Sunday, August 27, 2006

Justice for the Kurds in bush's Kangaroo Court?

This is not about Saddam Hussein, and this is not even about regime change in Iraq or ...missiles or chemical weapons. It's about whether the United States is allowed to run world affairs ~ Pierre Lellouche, French Politician.

The Anfal campaign, which began in 1986 and lasted until 1989, is said to have cost the lives of 182,000 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The campaign was headed by Ali Hasan al-Majid, a cousin of the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The campaign included the use of ground offensives, aerial bombing, systematic destruction of settlements, mass deportation, concentration camps, firing squads, and chemical warfare, which earned al-Majid the nickname of "Chemical Ali". (Source: Wikipedia).

In a second trial which began on Monday, August 21, Saddam Hussein and six co-defendants (all former members of Hussein's government) will face Iraq's High Tribunal. The charge is genocide of the Kurdish people.

I think it can be said with a certain amount of certainty that Saddam will eventually face the death penalty for his crimes. However, discussing Saddam's guilt is not the reason I chose to post on this topic. Assume, for the purposes of this discussion, that Saddam is guilty of ordering the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds. My concerns, are as follows: Who supplied Iraq with these chemical weapons, should they be held accountable - and to what extent?

Before I get to those questions, however, there are a few other points I'd like to raise. First of all, should we even care if Saddam gets a fair trial? Secondly, should we care if that trial is perceived as being fair by the Muslim community?

Frontline (India's National Magazine): The appearance of Saddam Hussein in a United States-appointed and supervised court in Baghdad has once again highlighted the double standards adopted by the occupation forces in Iraq. As commentators have observed, the trial in Baghdad was very different from the historic Nuremberg trials of German leaders. Many in the Arab world viewed the entire drama as yet another illustration of "victor's justice" being meted out. (A Farcical Trial by John Cherian, 11/18/2005).

According to a 2004 article published by The Guardian, "the only way to guarantee an appearance of impartiality, and lend the proceedings a greater air of authority, would be for the trial to be handled by an independent, internationally staffed war crimes tribunal set up in accordance with international law".

Global Policy Forum: Human Rights groups and legal experts agree that the Iraqi people must have the right to try their own persecutors, but question the competence and impartiality of Iraq's judicial system. The Regime Crimes Liaison Office (RCLO), run by the US Department of Justice, is actively involved in the court's investigations, the translation of materials and the training of Iraqi lawyers and judges.

Critics believe that by backing a trial in Iraq, Washington hopes that its past support for Saddam Hussein will not be revealed. Opponents of the court had hoped for an internationally organized tribunal with significant domestic participation, similar to the special court for Sierra Leone, to avoid the tribunal degenerating into "political show trial". An international tribunal would also have allowed Kuwait and Iran to take part in the trial (as they have requested) for crimes committed against these two countries. (Trying Saddam Hussein and Other Top Baath Leaders, The Global Policy Forum).

This mention of "past support" brings me back to my original question. Is it possible that the United States provided the chemical weapons used to murder the Kurds? As it turns out, the answer is YES. Not only did Washington provide chemical weapons to Iraq, but the "past support" referred to in the article above also included the approval of millions of dollars in loans and the shipment of US weaponry and technology to Iraq (in violation of the Arms Export Control Act) (Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement.)

In particular, note the following sequence of events...

May 1985: The US Department of Commerce licenses 70 biological exports to Iraq between May of 1985 and 1989, including at least 21 batches of lethal strains of anthrax.

March 1988: Saddam Hussein launches a poison gas attack on the city of Halabja in which four to five thousand Kurdish people were killed, most of them women and children. In total, the Iraq regime will go on to use chemical weapons to kill over 100,000 Kurdish civilians and destroy over 1,200 Kurdish villages (Wikipedia: Al-Anfal Campaign).

April 1988: US Department of Commerce approves shipment of chemicals used in manufacture of mustard gas. (Arming Iraq: A Chronology of U.S. Involvement).

Notice that Washington approval for the sale of chemical weapons to Iraq continued AFTER the Anfal campaign for which Saddam is currently being tried. (If you want to know why Ronald Reagan decided to sell Saddam chemical weapons in the first place, see the article "Who Was Behind the Prolongment of the Iran-Iraq War?" listed below under "further reading").

I find it more than unlikely that US involvement (or more precisely, the Reagan and Bush Sr. Administration's involvement) will be mentioned during this trial. The Wikipedia entry I quoted above lays the blame for Iraq's acquisition of chemical on a multitude of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China. It also states that "By far, the largest suppliers of precursors for chemical weapons production were in Singapore, the Netherlands, Egypt, India, and Federal Republic of Germany". This, however, does not negate the United State's involvement.

Support for Saddam Hussein's regime began under the Reagan Administration, and continued under the administration of George HW Bush...

The Washington Post: [Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez D-TX, alleges] Senior Bush administration officials went to great lengths to continue supporting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his unreliable regime long after it was prudent to do so. U.S. officials insisted in 1989, for instance, on playing down the importance of a scandal involving an Atlanta-based bank and more than $5 billion in unauthorized loans to Iraq, including $900 million guaranteed by the U.S. government. They even intervened in the case to prevent indictment of the Central Bank of Iraq while the Persian Gulf War was raging. Senior policymakers pressed for continued Export-Import Bank financing despite congressional sanctions - and kept sharing intelligence information with Baghdad until a few weeks before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. (Excerpt from a 3/22/1992 Washington Post article, as quoted on the Global Policy forum).

