The World as a Magical Gas Chamber
Published: 1998-07-16

The aspects which link modern-day gas to the magic weapons of tales and legends are its invisibility and its supposed omnipotence. Frightening powers are attributed to it, and the terror that its use evokes arises from the impossibility of predicting it. Other substances, equally magical and mysterious, have sprung forth in full force from the febrile brains that invent modern warfare, above all its supreme weapon, the palladium of our empires: propaganda. Thus we have seen burst onto the media stage the mycotoxins ("yellow rain"), the Iranian gas chambers, the sarin in the Tokyo underground, the Saddamite gas rockets, the alleged germ traffickers, etc.

Recently a US television magazine programme, produced by CNN and Time Magazine, stated that the US Army had used sarin gas in September 1970 to "clean up" a Laotian village where deserting sodiers had found refuge.A retired admiral confirmed this, then retracted. What is striking in this story is, once again, the gullibility of the press. The US forces have certainly practiced the art of atrocity on a grand scale as a means of making whole populations get into line under their wings, or rather under those of its planes. But a story like this one has all the flavour of a grotesque lie. Ifany deserters ever stayed in a "Laotian village" there could not have been very many of them. To confirm this nonsense, a general Singlaub was called up to explain that the US government's unwritten doctrine was that American deserters were more dangerous than the Vietcong (Le Monde, 16 June 1998). The press seems not to recall that Singlaub, a frenzied anticommunist, was closely involved in "Irangate" and in the training of the mercenary corps hired to fight the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. In any case his statement was silly: numerous American deserters were in hiding in Saigon during that war and the US military could not have cared less.

The gas fantasy was not born yesterday. The Vendée (Western France) historian Jacques Crétineau-Joly was the author of a well known (and rightly so) Histoire de la Vendée militaire, first published in 1840. In volume I he tells of a message sent by the republican (revolutionary) chief of the Saumur region, a man called Santerre, to the minister of War on 22 August 1793: "I do not approve of mass mobilisation. That would be quite dangerous, what with supply and maneuvring problems. It would be better to send smaller units to attack certain key points... Mines, mines! With sleep-inducing fumes, then... jump on them."

"Sleep-inducing fumes," comments Crétineau-Joly, who is not yet acquainted with the 20th century, "invoked by a military man, to use against his enemies: that had never been heard of before, not even in the history of the cruellest peoples; and the [revolutionary] General Security Council and the [governing] Convention welcomed this horrible idea as a wholly natural way of having done with the Vendée! And on 11 September 1793 Rossignol, raising Santerre's bidding on these sleep-inducing fumes, was not afraid to state that, to end the war, the army should be able to use the resources of chemistry.

"'It would be desirable as a general measure,' he wrote to the Committee on Public Safety, 'to send citizen Fourcroy, a member of the Montagne [the extreme left of the Convention,] to this army so that we might profit from his talent and finally achieve the destruction of the brigands. This is the opinion of one of your brethren and friends, who is aware of Fourcroy's skills in chemistry.'"

During this time, minds were at work in the revolutionary general staffs to try to discover the chemical secret so hopefully expected of Fourcroy. The republican generals and the members of the Convention summoned charlatans from all around, who fed their hopes of a sure and active poison; and the adjutant-general Savary reveals in his memoirs one of the many such attempts that were made in that period.

"'I remember,' he writes, 'how one enthusiast, posing as a chemical physicist, showed the members of the Assembly who were present at Angers a piece of leather filled with a mixture which, when burnt, was supposed to give off a vapour that would asphyxiate all living things within a wide radius. A test was carried out on some sheep in a field, which some people had approached out of curiosity about the experiment, and no-one was indisposed by it.' "

This idea of a mass-poisoning of the Vendéens had sprouted so well in the minds of their adversaries that an Angers pharmacist called Proust created, around the same time, a ball which, according to him, contained a chemical preparation so subtle and whose effect would be so prompt that it would contaminate the whole region. It was tested in the field of La Baumette, but did not come up to revolutionary expectations (Histoire de la Vendée militaire, I, pp. 248-9). Sheep were to wait till 1968 and an American test: a surprise change of wind killed 6,400 of them at one shot, in the western part of Utah.

The science of the time did not come up to the political leaders' expectations; that would have to wait until 1915. But the months and years of gas warfare beginning then were to teach the military chiefs that it was a delicate business. Indeed, in order to engage in it on the battlefield, a commander must be prepared to sacrifice a number of his own troops, in the event of a change of wind. Apart from a few known and recorded cases, such as those of the Egyptians in Yemen and the Iraqis against the Iranians, the efficiency of gas has been above all of a psychological order. All of the world's big armies have their "Chemical and Bacteriological Warfare" departments, which spend considerable sums on research projects (thus imitating the Convention), and on stocks of various dangerous substances, but they never use them. Sarin and a few others with terrible effects on the nervous system had been discovered by German chemical science and were to be found in the German army's weapon stocks during the Second World War. Hitler, a gas victim himself in 1918, never ordered their use, not even at the bitter end in 1945. Churchill had prepared for his War Cabinet a plan to drown German cities under a deluge of lethal gas, but did not put that brilliant idea to work (See below, Annex 1). The techniques for manufacturing these nerve gasses were in the hands of the masters of apartheid in South Africa. They never used them either, and as they saw their regime collapse, they had their secret atomic weapons (made with French and Israeli help) destroyed. So they said. I do not know what has become of their chemical weapons.

At the start of 1998 we came within an inch of a new American aerial offensive against Iraq. A broad (world-wide) reprobation and the diplomatic shrewdness of United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan (married to one of the Wallenberg family, the Swedish industrialists who made their fortune in military procurements) made it possible to thwart the belligerence of the senile warriors who, up on their Hill, were getting so worked up. But there was once again the preparation of public opinion by means of the gas fantasy. We were reminded of the grotesque show put on before all the world's television cameras by the Israelis in 1991. A new panic was instilled by their authorities with the help of a judicious issuing of gas masks. It has perhaps been somewhat forgotten in our climes, how gas masks had also been handed out to the French civilian population from 1940 to 1943, in equally insufficient numbers. What child at that time would have missed the chance of donning one of those monstrous rubber faces to frighten his little brother or a visiting cousin?

