Stephen C. Pelletiere was the CIA's senior political analyst on Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, a professor at the Army War College from 1988 to 2000 with access to "much of the classified material" in Washington on the Persian Gulf, and head of a 1991 Army investigation into how the Iraqis would fight a war against the United States which went into great detail on the March, 1988 chemical attack on Halabja (Exhibit A in the case that Saddam gassed his own people). Given the shifting nature of our relationship with Iraq throughout the 1980s, this r?sum? could, of course, reveal his biases as much as it establishes his expertise. Anyway, he had this to say in The New York Times:
This much about the gassing at Halabja we undoubtedly know: it came about in the course of a battle between Iraqis and Iranians. Iraq used chemical weapons to try to kill Iranians who had seized the town, which is in northern Iraq not far from the Iranian border. The Kurdish civilians who died had the misfortune to be caught up in that exchange. But they were not Iraq's main target.
And the story gets murkier: immediately after the battle the United States Defense Intelligence Agency investigated and produced a classified report, which it circulated within the intelligence community on a need-to-know basis. That study asserted that it was Iranian gas that killed the Kurds, not Iraqi gas.
The agency did find that each side used gas against the other in the battle around Halabja. The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated they had been killed with a blood agent — that is, a cyanide-based gas — which Iran was known to use. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time.
I'm in no position to say he's right or wrong, but I'm amazed at how little attention the story has gotten—even in the form of a rebuttal. Pelletiere claims this information has all been in the "public domain," but notes that it almost never gets mentioned. As if to prove his point, Pelletiere's own article has generated pretty much no heat since its publication Friday. The Times appears to have received only one letter about it.
[Update: Thanks to Marc Webster for this link to Human Rights Watch's rebuttal of Pelletiere's claims, circa 1993.]