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djxeno

Iran bombed the Kurds, not Saddaam

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American-born Nita Renfrew went to Israel as an idealistic young liberal who wanted to experience life in a country she believed was a model for the world. What she discovered was not what she expected. It gave her new insights into what the Arab-Israeli conflict was really all about.

In subsequent years, after leaving Israel, Renfrew traveled widely, including a stint as the Spanish correspondent for LeMonde Diplomatique, the well-known French foreign affairs journal. She has been a radio commentator and is the author of Saddam Hussein, an authoritative and objective (but very hard to find) biography of the Iraqi leader.

Following her recent appearance as featured speaker at the Third International Conference on Authentic History and the First Amendment, sponsored in Washington, D.C. by The Barnes Review, Renfrew was a guest on the June 23 broadcast of Radio Free America, the weekly call-in talk forum sponsored by American Free Press with host Tom Valentine.

What follows is an edited transcription of the interview. Valentine’s questions are in boldface. Miss Renfrew’s responses are in regular text.

Tell us, just how did a young American girl end up settling down in Israel? When I first went over to the Middle East in 1968, it was right after the 1967 war. I had been living in Mexico. We had all heard about how heroic the Israelis were because they had defeated these monstrous Arabs who had wanted to push the Israelis into the sea and how the Israelis had “made the desert bloom.†So I thought Israel was some kind of idealistic country and that’s why I wanted to go over there. I was about 21 at the time.

I lived on a kibbutz, right on the border of Jordan, next to the Golan Heights, which had been occupied during the 1967 war. We were being shelled all the time there on the border. That’s exactly where I had my first clue as to what was going to happen to Iraq in the future.

The first day I was sent down to work in the banana fields with a group of Americans. There were eight American girls working next to the border that day. We were putting paper bags over the bananas to keep them from freezing before they were picked. There was always somebody with us. I watched a Mirage jet fly over a Palestinian village that was on a hilltop on the other side of the border and watched a mushroom cloud rise over the village as the Mirage returned and flew back into Israel. I had seen pictures of atomic blasts and thought this was what it was, but the cloud was smaller.

Everybody laughed at me and said, “Oh no, that was just napalm.†I said, “They’re dropping napalm on a civilian Palestinian village?†And they responded, “Well, these Palestinians come across the border and put land mines in the fields and bombs in buses, so we have to do this once a week.â€

I was there for nine months and I watched it happen once a week, with the Palestinians doing nothing to provoke it. This was the beginning of my disillusionment, watching what I saw. I realized Israel was not what I thought it was.

After I had been there for three weeks, they left us without a supervisor down by the border in the banana fields and told us, “If the Palestinians start shooting at you, there’s a trench over there. Go hide in it.†I was working and wondering why they had left us unsupervised.

All of a sudden there was this tremendous explosion and I felt this stinging on my face and I threw myself on the ground, thinking they were shooting at us. I thought I heard my partner—we worked in pairs—laughing hysterically and I looked at her and saw she didn’t have a leg. She had stepped on a land mine and was crying hysterically—not laughing.

The Israeli soldiers came and took us out of there. I had an Israeli-born boyfriend there at the kibbutz and he was very idealistic. He came running up to me and said, “Thank God it wasn’t you. I worried all morning that it might be you.†I responded, “You mean you knew there was a land mine there?†He said, “Oh yes, we knew. We caught three Palestinian guerrillas and the army killed them but we only found two of the land mines. We knew that there was a third one but we couldn’t find the tracks and we couldn’t find it with a metal detector.â€

In other words, they used these idealistic American girls—including you—as guinea pigs?

Yes, we were unwilling human shields. I asked my boyfriend, “Well, why didn’t you tell us about the land mine?†And he said, “Well, then you wouldn’t have gone to work and we didn’t want to lose the bananas.†I said, “Well, why didn’t you guys go down there?†And he said, “Well, everybody on the kibbutz knew and we didn’t go down there.†So the blinders fell off my eyes. My partner survived, losing her leg, but I don’t think anyone told her that they knew there was a land mine there.

As a result of experiences such as this, I became interested in the politics of what was happening in the Middle East and I started asking a lot of questions. Young Israelis who were my age had been in the military and they fought in the 1967 war. I started asking them questions about the Arabs. They said, “Oh, the Arabs are all cowards and run away.â€

But they said there were two exceptions: the Bedouin guard of King Hussein in Jordan, who were very brave and who would fight to the death. However, they said there were not many of them, so they were not too worried about them.

