Remembering Halabja

Robert Danin with a necessary reminder of Saddam's brutality, which is beginning to have an echo in the way the Syrian Ba'athists treat their country's Kurds:

Though Iraq's war with Iran raged on, the Halabja massacre laid the precedent for the tactical use of poison-gas against the Kurdish population. The Anfal ("Spoils of War") campaign--Saddam Hussein's systemic attempt to destroy Iraq's Kurdish population--lasted until September 1988. Some fifty to one hundred thousand Kurdish Iraqis were slaughtered. For Saddam, the war on Iran and the war against the Kurds were part of one whole--the use of brutal, indeed illegal, force against perceived enemies of the Ba'athist regime. That the Kurds were Iraqis was irrelevant to the Ba'athist dictator.

Earlier this week, Syrian police opened fire on tens of thousands of Kurds in the northeastern city of Qamishli, who had converged to commemorate an earlier attack. To the Syrian Ba'athists, like their ideological brethren under Saddam, all means are justified in the battle to defend against perceived threats to the regime. To them, innocent citizens are legitimate targets. Indeed, as a senior Gulf official said to me just last night, "The Ba'athists in Syria are like the Ba'athists in Iraq. We know them. They have a simple playbook: They use brutal force to take power, they use brutal force to maintain power, and they use brutal force against anyone they consider an enemy."


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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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