Subject: On Saddam's alleged 1988 gas attack

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Feb 1 06:15:05 MST 2003

>I am sure that Halabja was destroyed in a deliberate act of
>anti-Kurd genocide, and by Iraqi forces, with the Timor-like
>aquiesence/overt backing of the the west.

But this is not the way that the press reported events in 1988. Not a
single authoritative source claimed that the gas attacks were against the
Kurds, but against the Iranian troops who had seized the city. Furthermore,
while the the figure of 5000 casualties has become part of the historical
record, independent sources claimed about 100 casualties instead:

"More than 100 bodies of women, children and elderly men still lay in the
streets, alleys and courtyards of this now-empty city, victims of what Iran
claims is the worst chemical warfare attack on civilians in its 7
1/2-year-old war with Iraq...Iran has estimated that 4,000 civilians died
in Halabja either from gas poisoning or from the intensive Iraqi bombing
that followed. The figure could not be independently verified." (Washington
Post, March 23,  2003)

As far as the Kurds are concerned, I would urge comrades to read this item
carefully that appeared on Henwood's list originally from Michael Pollak,
who could in no way be accused of being an apologist for Saddam Hussein:

On Wed, 30 Oct 2002, Dennis Perrin wrote:

  > The only good thing one can say about US intervention in Iraq right now
  > is the protection of the Kurds, who are, as we've seen, blossoming in a
  > way unimaginable if Saddam were left alone. And that's really the
  > question for the "antiwar" crowd: What is your solution? If you say US
  > out of Iraq and End the Sanctions, then what becomes of the Kurds?

If economic sanctions on Iraq were lifted the Kurds would probably stay
exactly as they are now. Saddam has no interest in attacking them.

You have to realize that the area that the Kurds are flourishing in is
actually a little smaller than the area Saddam agreed to give them in
1970, and which they accepted, and which they flourished in for their
first golden period, from 1970-1974. And which they then disastrously
decided to give up because they thought they could do better by
returning to guerrilla war.

It is also pretty much the area he offered to give them in negotiations
the two sides held after the Gulf War, and after their failed uprising
after his defeat. Again, they turned him down because they thought they
could do better, this time under our umbrella, and they took a couple of
towns -- most notably Sulaimaniyah -- before we made them stop. That's
what led to the current set-up, where Saddam placed an economic embargo
on them, and we let both sides smuggle oil across Kurdistan to Turkey so
the Kurds could make up the losses in "taxes" on each truck.

The sticking point in negotiations both times was that the Kurds
demanded Kirkuk and a larger division of its oil revenues. That's been
the sticking point ever since Iraq was created in 1922. It's why the
Brits originally sold them out. And it's no mystery why -- until the
late 70s, Kirkuk accounted for the majority of Iraq's tapped oil.

But, not coincidentally, the Kurds don't have Kirkuk under the current
set-up. Nor will we ever support their getting it so long as Turkey is
our ally. So if the Kurds accept what they've got, there is no reason to
think the status quo would change. The sticking point is gone.

Of course this faith in people following their interest would be backed
up by planes we have permanently stationed at Incirlik and extensive
monitoring devices. But I think it is interest that would prove the
strongest bond. I would actually be more afraid of the Kurds attacking
Kirkuk to draw us in than of Saddam attacking them unprovoked. But if we
made it clear that was out of the question, and we got a third party to
broker negotiations between both sides, I see absolutely no reason why a
formal agreement couldn't be struck and abided by.

One reason to think so: Sulaimaniyah has never been protected by the
no-fly zone. But Talabani, one of the two main Kurdish leaders, has felt
safe enough there to make it his capital.

[Note because for some reason I feel this will be necessary: none of
this is meant to excuse or ignore all the horrible things Saddam did to
the Kurds from 1975-1991. All counterinsurgency wars are horrible, but
there were several ways in which his was particularly, even uniquely,

Louis Proyect, Marxism mailing list:

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