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Encyclopedia > Halabja poison gas attack
Photo said to have been taken in the aftermath of the attack.
Photo said to have been taken in the aftermath of the attack.

The Halabja poison gas attack was an incident on 15 March-19 March 1988 during a major battle in the Iran-Iraq war when chemical weapons were used by the Iraqi government forces to kill a number of people in the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja (population 80,000). Estimates of casualties range from several hundred to 7,000 people. Halabja is located about 150 miles northeast of Baghdad and 8-10 miles from the Iranian border. This image has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. ... March 15 is the 74th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (75th in Leap years). ... March 19 is the 78th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (79th in leap years). ... 1988 (MCMLXXXVIII) was a leap year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Dressing the wounded during a gas attack by Austin O. Spare, 1918. ... Kurds are one of the Iranian peoples and speak Kurdish, a north-Western Iranian language related to Persian. ... Victims of the gas attack by Iraqi forces in 1988 Halabja (Arabic: , Kurdish: Helepçe) is a Kurdish town in Iraq about 150 miles northeast of Baghdad and 8-10 miles from the Iranian border. ... Location of Baghdad within Iraq Baghdad (Arabic: ‎ translit: , Kurdish: Bexda, from Persian Baagh-daad or Bag-Da-Du meaning “Garden of God” [1]) is the capital of Iraq and of Baghdad Governorate. ...

Contents


The attack

Almost all current accounts of the incident regard Iraq as the party responsible for the gas attack, which occurred during the Iran-Iraq War. The war between Iran and Iraq was in its eighth year when, on March 16 and 17, 1988, Iraq dropped poison gas on the Kurdish city of Halabja, then held by Iranian troops and Iraqi Kurdish guerrillas allied with Tehran; throughout the war, Iran had supplied the Iraqi Kurdish rebels with safe haven and other military support. Combatants Iran Iraq Casualties Est. ... Guerrilla (also called a partisan) is a term borrowed from Spanish (from guerra meaning war) used to describe small combat groups. ... Map of Iran and surrounding lands, showing location of Tehran The towering Alborz mountains rising above modern Elahiyeh district and its green neighborhoods. ... A rebellion is, in the most general sense, a refusal to accept authority. ... A safe haven is any security or other investment that loses none or little of its value in case of a market crash. ...


The poison gas attack on the Iraqi town of Halabja was the largest-scale chemical weapons (CW) attack against a civilian population in modern times. It began early in the evening of March 16, when a group of eight aircraft began dropping chemical bombs, and the chemical bombardment continued all night. The Halabja attack involved multiple chemical agents, including mustard gas, and the nerve agents sarin, tabun and VX. Some sources have also pointed to the blood agent hydrogen cyanide. Early detection of chemical agents Sociopolitical climate of chemical warfare While the study of chemicals and their military uses was widespread in China, the use of toxic materials has historically been viewed with mixed emotions and some disdain in the West (especially when the enemy were doing it). ... Victims of the gas attack by Iraqi forces in 1988 Halabja (Arabic: , Kurdish: Helepçe) is a Kurdish town in Iraq about 150 miles northeast of Baghdad and 8-10 miles from the Iranian border. ... Early detection of chemical agents Sociopolitical climate of chemical warfare While the study of chemicals and their military uses was widespread in China, the use of toxic materials has historically been viewed with mixed emotions and some disdain in the West (especially when the enemy were doing it). ... A civilian is a person who is not a member of a military. ... March 16 is the 75th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (76th in Leap years). ... Airbus A380 An aircraft is any machine capable of atmospheric flight. ... Chemical warfare is warfare (and associated military operations) using the toxic properties of chemical substances to kill, injure or incapacitate an enemy. ... Airborne exposure limit 0. ... Nerve agents (also known as nerve gases, though these chemicals are liquid at room temperature) are a class of phosphorus-containing organic chemicals (organophosphates) that disrupt the mechanism by which nerves transfer messages to organs. ... Sarin or GB (O-Isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate) is an extremely toxic substance. ... Tabun or GA (Ethyl N,N-dimethylphosphoramidocyanidate) is an extremely toxic substance that is one of the worlds most dangerous weapons of war. ... VX The VX nerve agent is the most well-known of the V-series of nerve agents. ... A blood agent (also called a cyanogen agent) is a compound that prevents the normal transfer of oxygen from the blood to the body tissues, resulting in chemical asphyxiation. ... Flash point −17. ...


