257. Letter from the Assistant Secretary of State for Congressional Relations (Macomber) to the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (Morgan)1 2

[Page 1]

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on House Resolutions 226 and 227 on the subject of the recent executions in Iraq.

The Secretary of State announced publicly on January 27 that the executions in Iraq were, on humanitarian grounds, a matter of deep concern to the United States and that they presented a spectacle that was repugnant to the conscience of the world, On behalf of this Government Ambassador Yost sent a letter on January 29 to the President of the UN Security Council in which he said that, although the United States recognizes the right of any government to administer justice to any of its citizens, the manner in which the Government of Iraq conducted the trials and executions scarcely conform to accepted standards of human rights and human dignity. He also stated that the spectacular nature of these trials and hangings seemed designed arouse emotions and intensify the explosive situation in the Middle East, and that their repetition would make more difficult the search for peace in that area of the world.

Since seven additional persons—all Moslems—have been executed in Baghdad under circumstances similar to those attending the executions of January 27. (For your information, only eleven of the fourteen executed on [Page 2] January 27 were hanged in Baghdad the other three executions took Place in Basra. Although none of the executions was actually carried out in public, the bodies were later displayed for several hours on gibbets in the central squares of both cities.)

While we are, therefore, fully sympathetic to the concern that prompted the resolutions, we do not believe it would be advisable from a practical standpoint for the United States to seek a Security Council meeting for the purpose of preserving the human rights of the people of Iraq. Even if it should do so, we doubt that Council consideration would be likely to influence the Government of Iraq in the direction of better observance of human rights. Indeed, Security Council discussions of the subject, with the harsh words and hardened positions that sometimes characterize them, can have a negative effect on the condition and prospects of the people of Iraq, especially those in minority status.

As a practical matter, the only means that could help improve the situation would be those that obtain the cooperation of the Government of Iraq. Since the United States has no representation in that country, and in view of the intensity of anti-American feeling on the part of official circles there, we have acted in the belief that initiatives toward alleviating the plight of minority groups should best be undertaken by third parties. Accordingly, we have cooperated actively in this regard [Page 3] with friendly governments, voluntary agencies and international organizations. We will continue to do so, in the conviction that the interests of those Iraqis deprived of their human rights are better served by such quiet and persistent efforts than by apublic approach that could worsen their plight.

The Bureau of the Budget advises that from the standpoint of the Administration’s program there is no objection to the submission of this report.

Sincerely yours,
William B. Macomber
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, SOC 14 IRAQ. No classification marking. Drafted by Thomas H. Shugart, IO/UNP; cleared by Elizabeth A. Brown, IO/UNP; John T. Abernethy (S/R), and Baas. This letter is an unsigned copy. House Resolutions 226 and 227 were attached, but are not printed.
  2. Macomber wrote that the House resolutions for a special UN Security Council Meeting on the executions of Iraqi Jews were inadvisable from a practical standpoint.