- Tony Blair is a liar, the man who headed the CIA's Iraq
desk during the Gulf War said last night.
- "Bush and Blair want a war in Iraq and they are
both prepared to lie if necessary, in order to get one," said Dr Stephen
Pelletiere, who recently retired as professor of National Security Affairs
at the US Army War College.
- "Blair's so-called dossier is supposed to be based
on 'intelligence'," he said.
- "It insults our intelligence by recycling old, discredited
propaganda and presenting it as fact.
- "The same canards have recently reappeared in The
New Yorker - but The New Yorker is simply a magazine that lives on advertising.
- "When lies appear in an official Government report
to a sovereign Parliament, well then you have to ask yourself just what
is going on."
- Pelletiere said that crucial claims made in the British
Government's Dossier on Iraq - and repeated by Tony Blair in his statement
to the Commons - were patently false.
- "Saddam has used chemical weapons, not only against
an enemy state, but against his own people," the Dossier states.
- "Saddam has used chemical weapons both against Iran
and his own people," the Dossier repeats a page or two further on.
- "In 1988 Saddam also used mustard and nerve agents
against Iraqi Kurds at Halabja in northern Iraq.
- "Estimates vary but according to Human Rights Watch
up to 5,000 people were killed."
- Not so, said Pelletiere.
- "Most of the civilians killed at Halabja - and it's
very unlikely that as many as 5,000 died - were killed by Iranian poison
gas," he said.
- "The Iranians made a photo-opportunity out of a
catastrophe simply by blaming the deaths on Saddam, and then the media
happily gobbled their propaganda up.
- "The first stories claimed that there were between
80,000 and 100,000 dead, which was obviously phony," he said last
- "You can't kill that many people using gas, in a
concentrated period, in terrain such as exists in northern Iraq.
- "In fact, it would be very difficult to kill even
5,000 in this way.
- "The great majority of the victims seen by reporters
and other observers who attended the scene were blue in their extremities.
- "That means that they were killed by a blood agent,
probably either cyanogen chloride or hydrogen cyanide. Iraq never used
and lacked any capacity to produce these chemicals.
- "But the Iranians did deploy them. Therefore the
Iranians killed the Kurds.
- "The Iraqis did fire mustard gas into Halabja, after
the Iranians had attacked and occupied the town, but despite its fearsome
reputation mustard gas is an incapacitating agent, rather than an efficient
- "Slightly more than two per cent of those exposed
to mustard gas attack can be expected to die.
- "Iran had always supported its 'human wave"
attacks by using a non-persistent form of mustard gas which would allow
shock troops to occupy Iraqi positions once Saddam's troops had retreated.
- "The Iraqis had learned to develop a heavier, more
persistent form of the gas which was designed to slow down the enemy advance.
- "Unfortunately for the spin-doctors, much of the
mustard gas that was used at Halabja, which is a border town in a much-disputed
territory, carried the Iranian signature."
- At Halabja the rebel Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani,
helped Iranian forces infiltrate the town by night.
- In the morning, the Iranians burst from hiding, overwhelmed
the Iraqi garrison, and drove it from the city.
- The evicted Iraqi commander called in a barrage of mustard
gas, and regained possession of the place.
- Then the Iranians dumped blood agents on the reoccupying
- Persistent mustard gas from the Iraqi side, cyanide-based
gas from the Iranian side - and the innocent civilians of Halabja were
caught in the middle.
- Several hundred Kurdish civilians were horribly killed
during successive attacks and counter-attacks by the opposing armies, -
but not because they'd been specifically targeted for ethnic cleansing
- Saddam Hussein, Pelletiere says.
- In 1990, Pelletiere, Professor Leif Rosenberger and Lt
Colonel Dr Douglas Johnson of the Strategic Studies Institute of the US
Army War College wrote "Lessons Learned: The Iran-Iraq War."
The report is available at www.fas.org/man/dod-101/ops/war/docs/3203/
- Their study drew on the first-hand knowledge of US defense
attachés, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency analysis, field reports
and "signals intelligence"-phone and radio messages sent by the
warring armies and picked up by the National Security Agency.
- "This later became the handbook - the bible - that
was issued to all US military units for strategic and tactical guidance
during Operation Desert Storm," Pelletiere said.
- "It's been open-source material for 20 years, so
there's no way the British military, the Joint Intelligence Committee,
or Tony Blair's staffers can plead ignorance of its contents and conclusions."
