George W. Bush’s “State of the Union” Address, January 28, 2003

 Part IV

 The US and Saddam Hussein

The US’ self-proclaimed commitment to peace and freedom in the world is exposed with its inconsistent relationship with Saddam Hussein and Iraq. The history of shameless, despicable, overt and covert support that the US (and Britain) gave to the “homicidal dictator”, as Bush characterized him, for more than a decade raises questions about the US’ concern for the “oppressed people of Iraq” and their “liberation”.

In 1963 with the CIA (under John F. Kennedy) orchestrated “regime change” in Baghdad and after a successful coup, the Ba’ath Party came into power in Iraq. In order to cleanse Iraq of the “evil” scourge of communism and to destroy the Soviet Union’s influence in Iraq, the CIA provided the new regime with a list of communists in Iraq to liquidate. Saddam Hussein was said to have been involved in exterminating the “evil” communists. After factional infighting within the Ba’ath Party, he became the President of Iraq in 1979, the year of the American hostage crisis in Iran. 

During the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran War the US fully backed Saddam Hussein. After assuming the presidency in 1981 Ronald Reagan had begun supporting Saddam in this war against Iran. Jason Miller notes: “Iraq became a clandestine strategic ally of the United States, with full eligibility for American economic and military aid waiting in the wings. The US started funneling weaponry to support Hussein’s war effort through third parties like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and by 1983 was selling conventional arms directly to Iraq.”

The US sold over two billion dollars of sophisticated equipment to Iraq. According to Iran, Saddam Hussein first used chemical weapons against it on January 13, 1981. Mohamed Salaam, AP’s correspondent in Baghdad, confirmed Iraqis using a combination of nerve gas and mustard gas. He reported: “The Iraqis had used, for the first time, a combination – the nerve gas would paralyze their bodies – the mustard gas would drown them in their own lungs. That’s why they spat blood.” In 1988 after visiting Fao peninsula that the Iraqi forces recaptured from Iran, Lt. Col. Rick Francona, US Defense Intelligence Officer working for Iraq at the time of war, informed the US government that Iraq had used chemical weapons. However, this was not at all a concern for the US government. In August of 2002 Colonel Walter Lang, former senior US Defense Intelligence officer, told The New York Times: “The use of gas (during the Iran-Iraq war) on the battle field by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern…We were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose.”

Iran blamed the US for supplying the combination of nerve gas and mustard gas to Saddam. Even though the US had denied it, in February of 1994 Senator Riegle, Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, testified before the Senate about large US shipments of dual-use biological and chemical agents to Iraq. These biological agents included Bacillus Anthracis, which produces Anthrax, and Escherichia Coli (E. Coli). The Senate Report concluded: “The United States provided the Government of Iraq with ‘dual use’ licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-systems programs, including…chemical warfare agent production facility plant and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment.”

Also a copy of the Senate Banking Committee Report, May 25, 1994, confirms the export to Iraq of “disease producing, poisonous and other biological research materials…under licensing by the US Department of Commerce. The biological cultures sent to Iraq included West Nile Virus, E. coli, anthrax and botulism.” The US Department of Commerce licensed 70 biological exports to Iraq between May of 1985 and 1989, including at least 21 batches of lethal strains of anthrax. The ABC Nightline Program “Ally and Enemy” on September 17, 2002 confirmed the US supply of anthrax to Saddam. According to this, “The United States eased up on its own technology export restrictions to Iraq, which allowed the Iraqis to import supercomputers, machine tools, and even strains of anthrax.” In November of 1983 Banca Nazionale del Lavoro of Italy and its Branch in Atlanta began to funnel $5 billion in unreported loans to Iraq. Iraq, with the blessing and official approval of the US, purchased 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. The Financial Times of London revealed that a Florida chemical company had produced and shipped cyanide to Iraq during the 1980s using a special CIA courier. Cyanide was used extensively against the Iranians. In May of 1986 the US Department of Commerce approved shipment of weapons grade botulin poison to Iraq. The US Department of Commerce approved shipment of chemicals used in manufacture of mustard gas to Iraq in April of 1988, and of weapons grade anthrax and botulinum in September of 1988.

Under President Ronald Reagan the relationship between the US and Saddam Hussein blossomed. Donald Rumsfeld, a strong advocate against Saddam Hussein during G.W. Bush presidency, was a strong proponent of relations with Hussein. Reagan authorized Rumsfeld to travel to Baghdad as part of a trip throughout the MiddleEast. The arrangements were being made between the US Interests Section in Baghdad and the then Iraqi Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Mohammed Sahhaf, according to the State Department documents obtained by the National Security Archives under the Freedom of Information Act. The visit, which included meetings with Tariq Aziz, then Iraqi Foreign Minister, and Saddam Hussein, was laid out in cables sent by the Interests Section and Rumsfeld himself to George Shultz, then US Secretary of State. Rumsfeld informed the Interests Section that he was “pleased with the positive response…to your sounding,” adding that he would “probably be carrying a presidential message for Saddam.” Arrangements were made for the visit on the night of December 19-20, 1983. The State Department officials who met with Sahhaf noted that “perhaps the greatest benefit of the visit would be the establishment of direct contact between an envoy of President Reagan and President Saddam Hussein.” Rumsfeld visited Baghdad as Reagan’s special MiddleEast envoy with a handwritten letter from the president. In the letter Reagan “promised renewed diplomatic relations and expanded military and business ties.” Aziz quoted Reagan as saying that “the Iran-Iraq war could pose serious problems for the economic and security interests of the U.S., its friends in the region and in the free world.” Rumsfeld in his meeting with Aziz laid out the shared interests of the two countries. He told Aziz: “While there were a number of differences of view between us, we also see a number of areas of common interest. We both desire regional peace, stability and correcting regional imbalance.” Rumsfeld, who trumpeted the invasion of Iraq during G.W. Bush presidency, made clear that the US interests coincided with Iraq’s in the Iraq-Iran War. He wrote in his note to Shultz: “I said I thought we had areas of common interest, particularly the security and stability in the Gulf, which had been jeopardized as a result of the Iranian revolution. I added that the U.S. had no interest in an Iranian victory; to the contrary. We would not want Iran’s influence expanded at the expense of Iraq. As with all sovereign nations, we respect Iraq’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Rumsfeld, who blamed Saddam on March 21, 2003 saying that “this is a regime that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people,” was instrumental in the 1980s in the export of the weapons to Iraq, which killed thousands of innocent people.

