British forces did not use chemical weapons on Iraqis in the1920s, claims historian

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Washington, October 23 (ANI): A historian has claimed that British forces did not use chemical weapons on Iraqis in the1920s, just after World War I.

It has been recounted everywhere from tourist guidebooks to the floor of the U.S. Congress that the UK used chemical weapons on Iraqis just after World War I.

But, according to R. M. Douglas, a historian at Colgate University, in the US, that claim has never been fully squared with the historical record.

Research work by Douglas indicates that no such incident ever occurred in history.

Allegations of chemical bombings by the British erupted into the public sphere during the run up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Iraq's history of chemical weapons did not start with Saddam Hussein's gas attack on the Kurds, scholars and critics asserted.

According to the scholars, it was Great Britain when it controlled the region under League of Nations mandate in the 1920s that first used chemical weapons in the region to quell Arab uprisings.

Many scholars went so far as to root Arab distrust of the West in Britain's brutal chemical attacks.

Douglas, however, finds that these claims-oft repeated in books, newspapers and political speeches-rest on very shaky foundations.

The first blunt assertion of British chemical weapons use in Iraq comes from a 1986 essay by historian Charles Townshend.

In his essay, Townshend refers to a 1921 letter penned by J.A. Webster, an official at the British Air Ministry.

In Townshend's description, Webster wrote to the British Colonial Office, the overseer of the Mesopotamian occupation, that tear gas shells had been used against Arab rebels with "excellent moral effect."

Douglas's research, however, reveals that Webster was wrong. The army had asked permission to use gas shells, but had not yet employed them in the field.

Contrary to Townshend's description of the letter, Webster's much-quoted reference to an "excellent moral effect" represented "the Air Ministry's estimation of what gas bombs dropped from aircraft, if used, could be expected to achieve, rather than what gas shells had already achieved," according to Douglas.

In fact, shortly after receiving Webster's letter, the Colonial Office sought clarification of the bombing claim from Army General Headquarters in Baghdad.

General Headquarters reported, contrary to Webster that "gas shells have not been used hitherto against (Iraqi) tribesmen either by aeroplanes or by artillery."

Despite the evidence Webster's letter was wrong, it still became the basis for claims of British chemical use. From there, the false story mutated and spread. (ANI)

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