"Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons." Bertrand Russell

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The problem with Cash'n'Carrys

Middleman takes the heat, while manufacturers shrink comfortably into the shadow of media silence:

Broadsheet editors have had an easy few days in light of the up-coming trial of a morally bankrupt Dutchman. This "businessman" (Frans van Anraat) is accused of selling/providing the poison gas that the former Iraqi government used in the 1980-1988 Iran war and against its own Kurdish civilians, including the 1988 attack on the town of Halabja. Where the gas came from is not discussed. The elephant in the room is red with embarrassment.

While the two pillars of moral decency, the US and the UK, revel in their new found fame as the newest tag team on the block, 'the democracy bringers' (or 'the bringers of death', whichever way you prefer), the news that someone is likely to be charged with complicity in the crimes often refered to as the "ultimate horror" has been met with media 'writers block'.

One doesn't have to look hard, long or far to find out who is truely responsible:

"In fact the British government's view of the atrocity was expressed loud and clear in its doubling of export credits to Baghdad, which rose from £175 million in 1987 to £340 million in 1988. A UK Department of Trade and Industry press release of November 1988 described how "this substantial increase reflects the confidence of the British government in the long term strength of the Iraqi economy and the opportunities for an increased level of trade between our two countries following the ceasefire in the Gulf War"." (1)

"Five months after Halabja, Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe noted in a secret report that "opportunities for sales of defence equipment to Iran and Iraq will be considerable". In October 1989, Foreign office minister William Waldegrave wrote of Iraq: "I doubt if there is any future market of such a scale anywhere where the UK is potentially so well-placed" and that "the priority of Iraq in our policy should be very high"." (1)

"In the first year after Halabja, the British government steadfastly refused to accept that its ally had used chemical weapons, stating that the evidence "was compelling but not conclusive". Human Rights Watch reported recently that the evidence it collected on Halabja at the time was simply ignored by the Foreign Office. The British government, it seems, was "singularly unreceptive"." (1)

On August 18, 2002, the New York Times reported how in the 1980s the Reagan administration secretly provided "critical battle planning assistance at a time when American intelligence knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the decisive battles of the Iran-Iraq war". Walter Lang, a former senior US defence intelligence officer added: "The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern."

Soon after Halabja, the US approved the export of virus cultures and a $1 billion contract to design and build a petrochemical plant that the Iraqis planned to use to produce mustard gas. Profits were the bottom line. Indeed "so powerful was the grip of the pro-Baghdad lobby on the administration of Republican President Ronald Reagan", Dilip Hiro notes in the Observer, "that it got the White House to foil the Senate's attempt to penalise Iraq for its violation of the Geneva Protocol on Chemical Weapons to which it was a signatory". (2)

The US continued to support Iraq after the Iran-Iraq war because of "our duty to support US exports" the State Department declared in early 1990. (3)

Recent reports by the US Senate's Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban affairs, reveal that the US sold anthrax, nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulinum to Iraq up until March 1992, even after the 1991 Gulf War, and four years after Halabja. (4)

Reports by the US Senate's committee on banking, housing and urban affairs -- which oversees American exports policy -- reveal that the US, under the successive administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr, sold materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, West Nile fever germs and botulism to Iraq right up until March 1992, as well as germs similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia. Other bacteria sold included brucella melitensis, which damages major organs, and clostridium perfringens, which causes gas gangrene. (5)

The British government had been selling arms to Iraq throughout the 1980's, and then at the time of the Al Halabja genocide, military aid was increased fourfold.

Is the British (and US) Governments major role in what they have referred to as genocide of importance? In the interest of fairness and accuracy, would this not be a suitable point to break the silence?

1. Mark Curtis, Web of Deceit, Vintage, 2003, p.36, p.37
2. Hiro, 'When US turned a blind eye to poison gas', The Observer, September 1, 2002
Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, Routledge, 2003, p.111
4. medialens
5. commondreams

Dutchman in court for selling poison to Iraq

IRAQ: A Dutch businessman accused of selling Saddam Hussein ingredients for chemical weapons used against Iraqi Kurds appeared in court yesterday to face charges of complicity in war crimes and genocide.

Dutch prosecutors say Frans van Anraat (62) supplied thousands of tonnes of agents for poison gas that the former Iraqi government used in the 1980-1988 Iran war and against its own Kurdish civilians, including the 1988 attack on the town of Halabja.

Prosecutor Fred Teeven told a pre-trial hearing at the high-security court in Rotterdam that the defendant continued to supply chemical agents even after news of the Halabja attack which killed an estimated 5,000 people 17 years ago this week.


The Irish Times