Don’t confuse me for a Hussein apologist, but Iraq is not a particularly unified country, yet they’ve found an effective solution to keep public order. Hussein’s harsh methods are not unique; they’re not even particularly unusual in history. He’s simply quelling the population through the time-honored methods of terror and oppression. Just because he has a sense of history doesn’t mean he’s a nice guy. I don’t think anyone should walk away from this thread thinking that Hussein is some sort of anomaly, and we had better not think such a thing couldn’t happen.
In fact, there is a lot of evidence that very nasty things have happened in Iraq since the 1980s. Things that make the Serbians look rather tame by comparison.
In the north of Iraq you have the Kurds. They have a fairly legitimate claim to sovereignty in both Iraq and Turkey, and neither of those countries particularly like it, especially since some of the Kurdish territorial claims include lucrative Iraqi oilfields.
In the south you have the Ma’dan, who live in the highly strategic area between the lower Tigris and Euphrates rivers in southern Iraq. The single port-city of Basra is Iraq’s only significant outlet to the Persian Gulf. They also also of the Shiite Muslim persuasion, while the Ba’ath Party which controls Iraq is primarily Sunni.
Southern Iraq is–or was until recently–administered by Saddam Hussein’s cousin, Ali Hassan al Majid, better known to some as Chemical Ali. He is unquestionably a bastard in that Reinhard Heydrich sort of way. He has been accused of poisoning the lower Tigris and Euphrates in an attempt to cull some of those annoying Shiites. Chemical Ali is also alleged to be the orchestrator of the mass-murders of the Kurds in the north with chemical weapons.
Given Chemical Ali’s proclivity to use nasty chemicals on those whose living shit he wishes to scare out, I suppose it’s possible that he’s used acid on some victims. He’s certainly accused of such things. Hydrofluoric acid is used in many oil refineries. Sulfuric acid is also sometimes used. That link mentions that Iraq recently resumed delivery of 600,000 metric tons of sulfur to Jordan.
Both hydrofluoric and sulfuric acid are useful in the disposal of bodies. Somewhere between 50,000 and 200,000 Kurds disappeared during Chemical Ali’s pet project, Operation Anfal.
Chances are we’ll never find out everything that happened, but mass murder is very difficult to cover up–but not, unfortunately, too difficult to ignorantly deny. I suppose we’ll see.