Saddam's enforcer: 'Chemical Ali' thrives on genocide

Special to World
November 26, 2002

Chemical Ali
Ali's forces rounded up 182,000 Kurds and they were never heard from again. In a tape of a meeting on their fate, he said: "I will not attack them with chemicals just one day, but I will continue to attack them with chemicals for 15 days."

Ali Hassan Al Majid
  • Age: Early 64
  • Occupation:Leading figure in Saddam Hussein's regime
  • Whereabouts:Baghdad
    Saddam Hussein may be the most brutal man on Earth, but alas, these days one has to delegate. As much as he'd like to, Saddam can't be at every execution, torture session or personally guard Iraq's weapons of mass destruction facilities.

    That's where Ali Hassan Al Majid comes in. To his colleagues, he is General Al Majid. To ordinary Iraqis, he is "Chemical Ali," the man who loves to gas his own people or anybody that gets in his or Saddam's way. For Saddam, who appreciates genuine brutality, Al Majid is the man who could be responsible for pushing the button to launch biological and chemical weapons attacks against invading U.S. troops.

    These days, Saddam is trusting the most sensitive missions to Chemical Ali. In September, Ali went on a tour of North African states that continues to intrigue Western intelligence sources. This was his first trip abroad since 1988. Sources believe that during his meetings in Algeria, Libya and Tunisia he focused on two key topics: asylum for Saddam's family and the transfer of Iraq's secret weapons of mass destruction programs. The safe haven is meant for Saddam's family and key members of his regime. Saddam is expected to remain in Baghdad and direct any defense for a U.S. war.

    It is clear that Chemical Ali has no future in Iraq. If the Kurds catch Ali, they will kill him the way he slaughtered thousands of Iraqi Kurds with poisonous gas in 1988. If Shi'ites in the southern region capture him, they will torture him as he did to thousands of them in the 1990s.
    Chemical Ali
    'Chemical Ali' served as Iraq's military governor of Kuwait in 1990

    Chemical Ali has a brutally-impressive CV. He served as Iraq's defense minister, interior minister, security chief, military governor of Kuwait in 1990 and director of the Revolutionary Command Council. The titles were conferred upon him for repeatedly proving his commitment to Saddam's brutal policies. Ali demonstrated that no survivor of Saddam's regime can remain free of war crimes.

    Ali's war crimes record began in 1983 when he was ordered to avenge an assassination attempt against Saddam. His first move was to order the destruction of the northern village of Dujail, from which the assassins were believed to have come. Many innocent villagers were killed.

    In 1987, Ali was promoted to Saddam's capo in northern Iraq. The following year he suppressed the Kurdish rebellion by ordering chemical bombs to be dropped from helicopters on the town of Halabja. At least 5,000 Kurds were killed and 10,000 were injured. In all, Chemical Ali ordered more than 280 Kurdish villages to be gassed.

    The operation to destroy the Iraqi Kurdish community, which comprise more than 20 percent of the population, was known as Anfal. Ali's forces rounded up 182,000 Kurds and they were never heard from again. They were probably buried in mass graves.

    In all, Ali is believed to have destroyed about 2,000 Kurdish communities and more than 150 Assyrian villages. In March 1991, after Saddam was defeated in the Gulf war, Ali, who had earlier pillaged Kuwait, was sent south to suppress the Shi'ite revolt there. Shi'ites were simply mowed down by tanks.

    Sometimes Chemical Ali worked with his brother, Abed Hassan Al-Majid. Witnesses saw the two together in March 1991 when Iraqi forces rounded up 15,000 Kurds in Kirkuk. Chemical Ali then chose 32 people and ordered his bodyguards to mow them down. The rest simply disappeared.

    Chemical Ali showed no remorse in bathing Iraq in blood. Indeed, in audio tapes of meetings he held with officials of the ruling Baath Party in 1988 and 1989, Ali gloated over his massacres. The tapes were found in Iraqi government offices by Kurdish insurgents during their failed revolt in 1991.

    In a May 26, 1988 meeting, Chemical Ali made it clear that chemical weapons attacks on the Kurds and other opponents of the regime is his preferred method. "I will not attack them with chemicals just one day, but I will continue to attack them with chemicals for 15 days," Ali said. "Then I will announce that anyone who wishes to surrender with his gun will be allowed to do so. Anyone willing to come back is welcome, and those who do not return will be attacked again with new, destructive chemicals. I will not mention the name of the chemical because that is classified information."

    These days, Chemical Ali is no longer a young man. But he still loves a juicy execution or torture session. Kurdish sources said he presided over the execution of eight senior Iraqi officers on Nov. 8. The officers, who included a general and colonel, were accused of blowing up a missile storage site.

    The key to the fate of the Saddam regime rests clearly in Ali's recent visit to North Africa. Will Chemical Ali remain in Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion or will he escape? Will Saddam transfer key weapons and technology for safe-keeping? Ironically, Algeria and Tunisia are allies of the United States and have been praised for contributing to the U.S.-led war against terrorism. The Bush administration must ask them some hard questions over their relationship with the Saddam regime and with butchers such as Chemical Ali.

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