Discovery

The first images after the attack were taken by Iranian journalists who later spread the pictures in Iranian newspapers. Some of those first pictures were taken by the Pulitzer Prize awarded Iranian photographer Kaveh Golestan. The gold medal awarded for Public Service in Journalism The Pulitzer Prize is an American award regarded as the highest honor in print journalism, literary achievements, and musical compositions. ... Kaveh Golestan was an internationally renowned Iranian photojournalist. ...


Recalling the scenes at Halabja, Kaveh described the scene to Guy Dinmore of the Financial Times. He was about eight kilometres outside Halabja with a military helicopter when the Iraqi MiG-23 fighter-bombers flew in. "It was not as big as a nuclear mushroom cloud, but several smaller ones: thick smoke," he said. He was shocked by the scenes on his arrival in the town, though he had seen gas attacks before during the brutal Iran-Iraq war. The Financial Times (FT) is an international business newspaper printed on distinctive salmon pink broadsheet paper. ... Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 (Flogger). ... A ground attack aircraft is an aircraft that is designed to operate very close to the ground, supporting infantry and tanks directly in battle. ...


"It was life frozen. Life had stopped, like watching a film and suddenly it hangs on one frame. It was a new kind of death to me. You went into a room, a kitchen and you saw the body of a woman holding a knife where she had been cutting a carrot.


"The aftermath was worse. Victims were still being brought in. Some villagers came to our chopper. They had 15 or 16 beautiful children, begging us to take them to hospital. So all the press sat there and we were each handed a child to carry. As we took off, fluid came out of my little girl's mouth and she died in my arms."


Estabilishing the culprit

The most authoritative investigation into responsibility for the Halabja massacre, by Dr Jean Pascal Zanders, Project Leader of the Chemical and Biological Warfare Project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) concluded that Iraq was the culprit, and not Iran. A detective is an officer of the police who performs criminal or administrative investigations, in some police departments, the lowest rank among such investigators (above the lowest rank of officers and below sergeants), a civilian licensed to investigate information not readily available in public records (a private investigator, also called... Weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are weapons designed to kill large numbers of people, typically targeting civilians and military personnel alike. ... Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) was founded in 1966 to commemorate 150 years of unbroken peace in Sweden. ...


Some debate existed, however, over the question of whether Iraq was really the responsible party. The U.S. State Department, in the immediate aftermath of the incident, instructed its diplomats to say that Iran was partly to blame. The United States Department of State, often referred to as the State Department, is the Cabinet-level foreign affairs agency of the United States government, equivalent to foreign ministries in other countries. ...


A preliminary Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) study at the time concluded, apparently by determining the chemicals used by looking at images of the victims, that it was in fact Iran that was responsible for the attack, an assessment which was used subsequently by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for much of the early 1990's. The CIA's senior political analyst for the Iran-Iraq war, Stephen C. Pelletiere, co-authored an unclassified analysis of the war [1] which contained a brief summary of the DIA study's key points. In a January 31, 2003 New York Times [2] opinion piece, Pelletiere summarized the DIA's findings and noted that because of the DIA's conclusion there was not sufficient evidence to definitively determine whether Iraq or Iran was responsible. Pelletiere also felt that the administration of George W. Bush was not being forthright when squarely placing blame on Iraq, since it contradicted the conclusion of the DIA study. However the DIA's final position on the attack was in fact much less certain than this preliminary report suggests, with its final conclusions, in June 2003, asserting just that there was insufficient evidence, but concluding that "Iraq ..used chemical weapons against Kurdish civilians in 1988" [3]. The CIA altered its position radically in the late 1990s and cited Halabja frequently in its evidence of WMD before the 2003 invasion [4] DIA seal The Defense Intelligence Agency is a major producer and manager of intelligence for the United States Department of Defense. ... The CIAs seal features an eagle atop a sixteen-point compass. ... January 31 is the 31st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ... George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the 43rd and current President of the United States and former governor of Texas. ...


