Fw: US Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup

From: Paul Bullock (paulbullock@EBMS-LTD.CO.UK)
Date: Fri May 02 2003 - 17:48:11 EDT

Subject: US Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup

> US Had Key Role in Iraq Buildup
> By Michael Dobbs
> Washington Post
> December 30, 2002
> 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 "almost
> daily" basis in defiance of international conventions. 
> The story of U.S. involvement with Saddam Hussein in the years before
> his 1990 attack on Kuwait -- which included large-scale intelligence
> sharing, supply of cluster bombs through a Chilean front company, and
> facilitating Iraq's acquisition of chemical and biological precursors
> -- is 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 Jordan
> -- a 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 forces as "the good
> guys," in contrast to the Iranians, who were depicted as "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
> against the "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 Iraq. "My
> fellow [CIA] analysts and I were warning at the time that Hussein was
> a very nasty character. We were constantly fighting the State
> Department." 
> "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 "extremely pleased" with the
> Rumsfeld visit, which had "elevated U.S.-Iraqi relations to a new
> level." 
> In a September interview with CNN, Rumsfeld said he "cautioned"
> 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
> "inhibited" 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. Iraq -- along
> with Syria, Libya and South Yemen -- was one of four original
> countries on the list, which was first drawn up in 1979. 
> 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 chargé 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 community." 
> 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
> United States "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 "dual
> 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
> over Hussein. 
> 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. "The invaders 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
> weapons "against his own people" -- and particularly the March 1988
> attack on the Kurdish village of Halabjah -- to 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 find "no reason" to stop the sale, despite evidence that the
> pesticides were "highly toxic" to humans and would cause death "from
> asphyxiation." 
> 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 conversation.
> "President Bush is an intelligent man," the ambassador told Hussein,
> referring to the father of the current president. "He is not going to
> declare an economic war against Iraq." 
> "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." 

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