And they also said that the Iraqi soldiers were formidable. The Iraqis fought to the death. They said that the Iraqis didn’t have good training or weaponry. But if they ever did, they would be a threat to Israel. They said that Iraq had a large population and a lot of oil wells.

I kept hearing this all the time, and, of course, it didn’t mean much to me. But later, as I saw that Israel was behind a lot of the policies designed to destroy Iraq and with the 1991 war against Iraq, I began to understand it all.

After I left Israel and came to New York, I followed events in the Middle East very closely. I met many Arabs from all of the different countries. In 1984, after the United States re-established relations with Iraq, I was invited as an American journalist to visit Iraq. This was following the Iran-Iraq war.

I had a lot of Persian friends. I had previously visited Iran and I actually met the Ayatollah Khomeini right after he assumed power. I had been watching the Iran-Iraq war.

Khomeini had been in exile in Iraq for many years during the time that the shah ruled Iran.

Saddam Hussein had come to power in Iraq in 1968 when the Ba’ath Party came to power.

Ba’ath basically means “Renaissance†in Arabic. And it’s important to understand what the Ba’ath Party is, because it has to do with why Israel has problems with Iraq and Saddam.

The problem that Israel has with Saddam is its problem with the ideology of the Ba’ath Party, really, even though the Israelis try to personalize the matter, as the Israelis are now trying to do with Yasser Arafat, the leader of the Palestinians. It sounds better, public-relations-wise, if you want to get rid of a “terrible dictator†as the Israelis have portrayed Saddam, and now Arafat.

In fact, Saddam Hussein has been one of the proponents of Pan-Arabism or Arab nationalism since the time he was a child. This refers to a unity among all Arab countries.

Although Egypt’s former leader Gamal Abdul Nasser is identified with Pan-Arabism, Nasser got a lot of his ideas from the Ba’ath Party and was influenced by its ideology after it came into existence in Syria in 1947, formed by two Muslims and a Christian. This was at a time when the Zionists were expelling the Palestinians from Palestine in preparation for declaring the state of Israel in 1948.

One of the main tenets of the Ba’ath Party has been to restore Palestinian sovereignty in Palestine and to unite the whole Arab people so that they would be a united country and a bastion against what they considered to be European colonialism. Israel is a key component of that colonialism.

As vice president in Iraq, Saddam was considered an equal partner of his cousin, who was the president. In 1979, Saddam’s cousin resigned as president for health reasons and Saddam became president.

This was right after Khomeini returned to Iran. Khomeini hated Saddam because the shah of Iran had asked him to expel Khomeini because Khomeini was creating opposition to the shah.

Saddam agreed to expel Khomeini and that’s when Khomeini went to Paris and was able to rally and successfully oust the shah.

The Persians in Iran didn’t like the United States because the United States was backing the corrupt and brutal regime of the shah in Iran. This leads right into the Iran-Iraq war which began after Khomeini assumed power in Iran, after the shah was ousted by Islamic fundamentalists.

That’s right. You see the Ba’ath Party of Iraq is a secular party. It believes in the separation of state and religion.

So the Shiite Muslims in Iran, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini, wanted a Muslim religious state like Khomeini brought to Iran. In fact, Khomeini wanted an Islamic republic composed of all of the Islamic states and eventually a world government.

But to have that, Khomeini needed to conquer not only Iraq but also Mecca and Medina which are sites in Saudi Arabia that are holy to all Muslims—both Shiites and Sunnis. He had to go through Iraq, which is the only Arab country with a land border with Saudi Arabia. So Khomeini was calling on the radio for the Shiite soldiers in Iraq to defect and assassinate Saddam. The Shiites are more than 50 percent of the Islamic population in Iraq. There were assassination attempts.

Saddam believed that even though Iran had more than three times the manpower of Iraq and far greater strategic depth, he figured he could do a preemptive strike against Iran, since there were sanctions on Iran and the country couldn’t get spare parts.

Saddam calculated that would stop Iran from invading Iraq and the rest of the Arab world.

However, Saddam miscalculated the fact that, during the shah’s time, Iran had financed part of the defense industry in Israel. There were arms factories in Israel that belonged jointly to Israel and the Iranian government.

