(Note - this is not a defense of Saddam Hussein, which if you read the whole article, including what I've excerpted, you will see. But it seems another example of either outright deception or incompetence on the part of the Bush Administration to have held up this particular case as a vivid example of Saddam Hussein's atrocities and why he must go without having completely vetted it first. I mean, it's not like the pickings were slim when it came to examples of the man's evil. Full Story)
LONDON, Jul 2 (IPS) Evidence offered by a top CIA (news - web sites) man could confirm the testimony given by Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) at the opening of his trial in Baghdad Thursday that he knew of the Halabja massacre only from the newspapers.
Thousands were reported killed in the gassing of Iraqi Kurds in Halabja in the north of Iraq (news - web sites) in March 1988 towards the end of Iraq's eight-year war with Iran. The gassing of the Kurds has long been held to be the work of Ali Hassan al-Majid, named in the West because of that association as 'Chemical Ali'. Saddam Hussein is widely alleged to have ordered Ali to carry out the chemical attack.
A report prepared by the top CIA official handling the matter says Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the massacre, and indicates that it was the work of Iranians. Further, the Scott inquiry on the role of the British government has gathered evidence that following the massacre the United States in fact armed Saddam Hussein to counter the Iranians chemicals for chemicals.
Few believe that a CIA man would attend a court hearing in Baghdad in defence of Saddam. But in this case the CIA boss has gone public with his evidence, and this evidence has been in the public domain for more than a year.
The CIA officer Stephen C. Pelletiere was the agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war. As professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000, he says he was privy to much of the classified material that flowed through Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf.
Pelletiere says the United States Defence Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report following the Halabja gassing, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. "That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas," he wrote in The New York Times.
The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja, he said. "The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent -- that is, a cyanide-based gas -- which Iran was known to use. "The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time."
Pelletiere write that these facts have "long been in the public domain but, extraordinarily, as often as the Halabja affair is cited, they are rarely mentioned."
Pelletiere wrote that Saddam Hussein has much to answer for in the area of human rights abuses. "But accusing him of gassing his own people at Halabja as an act of genocide is not correct, because as far as the information we have goes, all of the cases where gas was used involved battles. These were tragedies of war. There may be justifications for invading Iraq, but Halabja is not one of them."