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Gerald Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive doctoral work in Middle East studies, has lectured on numerous university and other platforms. He has debated many of the best Arab and pro-Arab academics in public debates and on television. Mr. Honigman is widely published in academic journals, magazines, newspapers and other publications.

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PostThu Dec 09, 2010 3:34 pm     WikiLeaks & Who Won't Be Making Jokes About WMD, Revisit    

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WikiLeaks And Who Won't Be Making Jokes About WMD, Revisited... by Gerald A. Honigman

Columnist Larry Elder's recent article in, The WikiLeaks Vindication Of George W. Bush, begins as follows...

"The WikiLeaks de facto declassification of privileged material makes it case closed: Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction -- and intended to restart his program once the heat was off."

After examining this issue, he begins his article's close with...

"...WikiLeaks' newly-released Iraq war documents reveal that for years afterward, U.S. troops continued to find chemical weapons labs, encounter insurgent specialists in toxins and uncover weapons of mass destruction (emphasis added).... Chemical weapons, especially, did not vanish from the Iraqi battlefield. Remnants of Saddam's toxic arsenal, largely destroyed after the Gulf War, remained. Jihadists, insurgents and foreign (possibly Iranian) agitators turned to these stockpiles during the Iraq conflict -- and may have brewed up their own deadly agents."

"In 2008, our military shipped out of Iraq -- on 37 flights in 3,500 barrels -- what even The Associated Press called 'the last major remnant of Saddam Hussein's nuclear program': 550 metric tons of the supposedly nonexistent yellowcake. The New York Sun editorialized: 'The uranium issue is not a trivial one, because Iraq, sitting on vast oil reserves, has no peaceful need for nuclear power... To leave this nuclear material sitting around the Middle East in the hands of Saddam...would have been too big a risk.' "

The President is not the only one vindicated here.

Now that this important issue has resurfaced, and as America begins its wind down in Iraq, please read below what this author wrote himself back in 2005. This essay was later updated and included as a chapter in the author's new book, The Quest For Justice In The Middle East...The Arab-Israeli Conflict In Greater Perspective (

The Bush Administration has come under increasing fire due to its inability to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, one of the main reasons it gave in launching its attack in the first place.

While Jay Leno & Co. continue to crack jokes, and AP writers such as Matthew Fordahl have also made light of the subject in papers such as The Herald in Rock Hill, South Carolina ("For Today's Giggle, Try Asking Google To Find weapons Of Mass Destruction," 7/16/03), there is one people who surely will not be joining in the laughter. And they were not the only ones for whom the subject is deadly serious--literally.

"The Kurds have no friends but the Mountain" is a piece of aging Kurdish wisdom. And while the mass gassings and other slaughter of this people have too often been treated as "yesterday's news," all the current hype about whether or not Adolph -- er Saddam -- Hussein had/has weapons of mass destruction brings their tragic story back onto center stage...or at least should.

Thirty million stateless, used, and abused Kurds are the native, non-Arab, non-Turkic, non-Semitic people who were promised independence in Mesopotamia -- the ancient heartland of Kurdistan -- after the Ottoman Turkish Empire collapsed in the wake of World War I. They were the Hurrians of the Bible and the Medes of Persian history. Saladin, the mighty medieval Muslim warrior, was a Kurd.

Unfortunately, they soon saw these earlier promises sacrificed on the altar of British petroleum politics and Arab nationalism. Arab Iraq was born instead.

It's imperial navy having recently switched from coal to oil power, Great Britain did not want to anger the strategically important "Arab" world, possessing its own oil wealth, by agreeing to support a Kurdish nationalism which was viewed by Arabs with the same disdain as they display towards the nationalist movement of Israel's Jews (one half of whom descended from refugees from the "Arab"/Muslim world) or any other of the subjugated peoples -- Berbers, Black African Sudanese, etc. -- who dared to assert their own identities and demanded political rights.

Despite their own internal differences, Kurds from all over the region had largely put their hopes and dreams into the creation of that one independent Kurdish state, not unlike situations involving Greeks, Armenians, and Jews in their own respective earlier diasporas. The frustration arising from the abortion of that earlier Mesopotamian dream (a cause supported by such personalities as President Woodrow Wilson, Mark Sykes, and others) lead to decades of revolts and problems in Syria, Turkey, and Iran as well.