It was in such an altered atmosphere that the world-wide press was suddenly taken with a bacteriological weapons affair: "They were expected in Iraq; lo and behold, they appear in Las Vegas!" (Le Monde, 21 Feb. '98). The FBI had just arrested two men who were carrying "dangerous biological and chemical agents" in their car. "The information was picked up straightaway by all the country's television stations, at the moment when its leaders were engaged in the grand project of explaining their policy on Iraq. The business remained unclear Thursday evening, thus furnishing the occasion to emphasise the dangers posed by the chemical and bacteriological weapons which Saddam Hussein allegedly holds in large stocks" (Ibid.) An "item of information of indeterminate origin" mentioned a plot to carry out a biological attack in the New York underground. Notwithstanding the common journalistic rigmarole about "professional ethics", the reporter, Sylvie Kauffmann, dutifully echoed this manifestly crazy rumour. Thus was built up a fantastical representation of a kind of super gas chamber: the whole underground flooded with lethal gas... A place where everybody goes, at one time or another if not every day... Certain death, a silent and invisible killer... It seems, according to a short piece in the press, that"the" Japanese head of the Aum cult (who was behind what is presented, not without a certain hesitation, as a sarin gas attack in the Tokyo underground) has been convicted. For reasons unknown to me, the trial received no coverage in the big media. Whatever be the causes of this odd silence, it is certain that the proceedings did not bring the grist to the state propaganda mills that had been expected at the time of the "events" and of the arrests made of persons in that "cult."

A few days after that enormous "announcement" in the American press, it was time to recant, but more discreetly. "The 'dangerous' germ agent in possession of which two men were arrested last week in Las Vegas has turned out to be a harmless veterinary vaccine against anthrax. [...] The FBI has expressed no regret for the alarmist manner in which the affair was presentedon Thursday.A certain Bobby Siller, one of those in charge of the investigation which led to the arrests, declared that he and his men had really believed that their perceptions of danger to the community were well-founded, and still believed so. The motivations of the American media, who pushed the dramatisation of the affair a good deal further, have doubtless been less noble. [Can there be such a thing as nobility among the FBI? The thought gives us pause.] Having allocated huge sums of money for the coverage of a possible US intervention in Iraq, the television networks have been quick to seize on whatever related matter may come their way while waiting for the action to begin. The opportunity to link these arrests to the threat posed by biological and chemical weapons proliferation — one of the American government's main grievances against Saddam Hussein — was therefore quickly snatched up" (Le Monde,24 Feb. '98). What was not snatched up was the opportunity which the Le Monde reporter then had to explain how and why she had spread obviously false news, without the least concern for "verification", "cross-checking" and other such screens that journalists try to hide behind when they are caught, day after day, slavishly licking the boots of the powerful.

As for Iraq's alleged chemical and germ warfare capability, it may be useful to go back to the beginning. I had occasion to deal with the subject in an article which appeared under the heading of Balayeurs (street-sweepers) du Golfein issue no. 1 of the Gazette du Golfe et des banlieues (suburbs) during the "war" against Iraq in February 1991. That text follows, unadultered.

More Poisonous than Gas: Cynicism!

At present millions of people in the Middle East are living in anticipation of the scream of sirens that will set them hastily putting on their gas masks; then they will run to an airtight room (if they can find one) and lock themselves inside to await the all-clear. Even in New York, gas masks are selling by the shovelful. This fear has today been shown to be groundless; in reality, those in charge know that there is nothing to be afraid of. Throughout the previous months all the intelligence services, including the Mossad and the CIA, have let it be known that they believed the Iraqis to be incapable of producing chemical warheads for their Al Hussein (modified Scud) missiles. In the past few days both American General Schwarzkopf, supreme commander of operations in the region, and the French commander General Schmitt, have also stated that they do not believe in such a possibility. Thus on the one hand the military intelligence technicians hold this threat to be nonexistent, while on the other hand the politicians make daily and massive use of it by reinforcing, with their security recommendations, the terror among populations to whom the technical knowledge is not transmitted. According to any dictionary this is what is called a lie. It so happens that the gas question has nearly always been submerged in an ocean of lies, and the reason for this will be recalled by a few facts. Gas is a terrifying weapon because of its invisibility; it was used for the first time in combat during the First World War, on 22 April 1915. Several thousand soldiers perished from it throughout that war, and many others suffered its more or less prolonged effects. There exist several families of combat gas: some asphyxiate, others act by skin contact. Depending on the concentration, they kill within seconds or days. There are means of protection, and prophylactic measures which, if they are employed rapidly, enable the victim to be saved. It should be noted that these weapons have been used very rarely since 1918, doubtless for fear of reprisal in kind, and also because their use is quite a delicate business. Aside from that, the Americans have not deprived themselves of massive use of defoliant gasses, giving no thought to their side effects on human beings. On several occasions since 1922 international conferences have attempted to prohibit or at least to regulate the manufacture and the storage of chemical weapons, without great success. Most countries of the world have signed the Geneva convention of 1925, still in force.

We are also told of bacteriological warfare, which would appear to be a means of spreading amidst the enemy germs which could cause an epidemic. There have certainly been intensive research projects devoted to this subject, but such a war has never happened. During the Korean War the Northaccused the Americans of such action, but the evidence was not solid enough to persuade any independent scientific authorities. The very concept of bacteriological warfare is a product of science fiction, impracticable on the strictly military level but carefully fostered by the chiefs of staff. The chance to attribute the blackest designs to the enemy of the moment is rarely missed, and that is why the germ warfare spectre is in resurgence today. It is pure war propaganda, available, for that matter, to both sides.

On the other hand, chemical warfare does exist. It is expected. All of the big armies, and some of the less big ones (South Africa's and Israel's, for instance) , have their stockpiles. Its importance is above all political.

As these weapons are particularly terrifying, insidious, invisible, often undetectible by the senses, there weighs upon them a strong moral condemnation, as if, strangely, the new warfare's high technology, with its second-by-second programming of the launch of tonnes of missiles twenty kilometres from civilian as well as military targets, were nobler, less dirty, than the use of chemical weapons. In both instances, it is an attack in the face of which neither civilians nor combatants can react: they are doomed to die or else escape by some miracle, but in both cases passively.

