Sorting out all the reasons for ridding the world of Saddam, the New Republic makes out what its editors call the "Best Case."
"What is it, then, about the villain in Baghdad that should provoke the United States to be rid of him? One spectacular thing: He is the only leader in the world with Weapons of Mass Destruction who has used them. He used them against civilians. This is what makes Saddam so distinguished in the field of evil. We do not need to speculate about whether he would do the dirtiest deed. He has already done the dirtiest deed. That is the case and 'the case.'"
One hopes this is not the "best case." For conceding the truth of what the New Republic alleges, gas attacks on Kurd civilians are child's play alongside history's most impressive use of a Weapon of Mass Destruction against civilians.
That honor goes to Harry Truman, who gave the orders to drop two atom bombs, incinerating 140,000 Japanese in August of 1945. If using Weapons of Mass Destruction against civilians is "what makes Saddam so distinguished in the field of evil," why does not using atomic bombs on civilians disqualify Truman from the pantheon of moral heroes?
Answer: Truman's war was the "Good War." Saddam's war was not (even though we were supporting him).
How did Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy keep the Bolsheviks at bay? By building fleets of B-52s, armed with H-bombs, and putting them on 15-minute alert, so Moscow knew if it moved against us, it invited what John Foster Dulles called "massive retaliation." To keep us secure and Europe free, the United States was prepared to burn up every city in Russia.
By the way, did not the Russians (now our friends) use a poison gas called "Yellow Rain" in Laos and Afghanistan? Did not Egypt (now our friends) use poison gas in their war in Yemen? In Sverdlovsk, in the late Cold War, an anthrax factory exploded killing hundreds of Russians. For what beneficent purpose were our partners in the war on terror producing the stuff?
None of this is to exonerate Saddam Hussein of the crimes for which he deserves the fate of Mussolini. It is simply to relate a little history and ask a few relevant questions, before we decide we must invade and occupy Iraq because of what Saddam did to the Kurds, 14 years ago.
What does history show? That it was the good Christian countries of the West that invented and first used all the Weapons of Mass Destruction we all deplore – now that the other guys have got them.
At Omdurman, where the Brits took vengeance for the Mahdi's massacre of General "Chinese" Gordon's command in Khartoum, 11,000 dervishes perished before the Maxim Guns of Kitchener. Wrote Hilaire Belloc in his famous couplet: "Whatever happens, we have got / The Maxim Gun, and they have not."
Two decades later, Kitchener's soldiers were being cut down like those African tribesmen by the "Maxim Guns" of the Kaiser on the Somme.
The first use of lethal gas is described by war historian John Keegan: "The afternoon of 22 April (1915) was sunny, with a light east-west breeze. At five o'clock a greyish-green cloud began to drift across from the German toward the French trenches and soon thousands of Zouaves and Algerian Riflemen were streaming to the rear, clutching their throats, coughing, stumbling and turning blue in the face.
"On 1 May when the soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Dorset Regiment clung to the firestep of their trenches as gas seized their throats and the German infantry pounded toward them across no man's land, the scene must have been as near to hell as this earth can show."
After that war, Western nations outlawed poison gas, which was not even used by Hitler – in combat. Ronald Reagan used to tell his staff the reason was America had even larger stockpiles of gas to use in retaliation, and Hitler knew it. Deterrence worked.
During World War II, the British manufactured 5 million anthrax cattle cakes to drop on Germany. As George Rosie tells it in the Glasgow Herald: "The aim of Operation Vegetarian was to wipe out the German beef and dairy herds and then see the bacterium spread to the human population. With people then having no access to antibiotics, this would have caused perhaps millions of German men, women and children to suffer awful deaths." Fortunately, the Germans broke before the British scheme was carried out.
The anthrax cakes were tested on an island off Scotland that was not cleared of contamination until 1990. Western nations have now gotten religion on Weapons of Mass Destruction. Good. But let us, and the New Republic, not forget who first gave these lovely gifts to mankind.