Liquid Truth

The accusation that Iraq has used chemical weapons against its own citizens - Iraqi Kurds at the town of Halabja - is a familiar part of the debate over whether to go to war. According to a controversial article by Stephen C. Pelletiere, however, the facts surrounding that claim have been selectively presented and distorted. "I am in a position to know," he writes, "because, as the Central Intelligence Agency's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, and as a professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000, I was privy to much of the classified material that flowed through Washington having to do with the Persian Gulf. In addition, I headed a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States; the classified version of the report went into great detail on the Halabja affair." Pelletiere also suggests that water, rather than oil, may be the main resource at stake in the upcoming war. "We are constantly reminded that Iraq has perhaps the world's largest reserves of oil. But in a regional and perhaps even geopolitical sense, it may be more important that Iraq has the most extensive river system in the Middle East. ... In the 1990s there was much discussion over the construction of a so-called Peace Pipeline that would bring the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates south to the parched Gulf states and, by extension, Israel. No progress has been made on this, largely because of Iraqi intransigence. With Iraq in American hands, of course, all that could change. Thus America could alter the destiny of the Middle East in a way that probably could not be challenged for decades - not solely by controlling Iraq's oil, but by controlling its water."