"Governments are run by liars. " I.F.Stone
Consistency is not an American foreign policy attribute when it comes to chemical weapons. Our government issues many profound statements on human rights violations and then often ignores them in the pursuit of perceived national intrests.
So it is with chemical weapons. The United States is a signatory to treaties that ban the use of such weapons. In reality, the United States has conditioned its responses to the use of chemical weapons to its perceived policy goals.
In the 1980s, the American foreign policy was to back the regime of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi dictator, in his war against Iran. Hussein brazenly used chemical weapons against the Iranians.
Iranian complaints were heard by the UN Security Council but blocked by the United States from any sort of sanctions against Iraq. UN inspectors did find evidence of chemical weapon use by Iraqis.
Several media outlets have obtained CIA files from the 1980s regarding the use of chemical weapons by Iraq against Iran. They show that the Reagan administration knew about the use of chemical weapons and blatantly refused to act.
CIA files re-printed in Foreign Policy magazine recently, show the US knew about Iraq's chemical weapons from the beginning.
Foreign Policy Magazine, among other outlets, recently quoted the CIA papers :
"Iran is unlikely to be deterred from pursuing the war because of Iraq's use of chemical weapons. " CIA Document /Report, November 11, 1983.
The US even went so far as to accuse Iran of using chemical weapons. Today this is echoed by the charges and counter-charges by booth sides in the Syrian Civil war of who is responsible for chemical weapon attacks.
The US knew the charges it made against Iran were bogus :
"WE have no evidence that Iran has chemical weapons. " CIA Report , Nov. 11,1983,supra.
In a CIA report dated March 23, 1984, authored by David B. Low, noted that mustard gas production by Iraqis was "successful". Low's report also noted that Iraqis had used mustard gas, nerve gases sarin and tabun against the Iranians.
The CIA was aware that the Iraqi regime used chemical weapons against rebellious Kurds in 1988. A combination of mustard gas and nerve gases was unleashed by Iraqi planes against the Kurdish city Halabja. This heinous, callous use of chemicals against their own citizens resulted in an estimated 3,200 to 5,000 deaths.
In the first Iraqi war, Americans did not make a lot of noise about Iraqi chemical weapons. This changed under George W. Bush.
In his buildup to the second Iraqi invasion , the Bush administration made WMDs , weapons of mass destruction like chemical agents, a centerpiece of the propaganda justification.
They even trotted out Iraqi War One figure, former general Colin Powell. Powell's famous speech at the UN, complete with bogus pictures of WMD launching sites, was later contradicted. US weapons experts found no evidence that Saddam Hussein had WMDs.
More than likely, to cover himself, Saddam Hussein ditched the WMDs. It is doubtful the brutal dictator had an epiphany that chemical weapon use was wrong.
Before this, United Nations scientists were not allowed to finish their work on the existence of WMDs before the American invasion.
After the American victory, the US began the hunt for scapegoats among the Iraqis.
One such unfortunate was Ali Hassan, first cousin to Saddam Hussein. Nicknamed "Chemical Ali", he was the unrepentant mastermind of the chemical attack on the Kurds in 1988.
Ali was captured in 2003 by American forces. he was tried in 2007, found guilty and hanged after appeals in 2010.
There can be no doubt of his complicity. The prosecution introduced tapes of "Chemical " Ali cold bloodely admitting without remorse , the chemical attacks on the Kurds. At the trial, he was defiant even justifying his actions.
Ali was no doubt a cold blooded thug. His one virtue was his honesty which is more than the US could claim. Even at trial, he took responsibility for what he did.
Chemical warfare was not a problem when our ally , Iraq,was using it against Iranians. Silence was golden from 1988 to 2003, by the US when it came to our knowledge of iraqi atrocities.
Then in 2003, the American avenger made chemical attacks a center piece of invasion propaganda.
Today, in Syria, Barack Obama follows the George Bush policy of using WMDs when it is useful to do so.
It seems that Bush is telling Obama to use the WMD propaganda line again since it worked so well the first time.