The Washington Times -- 3/12/2003


Rowan Scarborough


     Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is planning attacks on his own people in the event of a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and his top operative, a general nicknamed "Chemical Ali," has been put in charge of southern Iraq to quell any civilian uprisings, U.S. officials say....

     U.S. military officials say there are increasing indications that Saddam will kill his own people and blame the atrocities on invading American forces. Bush administration officials reported last week that Saddam was planning to dress Iraqi forces in coalition uniforms and order them to kill innocents.

     Mr. Rumsfeld suggested yesterday that Saddam is considering shelling civilians with deadly chemical weapons, as he did in 1988, killing up to 100,000 Kurds in northern Iraq. "His regime may be planning to use weapons of mass destruction against its own citizens, and then blame coalition forces," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

He recalled that during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, authorities ordered civilians into military command bunkers. In one instance, on Feb. 13, 1991, the U.S. forces bombed the Amiriyah bunker in Baghdad. Later, the United States discovered that Saddam's deputies had sentenced scores of civilians to their deaths by placing them on the bunker's upper level, above a command center. Baghdad displayed the dead bodies to the international press.

     "When his regime begins claiming once again that coalition forces have targeted innocent Iraqi civilians, if that's to be the case, we need to keep his record in mind," Mr. Rumsfeld said. Saddam "will seek to maximize civilian deaths and create the false impression that coalition forces target innocent Iraqis, which, of course, is not the case," the defense secretary said.

President Bush, who is weighing a decision to order an invasion of Iraq, said last month that Saddam has authorized his most loyal troops, the Republican Guard, to use chemical weapons against coalition forces. A U.S. military official said that at least two Republican Guard divisions are believed to be armed at this moment with chemical artillery shells. The belief among military planners is that Saddam has nothing to lose in unleashing weapons of mass destruction, as the goal of the coalition troops is to capture or kill him and oust his hard-line Ba'ath party regime.

     A sign that Saddam is serious about attacking civilians comes in reports from inside Iraq that Gen. Ali Hassan al Majid, or "Chemical Ali," has been placed in charge of military activities in southern Iraq. Considered a war criminal by human rights groups, Majid commanded the 1988 chemical weapons attacks on the Kurds. He also oversaw the brutal occupation of Kuwait in 1990 and 1991. After the 1991 war, he commanded the Republican Guard divisions that brutally put down a rebellion by Shi'ites in Iraq's southern marshlands.

     "He is a senior adviser to Saddam. He is known as an enforcer for the regime," said a U.S. intelligence official, who asked not to be named. "He is used to put down uprisings and maintain order." This official said Saddam typically carves up the country into three or four regions during crises and then appoints hard-line lieutenants to maintain order. In Majid, Saddam has a loyal commander and his own blood relation — they are cousins — to watch over the southern oil fields around Basra and stamp out any Shi'ite rebellion. U.S. military officials report that it appears that Iraqi operatives have affixed explosive charges to southern and northern oil fields, in the same way that they sabotaged oil wells in Kuwait before fleeing the country in 1991.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, said the military will install a screening process to determine which Iraqi officers harm civilians. "The vetting process will reveal those who participated in war crimes and those who didn't," Gen. Myers said....