planes have reduced the city to rubble. The entire city was destroyed with its 14 to 60 years of age male inhabitants. More than 6000 innocent citizens have been needlessly murdered. Bodies of women and children scattered on the streets and in mosques. The order was "to shot and kill any thing that moves".

Unlike Halabja, the Fallujah genocide remains hidden from American and Western "moral consciousness". Very few people in the West heard the screams of Fallujah citizens. The word "pacify" is a common euphemism for US destruction and outright murder of innocent civilians. The "free press" of western journalists and TV reporters were nowhere to be found to tell the world about Fallujah. They stayed home on George’s Bush order. The so-called "second superpower" dissolved just in time for the killings and destruction to start.

Unlike the death toll from the latest Tsunami in South-East Asia, which has morphed into an urge to hear more updates and to see more TV footages, the death of innocent Iraqi civilians is systematically ignored. The "stingy" outcry over natural disaster, and complete silence over the US-made disaster(s) is the West self-induced moral hypocrisy.

Since the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, acute malnutrition among Iraqi children between the ages of six months and 5 years has doubled. The death toll is now more than 100,000, excluding Fallujah — half of them women and children. Iraqis have been denied the right to move freely in their own country. Clean water and electricity are now things of the past. Iraqis are now not only witnessing the torture and murder of their follow citizens by US troops, they are witnessing "the looting of their own country by Halliburton and Bechtel, US NGOs, missionaries and mercenaries and local sub-contractors".

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg established the principle of bringing the Nazi criminals to justice, and devised definitions of "war crime" and "crime against humanity". The unprovoked destruction of Iraq and the Iraqi society fit those definitions. The perpetrators of these crimes against the Iraqi people should be brought to justice in accordance with this principle and international law.

Ghali Hassan lives in Perth Western Australia: He can be reached
at e-mail: G.Hassan@exchange.curtin.edu.au

[1] Federation of American Scientists,
[2] Robin Miller, http://www.mediamonitors.net/robinmiller10.html

Courtesy and Copyright Ghali Hassan

This article was first published on December 31, 2005:


:: Article nr. 10212 sent on 08-mar-2005 02:06 ECT


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