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Web Letter

Actually, the largest use of chemical weapons against a civilian population was Operation Ranch Hand in Vietnam 1961-1975. The US Air Force sprayed sprayed 30 million gallons of herbicide over the Ho Chi Minh trail, 11 million gallons of which consisted of Agent Orange.

Kenneth Griffiths

Canberra, Australia

Aug 24 2007 - 4:20am

Web Letter

In Andrew Cockburn's article about the gassing of Kurds at the Iraqi town of Halabja in 1988, another inconvenient truth has been omitted: that there is some debate as to whether Iraqi or Iranian chemicals were responsible for Kurdish deaths. In January 2003, shortly after George W. Bush's State of the Union address, former CIA analyst for the Iran-Iraq war Stephan C. Pelletiere wrote a column in the New York Times describing what he knew of that incident. According to photographic evidence, the bodies of victims showed symptoms consistent with cyanide-based blood agents--agents Iran was known to possess. Iraq is not known to have had such chemicals in its arsenal at the time.

Given that both sides used chemical weapons throughout the war, it is likely that at least some of the deaths at Halabja in March 1988 were caused by Iraqi gas. But the evidence available throws doubt upon that nation as the primary culprit for Kurdish deaths. There is also little evidence available that allows one to state unequivocally just how many casualties were civilian, and how many were pro-Iranian guerrillas. Given this revelation, it casts a shadow over this particular rationale for invading Iraq in 2003; there is a significant difference between the deliberate gassing of civilians, and potentially friendly fire casualties incurred by soldiers in a battle in which both sides used chemical weapons.

The truth of what led to the deaths of Kurds at Halabja must be told, but let it be the full truth.

Michael Kwiatkowski

Cleveland, OH

Aug 23 2007 - 3:03pm