There is a simple test as to whether or not military action is justified. Does that old war criminal Tony Blair support it? Only last week Blair was supporting the military rulers in Egypt who have massacred up to 2,000 people and for whom torture is the normal method of investigation. Clearly the death of a few hundred civilians in Damascus isn’t going to cause him to lose sleep.
Cameron, who is said to style himself on Blair, is intending to renew the £100 billion Trident programme. The incineration of a few hundred thousand people and the slow and painful death of thousands more from radiation burns and sickness doesn’t cause these people to lose any sleep. It beggars belief that the use of chemical weapons could be the real cause of any proposed military action.
What is excellent is that popular pressure and public opinion has, unlike the BBC, which was cowed into submission after the Hutton Report, even though Andrew Gilligan told the truth about the ‘sexed-up dodgy dossier, made MPs think twice. Coupled with the fact that bombing Damascus isn’t going to resolve what is essentially a civil war, has led British MPs to reconsider the gung ho attitudes of their political leaders. Public opinion has turned decisively against another war.
The US and British governments have been straining for months in order to find an excuse to attack Syria. Whilst those ‘democratic’ friends of the West, Saudi Arabia and Quatar, have been busy supplying Al Quada and the Jihadists with advanced weaponry, the US and Britain have been pontificating about human rights. How strange it is that a war against terror, an abstract noun, has been abandoned. Al Quada is now our friend! It seems that Obama, Cameron (and f course Clegg) have lost all coherence. It would be more honest if they were to say that their objective was to secure the Middle East for the continued supply of cheap oil and dependable sources and human rights must always be secondary to the West’s interests.
|Good friends – Donald Rumsfield, US special envoy to the Middle East and later War Secretary – shake hands over an arms deal|
Hypocrisy and Human Rights
It is strange that the ‘war for democracy’ in the Middle East stopped at its most barbaric state. The Saudi state chops the hand off a poor person who steals a loaf of bread, whilst members of the ruling royal family squander millions of pounds in the casinos and brothels of Monte Carlo and London whilst enforcing the most austere Wahabbist version of Islam against its people. In the words of an old English saying
They hang the man and flog the woman,
Who steals the goose from off the common,
Yet let the greater villain loose,
That steals the common from the goose.
— Seventeenth-century English protest rhyme
But what makes the threatened western military attacks against Syria even more nauseating is its utter hypocrisy. No one imagines for a moment that if this wasn’t the Middle East, and oil centre that the West would be at all bothered. When the holocaust of Tsutsis occurred in Rwanda in 1994, the United States under Bill Clinton stood by with arms folded. There was no humanitarian intervention because the US had no interests worth speaking of in the region. Indeed the former colonial power France actually armed and colluded with the Hutu gangs that butchered up to a million people.
The Hypocrisy of the West knows no bounds
If you are gullible enough to believe that Obama and his Administration, to say nothing of his British poodle Cameron, are actually horrified by the chemical attack in Syria, and it was a horrific attack, then one would have expected the United States to have apologised to and compensated the Vietnames for the use of Agent Orange and Napalm (which burns to the skin). We would have bombed Israel and the Zionist warmongers who used white phosphorous to bomb a UN school in Gaza and other civilian areas.
What makes this doubly appalling is that the United States (including Britain) have in the past condoned and colluded in the use of chemical weapons, not least by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Remember the arms to Iraq trial in 1992 in the wake of the Gulf War? Before Saddam Hussein made the fatal mistake of invading the artificially created British Emirate of Kuwait, Britain supported Iraq’s Ba’athist regime in its war against Iran. Indeed we encouraged them to invade.
You might even remember the Arms to Iraq scandal which resulted in the prosecution of the directors of Matrix Churchill for selling arms to Iraq despite a (formal) government embargo. The trial collapsed when Minister of State at the War (Defence) Ministry, Alan Clarke, testified that it had been government policy all along to support Iraq, although they couldn’t say so openly. Clarke famously described in his evidence that when answering questions in the Commons as to Britain’s real arms policy vs Iraq, he had been ‘economical with the actualite’. The fiasco led to the setting up of the Scott Report into the affair (most of which remains secret – judges are reliable fellows when it comes to ‘national security’).