In the wake of the gulf war when Congress began demanding more information about the prewar conduct of U.S. policy toward Iraq, administration officials tried to hide their embarrassment under a cloak of national security and created what Gonzalez has called a "cover-up mechanism" to keep investigators at bay.

According to interviews with knowledgeable officials, records made public by Gonzalez and documents obtained from other sources, it was soon apparent that Iraq was involved in a massive fraud to pump billions of dollars in illegal loans and credits out of BNL-Atlanta, far above the amounts reported to the Federal Reserve. Investigators said [more than half of this money] had helped fuel Iraq's military buildup.

U.S. Customs Service reports dated Sept. 21, 1989, and Oct. 20, 1989, pointed out that BNL was suspected of financing shipments of industrial machinery, military-type technology and various controlled chemicals to Iraq and providing loans "to various U.S. firms for the illegal export to Iraq of missile-related technology". (Excerpt from Gonzalez's Iraq Expose: Hill Chairman Details U.S. Prewar Courtship, by George Lardner Jr. Reprinted on the web by Global Security.org).

Prison Planet: What if Saddam Hussein were to have a genuinely fair trial? That is the central question of a hard-hitting documentary to be aired on French television Tuesday. Michel Despratx of France's Canal Plus television teamed with independent Canadian filmmaker Barry Lando to produce "The Trial of Saddam Hussein, the Trial You'll Never See".

The 43-minute film begins with frank and graphic highlights of Saddam's brutal reign. But it soon delves into a history of collusion going back to the cataclysmic Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when Washington, fully aware that Saddam was using mustard and nerve gas against Iranian civilians, calculated that it was better to keep backing him as the lesser of two evils.

One of the most notorious episodes of Saddam's rule was the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in northern Halabja, an atrocity which drew little international condemnation. "The West closed its eyes a little bit... Iraq was a strategic country for the balance of the region", adds Peter Galbraith, top adviser to the Senate foreign relations committee at the time. "Nobody wanted to upset Saddam Hussein, and if Kurds getting gassed was something that would cause troubles, neither the Reagan nor the Bush administration wanted to hear a word about it". (New documentary indicts US as co-defendant with Saddam. Article from Prison Planet, 10/25/2004).

Taking into consideration the enormous support given to Iraq by both the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations, my conclusion is that the trial of Saddam Hussein under US auspices is, in large part, a farce. The primary purpose of these trials will be to (1) Justify the junior bush's illegal invasion, and (2) keep quiet the United State's involvement in Saddam's crimes. As Haroon Siddiqui of the Toronto Star described it, "This is an American show trial, through and through".

The Toronto Star: The problem with all this is not that Saddam may not get a fair trial, as the bleeding hearts fear. Or that the nincompoops running it will let him steal the show from the prosecutors. The real danger is that the propagandist phoniness seeping out of this exercise will undermine its validity. As a human rights activist told The Star's Middle East correspondent Mitch Potter, "the majority of Arabs will see this as nothing but a charade". (Saddam Trial Won't Hide Bush's Historic Mistakes by Haroon Siddiqui, The Toronto Star 10/23/2005. Reprinted on the web by Common Dreams).

My conclusion? How can we prevent this from happening again if the United State's role in selling Saddam chemical weapons is simply swept under the rug? Obviously those who supplied Saddam with weapons and technology knew he would use them to murder Iranians (even though the use of chemical weapons in war is prohibited by the Geneva protocol of 1925). And, as I already pointed out, the Reagan Administration continued to approve the sale of chemical weapons to Iraq even after he used them against the Kurds. How can we call this trial justice for the Kurds when our own government is actively attempting to cover-up its involvement in these crimes?

Further Reading
[1] Iraq: Flaws in the first trial before the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal should not be repeated. Amnesty International Public Statement. 8/18/2006.
[2] Who Was Behind the Prolongment of the Iran-Iraq War? Whose Justice Does Saddam's Trial Serve? By Behrooz Ghamari, Counter Punch. 10/23/2005.
[3] Downing Street: The Monster Saddam. The Heretik (blog). 6/22/2005.
[4] The Ties That Blind: How Reagan Armed Saddam with Chemical Weapons. By Norm Dixon, Counter Punch. 6/17/2004.
[5] Liberal Oasis Interviews Greg Palast. 3/1/2003.

Image: New Film Reveals the Shocking Depth of Collusion between Saddam and US Republicans: Copies of the "The Trial of Saddam Hussein, the Trial You'll Never See", a documentary by French filmaker Michel Despratx and Canadian filmmaker Barry Lando reveals the "history of US collusion [with Saddam] going back to the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, when Washington, fully aware Saddam was using mustard and nerve gas against Iranian civilians, calculated it was better to keep backing him against Tehran. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is shown shaking hands and joking with Saddam in 1983.

7/30/2014 Update: I changed the link above to the 11/18/2005 article "A Farcical Trial" by John Cherian. The reason is because "The article you are looking for is no longer available in this website". The new link connects to Hindu.com (the exact same article).

SWTD #6

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