The political tactic is thus to accuse the enemy of producing these weapons, a proof of his profound inhumanity and of the danger that he represents. As easy as it may be to justify to public opinion the building of an aircraft carrier or the production of canons for the national defence, it is still a delicate job publicly to take the decision to make chemical weapons. These are always presented as being "defensive", with the authorities affirming that they will not be the first to use such weapons. Recourse must thus be had to elaborate ruses, and here follows the finest recent example.

In 1979 the Americans, who had halted chemical weapons production ten years previously (while still keeping considerable quantities in stock), saw Vietnam invade Cambodia and the USSR go into Afghanistan. They reacted by accusing the Soviets and their allies of surreptitiously using a new kind of poison gas carrying powerful nerve agents, called mycotoxins. This was what a book at the time, whose production was organized by the CIA, christened "yellow rain". The Americanpress, and then the world's, were soon doused with that rain. The United Nations acted, asking for a scientific report which, in 1981, deduced that it was impossible to conclude anything at all. In March 1982 General Alexander Haig, thenUS Secretary of State (Foreign Minister), presented a report to the US Congress in which he gave his "evidence", the main item of which consisting of tree or bush leaves brought back from a Cambodian village. The Balayeurs du Golfe, who were sweeping the Gulf of Siam at that time, knew very well how a Dr Amos Townsend, physician at the US embassy in Bangkok, had paid two American aid workers to cross into Cambodia on elephant-back and procure the things which the Khmer Rouge butchers' "health service", then engaged in a violent propaganda war with Hanoi, were to give them. The transport and preservation conditions rendered the samples worthless, according to the very people who had transported them. The American army laboratories' conclusions were sharply challenged and independent scientists then set about examining this question of mycotoxins.

The western press redoubled its accusations of the Soviets. "Yellow rain" was getting in everywhere, even into the pages of Sartre's journal. At the time when this controversy was raging (a situation brought on by the Americans' inability to furnish decisive evidence of a synthetic origin of the mycotoxins), president Ronald Reagan, on 8 February 1982, asked Congress for the authorisation to resume production of chemical weapons, in the face of the "Soviet threat" (see Annex 2), an authorisation (with a budget of $130 million) which was granted all the more quickly as the project involved arms of a new conception, very powerful nerve gasses in "binary" form: two receptacles, each containing a theoretically harmless gas, which would mix their contents at the moment of use to form the lethal substance. Once the decision was made (not without strong Congressional reticence), the controversy faded away softly and the scientific community has since calmly convinced itself that "yellow rain" consisted of bees' droppings within which there had developed a toxic microfungus, fusarium nivale, and that it was all perfectly natural. The definitive proof that "yellow rain" was a myth responding to a passing need, that it had been entirely fabricated and manipulated by the CIA, is apparent in the fact that it has never re-emerged and that nobody has thought of pinning it on the new Satan, Saddam Hussein.

Around the time of the Second World War gas was rarely used: the Italians in Ethiopia, the Japanese in Manchuria, but on the whole the fear of reprisals was decisive. After hostilities had ceased the Allies found 30,000 tonnes of tabun, a neurotoxin of which Adolf Hitler had renounced the use. A secret memorandum addressed to the British chiefs of staff, dated 6 July 1944, has been found in Winston Churchill's papers and appended here below. So much for the war of Right against barbarism.

Since the war, in spite of intensive preparations and enormous stockpilingsby the Soviets, the Americans, the French, and others, poison gas has practically never been used; only some gasses whose effects become toxic when they are used in high concentration in closed spaces, like CS gasses in Algeria and Vietnam. Thousands have died of this teargas.

But the only State to have made occasional but recurrent use of combat gas, essentially mustard gas, has been Iraq. First, in the war with Iran: from 1984-85 the Iraqis, whose mechanised forces were beginning to weaken in the face of the Iranian infantry, resorted to gas to stop the enemy offensives which were starting to reach the Shatt el Arab marshes, across the Iraqi border. The press treated these reports with extreme caution, as if it were a new ploy of the ayatollahs' propaganda. On 23 May 1985 the Iranian embassy in Paris took out a heart-rending full-page advertisement in Le Monde, reading: "Any person who for strictly humanitarian reasons would care to communicate information helpful in the fight against the effects of poison gas and chemical weapons is asked to contact the embassy... Any idea, any measure, any scientific or moral and humanitarian contribution likely to improve the condition of those affected... will be welcome." The page elicited some positiveresponses, and a few victims of gassing were even treated in France. But the international community kept quiet. No-one thought of sending gas masks.

Encouraged by this impunity, the Iraqis continued. On 22 March 1988, their airforce gassed six Kurdish villages in Iran, an action which Le Monde evoked diplomatically, stating "the risk of an anarchic use of chemical weapons is more and more widespread";but it did not speak of the "anarchic use" of French warplanes Mirage F-1's, lent to the Iraqi airforce and sometimes flown by French pilots, as we later learned. One read simply that the Iraqis had completed their production technique "by acquiring certain supplementary technologies from private firms in West Germany, the United States, Italy, and Great Britain". The UN was stirred and international opinion scratched its head; during the year 1988, reports by the UN, Amnesty International, and others came thick and fast. Nonetheless, the UN did not condemn Baghdad. In the Security Council, attention was paid to the fact that the Iranians and the Iraqis were about to begin talks and that "an asymmetry unfavourable to Iraq" could not be practised. If Iraq was thus able to continue using this forbidden weapon (Baghdad had signed the Geneva Convention in 1925), without once having been condemned in any international body, it was because the West, ever attentive to supporting her in the war with Iran, firmly refused to do so. The Israelis said nothing either at that time. Thus there was complicity.