- In Lessons Learned, its follow up "Iraqi Power and
U.S. Security in the Middle East," and a 2001 Praeger hardback "Iraq
and the International Oil System: Why America Went to War in the Gulf"
- which has sold 30,000 copies at a pricey $70 each - Pelletiere has pictured
Iraq as a Western ally betrayed and demonized by Big Oil.
- "The U.S. did not expect Iraq to win the Iran-Iraq
war and when it did, U.S. leaders were dumbfounded," he told college
- "As Iraq sought to rebuild itself after the war,
the U.S. attempted to prevent this restructuring by seeking to damage Iraq's
- "Despite a large debt, Iraq was good for the money
because of its oil resources. Still, in the spring of 1988, Iraq did not
have cash reserves and wished to reschedule its debt payments.
- "The media in the U.S. and elsewhere began running
stories on Iraq, the tone of which was extremely hostile.
- "Irrational stories do appear on occasion, but not
usually so extensively. This was a deliberate campaign.
- "Congress was debating sanctions on Iraq and when
sanctions were eventually declared, Iraq could no longer reschedule its
- The spin doctors' contribution to this clandestine economic
war was crucial, he believes. A second alleged gas attack by the Iraqis
against the Kurds at Amadiyyah in the far northern region of Iraq was fabricated
five months after the war had ended.
- "No gassing victims were ever produced," he
- "The only evidence that gas was used is the eye-witness
testimony of the Kurds who fled to Turkey, collected by staffers of the
- "We showed this testimony to experts in the military
who told us it was worthless. The symptoms described by the Kurds do not
conform to any known chemical or combination of chemicals.
- "Lacking any gassing victims, and given the fact
that the testimony does not seem credible we were unwilling to say that
in fact the attacks had occurred.
- "At the same time, throughout the study we cited
instances of Iraqi-instigated chemical attacks against Iranian military
- "There is no doubt that these occurred; indeed the
Iraqis have stated on occasion that they feel justified in using chemicals
tactically under certain conditions.
- "However, they deny using chemicals as a weapon
of mass destruction, that is against civilians.
- "What our study concludes is that those who claim
they are doing so need to come up with some more convincing proof."
- Pelletiere said that the US military had closely studied
eyewitness testimony collected from Kurdish refugees in Iran by the veteran
British journalist Gwynne Roberts and shown on Channel 4 on November 23,1988.
- Survivors described a massacre at Bassay Gorge, in northern
Iraq, on August 29, 1988, in which something between 1,500 and 4,000 people,
mainly women and children, were supposedly killed by what appears to have
been a mixture of various nerve gasses while trying to reach the Turkish
- Their bodies were allegedly piled up and burnt by Iraqi
troops wearing gas masks the following morning.
- Roberts claimed to have entered Iraq clandestinely and
brought back fragments of an exploded shell with samples of the surrounding
soil, which were later confirmed by a British laboratory as containing
traces of mustard gas.
- "This report meant nothing," Pelletiere said.
"We all know that refugees lie.
- "We all understand the physics of chemical warfare
and the difficulties involved in disposing of 4,000 dead bodies.
- "Roberts wouldn't - or couldn't - tell us where
he got the shell fragments from.
- "So what have we got?
- Pelletiere's controversial views were echoed by Raju
C. J. Thomas, Allis Chalmers Distinguished Professor of International Affairs
at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
- Author of a dozen books and a graduate of LSE, Thomas
has been a Visiting Fellow at Harvard, U.C.L.A., M.I.T., and the International
Institute for Strategic Studies in London.
- "It all boils down to two three-letter words,"
he said. "Ego and oil."
- "Blair's dossier includes a photograph which I know
for a fact was produced by the Iranian propaganda machine.
- "Claims that Iraqis gassed their own Kurdish civilians
are constantly invoked by the mass media.
- "That excuse was used by President Clinton in December
1998 to justify the further bombing and destruction of Iraq.
- "The Halabjah incident is one of the reasons being
proposed now by Prime Minister Blair and President Bush for a full-scale
military assault on Iraq.
- "Meanwhile, estimates of the number of innocents
who have died in Iraq from relentless American-dictated U.N. sanctions
range between a million and 1.7 million, including more than half a million
- "Bush and Blair want a 'regime change' simply because
if sanctions were to be lifted then Saddam's regime would favour Russian
and French oil companies rather than US or British multinationals.
- "This dispute has little to do with any war on terrorism
- "And it is quite wrong that we should base public
policy on propaganda and lies."
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