Shaking Hands With the Butcher
By Paul Harris
This article was originally published in YellowTimes.Org
There is a wonderful photograph floating around the Internet these days. It is not a fake; it is not doctored; it is real. It shows the smiling face of a much younger Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with the Butcher of Baghdad.
This photo was taken December 20, 1983, when Rumsfeld was sent to Iraq as a special envoy of Ronald Reagan. It has come to light recently as part of a series of documents that have been declassified and that tell the tale of an obnoxious U.S. policy that was every bit as indefensible as the present U.S. policy.
During the 1980s, U.S. policy embraced Saddam Hussein. Diplomatic relations with Iraq had been suspended since 1967 (Arab-Israeli conflict) but the United States wanted to renew ties and to provide assistance to Iraq. During the period where the U.S. moved to establish this good rapport with Iraq, the American interest was in ensuring that Iraq was not defeated by Iran in a war that was ongoing between the two nations. Iran, you will remember, had done a nasty thing to America by taking over the U.S. embassy in Tehran and holding several dozen Americans hostage for over a year. Even though that situation was resolved by the time the U.S. renewed its relationship with Baghdad, memories of hatred for Iran died slowly.
And during this period of renewed friendship, it was well known to the U.S. that Saddam Hussein had invaded Iran and had long-range nuclear aspirations that probably included an eventual nuclear weapon capability. It was also known that terrorists were being harbored in Baghdad, that the human rights of Iraqi citizens were being abused, that Saddam possessed chemical weapons and had probably used them on his own people as well as on the Iranians.
The declassified documents include a lot of material that reports on two Rumsfeld trips to Baghdad, on Iraq's use of the chemical weapons, and decision directives signed by President Reagan that reveal the specific U.S. policies for the region: preserving oil access, expanding U.S. ability to exert military influence in the area.
They also include a U.S. cable recording the conversation between Rumsfeld and Saddam on the day this photo was taken. Rumsfeld apparently told CNN during an interview on September 21, 2002 that he had cautioned Saddam about the use of chemical weapons during this meeting but the transcript shows this is not the case.
There is also a National Security Decision Directive dated April 5, 1984, which calls for an "unambiguous" condemnation of the use of chemical weapons, although it does not mention Iraq. What it does state, though, is a stress on protecting Iraq from Iran's "ruthless and inhumane tactics" and ensuring a plan of action to avert an Iraqi collapse.
In 1984, the United States and Iraq consulted about a resolution proposed to the United Nations by Iran, in regard to Iraq's chemical weapons. The Iranian resolution was presented to the Security Council and called for a condemnation of Iraq's use of these weapons. Iraq conveyed to the United States that it wanted a lower-level response that did not name any country in regard to the chemical warfare; the U.S. supported this request.
Astoundingly, there is also a U.S. document that publicly condemns the use of chemical weapons in the Iraq-Iran war, without naming names. Ayatollah Khomeini had refused to end hostilities until Saddam Hussein was ejected from power. The written and public U.S. response was: "The United States finds the present Iranian regime's intransigent refusal to deviate from its avowed objective of eliminating the legitimate government of neighboring Iraq to be inconsistent with the accepted norms of behavior among nations." Well, pardon me. Did I miss the point where the legitimate government of Iraq became the illegitimate government? Did I miss the memo that said eliminating governments is acceptable for the United States but no one else?
The United States claimed to be officially neutral during the Iraq-Iran war and claimed that it provided arms to neither side. Well, not directly maybe. Arms were shipped to Iran via Israel and various countries in Europe, Asia, and South America. Initially, the Iraqis started with a Soviet-supplied arsenal but needed more as the war raged. By mid-1982, Iraq was on the defensive and the United States decided that an Iranian victory would not be in U.S. interests. So they accelerated contact with Baghdad, removed Iraq's name from a State Department list of nations supporting terrorism, pressured the Export-Import Bank to provide Iraq with financing and to enhance its credit standing to allow it to obtain loans from other international financial institutions. The United States Agriculture Department provided taxpayer guaranteed loans to Iraq for the purchase of American commodities.
Although formal relations with Iraq were not established until November 1984, the U.S. had begun several years earlier to provide Iraq with intelligence and military support (in secret, and contrary to official U.S. neutrality policies) on direct order of Ronald Reagan. And about this time, the U.S. began to funnel weaponry and military equipment to Iraq. It came either through intermediary nations or by deliberately turning a blind eye to the obvious; for instance, in April 1984 the State Department willingly accepted the declaration of Bell Helicopter Textron that the helicopters they were selling to Iraq's Ministry of Defense were not in any way configured for military use. No doubt they were for covering the morning traffic reports for Radio Baghdad.
