Renowned Middle-East-based British journalist and author Robert Fisk has criticised the West, especially Britain, for its hypocrisy over the history of chemical warfare and use of chemical weapons by West’s allies in the past.
The United States, along with Britain and France, took part in airstrikes in Syria today that came on the back of the alleged chemical attacks in the city of Douma. Fisk believes that a potential full-blown war in Syria could have serious repercussions for the whole region.
While recalling Iran’s gassing by Saddam Hussain in the 1980’s and the West’s total ignorance of those attacks, Fisk writes,
But it’s a different war that I’m remembering today. It’s the Iran-Iraq war between 1980 and 1988, when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. When the Iranians re-crossed their own border and stormed into Iraq years later, Saddam used gas on thousands of Iranian soldiers — and civilians, for there were nurses and doctors at the war front. Funny how we forget this now. We don’t talk about it. We have forgotten all about it. Talk about the “normalisation” of chemical warfare — this was it!
But in our desire to concentrate minds on Syria, we’re not mentioning the Iran gassings — Iran being another one of our present-day enemies, of course — and this may be because of our lack of official memory. More likely it’s because of what happened: the institutionalisation of chemical warfare, the use of chemicals by Saddam who was then an ally of the West and of all the Gulf states, our frontline Sunni hero.
The thousands of Iranian soldiers who were to die were referred to on Iraqi radio after they crossed the frontier. The “Persian insects” had crossed the border, it announced. And that’s how they were treated. For the precursors for the Iraqi gas came largely from the United States — one from New Jersey — and US military personnel later visited the battlefront without making any comments about the chemicals which were sold to the Iraqi regime, of course, for “agricultural” purposes. That’s how to deal with insects, is it not?
Criticising the West’s ignorance and hypocrisy when it comes to its own allies, Frisk writes:
Yet not a soul today is mentioning this terrible war, which was fought with total acquiescence of the West. It’s almost an “exclusive” to mention the conflict at all, so religiously have we forgotten it. That was the real “normalisation”, and we allowed it to happen.
No fear of being out to get Saddam then — because in those days, of course, the good guys were using the chemicals. Don’t we remember the Kurds of Halabja who were gassed by Saddam, with gas which the CIA told its officers to claim was used by the Iranians? For this war crime, Saddam should have been tried. He was indeed a “gas-killing animal”. But he was hanged for a smaller massacre with conventional weapons — because, I have always suspected, we didn’t want him exposing his gas warfare partners in an open court.
Fisk, while sounding sceptical on the future of the Syrian war along with the Middle East, argues:
This is a very bad moment in Middle East history — and, as usual, it is the Palestinians who will suffer, their own tragedy utterly forgotten amid this madness. So we are going to “war”, are we? And how do we get out of this war once we have started it? Any plans, anyone? What if there’s a gigantic screw-up, which wars do tend to usually produce? What happens then? Well, I guess Russia comes to the rescue, just as it did for president Barack Obama when gas was used for the first time in the Syrian war.
The full article originally appeared in The Independent