100,000 Men and Boys, Machine-Gunned to Death!!
Jude Wanniski
August 14, 2002


Memo To: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Holy Cow!!!That's Genocide!!!

Did you happen to read the letter in the NYTimes Tuesday about how Saddam Hussein in 1988 had "100,000 Kurdish men and boys rounded up, trucked to remote areas and machine-gunned to death, their bodies bulldozed into mass graves."? The reason I ask you of all people, Senator, is that I read in the Washington Post that you are eager to pre-emptively strike Iraq to deal with this monster, as soon as you have collected enough of a case against him. I had wondered if you put the Times letter from Human Rights Watch into your Evidence Envelope, as it certainly would persuade me we should kill as many Iraqis as it would take, with bombs and bullets, to rid the Middle East of his ugly presence. You know from my previous contacts with you and your capable staff that I consider you to be among the very best U.S. Senators, in the top ten if not the top five. So if these 100,000 machine-gunned men and boys are weighing on your decision, I think you can relax on that account.

The story is pure bunk. I've looked into it and can tell you it never happened. The story actually began as a rumor picked up by two staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who were in Kurdistan at the time the Iran/Iraq war ended in August 1988. They reported hearing that 100,000 Iraqi Kurds were GASSED to death by Saddam's army in a matter of days, soon after he concluded his peace with Iran. The story was dopey to begin with as most of the Iraqi Kurds of fighting age had fought side-by-side with the Iraqi army. There were a small number of Iraqi rebels among the Kurds, who defected to the Iranians expecting Iran would win the war. Of the 2 million male Kurds in Iraq, more than half were too young or too old to be rounded up and machine-gunned, so we are talking about Saddam bumping off more than 10% of the relevant population in a matter of days. The rumor would not have gone very far, Senator, but Secretary of State George Shultz held a press conference and told the world that Saddam had GASSED 100,000 men and boys of fighting age. When asked how he knew, he said it was a secret! Our State Department essentially confirmed the stupid rumor without an investigation.

In the years since, Human Rights Watch has conceded all those fellas could not have been killed by gas, which the Army War College tells me has a kill rate of only 2% unless your head is in the oven. Having raised so much money, the Human Rights Watch folks had to come up with another theory, which is how they now happen to have been rounded up, machine-gunned to death, and bulldozed into mass graves. Fourteen years ago. The folks at the Army War College (who you should talk to, by the way) tell me only one "mass grave" was found, with 14 corpses, and there has been no other sign of the rest of the 100,000 bullet-riddled bodies. The reason Human Rights Watch say they were "trucked to remote areas" before being bulldozed into mass graves, one might suppose, is that modern technology can spot such doings by satellite, and no such disturbances of the land have been located.

They REALLY must be remote because American newshounds sniffing around right after all this blood was supposed to have been spilled did not smell a thing. Milton Viorst of the Washington Post, who knows Kurdistan as well as any American journalist, rushed to the spot as soon as George Shultz loosed that bolt from the blue, and reported to his readers:

From what I saw, I would conclude that if lethal gas was used, it was not used genocidally -- that is, for mass killing. The Kurds compose a fifth of the Iraqi population, and they are a tightly knit community. If there had been large-scale killing, it is likely they would know and tell the world.

But neither I nor any Westerner I encountered heard such allegations. Nor did Kurdish society show discernible signs of tension. The northern cities, where the men wear Kurdish turbans and baggy pants, were as bustling as I had ever seen them. I talked to armed Kurds near the border, members of Iraqi military unites mobilized against the rebels.

On the other hand, Iraq probably used gas of some kind in air attacks on rebel positions. Journalists visiting the Turkish camps saw refugees with blistered skin and irritated eyes, symptoms of gassing. But doctors sent by France, the United Nations and the Red Cross have said these symptoms could have been produced by a powerful, but nonlethal tear gas.

Citing national security, Mr. Shultz has declined to submit the U.S. data to scrutiny, even by America's NATO allies, though State Department sources say it is the sort of information that the United States routinely shares with them. American officials acknowledge that Mr. Shultz's evidence, chiefly radio intercepts, may be subject to conflicting interpretations.

Do you see what I mean, Senator Hutchison? Doesn't it look pretty fishy? Especially when we were backing Iraq in its war with Iran? We should have been celebrating Iraq's victory as the Iraqi Kurds in their baggy pants seem to be doing when Milton Viorst went among them looking for angst. Do you know some people suspect that Israel had something to do with Shultz coming up with his blast against Baghdad? Remember Israel had backed Iran in the eight-year war, one of its major arms suppliers. It was certainly surprised that Iraq won. Maybe it decided it had better do something about it. You might call it "pre-emptive propaganda."