Sorting out all the reasons for ridding the world of Saddam, The
New Republic makes out what its editors call the "Best Case."
"What is it, then, about the villain in Baghdad that should
provoke the United States to be rid of him? One spectacular thing: He is the
only leader in the world with weapons of mass destruction who has used them.
He used them against . . . civilians. This is what makes Saddam so
distinguished in the field of evil. . . . We do not need to speculate about
whether he would do the dirtiest deed. He has already done the dirtiest
deed. That is the case and 'the case.'"
One hopes this is not the "best case." For conceding the truth
of what The New Republic alleges, gas attacks on Kurd civilians are child's
play alongside history's most impressive use of a weapon of mass destruction
That honor goes to Harry Truman, who gave the orders to drop two
atom bombs, incinerating 140,000 Japanese in August of 1945. If using
weapons of mass destruction against civilians is "what makes Saddam so
distinguished in the field of evil," why does not using atomic bombs on
civilians disqualify Truman from the pantheon of moral heroes?
Answer: Truman's war was the "Good War." Saddam's war was not
(even though we were supporting him).
How did Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy keep the Bolsheviks at
bay? By building fleets of B-52s, armed with H-bombs, and putting them on
15-minute alert, so Moscow knew if it moved against us, it invited what John
Foster Dulles called "massive retaliation." To keep us secure and Europe
free, the United States was prepared to burn up every city in Russia.
By the way, did not the Russians (now our friends) use a poison
gas called "Yellow Rain" in Laos and Afghanistan? Did not Egypt (now our
friends) use poison gas in their war in Yemen? In Sverdlovsk, in the late
Cold War, an anthrax factory exploded killing hundreds of Russians. For what
beneficent purpose were our partners in the war on terror producing the
None of this is to exonerate Saddam Hussein of the crimes for
which he deserves the fate of Mussolini. It is simply to relate a little
history and ask a few relevant questions, before we decide we must invade
and occupy Iraq because of what Saddam did to the Kurds, 14 years ago.
What does history show? That it was the good Christian countries
of the West that invented and first used all the weapons of mass destruction
we all deplore -- now that the other guys have got them.
At Omdurman, where the Brits took vengeance for the Mahdi's
massacre of General "Chinese" Gordon's command in Khartoum, 11,000 dervishes
perished before the Maxim Guns of Kitchener. Wrote Hilaire Belloc in his
famous couplet: "Whatever happens, we have got/The Maxim Gun, and they have
Two decades later, Kitchener's soldiers were being cut down like
those African tribesmen by the "Maxim Guns" of the Kaiser on the Somme.
The first use of lethal gas is described by war historian John
Keegan: "The afternoon of 22 April (1915) was sunny, with a light east-west
breeze. At five o'clock a greyish-green cloud began to drift across from the
German toward the French trenches . . . and soon thousand of Zouaves and
Algerian Riflemen were streaming to the rear, clutching their throats,
coughing, stumbling and turning blue in the face . . .
"On 1 May when the soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Dorset
Regiment clung to the firestep of their trenches as gas seized their throats
and the German infantry pounded toward them across no man's land, the scene
must have been as near to hell as this earth can show."
After that war, Western nations outlawed poison gas, which was
not even used by Hitler -- in combat. Ronald Reagan used to tell his staff
the reason was America had even larger stockpiles of gas to use in
retaliation, and Hitler knew it. Deterrence worked.
During World War II, the British manufactured five million
anthrax cattle cakes to drop on Germany. As George Rosie tells it in the
Glasgow Herald: "The aim of Operation Vegetarian was to wipe out the German
beef and dairy herds and then see the bacterium spread to the human
population. With people then having no access to antibiotics, this would
have caused . . . perhaps . . . millions of German men, women and children
to suffer awful deaths." Fortunately, the Germans broke before the British
scheme was carried out.
The anthrax cakes were tested on an island off Scotland that was
not cleared of contamination until 1990. Western nations have now gotten
religion on weapons of mass destruction. Good. But let us, and TNR, not
forget who first gave these lovely gifts to mankind.