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Home Publications Op-Eds & Columns Washington's Past Relationship With Saddam Hussein Worth Looking At

Washington's Past Relationship With Saddam Hussein Worth Looking At

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Mark Weisbrot
Times Union (Albany, NY), Jan. 2, 2004

Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services - Dec. 29, 2003

Elyria Chronicle Telegram (Elyria, OH) - Jan. 2, 2004
Corvallis Gazette-Times (Corvallis, OR) - Jan. 2, 2004
Times Union (Albany, NY) - Jan. 2, 2004
St. Thomas Daily News - Jan. 3, 2004
The Monitor (McAllen, TX) - Jan. 4, 2004
The Record (Bergen County, NJ) - Jan. 7, 2004

So it looks like our Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was rather friendly with Saddam Hussein (a.k.a. The Monster) back in the 80s, when Mr. Rumsfeld was working for the Reagan Administration. This according to newly de-classified documents that were never intended to see the light of day.

Of course Mr. Hussein was "Our Monster" back then. But still it is rather striking that Rummy's mission when he met with Saddam Hussein's foreign minister was to reassure The Monster that his actual use of weapons of mass destruction -- not mere possession, but using them to kill tens of thousands of people -- would not get in the way of warmer U.S.-Iraqi relations. It was 1984 and Saddam was using chemical weapons, according to the Reagan administration's documents, "almost daily" against Iranians and Kurds.

Mr. Rumsfeld had already met with The Monster himself back in 1983. He was sent back to Iraq in 1984 to make it clear that Washington's interests in "continuing to improve bilateral relations with Iraq, at a pace of Iraq's choosing, remain undiminished" in spite of these daily atrocities. These were the written instructions that Rumsfeld received as special envoy of the Reagan Administration.

Some may still remember that the main reason given for our armed forces invading Iraq, in defiance of international law and most of the world, was that Saddam supposedly had weapons of mass destruction. These alleged weapons are still missing in action. But even if they did exist, it is hard to believe -- in light of these documents -- that our leaders took us to war for this reason.

The new documents were discovered by the non-profit National Security Archives (www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/) and reported last week in the New York Times and Washington Post. They corroborate previous reports in the Times that the United States provided Iraq with battle planning assistance, and other military and intelligence support, at the time that Iraq was using chemical weapons in its war with Iran.

Of course, Rumsfeld and his superiors had their reasons. But who doesn't? It is rare that any political leader commits atrocities just for the sheer pleasure of it. In this case Washington and The Monster were strategically allied against Iran. Washington's relationship with Saddam -- including hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural credits -- continued right up to the time that he invaded Kuwait in 1990.

But all of this is history, which in America is synonymous with forgotten. Which is why the Bush administration will do everything possible to make sure that Hussein is not brought before an international tribunal, where there is a greater chance that he could implicate some of his former friends and allies in Washington.

This is not just a matter of suffering embarrassment for being friends with monsters. Among the crimes that Saddam could be tried for is killing people with chemical weapons. In an honest judicial proceeding, Rumsfeld and his superiors could be named and indicted as co-conspirators.

Since Saddam's capture we have been told that the purpose of the ongoing war is to bring democracy to Iraq, in fact to the whole Middle East. Of course, the majority of Americans still believe that Saddam was involved in the massacre of September 11, according to the latest polls. It seems that no justification is too ridiculous or far-fetched to serve as an excuse for this war.

On the same page that the Times reported the story about Rumsfeld's past mission to Iraq, there was a little box that appears on most days with the title "Names of the Dead." It began with the same sentence that appears each time: "The Department of Defense has identified 463 American armed service members who have died since the start of the war." Only the number changes, and beneath are listed the soldiers who were killed the day before.

Can anyone tell us why we have soldiers dying in Iraq?


Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. He is also president of Just Foreign Policy

 

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