The Bush administration has drawn up a list of about a dozen senior Iraqi officials, including President Saddam Hussein's two sons, who could be tried for war crimes in postwar Iraq or by an international tribunal, a senior American official said Saturday.
Top Iraqi military and security commanders are on the list. They include President Saddam Hussein's lieutenant, Ali Hassan al-Majid, known also as "Chemical Ali," who is blamed for a 1988 campaign against restive Kurds in northern Iraq that killed up to 100,000 people.
The most notorious incident of the campaign was a chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in which 5,000 Iraqi Kurds are said to have died from mustard and other poisonous gases, the State Department said.
On Friday, the 15th anniversary of the attack, President Bush invited to the Oval Office three Iraqi survivors.
In his radio address Saturday, Bush called Saddam a reckless dictator and said: "We know from human rights groups that dissidents in Iraq are tortured, imprisoned and sometimes just disappear; their hands, feet and tongues are cut off; their eyes are gouged out; and female relatives are raped in their presence."
Commanders who engineered the occupation of Kuwait in 1990, which was reversed in 1991 by a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and those in Saddam's "small clique" who brutally extinguished a Shiite uprising in southern Iraq in 1991, also are on the list, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
They would be detained and could be tried either by Iraqi courts or internationally, or possibly both, the official said.
Saddam's two sons, Odai and Qusai, also are on the list, which was drawn up after a series of administration-wide meetings.
The suspects and Saddam himself might elude prosecution by fleeing Iraq. Barhim Salih, prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government, said Friday that Saddam probably will take refuge in another country during what the Kurdish leader predicted would be a short and successful war to oust the Saddam government.
The Bush administration has given Saddam the option of exile. Leaders of a few Arab nations in the Persian Gulf endorsed the proposition, but it did not gain widespread Arab support. Saddam has shown no interest in leaving, even as war appears to draw near.