Steve Sachs Duke


Saturday, January 18, 2003


Iraq admits Halabja massacre--again. In addition to the earlier admission by Tariq Aziz, reported in the New York Times back in December, Iraq has now admitted for a second time its gassing of approximately 5,000 civilian Kurds in 1988 in the city of Halabja. This time, the confirmation is even posted on Iraq's official website, (For those who doubt its official status, the website is linked to by the Iraqi mission to the United Nations and hosts the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Assembly, the Tourism Board, two state-run newspapers--1,2, Saddam University, and archives of Hussein's speeches in English and Arabic. It's also run from inside Baghdad, according to the whois records, and it's hard to imagine the regime allowing an impostor site to operate for long.)

On the website, the National Monitoring Directorate--in charge of Iraq's compliance with U.N. disarmament resolutions--maintains a number of news items. These include a pamphlet entitled "The Dishonest Case for War on Iraq" (Google cache, just in case), a pamphlet co-written by a Labour MP and a lecturer at Cambridge. The pamphlet, as would be expected, presents a number of arguments against military action. It also, however, includes the following statement about Iraq's past:

c) Internal repression by the Iraqi military

As part of the Anfal campaign against the Kurds (February to September 1988), the Iraqi regime used chemical weapons extensively against its own civilian population. Between 50,000 and 186,000 Kurds were killed in these attacks, over 1,200 Kurdish villages were destroyed, and 300,000 Kurds were displaced. The most infamous chemical assault was on the town of Halabja in March 1988, which killed 5,000 people. Human Rights Watch regards the Anfal campaign as an act of genocide.

The pamphlet goes on to criticize the U.S. and Europe for ignoring the genocide. The Anfal campaign, the authors argue, was "carried out with the acquiescence of the West"; after Halabja, "[r]ather than condemn the massacres of Kurds, the US escalated its support for Iraq."

Whoever posted this pamphlet to Iraq's official website almost certainly didn't read it very carefully. Iraq has spent too much time denying responsibility for Halabja over the last decade to admit it quietly on the web; should the higher-ups ever notice this, I assume that heads, perhaps literally, will roll. But it's interesting to see how truth will out, despite all attempts to keep it hidden.




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