Sunday, September 8, 2013

How has the West responded to ‘gassing’ in West Asia?

    Sunday, September 08, 2013   No comments

Actually the first to use chemical weapons [gas] in the Middle-East were the British. Soon after the First World War when the British created the state of Iraq consisting of the three former Turkish Vilayats [provinces] of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul; the southern Kurds much to their dislike had been added to the new state of Iraq and in protest broke out in open rebellion. Faced with the prospects of a prolonged conflict, with added financial costs and loss of British life; the British decided that the ‘best method’ for putting down the revolt was to use gas. As the then Colonial Secretary, Sir Winston Churchill had remarked, “I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas.” The then RAF Chief Sir Hugh Trenchard in a report to the British Cabinet admitted that this was a “cheaper form of control.” Even the redoubtable Lawrence of Arabia wrote to the London Observer that “it is odd we do not use poison gas on these occasions.” The poor Kurds were the first to receive the ‘gas’ treatment and as history would prove not the last time!

Let us move ahead in time and come to Saddam Hussein. Iranian official history records that Iraq first used chemical weapons against its soldiers on January 13, 1981. It is reported that between December 28, 1980 and March 20, 1984 Iranians list 63 separate gas attacks by the Iraqis. There is no doubt that the US was acutely aware of what was going on. In a Memorandum on November 1, 1983, officials of the State Department warned the then Secretary of State George Shultz that they had information that the Iraqis were using chemical weapons on an ‘almost daily’ basis. Equally blunt was the warning that Iraq had acquired chemical weapons capability from Western firms, including possibly from a US subsidiary. The US was also aware that chemical weapons were being used against ‘Kurdish insurgents’. At the same time the US, according to a media report, continued to provide Iraq with critical battle planning assistance and satellite data on Iranian military movements, knowing very well that Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iran as also Kurdish insurgents.

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