The horror became even more visible in September when thousands of Kurds took refuge in Turkey. Journalists got to the frontier: "Hundreds of villages have been destroyed by napalm, whole families massacred, and the zone literally doused with chemical gasses", wrote Renaud Fessaguet (Le Monde, 13 September 1988). The US Senate condemned this "grave violation of international laws". George Schultz announced that "in case of repetition", relations between Washington and Baghdad would be "affected". And then it all collapsed: Turkey rejected the proposal of an international mission of inquiry. Five of the six member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council gave their support to Baghdad, where people wondered why such strong language was coming from Washington, previously silent about the Iraqis' use of gas.

There was, as a matter of fact, something which the Iraqis did not understand, and that was the fact that as soon as the war between them and the Iranians was over, they were no longer worth a farthing and could be thrown into the bin. Their historic role of mercenaries of the West was finished. They had lost 300,000 men who, since Baghdad did not care to go on filling mass graves, no longer counted. By the same token, the military machine that they had been allowed to build up in order to weaken Iran had to be dismantled, for Israel, which had accepted its establishment in the hope that Iran and Iraq would remain engaged in a hundred years' war which would totally exhaustboth of them, did not want there to subsist a real Arab military force after the hostilities.The State of Israel has always had as its doctrine the weakening and division of the Arab world. And the US has made Israel's policy its own.

From then on, and thus after the Iraqis had ceased using gas, the campaign against Iraq was to to begin and develop. The Israelis got behind it. There was more and more talk of chemical weapons' being the "poor man's atomic bomb", even though the two sorts of device had obviously nothing in common, the use of gas being always very difficult, and limited in time and space. In several cases, the Iraqi chemical attacks had not gone very well and the Iranians succeeded in saving practically all the civilian victims.The Iraqis, as everyone knows, had to "deliver" their chemical ammunition by plane or helicopter. They also had artillery shells. Nevertheless, this idea of "the poor man's atomic bomb" ran its course: outside of all practical reality, it introduced the notion of a balance of terror between Israel, endowed with the "rich man's bomb", fine and pretty H-bombs, and the destitute Arabs on the banks of the Tigris with their mustard gas canisters dating from 1917. As ideologically based as it may have been, this idea of "the poor man's atomic bomb" manifestly played a key role in the decision to destroy Iraq. From the first days the Americans boasted of having destroyed all of the country's "chemical" installations, including a powdered milk factory which the Pentagon had targeted as particularly dangerous.

During all that time, the Americans had gone ahead with the large scale production of binary weapons. Congress voted big sums, to be used on condition that the NATO allies not object. The latter thus needed some coaxing (Le Monde of 24 May 1986: "The NATO allies reluctantly approve chemical weapons modernisation"). While for its part the Chirac government in Parisseized the initiative, as discreetly as possible, in turn launching the production of binary weapons, the Soviets took everyone by surprise and announced that they had decided unilaterally to stop manufacturing chemical weapons, and to begin destroying their stocks.

For years negotiations had been dragging on between them and the Americans, mainly because the Pentagon was not at all inclined to divest itself of those arms. The Soviet gesture was to prove this; it was also to enable Mitterrand to proceed with one of his habitual conjurer's tricks. In January 1989 he summoned a vast international conference on the prohibition of chemical weapons. One hundred and twenty countries signed a declaration, which is not a treaty and which thus does not really commit them. This purely moral and political declaration does not replace the 1925 accord, from which many powers (the USA and France, among others), have freed themselves by reserving the right to use such weapons by way of retaliation. But what is important to underline here is that the Iraqis were present, scoffingly stating that they "would not export their know-how" in this area. Not an unpleasant word about them was uttered. Not one allusion in the self-satisfied remarks of Mitterrand. Only the Iranians vainly protested at this hypocrisy, and the Kurds were simply kicked out.

It was thus that the massive gas attacks carried out by the Iraqis were calmly approved by an international community which found them to be all well and good as long as the victims were Iranians or Kurds.

Chemical warfare works well only against unprepared civilain populations. In the present case [January 1991], on the military front, the Iraqis, who will perhaps use their gas, will not gain any decisive advantage if they do so, and nothing permits us to say that the Western allies will not use it in their turn. On television, general Saulnier, former head of the chiefs of staff, hasrecommended such use, and the American newsmen do not seem to have thought of putting the question to the military chiefs who herd them to and fro.

It will have become clear that chemical weapons are useful above all as a threat and as psychological pressure. As it happens, it is especially the Israeli leaders who have known how to turn them to good use. The terror in which they have obliged their own population to live is a business that they find politically and financially profitable (as the Germans, who have had to pay in Patriot missiles and in dollars, have learnt). As the credibility of a chemical-warheaded Scud attack itself diminishes by the day, the head of the Israeli air force still this morning brought up the far less likely possibility of an Iraqi plane's getting through his defences and throwing its canisters onto Israel. The maneuvre is becoming unravelled, and descending into the grotesque.

In the end, one cannot exclude from the scope of reflection the fact that this chemical, not to say chimerical, "threat" might serve as a justification for a nuclear attack on Iraq. It must be borne in mind — it is a fact — that this is being talked about among the chiefs of staff and that the nuclear option henceforth makes up one of the possibilities foreseen by "reasonable and cool-headed" people. When a war is on, nobody knows in advance how it will turn out. One knows how it begins, but nobody knows how it will end.

Chemical War or Chimerical War?

The French have always been discreet on the subject of chemical weapons. It was not until 23 October 1997 that a press report appeared (first in Le Nouvel Observateur, then in the Monde of the same date) about a secret chemical base which France had maintained in Algeria until 1978,sixteen years after independence. It was said that this base was named "B2-Namous" and had been in existence since 1935. There were secret accords signed in 1962, 1967, and 1972 by an "independent" Algerian government (the quotation marks seem appropriate here) and the French government, which was discreetly attached to a chemical weapons programme which no-one heard about. Le Monde,seized by an access of virtue, recalled that the experimentations of 1935 were not "in violation of international law," which, supremely astute,reserved for the states parties to the Geneva convention of 1925 "the possibility of using such arms in order to retaliate against aggression. Not until 1972 did a new international convention ban the manufacture and stockpiling of biological weapons or toxins. But France did not ratify this until 1984. It would not be until 1993 that France, after participating for four years in its preparation, adhered to the convention signed in Paris which clearly banned the production and stocking of biological weapons or toxins. This new treaty was put into practice in April 1997. France officially ratified it on 2 March 1995." [...] "At the conclusion of the convention of 1993, which allows ten years for the destruction of stocks, France was thought to hold 2,000 tonnes of chemical payloads, compared to 31,000 tonnes held by the United States, and from 40 to 200,000 tonnes, according to different sources, held by Russia" (Jacques Isnard, Le Monde,23 October 1997).

