Monday, March 6, 2006

The thesis of this article from the Boston Globe is this: the Bush administration kept saying that Iraq had chemical weapons, and there was worry that, if cornered, Saddam would use them, possibly on his own population or his neighbors. So in the run-up to war, the administration promised the Kurds that they would be provided with protection--gas masks--in case of such an event. They never were. The author, Kevin McKiernan, posits that maybe the reason for this--instead of incompetence, carelessness, or callousness--is that we actually knew that Saddam had no WMDs and thus there was no need to hand out any gas masks.

But I found the first part of the column much more interesting:

While the White House has publicly maintained that the decision to go to war was not made until early 2003 -- and only as a last resort after the failure of both inspections and diplomacy -- I knew a full year before that Kurdish leaders were quietly tipped off to war plans just weeks after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

The Washington, D.C., representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which controlled the eastern portion of the Kurdish region, told me early in 2002 that he and other Kurdish leaders had been summoned to the Pentagon in October 2001 to meet Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense. One of the topics of conversation was the 1988 gassing of the Kurds by the Iraqi regime.

By the time of that Pentagon meeting, Kurdish diplomats had been in Washington since 1991, when a no-flight zone was established to protect Iraqi Kurds. But for those 10 years, Kurdish leaders had been denied all but low-level contacts with US government officials.

With that inside information, I began scouting abandoned Iraqi airfields in northern Iraq to look for likely landing spots for US troops and supplies. I found one near the town of Harir, a long military runway that Hussein's air force had used for refueling during the Iraq-Iran war. Sure enough, according to local witnesses, foreigners speaking English had been seen examining the landing strip in January 2002, the month before.

I then interviewed Dr. Abdullah Saeed, the director of public health for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controlled the western part of the Kurdish region. Dr. Saeed told me that several Americans -- he assumed they were CIA, but had no way of knowing -- had visited him about the same time and had promised that the Kurds would soon be supplied with antitoxins for nerve gas, face masks, and other protective gear.

So, allegedly, we were telling the Kurds about our plans to invade Iraq just after 9/11. I wonder if this could be/has been confirmed by any of the Kurdish leaders....

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