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Despite claims, UK did not gas Iraqis in the 1920s, new research finds
Date:2/5/2010

ear gas artillery shells.

But at that time, there were no existing stocks of such weapons in Mesopotamia. The nearest supply was in Egypt and needed to be transported to the region. By the time they arrived, the rebellion was over and the shells went unused.

Anticipating renewed hostilities, a Royal Air Force commander sought permission in 1922 to convert the unused artillery shells into bombs that could be dropped from aircraft. Churchill signed off on the request, but was forced to rescind his permission just days later when the Washington Disarmament Conference passed a resolution banning the use of tear gas. The shells, again, went unused.

There is little doubt had the timing of these events been slightly differenthad the 1920 rebellion lasted longer or if there had been time to convert the shells to aerial bombsthat British forces would have used their chemical ordnance. And that, says Douglas, may have vastly changed the course of history. Churchill had given authorization to use chemical agents without consulting his colleagues in the Cabinet, most of whom would have vigorously objected. Moreover, public sentiment against using chemical agents remained strong in the wake of German mustard gas use in World War I.

"[A]ny actual employment of these weapons would have triggered a public and political storm that might well have brought an abrupt end to Winston Churchill's career," Douglas writes.

Despite faulty evidence, claims of British chemical attacks on Iraqis became a popular anti-war rallying cry 80 years after the alleged incidents took place. War critics often drew parallels between Britain's alleged gas attacks and Saddam Hussein's gassing of Kurdish separatists in 1988.

"The symmetrical appeal of history faithfully repeating itself no doubt accounts for much of the public and scholarly credence accorded to claims that the British used chemical weapons in mandatory Iraq, their inconsistency and impla
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Contact: Kevin Stacey
kstacey@press.uchicago.edu
773-834-0386
University of Chicago Press Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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