Vol. 77/No. 34 September 30, 2013
Washington backed use of gas
attacks in Iran-Iraq war
BY JOHN STUDER
As U.S. officials cry crocodile tears for the more than 1,400 Syrians slaughtered Aug. 21 in a sarin gas attack, a review of Washington’s complicity in the last major use of chemicals weapons helps shed light on the motivations behind the U.S. rulers’ push to remove such weapons from the hands of the regime in Syria.
Some 1 million Iranians were hit by chemical weapons used by the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein in its U.S.-backed war aimed at rolling back the Iranian revolutionary victory of workers and farmers, who in 1979 overthrew the hated U.S.-backed monarchy of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Over the course of the eight-year war an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 people were killed by chemical weapons and 100,000 sickened, many with chronic and lifelong debilitating illnesses.
A report in August by Foreign Policy magazine, based on recently declassified CIA records and interviews with former U.S. intelligence officers, documents that Washington was well aware of Hussein’s use of chemical weapons. “The Reagan administration decided that it was better to let the attacks continue if they might turn the tide of the war,” the article says.
“The invaders should know that for every harmful insect there is an insecticide capable of annihilating it,” a declassified 1983 U.S. State Department report said, quoting an Iraqi military official, “and Iraq possesses this annihilation insecticide.”
Documents show that starting in 1988, the U.S. began supplying the Iraqi regime with detailed targeting information used to bombard Iranian troops with sarin gas. According to the CIA, two-thirds of all the chemical weapons used by the Iraqi military were dropped in the last 18 months of the war, after the U.S. began supplying the targeting data.
In addition to targeting troops, the U.S.-backed Iraqi regime hit Iranian villages, as well as the Kurdish village of Halabja, with sarin, VX and mustard gas. The attack on Halabja alone led to some 5,000 deaths and 10,000 injured.
All told, thousands were killed in these final attacks. “Washington was very pleased with the result,” according to Foreign Policy.
Thousands of victims of the gas attacks are alive in Iran today. Because of the effects of the stifling sanctions imposed on Iran by Washington and its imperialist allies — measures designed to impose the greatest hardship on working people — there are severe shortages of medicine, including drugs crucial to treat those suffering from the long-term effects of chemical gas poisoning.
Iran’s new foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zardif, recently condemned the use of chemical weapons on the Internet, reported Reuters. His posting received more than 2,000 responses from Iranians inside and outside the country, many of whom used the opportunity to criticize Tehran’s support for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.
There are several organizations in Iran that campaign against chemical weapons and seek aid for surviving victims, including the Society for Chemical Weapons Victims Support and the Society for the Defense of the Rights of Chemical Weapons Casualties in Sardasht.
In recent years, the former group has sent delegations to annual ceremonies in Hiroshima, Japan, commemorating Washington’s 1945 atomic bombing there and has hosted Japanese delegations to Iran’s National Day for Campaigning against Chemical Weapons. Only the working class and its allies truly have an interest in ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, whose only purpose is the slaughter of innocents.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military has at its disposal one of the largest arsenals of chemical and nuclear weapons in the world. And Washington stands out as the only government that has ever employed the latter when it annihilated hundreds of thousands of civilians in bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.