From email@example.com Wed Jan 1 17:00:16 2003
Date: Tue, 31 Dec 2002 01:05:24 -0600 (CST)
From: MichaelP <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Washington Post exposes Rumsfeld ..
High on the Bush administration's list of justifications for war against Iraq are President Saddam Hussein's use of chemical weapons, nuclear and biological programs, and his contacts with international terrorists. What U.S. officials rarely acknowledge is that these offenses date back to a period when Hussein was seen in Washington as a valued ally.
Among the people instrumental in tilting U.S. policy toward Baghdad
during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war was Donald H. Rumsfeld, now defense
secretary, whose December 1983 meeting with Hussein as a special
presidential envoy paved the way for normalization of U.S.-Iraqi
relations. Declassified documents show that Rumsfeld traveled to
Baghdad at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an
daily basis in defiance of international conventions.
The story of U.S. involvement with Saddam Hussein in the years before
his 1990 attack on Kuwaitwhich included large-scale intelligence
sharing, supply of cluster bombs through a Chilean front company, and
facilitating Iraq's acquisition of chemical and biological
precursorsis a topical example of the underside of U.S. foreign
policy. It is a world in which deals can be struck with dictators,
human rights violations sometimes overlooked, and accommodations made
with arms proliferators, all on the principle that the
enemy of my
enemy is my friend.
Throughout the 1980s, Hussein's Iraq was the sworn enemy of Iran,
then still in the throes of an Islamic revolution. U.S. officials saw
Baghdad as a bulwark against militant Shiite extremism and the fall of
pro-American states such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and even
Jordana Middle East version of the
domino theory in
Southeast Asia. That was enough to turn Hussein into a strategic
partner and for U.S. diplomats in Baghdad to routinely refer to Iraqi
the good guys, in contrast to the Iranians, who were
the bad guys.
A review of thousands of declassified government documents and
interviews with former policymakers shows that U.S. intelligence and
logistical support played a crucial role in shoring up Iraqi defenses
human wave attacks by suicidal Iranian troops. The
administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the
sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian
applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological
viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague.
Opinions differ among Middle East experts and former government officials about the pre-Iraqi tilt, and whether Washington could have done more to stop the flow to Baghdad of technology for building weapons of mass destruction.
It was a horrible mistake then, but we have got it right now,
says Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA military analyst and author of
The Threatening Storm, which makes the case for war with
My fellow [CIA] analysts and I were warning at the time that
Hussein was a very nasty character. We were constantly fighting the
Fundamentally, the policy was justified, argues David Newton, a
former U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, who runs an anti-Hussein radio
station in Prague.
We were concerned that Iraq should not lose the
war with Iran, because that would have threatened Saudi Arabia and the
Gulf. Our long-term hope was that Hussein's government would
become less repressive and more responsible.
What makes present-day Hussein different from the Hussein of the 1980s, say Middle East experts, is the mellowing of the Iranian revolution and the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait that transformed the Iraqi dictator, almost overnight, from awkward ally into mortal enemy. In addition, the United States itself has changed. As a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, U.S. policymakers take a much more alarmist view of the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. U.S. Shifts in Iran-Iraq War
When the Iran-Iraq war began in September 1980, with an Iraqi attack across the Shatt al Arab waterway that leads to the Persian Gulf, the United States was a bystander. The United States did not have diplomatic relations with either Baghdad or Tehran. U.S. officials had almost as little sympathy for Hussein's dictatorial brand of Arab nationalism as for the Islamic fundamentalism espoused by Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. As long as the two countries fought their way to a stalemate, nobody in Washington was disposed to intervene.
By the summer of 1982, however, the strategic picture had changed dramatically. After its initial gains, Iraq was on the defensive, and Iranian troops had advanced to within a few miles of Basra, Iraq's second largest city. U.S. intelligence information suggested the Iranians might achieve a breakthrough on the Basra front, destabilizing Kuwait, the Gulf states, and even Saudi Arabia, thereby threatening U.S. oil supplies.
You have to understand the geostrategic context, which was very
different from where we are now, said Howard Teicher, a former
National Security Council official, who worked on Iraqi policy during
the Reagan administration.
Realpolitik dictated that we act to
prevent the situation from getting worse.
To prevent an Iraqi collapse, the Reagan administration supplied
battlefield intelligence on Iranian troop buildups to the Iraqis,
sometimes through third parties such as Saudi Arabia. The U.S. tilt
toward Iraq was enshrined in National Security Decision Directive 114
of Nov. 26, 1983, one of the few important Reagan era foreign policy
decisions that still remains classified. According to former U.S.
officials, the directive stated that the United States would do
whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from losing
the war with Iran.
