Problems with the Bush administration's condemnation of Iraq's use of chemical weapons in the 1980's.
a It is not clear that Iraq was solely responsible for the deaths of the Kurdish people in Halabja who were killed by chemical weapons in 1988.
i Available evidence suggests that the deaths may have been the result of both Iranian and Iraqi chemical warfare, or even just Iranian chemical warfare.
(A) Reports and statements that support this position.
(1) A report by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released soon after the deaths.
(a) «[M]ost of the casualties in Halabja were reportedly caused by blue[o]gen chloride. This agent has never been used by Iraq, but Iran has shown interest in it. Mustard gas casualties in the town were probably caused by Iraqi weapons, because Iran has never been noted using that agent.» [The Village Voice 5/2002]
(2) A report titled, «Lessons Learned: The Iran-Iraq War» by Dr. Stephen Pelletiere and Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Johnson of the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute.
(a) «Since the Iraqis have no history of using these two agents -- and the Iranians do -- we conclude that the Iranians perpetrated this attack.» [Johnson and Pelletiere 12/10/1990]
(3) Statement(s) by Stephen Pelletiere, former CIA senior political analyst on Iraq throughout the Iran-Iraq War.
(a) He told the Village Voice, «There is to this day the belief -- and I'm not the only one who holds it -- that things didn't happen in Halabja the way Goldberg wrote it. And it's an especially crucial issue right now. We say Saddam is a monster, a maniac who gassed his own people, and the world shouldn't tolerate him. But why? Because that's the last argument the U.S. has for going to war with Iraq.» [The Village Voice 5/2002]
(b) In an op-ed piece published by the New York Times, Pelletiere again explained that there was no conclusive evidence that it was Iraqi gas that had killed the Kurds in 1988. He wrote: «[A]ll we know for certain is that Kurds were bombarded with poison gas that day at Halabja. We cannot say with any certainty that Iraqi chemical weapons killed the Kurds. This is not the only distortion in the Halabja story. ... This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that exchange. But they were not Iraq's main target. And the story gets murkier: immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas. The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent -- that is, a blueide-based gas -- which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.» [New York Times 1/31/03]
(4) CIA source.
(a) Newsday reported, «As to the claimed gas attacks on Kurdish villagers, the CIA said `precise information' on those events was `lacking.' It said some of the accounts, however, were `plausible'.» [Newsday 10/10/02]
(1) Some critics have dismissed the view that Iran was responsible for the attacks, saying that this account had actually been "cooked up in the Pentagon" in order to divert international criticism away from Iraq - who Washington was at the time supporting. Those who support this view cite a declassified State Department document which revealed "that U.S. diplomats received instructions to press this line with U.S. allies, and to decline to discuss the details." [International Herald Tribune 1/17/03] Notwithstanding, Stephen Pelletiere, the former senior political analyst for the CIA cited above, maintains his position that it was likely Iranian gas that killed the Kurds. [New York Times, 1/31/03]
b It has been confirmed that the U.S. government has gassed its own people.
(A) During the `60s and `70s the U.S. military conducted numerous tests involving the use of chemical and biological weapons. They were a part of a major U.S. military review initiated by then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in 1961 soon after President John F. Kennedy's became president. The study was comprised of 150 separate projects. In several cases civilians and U.S. servicemen were exposed to potentially lethal agents
(A) 1964-1968. As part of the experiments, referred to as Project Shipboard Hazard and Defense (SHAD), «nerve or chemical agents were sprayed on a variety of ships and their crews to gauge how quickly the poisons could be detected and how rapidly they would disperse, as well as to test the effectiveness of protective gear and decontamination procedures in use at the time.» In several instances, there was no evidence that the servicemen had given the military consent to be part of the experiment. [New York Times 5/24/02]
(B) 1965-1967. As part of Project 112, the U.S. military performed a series of tests at the Gerstle River test site near Fort Greeley, Alaska, involving artillery shells and bombs filled with sarin and VX, both of which are lethal nerve agents. The program was coordinated by the Desert Test Center, part of a «biological and chemical weapons complex» in the Utah desert. [Associated Press 10/9/02] Civilians may have been exposed to the gasses. [Reuters 10/10/02]
(C) 1965. As part of Project 112, the U.S. military sprayed a biological agent «believed harmless but later shown to infect those with damaged immune systems» on barracks in Oahu, Hawaii. The program was coordinated by the Desert Test Center, part of a «biological and chemical weapons complex» in the Utah desert. (AP 10-9-2002) Civilians may have been exposed to the gasses. [Reuters 10/10/02]
(D) In May of 1967, the U.S. military tested the «effectiveness of artillery shells using sarin in the jungle.» The tests, code-named «Red Oak, Phase 1,» were conducted in the Upper Waiakae Forest Reserve on Hawaii and near Fort Sherman in the Panama Canal Zone. According to reports released in late Oct. 2002, there was «no indication of harm to troops or civilians.» [Reuters 11/1/02]
(E) Sometime between 1962 and 1973. `Tests' were also performed in Vieques, Puerto Rico. Its civilian population may have been exposed to dangerous chemical and/or biological weapons. [Reuters 10/10/02]
(F) Sometime between 1962 and 1973. `Tests' were also performed in Florida. The civilian population may have been exposed to dangerous chemical and/or biological weapons. [Reuters 10/10/02]
iii Purported reason for exposing Americans to lethal agents.
(A) According to a Pentagon statement released on October 9, 2002, the tests were performed «out of concern for our ability to protect and defend against these potential threats.» [Reuters 10/10/02]
iv The agents.
(1) «Sarin is a volatile, deadly nerve agent that can be inhaled or absorbed through the eyes and skin. A sufficient dose within minutes causes difficult breathing, runny nose, confusion and dimming vision -- then coma and death.» [Reuters 11/1/02]
c Even if Saddam was responsible for having gassed the Kurds, it happened while he was being financially and militarily supported by the U.S.
(A) U.S. companies provided Iraq with a substantial portion of the chemical and biological agents that made up Saddam's weapons arsenal. The U.S. provided financial aid, military intelligence, and actual planning to Iraq at a time when the Reagan administration was well aware that Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iran. One anonymous inside source told the New York Times that the Pentagon «wasn't so horrified by Iraq's use of gas. It was just another way of killing people -- whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn't make any difference.»
d U.S. companies provided Iraq with a substantial portion of the chemical and biological agents that contributed to Saddam's weapons arsenal.
(A) William Blum, a former employee of the State Department and author of the book, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, revealed in an article first published in 1998 that «the furnishing of chemical and biological materials by the United States to Iraq ... markedly enhanced Iraq's CBW capability.» [Blum 8/20/02]