[Marxism] When Saddam Hussein Was Ally of Reagan & Bush I

Brian Shannon Brian_Shannon at verizon.net
Sun Oct 16 08:21:55 MDT 2005

Depending on your descriptive choice, Iran/Contra represents the acme  
or nadir of imperialist duplicity. Most of the original focus of the  
U.S. Congress's exposé was on the illegal sale of military goods to  
Iran in order to pay for the Contras (a payment banned by a law passed  
by the U.S. Congress) waging war against the Nicaraguan revolution.

But Iran was fighting a war against Iraq that had been inspired to  
action by the United States. When Iran, a more populous although  
slightly less well-armed country, began to win, it became time to  
reinforce Iraq by allowing (or directing--it doesn't matter, for a  
"blind eye" sees all) it to use chemical weapons in the fight. An  
estimated one million  people died in a war that was presumably over  
relatively minor boundaries. As both sides continued the struggle,  
imperialist powers profited from arms sales and advanced their  
long-range strategy of increasing its military, economic and social  
presence in the region.

Brian Shannon


By Frances Harrison
BBC correspondent in Tehran

In July 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, the Iranian village of Zardeh  
was hit by Iraqi chemical bombs. Frances Harrison returns to the  
village to see how local people are coping with the legacy.

It was a smell like rotten herbs they say, the odour of a new form of  

Early that morning, in July 1988, the people of Zardeh were gathered in  
the local shrine. First they heard the planes flying overhead, nothing  
out of the ordinary for a village nestling in the side of a dusty dry  
mountain dividing Iran from Iraq.

Today everyone mentions how small the sound of the explosions was,  
oddly disproportionate with the calamity they unleashed.

Some of those who survived now believe it would have been better to  
have perished instantly
Each plane dropped four bombs, weighing 250kg each. The smoke was  
yellow, green, red, black. One man said it was like a rainbow, another  
said it was as if the sky was covered in plastic clingfilm.

The birds started dropping out of the trees and then the people fell.  
Two hundred and seventy five died that morning in a place of worship -  
many of them women and children.

Some of those who survived now believe it would have been better to  
have perished instantly. Like 19-year-old Hedieh. Her name means "a  
gift", but now she is a terrible burden to her family.

She has to spend four hours a day attached to an oxygen cylinder. It is  
expensive and needs refilling every week in the nearest town, three  
hours drive away.

Hedieh would like to go to university, but that is out of the question.  
The most she can do is help her mother shell the walnuts which are now  
in season. "I am waiting to die," she says.

"Every day I get steadily worse and the doctors cannot do anything."

Her eyesight, her skin, her breathing have all been affected.

She says she has absolutely no hope for the future. I ask her if there  
is anything anyone can do if they want to help her and she shakes her  
head and cries. "Whoever did this to me should have the same thing done  
back to them so they understand," she says.

Others have more energy for anger. Gulpari says she wants to kebab  
Saddam Hussein like he kebabed her sister. It sounds brutal but that is  
actually how Gulbanoo's face now looks.

She is horribly disfigured, the burned skin stretched over her nose and  
her mouth all chapped.

Gulbanoo holds up a black and white passport photo from before the  
bombing. "Look," she says," Saddam is the main reason why my husband  
left me and my six kids, because I am no longer beautiful."

Gulbanoo was at the shrine that morning and rushed to the nearest  
stream to wash off the chemicals. As she drank and splashed the water  
over her face the last thing Gulbanoo remembers is that the water was  
hot. Little did she know that one of the chemical bombs had landed on  
the reservoir contaminating the main water supply for the village.

By washing she only injured herself more. Gulbanoo woke up in hospital  
to learn that five of her brothers and her father had been killed in  
the attack.

Visiting the shrine, I found myself mobbed by survivors, desperate to  
tell their story. Old women in traditional Kurdish dress lifting up  
their skirts or opening their blouses to show me scars and terrible  
burns all over their bodies. "Everyone knows the story of Halabja,"  
they said, "but what about our village, for God's sake do not forget  

And yet forgotten is what they are. I was told I was the first  
journalist, Iranian or foreign to visit Zardeh after the initial  
aftermath of the bombing.

It took nine years before local doctors realised almost the entire  
population of this village was suffering from the long-term effects of  
exposure to mustard gas and nerve agent. And that means 1,500 people  
ill in a population of 1,700, 70 cases of cancer and a 30% miscarriage  

Nobody even knows the environmental damage caused or what the  
consequences will be for future generations. This was, after all, the  
first war in which nerve agent was used.

So why is Saddam Hussein not being tried for what he did to villages  
like Zardeh?

Iran has documented 30 such attacks on its soil, some of them using as  
many as 300 chemical bombs. Iranians say it is a clear case of  
discrimination that Saddam Hussein has been charged for war crimes in  
Halabja, but not what he did just across the border in Iran.

They believe Western governments turned a blind eye to companies  
supplying Saddam Hussein with chemical weapons. After all in those days  
Saddam was an ally against an Iran which had taken American diplomats  

Eighteen years later the people of Zardeh are still waiting for the  
record to be put straight and until it is, they say the trial of Saddam  
Hussein will not be a fair one.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/10/15 11:29:27 GMT

More information about the Marxism mailing list