The Plank

Saddam, In His Own Words

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John Burns has a remarkable, chillingly good piece in today's Times. Tapes made years ago reveal Saddam Hussein discussing the use of chemical weapons against Kurdish Iraqis. Some excerpts:

Mr. Hussein sounds matter of fact as he describes what chemical weapons will do. "They will prevent people eating and drinking the local water, and they won't be able to sleep in their beds," he says. "They will force people to leave their homes and make them uninhabitable until they have been decontaminated."[Snip]But it was Mr. Hussein's chilling discussion of the power of chemical weapons against civilians that brought prosecutors and judges to the verge of tears, and seemed to shock the remaining defendants. One of the recordings featured an unidentified military officer telling Mr. Hussein that a plan was under development for having Soviet-built aircraft carry containers, packed with up to 50 napalm bombs each, which would be rolled out of the cargo deck and dropped on Kurdish towns."Yes, in areas where you have concentrated populations, that would be useful," Mr. Hussein replies.

Whatever one thinks of Saddam's execution, it's too bad they didn't keep the late dictator alive for this phase of his trial. His presence in the courtroom today, aside from being satisfying, would surely have focused more attention on this shameful slice of history.

--Isaac Chotiner

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