Saddam Hussein and seven other former officials are on trial in Iraq for murdering one-hundred-forty-eight residents of the Shiite town of Dujail in 1982. The former Iraqi dictator and some of his former colleagues also face charges for the chemical weapons attack on the Iraqi Kurdish city of Halabja eighteen years ago. That attack killed thousands of Iraqi Kurdish civilians.
On March 16th, 1988, Iraqi forces under the command of Saddam Hussein's cousin Ali Hasan al-Majid, later known as "Chemical Ali," attacked Halabja. The Iraqi forces struck first with conventional bombs and artillery shells, driving Halabja's more than fifty-thousand inhabitants into basements and shelters. The Iraqi forces then dropped various chemical weapons, including mustard gas and sarin nerve gas, on the defenseless city.
Nouri Hama Ali, a survivor, recalled that the chemical weapons attacks left people dying all around. "Many children were left on the ground beside the road," he said. "Old people as well. They were running, then they would stop breathing and die." Five thousand civilians, many of them women, children, and the elderly, died within hours of the chemical attack in Halabja. Ten thousand more were blinded, maimed, or disfigured.
In the years since the attack, thousands have died of horrific complications, debilitating diseases, and birth defects. President George W. Bush says that since the fall of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis have done much to reverse the legacy of his tyranny:
"In less than three years, the Iraqi people have gone from living under the boot of a brutal tyrant, to liberation, to sovereignty, to free elections, to a constitutional referendum, and last December, to elections for a fully constitutional government."
One of the Iraqi government's most important tasks will be to ensure that those responsible for the chemical weapons attack on Halabja and other crimes against humanity are brought to justice.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.