The accord with the Algerian authorities permitted hundreds of French soldiers to work on a "secret site" under the cover of a subsidiary of the industrial firm Thomson, which thereby confirmed its role as fig leaf of the secret services.

This secret base was a secret only to virtuous journalists. The revisionists, apparently always well informed, had known of it for a long time. It was actually described in a charming story by Albert Paraz, entitled Le Lac des songes, which appeared first in the éditions du Bateau Ivre in Paris in 1945, was republished in 1950 by the éditions Bressanes, the same publishingh house where Paul Rassinier's Le Mensonge d'Ulysse was published, prefaced by the same Paraz. Albert Paraz was mobilised on 31 August 1939. As he was classified as a "chemist", he was ordered to join the 104th Chemist Company of the 22nd B.O.A. and sent to "Beni-Bouzid", part of the "palm grove oasis of Figuig," a region which was contested militarily by Morocco and Algeria after their independence from France.

In 1945, Paraz made an interesting observation: "It is known by the old people that this enterprise consisted of a more than 100-kilometre stretch of plain entirely marked out like a chess board, with two hundred roads at right angles,with a kilometre of space between one another. It is clear that this was a project with vision: recent research has shown that the French authorities were planning to establish [in 1939] a test site for a weapon exploiting the energy contained within the atom, whose effects could be felt over an area of that order." (p. 124-125). Thus it is clear that there were some dirty bastardspreparing the development of the atomic Bomb well before the war, since the future testing ground had already been marked out. The French A-bomb was not set off until much later, in 1960, in Reggane, several hundred kilometres to the east of "Beni-Bouzid." There are interesting continuities in this world.

What did they do there? "One night, the men were woken up at 1 am to go to base 3, 20 kilometres away. The first work which was assigned to these young scientists, who had been loafing around for four months, consisted of scattering over the marked roads large square sheets of white paper every hundred metres. They donned rubber cowls which gave them an air of mediaeval penitents, or of ghosts. Planes flew over the area, sprinkling it with mustard gas. The men collected the squares of paper. They piled them up on the trucks and took them back to the camp. There, they counted the number of drops per square metre of paper, work which was all the more irksome as it could have been done in the Bois de Boulogne by spraying ink instead of poison, but that would have been less expensive, and above all less mysterious" (p. 257). "One day, the colonel had them make a cloud of phosgene eight kilometres long and two kilometres wide which rose to a height of twenty metres. Any Frenchmen who finished primary school knows that a litre of air weighs 1.293 gr. This cloud therefore weighed four hundred million kilograms, four hundred thousand tonnes." (p. 258)

Albert Paraz, a friend of Céline and of Rassinier, embodied all that has come to be hated in our era, marked as it is by fearful rigidity and an exaltation of idiotic ignorance. As he did this with verve and talent, he will remain unforgivable for a long time to come. The revisionists will place him, with all the requisite good-natured mockery, in their gallery of ancestors.

Gas had traumatised the generation of the first world war. The subsequent generations have transformed gas warfare into a terrifying and diversephantasmagory. Thus when Paraz had one of his characters say "You know very well that these gas stories are just a diversion, as they've been around since '17," the Germans were less inclined to treat this danger as "a diversion". As mentioned above, Hitler himself, like many others, had been gassed during that war. It is thus hardly surprising to see the great precautions taken by the Germans on the eve of the 1939-45 war to create air-tight and well equipped shelters in order to shield the population in case of aerial gas attack, the probability of which must have appeared much greater to the leaders of the time than to us today, well after the events. We know that gas was used very little but it is obvious that the belligerents must have considered it practically certain that their adversaries might resort to gas at any moment.

An American researcher who goes by the name of Samuel Crowell, gathering together the facts scattered about in the literature on the camps, and drawing especially on the technical documentation born of theGerman authorities' concerns regarding passive defence and the protection of civilian populations, has shown that a great number of structures built before the war werefitted out, before and during the war, with air-tight doors. Many of these air raid shelters were then supplied with means of protecting the escapees of the gas attacks which, it was imagined at the time, would be more massive and more violent than those of the previous war, which had seen the use of gas limited to certain sectors of the front. In particular, various buildings in the concentration campswere built to the standards of air-raid shelters anddesigned with hermetic doors. Water sources situated near the entrance also served as screens against contamination. Gas attacks were necessarily conceived of as having a limited duration. The persons taking refuge in the shelters would have to wait several hours before going out, with caution. Crowell thus has furnished a generally satisfactory explanation for several cases of airtight doors, noted by Pressac, whose distinct purpose has until now remained disputed.

A complete exposition and discussion of the information assembled by Crowell can be found in English on the CODOH website (www.codoh.com). Theproliferation of these gas-proof chambers in Europe must be seen in a new dimension, that is, in one which takes into account the runaway mythology by which the leaders of the era were being wound up. To this invisible arsenal was added, in the 1950s,atomic radiation: then a furious wave of A-bomb shelter construction got under way. There must still be some of these in the back gardens of well-off suburbanites.

Of the role played by gas as mighty promoter of tall tales, we have daily experience. The world's television networks were recently going on about Saddam Hussein, his purported stocks of chemical weapons, and the 5,000 deaths which allegedly took place during the attack on the village of Halabja in 1988. This figure is an invention of the press to which the latter seems to hang on like a vulture holding on to its egg.

In the Gazette of the Gulf and of the Suburbs, no. 5, June 1991, I drafted a little commentary which dealt with the inventions of the so-called Gulf Allies' war propaganda, in particular the televisual idiocy which reported that the Iraqis had unplugged the incubators in the Kuwaiti hospitals:Little Commentary of the Gazette

We must recall that this absurd story of the incubators was denounced as war propaganda very early on by certain people, and that Jean-Edern Hallier had brought back from Iraq and published in the *Idiot International* the documents of the Kuwait City hospital authorities which showed that the whole story was a lie, eagerly gulped down by the press who then made abundant use of it.