Indeed in 1968 the CIA had supported the Ba’athist coup against former President al-Bakr and it sponsored Saddam Hussein’s rise to power in 1969. When the US’s favourite dictator, the Shah of Iran, was ousted in 1979 in Iran and following the seizure of the American Embassy, the US encouraged Iraq to wage war on Iran. They supported every dirty tactic including the use of chemical weapons.
Exclusive: CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran
FP Magazine 26.8.13
The U.S. knew Hussein was launching some of the worst chemical attacks in history — and still gave him a hand.
|The CIA supplied Saddam Hussein with Intelligence despite knowing of its use of chemical weapons|
|It’s only wrong to use chemical weapons when our enemies do so|
In Foreign Policy magazine we learn that according to recently released CIA files (above), the US condoned and indeed supported the use of chemical weapons by Iraq. According to FP, ‘America’s military and intelligence communities knew about and did nothing to stop a series of nerve gas attacks far more devastating than anything Syria has seen’.
In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.
The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq’s favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration’s long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn’t disclose.
U.S. officials have long denied acquiescing to Iraqi chemical attacks, insisting that Hussein’s government never announced he was going to use the weapons. But retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, who was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, paints a different picture.
The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew,” he told Foreign Policy.
According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983. At the time, Iran was publicly alleging that illegal chemical attacks were carried out on its forces, and was building a case to present to the United Nations. But it lacked the evidence implicating Iraq, much of which was contained in top secret reports and memoranda sent to the most senior intelligence officials in the U.S. government. The CIA declined to comment for this story.
In contrast to today’s wrenching debate over whether the United States should intervene to stop alleged chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government, the United States applied a cold calculus three decades ago to Hussein’s widespread use of chemical weapons against his enemies and his own people. The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war. And even if they were discovered, the CIA wagered that international outrage and condemnation would be muted.
In the documents, the CIA said that Iran might not discover persuasive evidence of the weapons’ use — even though the agency possessed it. Also, the agency noted that the Soviet Union had previously used chemical agents in Afghanistan and suffered few repercussions.
It has been previously reported that the United States provided tactical intelligence to Iraq at the same time that officials suspected Hussein would use chemical weapons. But the CIA documents, which sat almost entirely unnoticed in a trove of declassified material at the National Archives in College Park, Md., combined with exclusive interviews with former intelligence officials, reveal new details about the depth of the United States’ knowledge of how and when Iraq employed the deadly agents. They show that senior U.S. officials were being regularly informed about the scale of the nerve gas attacks. They are tantamount to an official American admission of complicity in some of the most gruesome chemical weapons attacks ever launched.
BY SHANE HARRIS AND MATTHEW M. AID | AUGUST 26, 2013
What is perhaps missing in this excellent painting of Western hypocrisy and downright collusion is how things played out with regards to the Halabja massacre:
In his long reign of calculated cruelty Saddam has used every means available to him – from assassination, kidnapping and torture, to full-scale war, poison gas, ethnic cleansing, and mass deportation. But even by his standards, the gassing of civilians in Halabja on 16 March 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, is an act with few parallels. It has also become the test case, repeatedly cited in recent months of build-up to another war, of how “Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people”.
But there are a few outstanding questions regarding Halabja, and Saddam is not the only villain.
For years before this particular atrocity, only a handful of London-based reporters and regional specialists (including myself) condemned Saddam. Ours were lone and isolated voices. Most western media organisations lapped up the deliberately misleading agenda set by lobby briefings and the White House and State Department. In the words of Geoffrey Kemp, at the time the head of the Near & Middle East at the State Department – Saddam was “our son of a bitch”.
The Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, on the other hand, was relentlessly demonised by US government sources, and a steady stream of stories appeared about children who were sent to clear minefields armed only with plastic keys to the ‘pearly gate’ of martyrdom. Khomeini was the monster who had to be stopped by all means, even if it meant enlisting the support of neighbourhood gangster Saddam Hussein.
The first recorded use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war was in 1982, two years into the conflict. Both sides used them, but Saddam was the first, in response to Iran’s vast manpower that had begun to turn the tide on Iraq’s initial advances.
On more than one occasion, seasoned British foreign correspondents – very much the minority in the press corps – informed the British and American embassies in Baghdad of Saddam’s use of chemical weapons. It was even discovered that some of Saddam’s mustard gas was delivered by British-made artillery shells (although there is no suggestion of British involvement in modifying their use).