The presidential directive was issued amid a flurry of reports that Iraqi forces were using chemical weapons in their attempts to hold back the Iranians. In principle, Washington was strongly opposed to chemical warfare, a practice outlawed by the 1925 Geneva Protocol. In practice, U.S. condemnation of Iraqi use of chemical weapons ranked relatively low on the scale of administration priorities, particularly compared with the all-important goal of preventing an Iranian victory.
Thus, on Nov. 1, 1983, a senior State Department official, Jonathan T.
Howe, told Secretary of State George P. Shultz that intelligence
reports showed that Iraqi troops were resorting to
almost daily use
of CW against the Iranians. But the Reagan administration had
already committed itself to a large-scale diplomatic and political
overture to Baghdad, culminating in several visits by the
president's recently appointed special envoy to the Middle East,
Donald H. Rumsfeld.
Secret talking points prepared for the first Rumsfeld visit to Baghdad
enshrined some of the language from NSDD 114, including the statement
that the United States would regard
any major reversal of
Iraq's fortunes as a strategic defeat for the West. When
Rumsfeld finally met with Hussein on Dec. 20, he told the Iraqi leader
that Washington was ready for a resumption of full diplomatic
relations, according to a State Department report of the
conversation. Iraqi leaders later described themselves as
pleased with the Rumsfeld visit, which had
relations to a new level.
In a September interview with CNN, Rumsfeld said he
Hussein about the use of chemical weapons, a claim at odds with
declassified State Department notes of his 90-minute meeting with the
Iraqi leader. A Pentagon spokesman, Brian Whitman, now says that
Rumsfeld raised the issue not with Hussein, but with Iraqi foreign
minister Tariq Aziz. The State Department notes show that he mentioned
it largely in passing as one of several matters that
U.S. efforts to assist Iraq.
Rumsfeld has also said he had
nothing to do with helping Iraq
in its war against Iran. Although former U.S. officials agree that
Rumsfeld was not one of the architects of the Reagan
administration's tilt toward Iraq -- he was a private citizen when
he was appointed Middle East envoy the documents show that his
visits to Baghdad led to closer U.S.-Iraqi cooperation on a wide
variety of fronts. Washington was willing to resume diplomatic
relations immediately, but Hussein insisted on delaying such a step
until the following year.
As part of its opening to Baghdad, the Reagan administration removed
Iraq from the State Department terrorism list in February 1982,
despite heated objections from Congress. Without such a move, Teicher
says, it would have been
impossible to take even the modest steps
we were contemplating to channel assistance to
Baghdad. Iraqalong with Syria, Libya and South Yemen was
one of four original countries on the list, which was first drawn up
Some former U.S. officials say that removing Iraq from the terrorism list provided an incentive to Hussein to expel the Palestinian guerrilla leader Abu Nidal from Baghdad in 1983. On the other hand, Iraq continued to play host to alleged terrorists throughout the '80s. The most notable was Abu Abbas, leader of the Palestine Liberation Front, who found refuge in Baghdad after being expelled from Tunis for masterminding the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, which resulted in the killing of an elderly American tourist. Iraq Lobbies for Arms
While Rumsfeld was talking to Hussein and Aziz in Baghdad, Iraqi diplomats and weapons merchants were fanning out across Western capitals for a diplomatic charm offensive-cum-arms buying spree. In Washington, the key figure was the Iraqi charg d'affaires, Nizar Hamdoon, a fluent English speaker who impressed Reagan administration officials as one of the most skillful lobbyists in town.
He arrived with a blue shirt and a white tie, straight out of the
mafia, recalled Geoffrey Kemp, a Middle East specialist in the
Reagan White House.
Within six months, he was hosting suave dinner
parties at his residence, which he parlayed into a formidable lobbying
effort. He was particularly effective with the American Jewish
One of Hamdoon's favorite props, says Kemp, was a green Islamic
scarf allegedly found on the body of an Iranian soldier. The scarf was
decorated with a map of the Middle East showing a series of arrows
pointing toward Jerusalem. Hamdoon used to
parade the scarf to
conferences and congressional hearings as proof that an Iranian
victory over Iraq would result in
Israel becoming a victim along
with the Arabs.
According to a sworn court affidavit prepared by Teicher in 1995, the
actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying
the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing military
intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third
country arms sales to Iraq to make sure Iraq had the military weaponry
required. Teicher said in the affidavit that former CIA director
William Casey used a Chilean company, Cardoen, to supply Iraq with
cluster bombs that could be used to disrupt the Iranian human wave
attacks. Teicher refuses to discuss the affidavit.
