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Saddam’s Crimes Pale in Comparison to those of the Neocons

London Guardian | April 5 2006

It would seem the only case the Iraqis and the United States have against Saddam Hussein, or the man they claim is Saddam Hussein, is the alleged mass extermination of the Kurds in the 1980s. However, in the case of the Halabja massacre, as I wrote on September 20, 2003 (Colin Powell in Iraq: Exploiting the Dead of Halabja), it appears Saddam is innocent of gassing Kurds and his innocence was proclaimed by none other than the State Department. Stephen C. Pelletiere stated in early 2003: “We cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds. 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.”

In fact, the United States sold chemical and biological agents to Saddam Hussein. “Reports by the US Senate’s committee on banking, housing and urban affairs—which oversees American exports policy—reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene,” write Neil Mackay and Felicity Arbuthnotfor the Sunday Herald. “The shipments to Iraq went on even after Saddam Hussein ordered the gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja, in which at least 5000 men, women and children died. The atrocity, which shocked the world, took place in March 1988, but a month later the components and materials of weapons of mass destruction were continuing to arrive in Baghdad from the US.” Again, as Pelletiere documents, Saddam did not gas the Kurds, not that the United States would have particularly cared at the time. As I wrote in the above cited article, “when the Halabja massacre came to light a few years later, the Reagan administration opposed congressional efforts to respond by imposing economic sanctions, arguing that they would be contrary to US interests,” in other words sanctions would have interfered with the killing fest between the two rival nations.

As Elson E. Boles, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, notes, “US policy makers, financiers, arms-suppliers and makers, made massive profits from sales to Iraq of myriad chemical, biological, conventional weapons, and the equipment to make nuclear weapons.” Moreover, the U.S. was interested in having the Iranians and Iraqis kill each other off in large numbers (1.5 million people eventually died in the war), as this served their foreign policy objectives. Boles continues:

Bear in mind the attitude of the US policy makers not only regarding Iraq’s use of gas against Iranians, but in general. Richard Armatige, then Asst. Sec. of Defense for International Security Affairs and now Deputy Secretary of State, said with a hint of pride in his voice that the US “was playing one wolf off another wolf” in pursuing our so-called national interest. This kind of cool machismo resembled the pride that Oliver North verbalized with a grin during the Iran-Contra hearings as “a right idea” with regard to using the Ayatollah’s money to fund the Contras. The setting up of Iraq thus would be very consistent with the goals and the character of US foreign policy in the Middle East: to control the region’s states either for US oil companies or as bargaining chips in deals with other strong countries, and to profit by selling massive quantities of weapons to states that will war with or deter those states that oppose US “interests.”

“Iraqi authorities charged Saddam Hussein with genocide Tuesday, accusing him of trying to exterminate the Kurds in a 1980s campaign that killed an estimated 100,000 the first move to prosecute him for the major human rights violations which the U.S. cited to help justify its invasion,” reports ABC News. “The latest charges involve Saddam’s alleged role in Operation Anfal, the 1988 military campaign launched in the final months of the war with Iran to crush independence-minded Kurdish militias and clear Kurds from the sensitive Iranian border area of northern Iraq.”

Operation Anfal, an extension of Saddam’s Termination of Traitors campaign, may indeed be characterized as genocide. However, if not for the United States and the CIA, Saddam Hussein would not have gained power. “Roger Morris, a former State Department foreign service officer who was on the NSC staff during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, says the CIA had a hand in two coups in Iraq during the darkest days of the Cold War, including a 1968 putsch that set Saddam Hussein firmly on the path to power,” writes David Morgan for Reuters. “Morris says that in 1963, two years after the ill-fated U.S. attempt at overthrow in Cuba known as the Bay of Pigs, the CIA helped organize a bloody coup in Iraq that deposed the Soviet-leaning government of Gen. Abdel-Karim Kassem.”

In this former coup, the CIA provided the Ba’athists with lists of people to be rounded up, tortured, and executed. Demonstrators were mowed down with tanks, 10,000 people imprisoned, and opponents buried alive in mass graves. “New evidence … published reveals that the agency not only engineered the putsch but also supplied the list of people to be eliminated once power was secured—a monstrous stratagem that led to the decimation of Iraq’s professional class [doctors, lawyers, teachers and professors],” writes Richard Sanders. “The overthrow of president Abdul Karim Kassim on February 8, 1963 was not, of course, the first intervention in the region by the agency, but it was the bloodiest—far bloodier than the coup it orchestrated in 1953 to restore the shah of Iran to power.” Ali Saleh, the minister of interior of the regime which replaced Kassim, said: “We came to power on a CIA train.”

Saddam’s alleged massacre of 100,000 Kurds is small when compared to the number of Iraqis killed over the last decade and a half by the United States, the United Nations, and Britain. According to Beth Daponte, a demographer at the Commerce Department in 1992, Bush’s Senior’s invasion of Iraq killed 158,000 Iraqis (Daponte was subsequently fired for releasing this information), but this figure pales in comparison to the numbers who perished in the following decade under sanctions. Numbers vary, but it is commonly believed between 500,000 and 750,000 (the government of Iraq claimed over a million) children died from malnutrition and disease under the sanctions and 1.5 million Iraqis in total lost their lives (see this chart on the Virginia Tech website). According to a study reaching “conservative assumptions” conducted by the Lancet Medical Journal, more than 100,000 Iraqis have died since Bush Junior’s invasion and occupation. The Lancet “estimate excludes Falluja, a hotspot for violence. If the data from this town is included, the compiled studies point to about 250,000 excess deaths since the outbreak of the U.S.-led war,” John Stokes concludes.

In short, the United States, United Nations, Britain, and the “coalition of the killing” are responsible for the death of well over two million people in Iraq (and an incalculable number of others are certain to die in the Middle East and elsewhere from the use of depleted uranium and other toxins).

Saddam’s crimes are minute in this context and he is little more than a piker when compared to Bush Senior, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bush Junior, and the perfidious Straussian neocons. One day we may be fortunate enough to witness the trial, conviction, and imprisonment of the above war criminals. However, the way things are going—engineered “civil war” in Iraq and rumblings of a terrible shock and awe campaign launched against Iran, ultimately resulting in possibly a few million more dead people—I am not holding my breath.


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