During the spring of 1984, the U.S. reconsidered its policy of selling nuclear-related equipment and knowledge to Iraq. The documents reveal the U.S. was certain that even after the conflict with Iran was ended, Iraq would continue to develop its nuclear program up to the point of possessing nuclear weapons. Although Iraq resides in a dangerous part of the world, no one had blinked when Israel stockpiled a large cache of nuclear weaponry because proliferation was not a priority for Reagan's administration. Throughout the earlier part of the 1980s, the Reagan White House had downplayed Pakistan's nuclear program in order to avoid congressionally mandated sanctions against Pakistan. This was to ensure that the U.S. could continue to provide massive military assistance to Pakistan in return for its support of the Afghanis who were fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
What makes this whole matter so perverted is that the current U.S. administration uses against Iraq exactly what a former U.S. administration gave to Iraq. Bush and Rumsfeld describe Iraq in stark, moralistic terms to persuade a skeptical world that a premeditated and pre-emptive attack on Iraq is just. They claim that this all arises because Saddam has nasty weapons, although the U.S. administration, partly with the assistance of Rumsfeld, looked the other way during the time that Saddam may actually have been using those nasty weapons. In Reagan's days in office, chemical warfare conducted by a country with which the U.S. wanted to be friendly was a potential embarrassment but they found a way around that obstacle. Now, a past history of chemical warfare is enough reason for the Bush government to wipe away the former position of the United States that the "objective of eliminating the legitimate government of neighboring Iraq (is) inconsistent with the accepted norms of behavior among nations."
At least now we can all see clearly that the morals of the United States are only those of convenience.
YOU MEAN SADDAM DIDN'T GAS HIS OWN PEOPLE?
Posted By: wtnf
Date: 11, March 03, at 2:51 p.m.آ
JON RAPPOPORT www.stratiawire.com
MARCH 11. Very little attention has been paid to Stephen Pelletiere's op ed piece in the New York Times (Jan. 31, "A War Crime or an Act of War").
Pelletiere was the CIA's senior political analyst on Iraq during the 1980s war between Iraq and Iran, and later served as a professor at the US Army War College (1988-2000).
His op ed piece attacks the theory that Saddam gassed the Kurds. You know, "Saddam gassed his own people." That oft-repeated charge that makes up a significant part of the administration's argument for war now.
Pelletiere had access to a lot of the classified data that was generated around the Kurd matter. He was in charge of the 1991 Army probe that investigated the question: How would Saddam fight a war against the US?
The major gassing incident occurred in March 1988 at a town called Halabja. "But the truth is," Pelletiere writes, "all we know for certain is that Kurds were bombarded with poison gas that day." This occurred near the end of the Iraq-Iran war.
Pelletiere writes, "â€¦immediately after the battle [at Halabja] the United States Defense Information 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."
Obviously, this report has been intentionally ignored by several presidents and their major mouthpieces.
Pelletiere goes on to write that both the Iraqis and the Iranian troops used gas at Halabja. "The condition of the dead Kurds' bodies, however, indicated that they had been killed with a blood agent---that is, a cyanide-based gas---which Iran was known to have. The Iraqis, who are thought to have used mustard gas in the battle, are not known to have possessed blood agents at the time."
If Bush were simply saying that Saddam deserves to die because he used mustard gas, then Bush might want to mention, as well, that the US employed tons and tons of Agent Orange (a chemical, the last time I looked) in Vietnam.
Then Pelletiere raises and answers a very interesting question. Why was the battle of Halabja fought?"... Iraq has the most extensive river system in the Middle East... Iraq had built an impressive system of dams and river control projects, the largest being the Darbandikhan dam in the Kurdish area. And it was this dam the Iranians were seeking to take control of when they seized Halbja."
Pelletiere points out that a water pipeline through Iraq "could bring the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates south to the parched Gulf states, and by extension, Israel."
To date that pipeline has not been built. But after Gulf War 2? Would Israel become one of the prime beneficiaries in the aftermath?
Remember, the charge that has been leveled at Saddam is, he gassed his own civilians. Pelletiere is offering evidence collected by US intelligence and military analysts that refutes that charge.
Bush, Powell, Blair, and the rest of the crew are brushing all this off without a glance.
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