‘Soldier’ response needed more historical accuracy
RE: Questions for the Summit Soldier (Daily Mail, Jan. 9)I was intrigued by Ruth Hertzberg’s brief outline of the sociopolitical travails of Weimar Germany and the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic in your Jan. 13 issue, but I continue to agree with the “Summit Soldier.” The histories of two states struggling amid intense civil conflict to bring completely new forms of government out of the chaos of defeat in war seem to me to be rather germane to a discussion of present-day Iraq. Apparently, Ms Hertzberg disagrees, so we must allow the reader to judge.In her letter, Ms. Hertzberg invites the “Summit Soldier” to examine modern Iraq’s history. This is a good idea for us all – keeping in mind her injunction that historians “tell the truth no matter whose ox is gored.” To begin with, Iraq as such did not exist within the Ottoman Empire. In the early 1920’s, the British Foreign Office created it from the former Ottoman provinces of Basra, Baghdad and Mosul. This amalgamation of three disparate and conflictive regions and ethnic groups was at the root of many of the British mandatory government’s problems – and of ours today. This history bears careful consideration by those debating the course of current events; a good description of those times is given in the rather Turkophobic but otherwise excellent history “A Peace to End All Peace,” by Peter Fromkin.Ms. Hertzberg also commits a sin of omission when she mentions the U.S. “tilt toward Iraq” in the Iran-Iraq war. She seems to insinuate that there was something sinister, or at least hypocritical involved, but she makes no mention of the events of the day, including the abrupt and violent rupture of Iranian-American relations following the Islamic Revolution in Iran. This rupture included an attack on the American Embassy in Tehran, and the holding of more than 50 US diplomats hostage for more than a year. Technically, this is an act of war, to which we responded by supporting the Iranian Islamic Republic’s enemies – including Iraq. Not sinister; perhaps even measured, given the provocation. And easily explained when one knows the background. Unclassified documents discussing the “tilt” can be found in the archives of the Department of State, http://www.dos.gov/archives; they can also be found on-line via http://www.thomas.gov.I am much more disturbed by Ms. Hertzberg’s allegation that the U.S. provided chemical weapons to Iraq which were subsequently used against the Kurds. This is contradicted by eyewitness descriptions of attacks on Halabja and other Kurdish towns, which seem to suggest a Russian origin for these weapons (theirs aerosolize differently than ours). These eyewitness statements are also available in the Department of State archives. This would also make sense given the Russian equipment known to be in the possession of the Iraqi military at the time. Given these contradictions, I would ask Ms. Hertzberg, in the interests of the truth, to provide proofs for her rather slanderous statement. Proofs by the way, not from unproved allegations or “common knowledge,” but proofs with heft. From which unit of the U.S. military were these weapons transferred, when and where? Who signed the transfer documents? On whose authority? A URL to the National Archive or other reputable site offering facsimiles of the transfer documents would be preferred. Failing that, I believe a mea culpa is in order.In closing, thanks again to the Summit Daily for offering all of us a very different window on some of the most important events of this decade. As we continue to debate the insights this column offers, as well as the greater stage on which the drama of Iraq is played out, I would hope that we would all let reason rule, rather than unfounded beleif, hearsay and the unreliable guide of passion.
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