Lest we forget:
The CIA has a long, colorful history in the Middle East, characterized by often futile or disastrous attempts to further the interests of the United States.
Another colorful history is that of the Kurds. The Kurds are an ancient people, said to be descendants of the Medes, who fought with the Persians against Alexander the Great. They live in an area of the Middle East as big as France called Kurdistan. This region was parceled out among Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran by the Western Powers after WW1. All four powers have repressed and massacred them from time to time because their loyalty to whomever controlled them was always suspect. The British too, gassed and napalmed them in the 1920s, which delighted Winston Churchill. These pogroms have been blithely ignored in the media. The Kurds wanted a home land and we wanted access to oil. The Kurds were used by the CIA from time to time to harass our enemy of the moment. When events backfired, they became invisible.
In 1953, the CIA staged a coup to bring the Shah to power in Iran. The Shah lived in a fantasy world and spent millions attempting to restore the ancient Persian “Peacock Throne”. He also committed genocide against the Iranian Kurds. Entire tribes disappeared but he was our man. He was overthrown and sent into exile in 1979 when our embassy was overrun and 70 hostages spent 444 days in captivity. Iran went from a monarchy to an Islamic Republic.
In 1973, the CIA, at the behest of President Nixon and Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, instigated an uprising of the Kurds in Northern Iraq against Saddam Hussein. The Kurds had been supporting Iran in an Iranian-Iraqi dispute. However, the Shah of Iran and Saddam settled their differences so we walked away. The Kurds were decimated by a vengeful Hussein.
On March 24, 1984, UPI reported from the UN that “Mustard gas laced with a nerve agent has been used on Iranian soldiers in the 43 month Persian Gulf War between Iran and Iraq, a team of U.N. experts has concluded…” On that day, Donald Rumsfeld was in Baghdad, meeting with then Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz. Rumsfeld was there because, as the Washington Post reported on January 13, 1984, the defeat of Iraq in the 3 year old war with Iran would be “contrary to US interests”. Throughout this period, Rumsfeld was Reagan’s Middle East envoy and Saddam Hussein was on a shopping binge. He initially purchased 60 Hughes helicopters and trainers. A second purchase, in the summer of 1983, comprised 10 twin-engine Bell “Huey” helicopters. In 1984 Saddam purchased 45 Bell 214ST helicopters worth $ 200 million.
As the Iran-Iraq war wound down, Saddam turned his attention to the Kurds in Northern Iraq. During 1987 and 1988, up to 182, 000 Kurds died in an ethnic cleansing campaign. On “Bloody Friday”, March 16th, 1988, 5000 innocent civilians, 75% of whom were women and children, died in a gas attack in Halabja. The United States wanted to engage Saddam Hussein constructively, however, so denied any knowledge of genocide against the Iraqi Kurds.
After the Gulf war, when Iraq had withdrawn from Kuwait. President George H. W. Bush appealed to the Kurds in the North, as well as the Shiites in the South to rebel. They did. Saddam Hussein, however, still had his helicopters. Tens of thousands died as he suppressed the rebellion. We stood by and did nothing.
Now, due to CIA blundering, the United States occupies a region said to be embroiled in a civil war. A civil war however, is a war within a nation. It is doubtful that anyone cares about a nation called Iraq now. The murderous turmoil there splits along tribal, religious or ethnic lines. We are reaping what we have sown, hell on earth. This in a land once said to contain the Garden of Eden. Bombs now kill scores daily. Innocent strangers engaged in shopping or school or simply passing by become “collateral damage”. Anyone who can, with money or connections, has fled to a neighboring country. Only the poor remain. In the end, what was Iraq will have morphed into a greater Iran and Kurdistan.
Perhaps the only person with a hint of nobility, in a Shakespearean sense, in this entire sorry saga has been the murderous Saddam Hussein. As he stoically waited on the scaffold with a noose around his neck, his executioners taunted him.
“Is this manly?”, he asked.
They told him to go to hell.
“You are in hell”, he answered.