December 11, 1992

In his latest offense against Earth and humanity, Iraq' dictator Saddam Hussein is draining the marshes of the lower Tigris and Euphrates valleys so that tanks may deploy against the people who live there. The aim is to destroy the Marsh Arabs and their way of life, which may date from Babylonian times. The reason is that they are Shiites, and opposed to his rule.

Saddam's offense is a marvel of engineering, a 270-foot wide canal from Baghdad to Basra running between and roughly parallel to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, to drain the marshes so that their residents can no long travel by canoe unseen, or live as they have lived, deprived even of water to drink. Some 4,500 men built the canal in four months with stolen heavy equipment.

This is Saddam Hussein's answer to the order from the U.S., Britain and France to fly no aircraft south of the 32d Parallel, where his helicopter gunships and fighter-bombers had been strafing the people. He is destroying their habitat instead, flushing them out to be refugees and targets.

But this is not Saddam's first effort at ecological terrorism. He it was who ordered pipelines emptied into the Persian Gulf, who set all the oil wells of Kuwait afire to blacken the sky, who sowed the beaches and borders of Kuwait with millions of murdering land mines.

Nor has Saddam given up conventional terrorism, especially against his own people. Muayad Hassan Naji al-Janabi was a Shiite Arab, a nuclear engineer and a builder of Iraq's projected nuclear bomb. He was in Amman, Jordan, trying to move his family to Libya, where there is another rogue dictator who might employ his skills. Mr. al-Janabi was assassinated by a gunman and driver, identified by Jordanian police, who were clearly Iraqi agents. Saddam Hussein's vicious security apparatus operates with impunity in Jordan's capital and has enforced retribution against defectors in exile communities as far as Europe and the United States.

Saddam Hussein is not a chastened man but a defiant one. As long as he rules Iraq, he will be up to no good, a menace to all Iraq's people and their neighbors.

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