National Catholic Register


Go Easy on Iraq

BY Jim Cosgrove

October 06-12, 2002 Issue | Posted 10/6/02 at 1:00 PM


I'm writing in response to the pro-war columns and letters I've been reading in the Register. Each pro-war writer has intoned the mantra that “Saddam has gassed his own people” as if that were an accepted fact of life. It isn't.

During the Iran-Iraq war (in which the United States supported Iraq with armaments and intelligence) there was a battle in an Iraqi border town called Halabja, not far from Baghdad. On March 16, 1988, several hundred Kurdish Iraqis living in Halabja were killed by poison gas and shelling. The Iranians were the victors in this battle and took photographs of the dead Kurds. These photos were picked up by the Western media and used during run-up to the Gulf War to prove that Saddam was indeed a very evil man.

However, those Kurds were killed by Iranian gas, not by Saddam. A 1990 Pentagon report, published just prior to the invasion of Kuwait, shows that the unfortunate Kurds were the victims of cyanide gas, which Saddam did not use, because he lacked the ability to produce it. Saddam did use mustard gas, but against the Iranians, not his own citizens.

The Pentagon report that details this unhappy incident was written by Stephen Pelletiere, Douglas Johnson II and Leif Rosenberger of the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. War College at Carlisle, Pa. It's easy to find online. What's even easier to find are the distortions and outright lies about this incident. In some of the more florid accounts, there were 100,000 dead Kurds; in others, 100,000 Iraqis were rounded up, machine-gunned and buried in mass graves. These tales do make Saddam seem quite despicable, but there's no evidence to support them. They are simply not true, no matter who repeats them.

There may be legitimate reasons for ousting Saddam, but poison gas isn't one of them. Let's all calm down and be certain our cause is just and true before we begin a bloody assault on another country — especially the only Arab state that permits Christianity to flourish.

Glenn Wright Raymore, Missouri