During the war with Iran (which is predominantly Shiite), Iraq's own Shiite population came in for especially brutal treatment. Thirty-five thousand Iraqi Shiites were driven out of the country at the start of the Iran/Iraq war, and thousands more were tortured and murdered before the war was finished. Following the Gulf War, Saddam's genocidal fury was even worse. When the Shiites in southern Iraq rose up in rebellion, Saddam determined to kill as many as he could. An Iraqi army document, obtained by the U.S. State Department, showed that Iraq's military was under orders to "withhold all foodstuffs, ban the sale of fish, poison the water and burn the villages." As many as 100,000 Iraqis were murdered by the regime in the months following the Gulf War.
Saddam's treatment of the Kurds was, if possible, worse. The Kurds are a non-Arab minority living in Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran and Armenia. Saddam accused the Kurds, who are Sunni Muslims, of collaborating with the Iranians and gave orders for their extermination. The Iraqi air force used chemical weapons to gas the towns of Halabja, Goktapa and two hundred smaller villages, killing as many as 200,000. Mothers were found with their scarves wrapped around their babies' faces, hoping to protect them.
The humanitarian one is not the only case to be made for intervention in Iraq. But it should be kept in mind as America's enemies, both foreign and domestic, seek to put the most sinister possible spin on President Bush's policy. It's a war for oil, or for hegemony, or for empire, they cry. In searching for ways to discredit and undermine the case the war, they are propping up the butcher of Baghdad.