On the morning of December 10, 1983, Searle Drugs CEO Donald Rumsfeld flew into Baghdad for an historic meeting with Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. He was acting as a special envoy under the orders of President Reagan, who two weeks earlier had initiated policy aimed at preventing Iraq from losing its war with Iran, citing the need to protect America's Persian Gulf oil interests and regional military strength. (1)
Rumsfeld was no stranger to diplomacy; he'd been Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford and was an Illinois Congressional Representative from 1962 to 1969. However, this was the first time a White House representative would meet with Hussein.(2)
The flamboyant Hussein was characteristically warm, articulate and charming, though by then it was well-known that he had been engaging in "almost daily use of CW [chemical weapons]". (3)
The two discussed the Iran-Iraq war and the U.S.'s efforts to find alternative oil transportation routes; its Persian Gulf facilities had been shut down by Iran, and Syria, Iran's ally, had cut off a pipeline transporting Iraqi oil through its territory.
They also touched upon Lebanon, strengthening Egyptian-Iraqi ties, and, what would prove to be the crowning irony "...the threat of terrorism, which targets both countries." (4)
It was Rumsfeld's task to ensure the dictator had whatever it took to defeat Iran. This opened the door to some of the most breathtakingly amoral, politically expedient alliances, black-market deals and betrayals ever documented in modern history.
It's almost impossible to conceive of a nastier set of transactions than the backroom funneling of weapons, money and military support to the regime of Saddam Hussein, not to mention his subsequent betrayal for possessing precisely the same weapons and money.
In his 1995 affidavit, National Security Council official Howard Teicher relates in general terms of how Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., Donald Rumsfeld and CIA director William Casey provided billions in US aid to Hussein, along with cluster bombs and other "unspecified munitions". (5)
Fortunately, with a little digging, we can get much more specific than Teicher:
Throughout the early 1980s, the National Security Council, CIA and other government agencies approved loans of more than $5 billion to Iraq through the Atlanta branch of the Italian Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL).
"About half of the money allegedly went to finance the purchase of US farm products, including $900 million guaranteed by the Agriculture Department's Commodity Credit Corp., but investigators said much of the rest had helped fuel Iraq's military buildup," wrote George Lardner in the Washington Post on 22 March 1992. He was citing information provided by chairman of the House Banking Committee Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez. (6)
Hussein used the remaining funds to buy "...computer-controlled machine tools, computers, scientific instruments, special alloy steel and aluminum, chemicals, and other industrial goods for Iraq's missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs." Then in 1982, Reagan authorized direct military assistance to Iraq:
"...This resulted in more than a billion dollars in military-related exports. According to Kenneth R. Timmerman (author of The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq) the US government under Reagan and Bush sold Iraq 60 Hughes MD 500 "Defender" helicopters, eight Bell Textron AB 212 military helicopters equipped for anti-submarine warfare, 48 Bell Textron 214 ST utility helicopters (sold for "recreational" purposes), and US military infra-red sensors and thermal imaging scanners (sold illegally to Iraq through a Dutch company). After the Gulf War, the International Atomic Energy Agency found the following US equipment in Iraq: spectrometers, oscilloscopes, neutron initiators, high-speed switches for nuclear detonation, and other tools used to develop and manufacture nuclear weapons."(7)
By this time, it had largely become George Bush, Sr's. game. As Ted Koppel explained in June, 1990, "...George Bush [Sr.], operating largely behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence, and military help that built Saddam's Iraq into the aggressive power that the United States ultimately had to destroy."(8)
Most of the documentation has since been declassified, disclosing specific sales of helicopters to the Iraqi ministry of defense (9), heavy trucks for military purposes (10) and so-called "dual-use" hardware, including materials for the manufacture of nuclear weapons (11)
Nor, according to the NY Times, was the White House content with just giving Hussein special gifts:
"...60 officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency were secretly providing detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for airstrikes and bomb-damage assessments for Iraq." (12)
Then, in 1985, they stepped up the pace; the US Commerce Department licensed the first of 70 shipments of bioweapons to Iraq. What Senator Robert Byrd characterized as a "toxic brew" of the world's deadliest agents were delivered to the Hussein regime. They included botulinum toxin -- according to the American Medical Association the deadliest substance known to man -- 21 lethal strains of anthrax, and a gaseous form of gangrene, the deadly flesh-rotting disease. Complete detailed catalogs survive of the chilling arsenal with which the Reagan and Bush Administrations armed Hussein.(13)
Flash forward 17 years; On December 7, 2002, in the leadup to the Iraq invasion, Hussein's government released its 12,000-page weapons-program dossier to the UN Security Council.
The Bush Administration seized the dossier and censored 8,000 pages, much to the public's shock and puzzlement. The reasons were quickly made apparent, however, when the original dossier was leaked to the German daily Die Tageszeitung:
24 US firms had been named as suppliers of WMD technology to Iraq, along with the ministries of defence, energy, trade and agriculture and the Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.
Hewlett-Packard, Dupont and Eastman Kodak had been specifically named, along with ‘50 subsidiaries of foreign enterprises [who] conducted their arms business with Iraq from the US' (14)
All 24 can be found at the link below, along with a list of their specific "contributions" to the people of Iraq and Iran. (15)
But in all fairness, it isn't just America's right-wing fruitbats who betrayed the security and trust of their citizens and millions around the globe; 17 British companies were also fingered for supplying Hussein with nuclear, biochem, rocket and conventional weapons technology. And five permanent members of the security council -- Britain, France, Russia, America and China -- were also involved, as were Japan, Holland, Belgium, Spain, Sweden and Germany.
Still, one cannot help but experience a special inner glow when hearing of the role played by our friend and ever-staunch ally, Israel:
"Shortly after the beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, the U.S. embassy in Ankara reports that Turkish ports have a backlog of goods awaiting transshipment to Iraq, and that a substantial amount of Israeli goods transit Turkey for "Islamic belligerents," including Israeli chemical products for Iran. It remarks on "Israeli acumen" in selling to both Iran and Iraq." (16)
1. National Security Decision Directive 114: "U.S. Policy toward the Iran-Iraq War," November 26, 1983
2. Video clip: December 20, 1983 -- Saddam Hussein greets Donald Rumsfeld in Baghdad
3. National Security Archive: declassified State Department Telegram
4. National Security Archive: declassified State Department Telegram
5. National Security Council agent Howard Teicher's sworn affidiavit:
6. George Lardner, Washington Post, March 22, 1992
7. Kurt Nimmo, "Bush Senior: Hating Saddam, Selling Him Weapons" AlterNet, September 23, 2002
8. Ted Koppel, "Nightline", ABC News, June 9
9. National Security Archive: declassified State Department Telegram
10. National Security Archive: declassified State Department memo
11. National Security Archive: declassified State Department memos
12. "Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas", Patrick E. Tyler, NY Times, Aug 18, 2002
13. "U.S. Exports of Biological Materials to Iraq" - Senator Donald W. Riegle, Jr., Chairman Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs report to Congress, May 25, 1994
"A U.S. Gift to Iraq: Deadly Viruses" Business Week, September 20, 2002
14. "Revealed: 17 British firms armed Saddam with his weapons", Neil Mackay, Sunday Herald, Feb. 23, 2003
(Note particularly the presence of Bechtel, which the astute reader will recognize is STILL providing "services" to Iraq during the current conflict.)
16. National Security Archive: declassified State Department Telegram
Quote of the Day: "Sometimes to be silent is to lie."
- Miguel Unamuno