At the same time the Reagan administration was facilitating the supply
of weapons and military components to Baghdad, it was attempting to
cut off supplies to Iran under
Operation Staunch. Those efforts
were largely successful, despite the glaring anomaly of the 1986
Iran-contra scandal when the White House publicly admitted trading
arms for hostages, in violation of the policy that the United States
was trying to impose on the rest of the world.
Although U.S. arms manufacturers were not as deeply involved as German
or British companies in selling weaponry to Iraq, the Reagan
administration effectively turned a blind eye to the export of
use items such as chemical precursors and steel tubes that can
have military and civilian applications. According to several former
officials, the State and Commerce departments promoted trade in such
items as a way to boost U.S. exports and acquire political leverage
When United Nations weapons inspectors were allowed into Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War, they compiled long lists of chemicals, missile components, and computers from American suppliers, including such household names as Union Carbide and Honeywell, which were being used for military purposes.
A 1994 investigation by the Senate Banking Committee turned up dozens of biological agents shipped to Iraq during the mid-'80s under license from the Commerce Department, including various strains of anthrax, subsequently identified by the Pentagon as a key component of the Iraqi biological warfare program. The Commerce Department also approved the export of insecticides to Iraq, despite widespread suspicions that they were being used for chemical warfare.
The fact that Iraq was using chemical weapons was hardly a secret. In
February 1984, an Iraqi military spokesman effectively acknowledged
their use by issuing a chilling warning to Iran.
should know that for every harmful insect, there is an insecticide
capable of annihilating it. . .and Iraq possesses this annihilation
insecticide. Chemicals Kill Kurds
In late 1987, the Iraqi air force began using chemical agents against
Kurdish resistance forces in northern Iraq that had formed a loose
alliance with Iran, according to State Department reports. The
attacks, which were part of a
scorched earth strategy to
eliminate rebel-controlled villages, provoked outrage on Capitol Hill
and renewed demands for sanctions against Iraq. The State Department
and White House were also outraged but not to the point of
doing anything that might seriously damage relations with Baghdad.
The U.S.-Iraqi relationship is. . .important to our long-term
political and economic objectives, Assistant Secretary of State
Richard W. Murphy wrote in a September 1988 memorandum that addressed
the chemical weapons question.
We believe that economic sanctions
will be useless or counterproductive to influence the Iraqis.
Bush administration spokesmen have cited Hussein's use of chemical
against his own peopleand particularly the March
1988 attack on the Kurdish village of Halabjahto bolster their
argument that his regime presents a
grave and gathering danger
to the United States.
The Iraqis continued to use chemical weapons against the Iranians until the end of the Iran-Iraq war. A U.S. air force intelligence officer, Rick Francona, reported finding widespread use of Iraqi nerve gas when he toured the Al Faw peninsula in southern Iraq in the summer of 1988, after its recapture by the Iraqi army. The battlefield was littered with atropine injectors used by panicky Iranian troops as an antidote against Iraqi nerve gas attacks.
Far from declining, the supply of U.S. military intelligence to Iraq
actually expanded in 1988, according to a 1999 book by Francona,
Ally to Adversary: an Eyewitness Account of Iraq's Fall from
Grace. Informed sources said much of the battlefield intelligence
was channeled to the Iraqis by the CIA office in Baghdad.
Although U.S. export controls to Iraq were tightened up in the late
1980s, there were still many loopholes. In December 1988, Dow Chemical
sold $1.5 million of pesticides to Iraq, despite U.S. government
concerns that they could be used as chemical warfare agents. An
Export-Import Bank official reported in a memorandum that he could
no reason to stop the sale, despite evidence that the
highly toxic to humans and would cause death
The U.S. policy of cultivating Hussein as a moderate and reasonable
Arab leader continued right up until he invaded Kuwait in August 1990,
documents show. When the then-U.S. ambassador to Baghdad, April
Glaspie, met with Hussein on July 25, 1990, a week before the Iraqi
attack on Kuwait, she assured him that Bush
wanted better and
deeper relations, according to an Iraqi transcript of the
President Bush is an intelligent man, the
ambassador told Hussein, referring to the father of the current
He is not going to declare an economic war against
Everybody was wrong in their assessment of Saddam, said Joe
Wilson, Glaspie's former deputy at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad,
and the last U.S. official to meet with Hussein.
Everybody in the
Arab world told us that the best way to deal with Saddam was to
develop a set of economic and commercial relationships that would have
the effect of moderating his behavior. History will demonstrate that
this was a miscalculation.