There is a second point to underline here. Amnesty International tried to justify its swallowing whole of this stupid lie by referring to other atrocities purportedly committed by the Iraqi army at other periods and in other contexts (in particular the massive gassing of the town of Halabja in 1988), even though the connection between the two stories was far from obvious.I havemyself discussed this gassing in the Gazette, no. 1,in an article dated 10 February, in which I affirmed that there could not have been an attack on Israel and that all the stories of gas masks were a political comedy [see above]. Concerning Halabja, I wrote, after having mentioned the reports of the UN, Amnesty International, and others: "Halabja was wiped off the map in March [1988]".

I had not wanted to enter into the details at that moment. It seemed that this story belonged to the past. But it is clear that the fear of a new Halabja, of a massive gas attack from the sky, played a decisive role in the exodus of two million Kurds. Very many refugees have borne witness to this. It is consequently not a waste of time to recall a study which was declassified and made public during the summer of 1990, entitled "Iraqi power and US Security in the Middle East", and written before the invasion of Kuwait, in which three analysts of the US Army War College examined very closely the behaviour of the Iraqi army during the hostilities with Iran. They wrote: "The statements according to which they [the Iraqis] won simply by using large quantities of chemical weapons are baseless." As concerns the use of gas against the Kurds during the same period, the authors concluded: "Having taken into consideration all the facts which are at our disposal, we judge it impossible to confirm the declaration by the State Department that gas was used in this case." And they added: "To begin with, no victim has ever been brought forth." All this can be found in the International Herald Tribune, 19 December 1990.

In effect, everyone has seen on television several images,allegedly of Halabja, showing several bodies laid out in the street, in particular that of an old man holding a child in his arms. But the 5,000 corpses have not been seen. Could this be a new Timisoara? An investigation ought to have been made on the spot.

But a so-called great reporter has actually enquired into Halabja. Marc Kravetz gave an account of his stay there in Libération, April 8, 1991. Some refugees coming from Halabja were asked by Kravetz about the events of 16 March 1988. In his report of the circumstances, Kravetz incessantly accumulated contradictions: he said that the bombardment took place "without even the pretext of enemy presence or of a military objective", and further, that in mid-March "the peshmergas (allies of the Iranian army which was present in the region) were thus installed in Halabja", that in the first days of March "ferocious combat took place in the area", and then, that "expecting the worst (an Iraki offensive), the peshmergas of Halabja retreated after warning the 11-15 thousand inhabitants of the town that they had better leave"; finally, that Teheran, still controlling the sector, had organised, after the bombardment, "a guided tour for the world press." It would seem to emerge from this web of confusion that the Kurdish combatants, operating in the vanguard of the Iranian army, were in the process of pulling back under pressure from the Irakis, and that the aerial attack of Halabja had as its goal the rapid quelling of the Irano-Kurdish resistance in the zone. To say that there was no military objective in Halabja is therefore absurd; perhaps such a statement reveals an ill-concealed propensity to present an act of war (certainly all the more deplorable for the civilian deaths), as an act of aggression without tactical motive against innocent civilians, thus as an attack of a genocidal nature.

Kravetz reported the statement of a witness, the only one to whom he spoke. This person, by the name of Kamal, told how 25 planes arrived shortly before sunset. They flew at low altitude and low speed. "When they arrived over Halabja, there were explosions and immediately a great cloud of smoke went up." A conventional bombardment then, because gasses are colourless and do not give off a great deal of smoke. "I ran towards the house, all the people in the village had already fled. I found my mother and my sisters, and we left together". It cannot have been gas, since he was able to come back to his house and leave the village without harm. "We were fairly close to the road, at the bottom of the cemetery, when the bombs fell on the village, and then I saw grey and yellow smokecoming down from the hill. I ran, I thought the others were following me. There was a strong explosion very nearby, I fell. When I got up again I saw my two sisters lying fifty or so metres behind me. They were lying on their backs with little drops of blood running from their noses." If Kamal could see in this detail, he must have been much less than fifty metres away. If the bomb or the shell which killed his sisters had let loose gas, he would never have survived within such a small radius. "Then I saw my mother. I never would have recognised her, I swear to you, if she had not had by her side my little sister. She did not have a face, and her whole body was like charred wood. I think it was napalm." End of testimony.

At no moment did Kamal talk of gas. What he described does not correspond to a gas attack, but rather to a conventional bombing . Napalm, as he said, lets off an enormous amount of black smoke.

One cannot conclude anything from only one testimony. One can note, all the same, the guided tour for the world press which followed (thanks to the diligence of the Iranians, who were evidently very keen to blacken thecomplexion of their adversary), and, additionally, the incompetence and laziness of Kravetz. As forme,Iget the feeling that what exactly took place in Halabja on 16 March 1988 is not known, that there seems to be evidence of a military operation, and that the use made of this sinister event (there were deaths, but how many?), as much by the Iranian, western, Israeli, and Kurdish propaganda as by Amnesty International, is absolutelydevoid of objectivity.I do not rule anything out, but in the current state of available knowledge, it can be said that the myth of Halabja (five thousand civilians gassed) is far bigger than what really took place in that village.

Several years later, during an interview on the radio station *France Culture* with Armand Gatti, the unfortunate Kravetz returned to the subject of Halabja to tell, this time, the story of the Jew of Halabja. Astory which was necessarily exemplary. There was at one time a Jew who lived in the Kurdish village, far from everything, of Halabja. He worked a bit as a public scribe for his neighbours. And one day he died. Gassed by the Iraqi offensive, of course.

Apocryphal chatter, obviously, for it does not figure in the reportage of the time. A story doubtless made up to provide material for Amand Gatti, a prodigious storyteller. How are legends born? Of competition between braggarts. And of the naivety of the listeners who repeat this nonsense to all comers...