Another extensive analysis of the incident is contained in a post [5] to the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq electronic mailing list by Cambridge political theorist Glen Rangwala. Rangwala describes how the attack followed the occupation of the city by Iranian and pro-Iranian forces, leading to the conclusion that the gassing was an attack on these forces by the Iraqis. Rangwala also cites studies done by non-governmental organizations that concluded different chemicals were used than the ones cited in the DIA study. Rangwala's analysis effectively sums up the current prevailing view of the event, that Iraq was indeed responsible for the attack on Halabja, and that the DIA analysis is in error. This evidence backed up by extensive witness testimony gathered by organisations like Human Rights Watch[6] and Indict [7] has, more recently, added to the growing evidence that the initial DIA appraisal of the events was mistaken. Electronic mailing lists are a special usage of e-mail that allows for widespread distribution of information to many Internet users. ... Human Rights Watch is a U.S.-based international human rights non-governmental organization located in New York City, USA, that conducts advocacy and research on human rights issues. ...


The most categorical proof is the many further well-documented incidents of deliberate attacks on Kurdish civilians occurring at the same time throughout Kurdish northern Iraq also perpetrated without doubt by Iraqi forces during the Al-Anfal Campaign. Joost Hiltermann, who was the principal researcher for the Human Rights Watch between 1992-1994, conducted a 2 year study, including a field investigation in northern Iraq, capturing Iraqi government documents in the process. This research culminated in Iraq's Crime of Genocide: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds (by G. Black, Yale Univ. Press, 1995). According to Hiltermann, the literature on the Iran-Iraq war reflects a number of allegations of CW use by Iran, but these are "marred by a lack of specificity as to time and place, and the failure to provide any sort of evidence". (Potter, p.153) He calls these allegations "mere assertions" and adds: "no persuasive evidence of the claim that Iran was the primary culprit was ever presented".(Potter, p.156) Excavating the skeletons of Kurds killed at the Al-Anfal Campaign. ... Human Rights Watch is a U.S.-based international human rights non-governmental organization located in New York City, USA, that conducts advocacy and research on human rights issues. ... Combatants Iran Iraq Casualties Est. ...


International responsibility

The massacre at Halabja did not raise protests by the international community in March 1988. At the time, it was admitted that the civilians had been killed "collaterally" due to an error in handling the combat gas. Two years later, when the Iran-Iraq War was finished and the Western powers stopped supporting Saddam Hussein, the massacre of Halabja was attributed to the Iraqi government. The word massacre has a number of meanings, but most commonly refers to individual events of deliberate and direct mass killing, especially of noncombatant civilians or other innocents, that would often qualify as war crimes or atrocities. ... Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti, (Arabic ), born April 28, 1937 , was the President of Iraq from 1979 until he lost power over Iraq when American troops arrived in Baghdad on April 9, 2003. ...


While the United States did not supply full-fledged chemical weapons to Iraq, it did approve private business sales of biological weapon precursors to Iraq, according to a 1994 report issued by the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs (aka the Riegle Report.) It should be noted that the report does not provide proof of U.S. involvement in Iraqi chemical weapons and that the gas attack was carried out by Mustard gas and not a biological weapon. In addition, there is no evidence that Iraq ever used biological weapons in combat during the war with Iran. 1994 (MCMXCIV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated the International year of the Family. ...


The US also provided satellite photographs and battlefield intelligence to Iraq which it knew was to be used in "calibrating" Iraqi chemical weapons attacks against Iran Furthermore, the US provided dual use helicopters, ostensibly for crop spraying, which intelligence sources believe were used to deploy the chemical weapons in Halabja Satellite imagery consists of photographs of Earth or other planets made from artificial satellites. ...


