Baghdad, Iraq — Prosecutors charging former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with genocide presented potentially damning documents Monday in his trial showing his government used banned chemical weapons in a late 1980s counterinsurgency operation against rebellious Iraqi Kurds.
The documents, if authentic, give a chilling account of the decision-making process behind a chemical weapons attack on Kurdish villagers in northern Iraq. They suggest that Saddam's office was kept informed on the effects and characteristics of chemical weapons and approved their use.
Saddam faces the death penalty for charges of mass murder against the Shiite villagers of Dujayl. While the appellate court reviews that sentence, prosecutors continued to press the case against Saddam for his alleged role in the Anfal campaign, an operation in which tens of thousands of Kurds died, some in chemical weapons attacks.
The documents presented Monday described a regime determined to use chemical weapons for maximum lethality.
The targets "lie in lowlands," said a March 25, 1987, letter by former military intelligence director Saber Douri, and thus would be suitable for using the chemical sarin and mustard gas weapons because the poisons would spread and stay in place a long time. Douri is one of seven defendants in the case.
The letter, addressed to Saddam's office, recommended using one-third of the stock for the attack and saving the rest for other emergencies "due to the limited number of special weapons," later identified as sarin and mustard agents. Both weapons are outlawed under international conventions.
Saddam, all but justifying the use of the weapons, said his targets were not his fellow countrymen but agents of Iran, which battled Iraq in an eight-year war ending in 1988.
An earlier letter indicated that Saddam's government delayed a chemical attack until the snows thawed when they would be more effective.
So Douri suggested delaying the strike until June.
"Your suggestions have been approved," Saddam's office wrote back the next day.