New York -- With Western powers, most notably the United States, Britain and France, weighing how best to punish the Syrian government for its alleged use of poison gas on its own restive civilians, we recalled a story we produced a decade ago, in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by a primarily Anglo-American force.
Photo left, 1st Lt. Matthew Chau, commander of Border Team 3, 25th Infantry Division, patrols Halabja, Iraq. Buried in the village cemetery are many victims of the 1988 chemical weapons attack, ordered by Saddam Hussein. Photo by Sgt. Sean Kimmons, February 23, 2005, courtesy of U.S. Army
This story, by our United Kingdom correspondent and fellow WG member Kieron Punch, related the role played by Irish soldiers in a British excursion into Iraq in 1920, when British forces deployed indiscriminate aerial bombing and, say some historians, poison gas in a bid to pacify an Iraqi rebellion against their new colonial overlords.
Britain had used gas weapons in the Middle East before, perhaps most prominently, in the Second Battle of Gaza against Ottoman forces in a British military defeat.
What we found startling in producing Kieron's article, and now, is Winston Churchill's response to criticism of the contemplated British use of gas. Churchill, in 1920 British secretary of state for war and air. replied then, "I do not understand this squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes."
Even 93 years on, Churchill's words have chilling resonance, especially with the winds of war today once again laced with poison.
-- Gerry Regan, Executive Producer, The Wild Geese