Speech: 25th Anniversary Commemoration of the Halabja Genocide

Speech: 25th Anniversary Commemoration of the Halabja Genocide
Admin - Sun Apr 28, 2013 @ 07:29PM
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25th Anniversary Commemoration of the Halabja Genocide
Panelist: Velma Anne Ruth, M.Ed., Executive Director of Middle East Democracy Federation & President of ABS Community Research, Inc
March 15, 2013 
 
 
Opening Comments
 
Over the winter holidays, I spent two weeks in Kurdistan, between Erbil, Dohuk and Zaxo, though was invited to Sulimani and Koya. I was hosted by Iraqi-Kurdish gentlemen who fought with the US Army and US Army Special Forces, and recollected their personal experiences as we walked through the Syrian Kurdish refugee camp at Dohuk. Though on the other side from Halabja, the road through the mountains from Dohuk back to Erbil felt like death. It was like a somber hum of countless souls resonating between the hillsides, but I cant imagine what it would feel like in Halabja.  
 
In the course of mass human rights atrocities by dictatorships and extremist groups, it is imperative that a thorough brand of people's representatives and series of officials between nations advocate for the cause, and bring an end through justice, so that communities can recover and regrow their societies. It takes more than 1. It takes 300 policy makers in America and more overseas to achieve the means.   
 
I would like to acknowledge someone whom I do not know personally, but who is a role model in the cause of genocide and re-establishing stability. Ambassador Peter Galbraith was one of the first to witness the genocide of the Kurds by the Iraqi government during a trip he made to the region in 1987. Here are his comments to CBC News in 2003: 
 
Peter Galbraith: "As we traveled from the Iraqi area to the Kurdish area, we were stunned to see that the villages were gone. These were places that had been inhabited for millennia. The graveyards were removed, the mosques, all the wire had been taken down form the electric poles. It had become a desolate region. And we could see where the people had been moved. Iraq called them victory cities but in reality they were a kind of concentration camp."
 
Some time later Galbraith read a small news clipping about gassing and concluded he had earlier witnessed the signs of a mass genocide.
 
"It was a moment of recognition. And I put together the use of chemical weapons against villages far from the Iranian border in places that could have nothing to do with the Iran/Iraq war and put that together with the systemic destruction of villages that I’d seen before. The conclusion was that this regime was committing genocide. And I felt that we had to do something about it."
 
"I sat down and dictated, in about an hour, a bill to my secretary. I imposed every sanction on Iraq that I could think of. The legislation banned oil sales, required U.S. to oppose loans, cut off $700 million in agricultural and export credits and banned any export requiring a licence. I drafted this, and said what should we call it?”
 
During the Reagan administration, the Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988 was introduced to punish Iraq for their chemical weapons attacks against Kurds at Halabja. The legislation immediately won in the Senate, but lost to the House, and was defeated under White House pressure and threat of veto. The bill was drafted by Ambassador Peter Galbraith, who was a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations committee from 1979 - 1993, when he became an Ambassdor. 
 
Here is Ambassador Galbraith's reflection on Halabja, as published in the Boston Globe, 2002:
 
The Reagan administration, which had been providing Iraq with $700 million a year in credit guarantees, saw Hussein's Iraq both as a potential security partner in the volatile Persian Gulf and as a promising market for American products and investment. Secretary of State George Shultz denounced Iraq's use of chemical weapons, but others in the administration seemed more concerned about the Iraqi reaction should the sanctions become law…
 
While past error is no indication of future action, the Kurds have not forgotten that Secretary of State Colin Powell was then the national security adviser who orchestrated Ronald Reagan's decision to give Hussein a pass for gassing the Kurds. Dick Cheney, ..a prominent Republican congressman and [later] vice president and the Bush administration's leading Iraq hawk, could have helped push the sanctions legislation but did not. 
 
I have a copy of the original legislation here, in case anyone would like to see it. I am also glad to send it to you in an email, as this policy was part of the inspiration for the action on Iraq that Colin Powell, DIck Cheney, and others later did take. 
 
The Middle East and victims of genocide around the world need more advocates like Ambassador Galbraith. There is a certain balance of global business development, economics, and corporate social responsibility. Its a large planet, over 190 countries to do business with. And any corporation should be able to find means to take a break while the local constituencies in a given foreign country seize the right to determine their own fate. 
 
At present, Assad's military complex and their chemical weapons are no secret, and Assad, Iran and Hezbollah have plenty of active targets: Free Syrian Army, infiltrators consisting of al Qaeda, Taliban and Jundallah, Israel and Turkey on the borders, all under regular threat. Reportedly from the ground the Syrian Kurdish area is far more quiet, and not as much a threat to Assad, so far. Consider however that Iran trucks in 180 missiles or more which can hold chemical warheads, and be aimed in any direction, most likely at the greatest threats to Assad's regime, and inshallah, not against Syrian Kurds. 
 
 
 
Representative Remarks
Sherkoh Abbas
Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria
 
 
 Apology for not being there due to important events that taking place at the moment, and represent the interest of Syrian Kurds I had to be at those critical events to ensure brighter future for Syrian Kurds. 
 
 Would like to remind the audience that Syria is being ruled by the Same Baath party like its sister in Iraq.  Their vision was to purify Middle East from non-Arabs such as Kurds and Jews.  Today, Syrian Baath regime waging Wars on its people like its Sister in Iraq during Anfal and Halabja Genocides.
 
  US must stand with the Syrian people, support decentralized- federal Syria, support regime change, and this will lead in stopping the on-going civil/sectarian wars that could undermine the interests of minorities such as Kurds and Christians very soon.  All indications are leading in that direction.
 
 We need to avoid what happened in Halabja or in Southern Kurdistan where Kurds were slaughtered in front of the international community where instead of helping the Kurds; they ignored or supported the regime of Saddam.
 
 The Syrian oppositions mostly wanted the regime change in peaceful-way; however, the violent Syrian regime supported by Iran and Hezbollah used violence on them for months. Then, inaction by the international community, and interference of non-Syrian infiltrators have caused more violence by promoting Radical Islamists to hijack the Syrian peaceful revolution.
 
 Today the Syrian people on the ground are still the same people who want freedom and democracy are being forced to seek protection of Islamists radicals because of inaction of international community and disproportionate use of force by the regime and its allies.
 
 We ask the international community to recognize Halabja genocide and press those companies provided chemical weapons to Saddam and Iraqi government to compensate the people of Halabja.  If they don’t and look the other way a they have done thus far, this sends a message to Syrian regime to use chemical weapons on his own people.
 
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