At the beginning of 1998 we were served the same stuff. Seven years after the Gulf war, the sex maniac who reigns in Washington mounted an operation to bomb Iraq once more on the basis of entirely gratuitous suppositions. It is well known that the UN commissionshave for years been ceaselessly tracking down the least document, the least element that may deal with the various armaments which Iraq might possess. No country in the modern era has been treated in a manner so humiliating for its national sovereignty. For want of daring to occupy Iraq with their soldiers, the Americans have endeavoured to occupy the country through the calculated use of United Nations inspectors, of whom a good number have been recruited from the ranks of the American secret services,a fact aknowledged by Washington only at the end of Dec. 98. There has never existed any hard and serious evidence that shouldmake us think that Iraq still conserves any more than a tiny fraction of its military potential of the 1980s. All of this works in the following way:

Let us suppose that the Iraqis had secretly excavated an immense burrow under the city of Baghdad.They would then have been able to store fermentation vats down there, and they could have bought chemicals and used them in a way unintended by their suppliers. They could have secretly produced an enormous quantity of catapults in order to throw syringes full of anthrax and hayfever allergens (formidable incapacitating agents) at their enemies. None of this is certain, and one can even say that there is not a shred of proof of it. But that is exactly what makes the situation even more dubious. This Saddam is hiding something from us. Remember the 120 Km cannon of which spare parts were seized in various european harbours... What a beautiful invention!

In such a state of things, it is not surprising that the question of a return to normality and the end of the "sanctions" against Iraq is periodicallybrought up. Coming up just as regularly in the press are resurgences of the question of gas. Thus, this title inthe Mondeof 25 June 1998: "Iraq would seem to have mastered the [use of] gas in combat before 1991." The simple use of the conditional in a title of this sort betrays the article's mind-poisoning character. The source is the Washington Post, known as a centre of production of false news in the likes of which the great press does not indulge except in case of pressing need. Since then we have heard the lie (23 June) that the inspectors of the United Nations had found significant quantities of VX on fragments ofbombs. How traces of a nerve gas such as VX could have continued to stick to such objects for all these years was not revealed. How a bomb "fragment" is to be compared to a piece of scrap metal also goes unexplained. It is an American military laboratory which is reported to have made this analysis!!! As the journalist from Le Monde, Jacques Isnard, reported, it was the first time that Baghdad, (if one was to believe the Washington Post), was "suspected of having mastered the making of such a weapon before the Gulf War. In 1990-1991, the western experts and the Israelis had doubted the capacity of the Iraqi engineers to mount an operational chemical and biological arsenal, save for 155 mm shells (of which 550 have been destroyed by Unscom), and perhaps the aerial bombs R-400" (Le Monde, 25 June, 1998). Onecould not confirm more clearly that the political authorities who persuaded world opinion, and above all, Israeli opinion, that an Iraqi chemical attack was possible and even imminent, had been taking us all for idiots, for they knew very well that it was impossible. I knew it as well, and was able to take the risk of writing this fact a few hours after the unleashing of the American offensive on Baghdad, knowing that I would not be contradicted by the coming events. And I still have not been.

And as if all of the above were not enough, the reporter Isnard, himself, had the cheek to add this: "The fact that Baghdad did not resort [to using any chemical or bacteriological weapons] during the Gulf War is not necessarily proof that this analysis [according to which the Iraqis could not fit missiles with the appropriate warheads] is right... In effect, Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980s, and the Kurds in 1987-88." He knows, however, that these weapons were conventional (mustard gas) and deployed by conventional means. He mixes up everything here, and knowingly. Nothing actually proves that witches' cauldrons are not steadily simmering three thousand feet beneath Baghdad. The fact is that nobody has ever seen them but, on the other hand, the remains of some shish-kebab a thousand miles away would lead one to think that their existence, ten years ago, was quite real... There you have the reasoning of the media rag pickers. The standards are sinking.

Rightly alarmed by these rumours andinventions of the world press, the Israeli rabbis decided to perform special acts to protect their flocks.Blowing on their shofarseemed to them to be insufficient. They therefore decided to remake, in a way, the Jericho flick. They climbed aboard an aircraft which then circled Israel seven times, during which they recited special prayers to obtain from YVHV the destruction of Saddam Hussein.

They do not seem to have got satisfaction.

After the carbombing of US embassies in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi, the US Air Force retaliated by attacking a pharmaceutical plant near Khartoum, in Sudan. We had the same rehashed story about some hints that the plant would be string precursors of chemical weapons. The official explanations were so contorted and so ridiculous that nobody could really buy them. The Sudan is on the official US list of "terrorist states" and had to be bombed. Period. The chemical thing is just for fun.

And then finally in December 1998, just in time to rescue Poor "Openfly" Bill from the Monicagate, the Tomahawks were unleashed and thrown at Baghdad. "Massive destruction" weapons, mostly chemical, were thus "prevented" in the hospitals or barracks where they were supposed to come to life in an uncertain future.

The most remarkable common feature of all these silly stories is the total absence of the slightest shred of evidence supporting the idea that some mad mind is preparing chemical weapons, somewhere else than in the closed labs financed by the US taxpayer money, in the US, Israel or other places...

Gas is like a god, it can do everything, since it cannot be seen. It was Professor Robert Faurisson and the readers of the Bulletin célinien who exhumed the remarks of Céline, friend of Paraz and reader of Rassinier: the magical gas chamber! Here is an extract from a letter to Paraz dated 28 November 1950:

"Rassinier is certainly an honest man...[...] BUT STILL, he tends to arouse doubt of the existence of the magical gas chamber! this is no small thing! A whole world of hatred is going to bewhipped up to yelp at the Iconoclast! The gas chamber was everything! It allowed EVERYTHING. Now the devil has to find something else... Ah, now I feel safe!"

It allowed everything. And it still does.


Annex 1:

This document is part of the official papers of Winston Churchill

[stamp] PRIME MINISTER'S PERSONAL MINUTE

[stamp, pen] Serial No. D. 217/4

[Seal of Prime Minister]

10 Downing Street, Whitehall [gothic script]

GENERAL ISMAY FOR C.O.S. COMMITTEE [underlined]

  1. I want you to think very seriously over this question of poison gas. I would not use it unless it could be shown either that (a) it was life or death for us, or (b) that it would shorten the war by a year.
  2. It is absurd to consider morality on this topic when everybody used it in the last war without a word of complaint from the moralists or the Church\.