Several European nations also participated in arming Iraq, specifically Germany. German chemical companies and German Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC) protective gear manufacturers also supplied the Iraqi Army and Rustimiya Officers Academy. Stores of German chemicals and training materials were found in June 2003 by U.S. soldiers in east Baghdad. Details of the findings were described by a U.S. Army corporal in the book American, Interrupted. The soldier also recorded video footage of protective gear and chemicals in store rooms. See Video of German chemicals and NBC gear


The trial

Both Saddam Hussein and Ali Hasan al-Majid (who commanded Iraqi forces in northern Iraq in that period) have not had charges relating to the events at Halabja included within the charges for which they are appearing before the Iraqi Special Tribunal for crimes against humanity.The tribunal has made a point of avoiding directly charging President Hussien with the crimes committed at Halabja. Hussein has repeatedly denied the Tribunal's legitimacy (claiming it to be a "play" of American "theatre"), and refused to sign documents reflecting the charges against him during his first public court appearance. Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti, (Arabic ), born April 28, 1937 , was the President of Iraq from 1979 until he lost power over Iraq when American troops arrived in Baghdad on April 9, 2003. ... Ali Hassan al-Majid (born 1941), a first cousin of former President Saddam Hussein, was the Defense Minister of Iraq. ... The Iraq Special Tribunal is a body established under Iraqi national law to try Iraqi nationals or residents accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes or other serious crimes committed between 1968 and 2003. ... Saddam Hussein during his first appearance before the Iraqi Special Tribunal The trials of Saddam Hussein, the former President of Iraq, are being held under the Iraqi Special Tribunal. ...


References

  • Lawrence Potter, Gary Sick. Iran, Iraq, and the legacies of war. 2004, MacMillan. ISBN 1403964505

Gary Sick is the author of October Surprise and the executive director of the Gulf/2000 Project. ...

Video

  • Video source documenting European protective gear supplies and chemicals.

See also

  • Al-Anfal Campaign

Excavating the skeletons of Kurds killed at the Al-Anfal Campaign. ...

External links

  • Halabja gas attack and the Al-Anfal campaign, Human Rights Watch
  • Eyewitness report from Wildcat no.13 1989
  • Lessons Learned: Iran-Iraq War. Army War College unclassified report by Dr. Stephen C. Pelletiere and LTC Douglas V. Johnson II
  • Section of a report on Iraq Weapons of Mass destruction program relating to Halabja, CIA
  • The 1988 Chemical Weapons Attack on Halabja, Iraq - Christine M. Gosden, Professor of Medical Genetics, University of Liverpool
  • A War Crime or an Act of War?," New York Times, January 31, 2003.
  • Report on Halabja gas attack, U.S. State Department
  • Rumsfeld should know : Who minded Iraqi mustard gas in 1983? International Herald Tribune, discusses the US role of shifting the blame for the gassing of Halabja off of Saddam and onto Iran
  • A timeline of US relations with Iraq by Glen Ringwala and Nathaniel Hurd, two human rights researchers at the University of Cambridge

  Results from FactBites:
 
Halabja poison gas attack - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1475 words)
The Halabja poison gas attack was an incident on 15 March-19 March 1988 during a major battle in the Iran-Iraq war when chemical weapons were used by the Iraqi government forces to kill a number of people in the Iraqi Kurdish town of Halabja (population 80,000).
Halabja is located about 150 miles northeast of Baghdad and 8-10 miles from the Iranian border.
The poison gas attack on the Iraqi town of Halabja was the largest-scale chemical weapons (CW) attack against a civilian population in modern times.
Halabja - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (310 words)
It was the site of the Halabja poison gas attack and later a total destruction after the ground re-occupation by Saddam Hussein's forces during the Iran-Iraq Warin 1988, and is a stronghold of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan.
In the mountains to the East of Halabja the armed Islamists of the Ansar al-Islam occupied a small enclave in the period 2000 - 2003.
The Dutch court ruled that Saddam committed genocide against the people of Halabja, which was the first time a court described the use of chemical weapons against the people of Halabja as genocide.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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