July 11, 2004 – The 1988 gassing of Kurds in the village of Halabja has stood as the most oft-repeated charge against deposed president Saddam Hussein, yet even as Hussein stood before a US-established Iraqi court July 1, Iraqi doctors and ailing survivors told The Chicago Tribune that Halabja's plight was ignored during the period of official US occupation.
"This town has been totally destroyed in terms of the people's health physically and psychologically," Dr. Fouad Baban, an Iraqi surgeon and academic, told the Tribune. "Nothing has been done to help these people -- not by the Americans, not by the international community and not by the Kurdish regional government."
Over 5,000 people were killed during the waning days of the Iran-Iraq war, when Hussein's military launched bombing and chemical attacks against Halajba, a Kurdish village near the Iranian border, residents of which opposed Hussein and provided a haven for arriving Iranian troops.
Over 40 percent of the attackâ€™s survivors suffer from serious respiratory illnesses, reports the Tribune. Others were left blind and lame, and the townâ€™s cancer and miscarriage rates have skyrocketed, according to Dr. Baban.
While one survivor theorized Husseinâ€™s most publicized victims were overlooked because Halabjaâ€™s death rate makes it "the poster boy of chemical attacks," another doctor blamed the USâ€™s own complicity, telling the Tribune, "Saddam is mainly responsible for Halabja, but the Americans also hold some responsibility."
The United States provided both Iran and Iraq with military support during the Iran-Iraq war in a policy some say was aimed at ensuring a bloodier outcome to the eight-year war in which some one million died on both sides, weakening both states significantly. The US supplied Iraq specifically with the crop-dusting helicopters used in Husseinâ€™s 1988 attacks against the countryâ€™s Kurdish population.
Two years earlier, the US had been the sole vote to oppose a statement from the UN Security council recognizing Iraqâ€™s use of chemical weapons against Iranian forces, wrote Cambridge lecturer Glen Rangwala in September 2002. Hussein continued to receive US support for years after the crimes at Halajba shocked the world.