    On the other hand, in the last war bombing of open cities was regarded as forbidden. Now everybody does it as a matter of course. It is simply a question of fashion changing as she does between long and short skirts for women.

  3. I want a cold-blooded calculation made as to how it would pay us to use poison gas, by which I mean principally mustard. We will want to gain more ground in Normandy so as not to be cooped up in a small area. We could probably deliver 20 tons to their 1 and for the sake of the 1 they would bring their bomber aircraft into the area against our superiority, thus paying a heavy toll.
  4. Why have the Germans not used it? Not certainly out of moral scruples or affection for us. They have not used it because it does not pay them. The greatest temptation ever offered to them was the beaches of Normandy. This they could have drenched with gas greatly to the hindrance of the troops\.

    That they thought about it is certain and that they prepared against our use of gas is also certain. But they only reason they have not used it against us is that they fear the retaliation. What is to their detriment is to our advantage.

  5. Although one sees how unpleasant it is to receive poison gas attacks, from which nearly everyone recovers, it is useless to protest that an equal amount of H. E. will not inflict greater casualties and sufferings on troops and civilians. One really must not be bound within silly conventions of the mind whether they be those that ruled in the last war or those in reverse which rule in this.
  6. If the bombardment of London became a serious nuisance and great rockets with far-reaching and devastating effect fell on many centres of Government and labour, I should be prepared to do [underline] anything [stop underline] that would hit the enemy in a murderous place. I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention. We could stop all work at the flying bomb starting points. I do not see why we should have the disadvantages of being the gentleman while they have all the advantages of being the cad. There are times when this may be so but not now.
  7. I quite agree that it may be several weeks or even months before I shall ask you to drench Germany with poison gas, and if we do it, let us do it one hundred per cent. In the meanwhile, I want the matter studied in cold blood by sensible people and not by that particular set of psalm-singing uniformed defeatists which one runs across now here now there. Pray address yourself to this. It is a big thing and can only be discarded for a big reason. I shall of course have to square Uncle Joe and the President; but you need not bring this into your calculations at the present time. Just try to find out what it is like on its merits.

[signed] Winston Churchill

[initials]

[6.7.1944 n, Der Krieg, der nicht stattfand, Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 1986, p. 249-251]

Annex 2

Letter of Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, to George Bush, President of the Senate, 8 February 1982:

Dear Mr. President,

As you know, the avoidance of chemical warfare has been a stated goal of the civilized world thoughout the century. The United States, in support of this goal, is committed to the policy of "no first use" of lethal or incapacitating chemical weapons and to the objective of banning such weapons. Considering the current world situation, particularly the absence of a verifiable ban on producing and stockpiling chemical weapons, the United States must also deter chemical warfare by denying a significant military advantage to any possible initiator. Such a deterrence requires modernization of our retaliatory capability, as well as improvement of our chemical warfare protective measures. We also believe this step will provide strong leverage towards negotiating a verifiable agreement banning chemical weapons. I therefore certify, in accordance with section 818 of the Department of Defense Appropriation Authorization Act, 1976 (50 U.S.C. 1519), that the production of lethal binary chemical munitions is essential to the national interest. A full report supporting this certification is being provided by the Secretary of Defense.

Sincerely,

Ronald Reagan

The original French version of this paper was distributed by Le Temps irreparable on 16 July 1998.


Sources

  • J. Cretineau-Joly, Histoire de la Vendée militaire, publ. in 1865, 5 volumes, republished by Pays et terroirs, 65 place de Rougé, 85 Cholet, 1994. This edition is still available at the price of 500F.
  • Gazette du Golfe et des banlieues, no. 1, February 1991, Paris.
  • Sterling Seagrave, Yellow Rain. See also YANG DAO, "Guerre des gaz: solution communiste des problèmes des minorités au Laos," Les Temps Modernes, January 1980.
  • Albert Paraz, Le Lac des songes, (1945), republished in 1986 by Editions du Lérot, Tusson.
  • Gazette du Golfe et des banlieues, no. 5, June 1991, article dated 7 June.
  • Iraqi Power and US Security in the Middle East by three analysts of the US Army War College, summer 1990.
  • Samuel Crowell, "Defending Against the Allied Bombing Campaign: Air Raid Shelters and Gas Protection in Germany, 1939-1945", http:/www.codoh.com, see index. See also: on David Irving's website: http://www.fpp.co.uk/auschwitz documents/ LSKeller/MoscowDocs.html
  • The story of the flying rabbis: Reuters release, in The Toronto Star (February 19, 1998):

    Dozens of prominent rabbis circled Israel seven times by plane yesterday on a spiritual mission aimed at toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and protecting Israel against a possible chemical attack. The two-hour mission mimicked the biblical story in which the walls of Jericho fell after Joshua circled the city seven times. "The purpose of the flight was to cause Saddam to surrender and to assure that we would be victorious. We circled the country seven times in order to bring down the enemy," said expedition member Yitzhak Batzri. "We recited special prayers so that if, God forbid, poison falls on the Israeli people, they will not be injured." He said 10 rabbis blew a ceremonial ram's horn seven times in order "to bring down the enemy's walls."

  • Robert Faurisson, "Céline devant le mensonge du siècle (suite)", Le Bulletin célinien, Bruxelles, n·4, 4th quarter 1982, p. 5-6. This is a continuation of an article which appeared in the third quarter, 1982.
  • "Lettre de Céline" in: Cahiers Céline, Lettres à Albert Paraz, 1947-1957, edited and annotated by Jean-Paul Louis, NRF, Gallimard, 469p., 1980, p. 312.
  • Rassinier: see the Rassinier archive on: http://www.vho.org/aaargh/archrassi/archrassi.html
  • Le Monde, Le Nouvel Observateur, Libération, Les Temps Modernes, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Toronto Star, passim.

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Author(s): Serge Thion
Title: The World as a Magical Gas Chamber
Sources: French original in: "Le Temps irreparable," 16 July 1998
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Published: 1998-07-16
First posted on CODOH: July 14, 1998, 7 p.m.
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