In a post-imperial age when other dormant nations were reawakening, the Kurds were repeatedly told that they were unworthy of such desires... by so-called "friends" and foes alike. That brings us back to current times.

While repeated partitions have occurred and are still being demanded of the geographic area of "Palestine" (the first occurring when the Arab nation of Jordan was created in 1922 as a result of Colonial Secretary Churchill's separation of all the land east of the Jordan River from the 1920 borders), none have been allowed for a much larger Mesopotamia.. Only Arabs have been allowed to have their nationalist desires sanctioned in a land in which millions of Kurds and others have lived long before the Arab conquests in the 7th century C.E. and the continuing forced Arabization ever since. In their frustration, the Kurds have subsequently been caught up in numerous regional and global rivalries, being used and abused by all...Syrian and Iraqi Arabs, Turks, Iranians, Soviets, Brits, Russians, Americans, etc.

Post-World War I Iraq was largely divided between two major factions: Arab nationalists, who saw Iraq simply as one part of the overall greater Arab patrimony, and Iraqi nationalists. The latter -- some Kurds, Assyrians, Turkmens, a few Arabs, etc. (with few exceptions, Iraq's 200,000 Jews basically watched carefully from the sidelines) -- deluded themselves into believing that Arabs would allow a true equality to emerge within the country. Yet earlier Iraqi history should have taught another lesson: the Arab Caliphate of the 'Umayyads based in Damascus had been replaced in the 8th century during the Abbasid Revolution. The latter established its imperial base farther east in Baghdad and was supported largely by non-Arab converts to Islam, the Mawali, who demanded an equality that Arabs back then had also refused to give.

Short of another major Abbasid-like revolution, Iraq's Arabs (Shi'a or Sunni)--having once again regained their position of dominance -- were not likely to give it up. Sure enough, subsequent massacres of non-Arab populations and the continued forced Arabization of their cultures and lands helped squash most of the modern "Iraqi" nationalist delusions. While, in theory, this would be a nice, American-styled democratic solution, centuries of reality regarding actual Arab practices and attitudes tell quite a different story. Added to this, think about Sunni Arabs blowing apart Shi'a Arabs (along with everyone else) as Iraq now attempts to enter into some semblance of a democratic age.

In the 1970s, after promoting Kurdish military support for the Shah of Iran against Iraq, America pulled the rug out from under Mullah Mustafa Barzani when the Shah made his temporary peace. Tens of thousands of Kurds were subsequently slaughtered as a result. A repeat performance came in 1991, when President George Bush, Sr. called for the Kurds and others to revolt in order to topple Saddam from within. When they heeded his call, he then stood by and watched as Kurdish men, women, and children were massacred by the thousands. Just a bit earlier, thousands more had been gassed to death -- 5,000 in Halabja alone...all of this with the might of the U.S. military within a stone's throw of the action. The pathetic excuse meekly offered later on was that America had been "tricked" by the Iraqis in agreements regarding terms of the ceasefire. This will forever be a stain on America's honor, despite after-the-fact "no fly" zones subsequently set up by the Allies.

Besides the thousands of Kurdish civilians who were immediately killed, tens of thousands of others have subsequently died due to the lingering effects of the poison, etc. Remember this the next time someone offers up a chuckle about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

Adding insult to injury, at a time when much of the world is now demanding that the sole, miniscule, resurrected state of the Jews accept that a terrorist 22nd Arab state -- and second Arab one in Palestine--be created in its own backyard, these same alleged voices of ethical enlightenment still insist that there will be no "roadmap" for the creation of an independent Kurdistan. Even earlier talk of a federalist solution, whereby Kurds would at least gain some local autonomy within a united Iraq, now seems to be losing out to the majority Shia's other plans for dominance and demands.

While other butchers do indeed exist elsewhere, and America cannot simply assume the roles of the world's policeman, judge, and jury, there were still very good reasons to bring about the end of Saddam's regime...whether we're ever able to locate his WMD or not. Just ask those Kurdish parents who bore witness to mass graves holding hundreds of their children being unearthed...a scene right out of the Holocaust.

Just how do we define weapons of mass destruction?

