From mustard to mustard gas

Naunihal emails to remind me about a 1991 article from the Guardian by David Omissi – then a research fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, now senior lecturer in imperial history at the University of Hull – which describes the British Government’s use of poison gas on the peoples of what is now Iraq in the interwar period. It describes how Sir Aylmer Haldane used gas shells on Arabs in central Iraq in 1920 during a campaign which killed 9,000, and how, over a decade later, Winston Churchill himself sought to drop mustard gas bombs on Kurdish populations in the north-east despite warnings of the damage these would do to noncombatants. “In the event”, the article notes, “the air force did not use gas bombs – for technical rather than humanitarian reasons”.

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