While Khomeini was saying that Israel was another enemy of the Muslims, the Iranian army continued to have the same liaison people with Israel. Israel, in turn, saw this as an opportunity to give Iran parts for its military hardware and to get a war started between Iraq and Iran and therefore take the attention away from the Palestinian question.

And that intrigue by Israel led to the now-infamous Iran-contra arms deals, in which Israel played a major role, though that was downplayed by the American media.

The United States was drawn into this when U.S. officials started sending and selling all kinds of weapons to the Iranians to fight Saddam. This was all supposedly done by the United States to get the American hostages out of Iran. But Israel’s agenda was to get that war started and to keep it going.

So every time one side started to lose the war, Israel would get the United States to supply that side—either Iraq or Iran—with satellite intelligence and spare parts. When that side got stronger, then the United States would supply the other side. The United States was playing both sides.

Where did Saudi Arabia fit in this?

Right before the Iran-Iraq war started, Saddam had made a trip to Saudi Arabia and he had met with King Fahd. Although Saudi Arabia has a small population, it has a lot of oil wells.

The same thing can be said about Kuwait.

Both of those countries agreed that Iraq would use its manpower to fight the war and they would help pay for the Iraqi war effort since it was really a war effort to defend all of the Arab countries against Iran, and those countries, in particular.

That was very critical, since Iran had a large population and they could send wave after wave of Iranian soldiers against Iraq.

In fact, Iran started doing that. They called it “human wave attacks.†They had North Korean training. They would send these lightly-armed young men and old men across the border into Iraq by the tens of thousands and Iraq almost fell at a certain point.

Is this when sarin gas was used in chemical warfare in the Iran-Iraq war?

It was in roughly 1985 when this began. Because the southern part of Iraq narrows to a little point—the British had carved out the state of Kuwait from Iraq—the Iranians were able to get just a few miles from the border of Kuwait. If they had managed to stay there, they would have broken into Kuwait and Iraq would probably have fallen very quickly.

As a momentary digression, I think it is important to reiterate the point you just made: The fact that there was never any such nation as Kuwait until the British created it by taking the land away from Iraq. That fact was hardly ever reported by the American media when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990.

That’s right. There was never any such nation as Kuwait. It was just a little town. The Iraqis were traditionally hard to govern and they still are. They are very independent and autonomous-thinking. I think one of the reasons the British wanted to cut off Kuwait was so that the British could make Iraq into almost a landlocked country, when Iraq had traditionally been a sea-faring country.

To return to Saddam’s use of poison gas against the Iranians, where did Saddam get this gas?

From the Americans, apparently. He had been building some rudimentary gas plants before, but the Americans apparently helped him build more of them. One of the plants was a precursor to the mustard gas plants of Bechtel Corp.

I want to point out that Iran was also using chemical weapons. I don’t know where Iran got those weapons.

There is a famous incident involving a Kurdish village, Halabja, in which chemical weapons were used, but the truth about what really happened has been overwhelmingly distorted and covered up by the U.S. media.

Toward the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, the Iranians had started an offensive in the north after their efforts in the south, around Kuwait, had failed. They redirected their efforts to the north, because there’s a lot of oil up there, too. The Kurds in Iraq had been continuously armed by Israel, starting in the 1950s, in order to destabilize Iraq.

The Kurds had also been armed by the shah for the same reason. Now the Iranians under Khomeini had begun to arm them again.

Everybody from President Bush to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have said that “Saddam killed his own Kurdish population†in Halabja, using poison gas.

There was a battle in Halabja between the Iranian army and the Iraqi army. The mayor of Halabja, who is related to a man I know here in the United States, said that it was the Iranians who dropped the chemical weapons on the village—not the Iraqis—and the Kurds got caught in the cross-fire. It was not done deliberately. One of the indications, he said, is that when the Kurds fled the village, they didn’t flee across the border to Iran, but back into Iraq since the planes were coming from Iran.

Interestingly enough, there is a U.S. Army War College report, by Stephen Pelletier, who headed up the analysis team on the Iran-Iraq war for the United States. He and his co-author based their report on the information that was being continuously gathered by the CIA and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency during the Iran-Iraq war.