Thanks to Israel's surgical strike removing the immediate nuclear threat some two decades ago (for which it was universally condemned -- James Baker and George Bush, Sr. leading the pack in his pre-presidential days), Saddam's nuclear option suffered a severe setback. But ample evidence suggests that he didn't give up on this endeavor, and Iranians and probably others as well were also gassed by Saddam, so no one doubts his possession and willingness to use this latter type of WMD.

It's not too difficult to hide poison gas -- or even its delivery systems -- in a country as large as Iraq, especially since weapons inspectors had been out of the country for a long time. And we now know that Syria has been up to its eyeballs in collaboration with Iraq regarding all kinds of things. Syria has its own huge stockpiles of such weaponry, so it would theoretically be easy to hide Iraqi WMD this way.

Additionally, Saddam had plenty of time to learn the lesson of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war that it wasn't a good idea to leave your weapons exposed. No one ever claimed that the Iraqis are stupid....even if some of Saddam's actions antagonizing America (and giving it little choice but to act) in recent decades might suggest otherwise.

So what's all the current fuss about WMD really all about?

Could it be just domestic politics being played out by opponents of Tony Blair and Dubya ( I voted for the "other guy" the first time around ) and/or another example of the hypocrisy and double standards of the rest of the world which put Israel under a high power lens in judging its struggle to survive while ignoring the literally millions of non-Arab people -- such as the Kurds -- who have been massacred, seen their cultures and languages "outlawed," and such for simply daring to assert their own identities and resisting forced Arabization?

Is it that the murder of hundreds of thousands of Kurds over the decades simply doesn't matter? And if it really did, would it matter if we could or could not locate the hidden WMD we already know that Saddam had and used against this people?

The current real concern and debate should therefore not be about locating Saddam's WMD, but providing the long term justice the victims of his WMD deserve.

What will happen once America gets fed up with the Arab mess in post-Saddam Iraq, packs up and leaves the country, and the tax payers, Turks, and others get tired of the "no fly" zones?

Unless we work out an arrangement for our own long term presence (i.e. bases in Iraqi Kurdistan seem to be the best choice), the tanks and planes Iraq's Arabs mostly kept leashed in confronting America will very likely once again wreak vengeance against America's strangely loyal Kurdish friends. A mounting toll of American dead and maimed, along with other costs, will bring ever increasing pressure for an American retreat...right or wrong.

One of the biggest booboos we made was ending the war too quickly, allowing Saddam's military to cast off their uniforms only to soon bleed us in an ongoing guerilla war of attrition. Locating an enemy scattered among a civilian population is a helluva bit harder and more complex than pinpointing him on the battlefield. We were played for dummies, and quite likely due to pressure from the State Department to end the war prematurely so as not to anger its Arab buddies elsewhere even more than they were already.

Yet, despite all of this, America insists that -- at the most -- a modified federal version of a failed "Iraqi" nationalism will be all that Kurds may be offered in post-Saddam if Saddam alone was the problem and created those subjugating Arab attitudes towards non-Arabs himself. It's more than doubtful that a post-Saddam Iraq will view "political equality" any differently than when Saddam was forcibly removing Kurds from their ancient oil-rich lands around Mosul and Kirkuk and replacing those he didn't kill with Arabs.

Once again...the American occupation, despite the good that it has brought to the land, will increasingly--as we are now seeing--be resented. And those who aligned themselves with America -- the Kurds in particular -- will once again be sought out for revenge. Yet, without a prolonged, guided, and powerful American occupation, there is no chance whatsoever for an inclusive "Iraqi" nationalism to emerge. With America's presence, this still has only a slight chance for success. There are simply too many powerful forces working against it.

While America has been playing a delicate balancing act trying to soothe Turkey's fears regarding its own large Kurdish population and not angering the Arab oil sheikhs and autocrats with the prospect of the loss of what they see as "purely Arab land" to the Kurds, it must begin to reassess this policy.

Certainly if Arabs, most of whom still deny Israel's right to exist, are deemed deserving of their 22nd or 23rd state, with most of the world's hypocrites clamoring for it as well, some thirty million stateless Kurds living in varying degrees of danger and subjugation are, at long last, deserving of one.

This should be the issue being debated and under scrutiny right now...not Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. And America must not leave the Kurds at the mercy of Arab butchers as it has done in the past.



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