British and American diplomats refused to act on anything other than material evidence. They never sought such proof themselves, and knew full well that it was near impossible for we reporters to secure it. One journalist who tried, Farzad Bazoft of The Observer, was caught at Baghdad airport in 1989 with soil samples that would have provided crucial evidence. He was jailed, tortured, forced to sign a confession of being a spy, and executed on 15 March 1990.
A crime of war
Halabja was a turning-point because for the first time the evidence of chemical attack was impossible to ignore. The town had no military or economic value in itself, but control of it allowed access to a strategic road controlling a complex of water projects in north-east Iraq. The Iranians wanted to take it and it was the scene of heavy fighting.
According to a suppressed CIA report mentioned in the book The Iran-Iraq War: chaos in a vacuum by former CIA political analyst Stephen Pelletiere, the Iranians did use chemical weapons in the battle around Halabja.
It is certain that the town changed hands during the fighting and in a desperate attempt to fend off the Iranians, the Iraqi commanders ordered the use of mustard gas. There were at least two raids made by low-flying Iraqi aircraft spraying the gas – some Kurds claim there were more.
The article continues:
According to Pelletiere, the CIA report indicates that Kurdish civilians were collateral damage, and were not a deliberate target of Saddam. He also suggests that many deaths were caused by a cyanide-based gas, which was used by the Iranians, and not by the Iraqis.
I recall being invited by the Iraqi press attaché in London to the Brompton hospital to interview Iraqi soldiers being treated for the effects of poison gas. He claimed this was the result of Iranian attacks. I regret not investigating the story more fully at the time. I gave in to pressure from my editor who was convinced the Iraqis were affected by their own gas and not the Iranians’.
The Iranians flew an ITN camera crew which happened to be in Tehran straight into Halabja, together with agency photographers. It took three more weeks for the world to realise the full scale of the horror. Even at this stage, Washington and London were not interested in taking the story any further: they continued to support Saddam.
If it had not been for a number of honest journalists, and the US Congressman Peter Galbraith (who, a year later, fought to introduce an anti-genocide bill), the issue would never have been raised or debated in Congress.
Some commentators saw Halabja as Saddam’s vicious revenge against Kurdish disloyalty to him. It could also be seen as a warning of what might await them if they were to let their villages and positions fall into Iranian hands. Whether Saddam deliberately targeted the Kurds, or whether they were caught in crossfire as Iraq targeted Iranian soldiers, the fact remains that whoever gave the orders – Saddam or one of his officers – was fully aware that the theatre of deployment for this horrendous weapon was a mass of civilian men, women and children. That is a war crime.
In the months that followed, Kurds were targets for Saddam’s gas in other villages north and west of Halabja. The Iranians were interested in the plains west of the town, and there is evidence that Saddam’s forces continued to use chemical attacks to fend them off.
Even after the war ended, Saddam continued to use chemical agents to settle scores with the Kurds. Beekeepers on the Turkish side of the border reported the death of their bees as the wind carried a whiff of poison gas that Saddam had sprayed miles away in Kurdistan. But official voices in Washington and London maintained their silence.
Now that Saddam is no longer the favoured ‘son of a bitch’ of Washington and London, the State Department and the Foreign Office make frequent reference to Halabja, trying to convince those of us who reported Saddam’s atrocities long before them, of what a monster the man is. These are some of the same people who tried to discredit us when we first reported his atrocities two decades ago.
The current anniversary of Halabja comes amidst a great debate about the real aims and reasons for the war over Iraq that is about to start. There are, however, few signs that western statesmen have given up their addiction to secrecy, double standards and double-talk.
There is no doubt that regime change in Iraq, and full implementation of UN resolutions to secure human rights, are universally desirable. The legal grounds for going to war are debatable, although Kosovo may be seen as a precedent.
Yet George W. Bush and Tony Blair have not served their cause by citing Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction as a reason for war (none of the dictator’s neighbours see these as a real threat) before switching the emphasis to Halabja and other atrocities. The lack of trust in these leaders’ honesty and good intention makes people doubt whether they will truly help ensure that a tragedy like Halabja never happens again.