Aug 12, 2002
The Bush Administration uses the fact that in the past the Iraqi regime used weapons of mass destruction as one reason why the Iraqi regime is dangerous. Of course, what the U.S. doesn’t now say is that it supported Iraq at the time that it used those weapons, both against the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War and against the Kurds inside Iraq.
In fact, the same person today condemning Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was Ronald Reagan’s envoy to Iraq. It was Rumsfeld, who reestablished diplomatic relations with the Saddam Hussein in December of 1983. Barely three months later, on March 23, the Iraqi army used mustard gas laced with a nerve agent against Iranian soldiers on the southern battlefront, killing 600. This didn’t seem to bother the Reagan administration. The very next day, Rumsfeld visited Baghdad and had an amiable chat with Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. The New York Times wrote: “American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with relations between Iraq and the United States.” The U.S. was obviously pleased with Hussein’s conduct of the war. That same year, the State Department pushed through the sale of 45 Bell helicopters to Iraq.
The U.S. continued its support of Hussein throughout the war. For example, in 1988 during an important battle with Iran over the Faw Peninsula, an oil port, the U.S. supplied Iraq with valuable military intelligence. This made possible a successful Iraqi attack using poison gas that killed thousands of Iranian soldiers. Many Iranian soldiers had gas masks that didn’t fit tightly over their beards, which allowed lethal gas to seep in. Hundreds of dead Iranians were found with empty syringes next to them which had a faulty antidote to the poison gas.
In 1988, Iraqi Army forces also attacked Kurds in the city of Halabja inside Iraq with poison gas, killing 5,000 civilians. U.S. intelligence figures told The Los Angeles Times that the poison gas bombs were dropped from the Bell helicopters provided by the U.S. The U.S. Senate passed a bill proposing sanctions against Iraq, but the sanctions were killed by the Reagan White House.
Meanwhile U.S. business went on with Iraq, with the U.S. importing two billion dollars of oil each year and selling Iraq one billion dollars of U.S. farm products. The U.S. government gave Iraq export credit guarantees through the Export-Import Bank. On June 6-8, 1989, a delegation of 23 U.S. banks, oil and oil-service companies, and high-tech, construction, and defense contractors visited Iraq and had “high-level” talks with officials.
Of course, all of this was done when Hussein was the U.S.’s lap dog in the Middle East, keeping order by drowning the region in blood: going to war against the U.S. enemy, Iran, keeping down an oppressed minority, the Kurds.
Only when the U.S. government decided to turn on Hussein did it suddenly accuse him of committing the atrocities that the U.S. government itself, supported and supplied in every way.