America: A Beacon, Not a Policeman       America: a Beacon, not   a Policeman

British Use of Chemical Weapons in Iraq

Dresden's Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, where he practiced, Winston Churchill, and others

Americans Against World Empire, Inc Homepage



What it used to be like in the old days.  The question of "outlaw weapons" such as poison gas is very much one of time and place.   Meanwhile, new weapons, such as cluster bombs and fuel-air bombs which suck out all oxygen over hundreds of square yards and suffocate every living creature, are unquestioned by us in the West. 

"Bomber" Sir Arthur Harris, the British commander noted below, is now blamed by civilian authorities as the commander responsable for ordering the the phosphorus fire bombing of Dresden.   From 150,000 to 250,000 refugees, mainly women, children and old men fleeing the invading Russian Army, some 80 miles away, were immolated some two months before the end of the Second World War.   These were far more deaths than at Hiroshima (80,000) or Nagasaki. The raids were carried out by British bombers, together with the United States 8th Air Force, first with explosive bombs to break open the roof tops of buildings. and followed with phosphorous bombs to successfully set off a (planned) devastating firestorm.

While the use of poison gas is now "outlawed" by the Geneva convention, the oft repeated accusation that Saddam gassed his own people neglects an important fact.  Halabaja, the town where it took place, was at the time occupied by invading Iranian forces, and, according to MSNBC Internet Home News, hundreds of Iranians and civilians were killed. Now, this theory is under revision, see Jude Wanniski's criticism .  Judging from all the lies promulgated about Iraq, his study is very revealing.   Article follows:---------


In his recent speech, President Clinton, accused those us who opposed his war policy of "not remembering the past." Well, here is a piece of the past that Messrs. Clinton and Blair would prefer that we forget.  To my knowledge Britain has never apologized, or compensated the victims of these war crimes, and indeed the chief war criminal is still a national hero.

Ali Abunimah

reprinted from


[BACKGROUND: In 1917, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, the British occupied Iraq and established a colonial government. The Arab and Kurdish people of Iraq resisted the British occupation, and by 1920 this had developed into a full scale national revolt, which cost the British dearly. As the Iraqi resistance gained strength, the British resorted to increasingly repressive measures, including the use of posion gas.] NB: Because of formatting problems, quotation marks will appear as stars *

    All quotes in the excerpt are properly footnoted in the original book, with full references to British archives and papers.  Excerpt from pages 179-181 of Simons, Geoff. *IRAQ: FROM SUMER TO SUDAN*. London: St. Martins Press, 1994:

    Winston Churchill, as colonial secretary, was sensitive to the cost of policing the Empire; and was in consequence keen to exploit the potential of modern technology. This strategy had particular relevance to operations in Iraq. On 19 February, 1920, before the start of the Arab uprising, Churchill (then Secretary for War and Air) wrote to Sir Hugh Trenchard, the pioneer of air warfare. Would it be possible for Trenchard to take control of Iraq? This would entail *the provision of some kind of asphyxiating bombs calculated to cause disablement of some kind but not death...for use in preliminary operations against turbulent tribes.*

    Churchill was in no doubt that gas could be profitably employed against the Kurds and Iraqis (as well as against other peoples in the Empire): *I do not understand this sqeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes.* Henry Wilson shared Churchills enthusiasm for gas as an instrument of colonial control but the British cabinet was reluctant to sanction the use of a weapon that had caused such misery and revulsion in the First World War. Churchill himself was keen to argue that gas, fired from ground-based guns or dropped from aircraft, would cause *only discomfort or illness, but not death* to dissident tribespeople; but his optimistic view of the effects of gas were mistaken. It was likely that the suggested gas would permanently damage eyesight and *kill children and sickly persons, more especially as the people against whom we intend to use it have no medical knowledge with which to supply antidotes.*

    Churchill remained  unimpressed by such considerations, arguing that the use of gas, a *scientific expedient,* should not be prevented *by the prejudices of those who do not think clearly*. In the event, gas was used against the Iraqi rebels with excellent moral effect* though gas shells were not dropped from aircraft because of practical difficulties [.....]

    Today in 1993 there are still Iraqis and Kurds who remember being bombed and machine-gunned by the RAF in the 1920s. A Kurd from the Korak mountains commented, seventy years after the event: *They were bombing here in the Kaniya Khoran...Sometimes they raided three times a day.* Wing Commander Lewis, then of 30 Squadron (RAF), Iraq, recalls how quite often *one would get a signal that a certain Kurdish village would have to be bombed...*, the RAF pilots being ordered to bomb any Kurd who looked hostile. In the same vein, Squadron-Leader Kendal of 30 Squadron recalls that if the tribespeople were doing something they ought not be doing then you shot them.*

    Similarly, Wing-Commander Gale, also of 30 Squadron: *If the Kurds  hadn't learned by our example to behave themselves in a civilised way then we had to spank their bottoms. This was done by bombs and guns.

    Wing-Commander Sir Arthur Harris (later Bomber Harris, head of wartime  Bomber Command) was happy to emphasise that *The Arab and Kurd now   know what real bombing means in casualties and damage. Within forty-five   minutes a full-size village can be practically wiped out and a third of its inhabitants killed or injured.*  It was an easy matter to bomb and machine-gun the tribespeople, because they had no means of defence or retalitation. Iraq and Kurdistan were also useful laboratories for new weapons; devices specifically developed by the Air Ministry for use against tribal villages. The ministry drew up a list of possible weapons, some of them the forerunners of napalm and air-to-ground missiles:

    Phosphorus bombs, war rockets, metal crowsfeet [to maim livestock] man-killing shrapnel, liquid fire, delay-action bombs. Many of these weapons were first used in Kurdistan.

Excerpt from pages 179-181 of Simons, Geoff. *Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam*.

London: St. Martins Press, 1994.

Gas, chemicals, bombs: Britain has used them all before in Iraq   a recent study corroborating much of the above by
Jonathan Glancey
Saturday April 19, 2003
The Guardian