The report said that the Kurds in Halabja had died from cyanigin blood agents. The Iraqis were not known to have any cyanigin blood agents but the Iranians were. So the U.S. Army War College report concluded that the Kurds died from Iranian chemical weapons—not Iraqi chemical weapons. Mr. Pelletier still stands by his re port and was recently quoted as saying so in The Village Voice.

This leads into another thing: Here in the United States we are very much concerned about women’s rights and we always hear about the mistreatment of women in Arab and Muslim countries. It’s not that way under Saddam Hussein at all.

No, on the contrary. As a matter of fact, in Saudi Arabia, a lot of women—including women in the royal family—named their sons “Saddam†right after the 1991 war because he is a hero to women. In Iraq, women enjoy many of the equal rights that we do in this country. I have found that half of the university students in Iraq were women. About half of the government employees, up to the mid-levels, were women when I was there.

I believe this is a great factor in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait not liking Saddam, since their women are often saying, “Why can’t we be like Iraq?†So they point toward Saddam as being a model for what they would like to have in their own country.

In your book on Saddam, you pointed out that Saddam himself wanted an education so badly that he abandoned his own family.

When Saddam was 10 years old, his cousin from a nearby town came to visit and he showed him how he could read and write, by writing in the dirt. Saddam was fascinated by this and when his cousin returned to Tikrit, he begged his family to allow him to go to school. They told him, “You don’t need to know how to read and write. You’re going to be a poor melon grower.â€

So he ran away from home and went to his cousin’s house, where his uncle was a teacher. Saddam stayed there and went to school. His best subject was history. He was always fascinated by history, especially Arab history, which is why he naturally fell in with the Ba’ath Party’s ideology of restoring the Arab world to its glorious history. In fact, Saddam has given a great deal of money to archeological research. Artists love Saddam, too, because he supports the arts.

If an election was held in Iraq, he might not have to rig it, contrary to what the American media might contend.

I was talking to a Jordanian businessman the other day. Jordan is a monarchy. This businessman said to me: “You know, I have always hated Saddam Hussein because I hate socialism.â€

The Ba’ath Party has a socialist concept and believes in housing and education for people, to be paid for by Iraq’s oil riches. So this Jordanian businessman hates Saddam because of that ideology.

However, he said, “If I were an Iraqi today, I would vote for Saddam. If Saddam is intelligent, he will hold elections because he’ll get 95 percent of the vote. No other Arab leader would get that kind of vote today.â€

Yet, the American media portrays Saddam as some sort of hated dictator. We always hear about how he has to live in a different bunker or palace every day.

Well, even though Saddam is very popular, he has a lot of powerful enemies. So there’s always an assassin around somewhere.

Saddam is a Sunni Muslim and the Shiite Muslims are the more fundamentalist types. They are the ones who resent Saddam’s liberal policies.

The Shiites also resent Saddam, who believes in separation of religion and state. They would rather see a fundamentalist Muslim state.

If the United States attacks Iraq—and it appears as if the civilians in our government want to do it, despite the fact that our Joint Chiefs of Staff have protested—we will achieve what the Arabs have never been able to achieve, and that is to unite the Arab world.

It’s impossible to predict what would eventually happen. But this would unite the Arab world in fury against the United States. I believe that all of what we call “terrorismâ€â€”which is happening with the Palestinians against Israel—would be directed toward us. Anything could happen.

Another thing which would happen is what the Joint Chiefs of Staff said: If we attack Iraq and go into the cities, Saddam will know that he has nothing to lose and will use chemical weapons against our troops. God knows what will happen. It’s totally unnecessary.

Iraq and Saddam have never been our enemies. They have always wanted to be our friends. The reason the Gulf War happened in 1991 is because Israel does not want a strong Arab nation in the area. And by strong, I mean a country that has both a large population and the oil wells.

When I went to Iraq in the late 1980s, it was about to be officially declared a “First World Country†because Saddam had built the country up to such an extent. But it was so totally destroyed in 1991 by the U.S.-imposed sanctions which are causing—according to the UN—the deaths of 5,000 children every month. It totals something like nearly two million deaths. For every child that dies, there are five who grow up malnourished to the point that they have brain damage.

The United States has done terrible things to that country. If they hate us in the future, it’s no wonder.

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this is the kind of proof that people need to see in order to realize that everything we see/hear on the media is incorrect...

what a shame, and now we have an unnecessary, greed-driven war to endure because of this.

:(

thanks for the read, djxeno.

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