Blog #5 Saddam Hussein uses Chemical Weapons against the Kurd’s.

Al-Anfal and the Genocide of Iraqi Kurds, 1988

Iran Still Haunted and Influenced By Chemical Weapons Attack

Saddam Hussein during his time in power was a cruel and calculating dictator who used force to secure his position and stamp out all opposition to his rule. In 1958, a coup d’état known as the 14 July Revolution led by the Brigadier General Abd al-Karim Qasim ousted and executed King Faysal II, Prince Abd al-Ilah, and Nuri al-Sa’id. Brigadier General Abd al-Sa’id was later overthrown by Colonel Abdul Salam Arif in a February 1963 coup.After his death in 1966, he was succeeded by his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, who was overthrown by the Ba’ath Party in 1968. Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr became the first Ba’ath President of Iraq but then the movement gradually came under the control of General Saddam Hussein, who acceded to the presidency and control of the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC), then Iraq’s supreme executive body, in July 1979. this line of succession by military force created a state used to unstable government rule. By the time Saddam came to power the Iraqi people were ready for some stability. This need made it even easier for Saddam to consolidate his power and maintain it over time. The despot, known as Saddam, had oppressed Iraq for more than 30 years, unleashing devastating regional wars and reducing his once promising, oil-rich nation to a claustrophobic police state. During the decades that Saddam Hussein governed Iraq, joking about him or criticizing him in public could bring a death sentence. Saddam Hussein held onto the ethos of a village peasant who believed that the strongman was everything. He was trying to be a tribal leader on a grand scale. His rule was paramount and sustaining it was his main goal behind all the talk of developing Iraq by harnessing its considerable wealth and manpower. For this reason, he developed his Weapons of Mass Destruction Program (WMD’s). Fortunately, his Nuclear program never really got off the ground, do to the efforts of the Israelis and even the Iranians. However, his chemical and biological programs did prove to be successful.

During the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988, Saddam used chemical weapons to eliminate what he saw as a threat to his power, that of the Kurds of northern Iraq. The Kurdish population has been a fiercely independent minority group within Iraq since the end of World War I. By the time of the Saddam Hussien regime, the Kurdish population was the fourth largest minority in the country. The Kurds also extended to the neighboring countries of Turkey, Iran, and Syria. This diversity and geographical expansion along with their wish for independence constituted a threat to Saddam Hussein’s ambitions for the region. Ali Hassan al-Majid, a cousin of Saddam and the Defense Minister, was delegated the task of vanquishing this perceived strategic liability, whereby he earned the notorious moniker, “Chemical Ali.” This brutal campaign that Saddam waged against the Kurds of northern Iraq, consisted of eight separate operations and lasted from February until September 1988, Throughout Saddam’s  rule, he dealt with perceived threats by unsettled the ranks of the Baath Party with bloody purges and packed his jails with political prisoners to defuse real or imagined plots. In one of his most brutal acts, he rained poison gas on the northern Kurdish village of Halabja in 1988, killing an estimated 5,000 of his own citizens suspected of being disloyal and wounding 10,000 more.

What I have learned from Saddam Hussein the former Iraqi Dictator registers on a cautionary side. It seems that since the end of World War I and the decolonization period, the middle- east has struggled to maintain and to develop political institutions that can handle the demands of the population. It also seems that the rise of men like Saddam in the middle-east is a byproduct of the lack of this political process to establish strong governments based on the respect and protection of the local population. Saddam like other dictators used a wide range of terror and actual weapons to control his people and to maintain his hold on power. Weapons of mass destruction constituted a terrible tool from which Saddam Hussein could exploit and kill his opposition and even wage war against his neighbors. I have also learned the awesome destructive power that can be unleashed by chemical and biological weapons, we seldom do not see such weapons as being compatible with atom or hydrogen bombs. However, the destructive potential of these weapons was demonstrated by the Saddam regime against a civilian population without regard for human life.

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