The US government considered its relationship with Saddam Hussein important. In September of 1988 Richard Murphy, then Assistant Secretary of State, stated, “The US-Iraqi relationship is…important to our long-term political and economic objectives.” G.W.H. Bush played an important role in strengthening the ties between the US and Iraq. In June of 1992 Ted Koppel of the ABC Nightline reported: “It is becoming increasingly clear that G.W.H. Bush, 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 (an aggressive power).” The testimony of Representative Henry Gonzalez, Texas, before the House in July of 1992 confirmed Bush’s role: “The Bush administration deliberately, not inadvertently, helped to arm Iraq by allowing U.S. technology to be shipped to Iraqi military and to Iraqi defense factories…Throughout the course of the Bush administration, U.S. and foreign firms were granted export licenses to ship U.S. technology directly to Iraqi weapons facilities despite ample evidence showing that these factories were producing weapons.”

In addition, US made helicopters sold to Saddam were used to launch a poisonous gas attack on Kurdish rebels, which killed about 5000 in the Iraqi town of Halabja in March of 1988. This incident was ignored by the US government for the sake of its self-interests. In July of 1988 Bechtel, former Secretary of State George Shultz’s company, got a contract to build a petrochemical plant in Iraq.

However, after the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam in 1990, G.W.H. Bush declared Gulf War. After this war the US and its allies fomented a Shia uprising in Basra. But they withdrew their support to Shias, when Saddam crushed the uprising which resulted in thousands of deaths. According to The New York Times, the reason for the US support to Saddam after the Gulf War and  not opposed to the killings of Shia rebels was, “Whatever the sins of the Iraqi leader, he offered the West and the region a better hope for his country’s stability than did those who have suffered his repression.” Thomas Friedman, the Chief Diplomatic Correspondent of The New York Times, explained that “the best of all worlds” for Washington would be an “iron-fisted military junta” ruling Iraq just the way Saddam did. But lacking that option, Washington had to settle for second-best: Saddam himself.

Thus, the US’ self-interests, rather than the interests of the people of Iraq, have influenced its relations with Saddam Hussein. G.W. Bush’s State of the Union speech on January 28, 2003 that “The dictator who is assembling the world’s most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages – leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured,” ignore the US’ culpability in Saddam’s cruelty against the Iraqis. Bush condones the fact that in March of 1986 the United States with Great Britain blocked all Security Council resolutions condemning Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, and refused to sign a Security Council statement condemning Iraq’s use of these weapons. The people worldwide, and Iraqis in particular, are aware of Washington’s support of repressive regimes and the barriers it erects against peace, freedom, development and democracy by propping up dictatorships.


The US and al-Qaeda

In order to convincingly present his case to invade Iraq, G.W. Bush in his State of the Union speech “revealed” the secret link between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda: “And this Congress and the American people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.” Again the “messiah of God” (Bush) ignores “God chosen” country’s (US) history, and in this case, its historical relation with al-Qaeda.

Since the bombings in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 there have been voices, including G.W. Bush, calling for solutions to the problem of international terrorism. But there was hardly any serious effort by US political leaders and pundits, and the corporate media to review the history of the US’ involvement in and support of terrorism. There was a very little reporting on Osama bin Laden being the product of the CIA in Afghanistan. The papers of CIA policies and other documents referred to by various scholarly studies reveal as to how the US, through the CIA and the ISI of Pakistan, set up Madrassas in Pakistan to indoctrinate the Muslim youth to undertake jihad against the communist kafirs in Afghanistan. The objective of this project was to bleed Russians. It is said that this was the largest operation carried out by the CIA to defeat the Soviet Union. Osama bin Laden was one of those zealous Muslims, who volunteered to fight along with the mujahadin to “cleanse” the Islamic land defiled by the Russian invasion. Al-Qaeda was an offshoot of this CIA project. Bin Laden became the leader of the al-Qaeda. The US through the CIA and the ISI gave al-Qaeda millions of dollars, tons of weapons and training in order to make its fighters effective against Russian domination in Afghanistan. 

After the departure of the Russians from Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda continued their zealous resistance against any foreign occupation of Muslim land. Commenting on Bin Laden’s opposition to the US, Michael Scheuer, the senior CIA analyst responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden from 1996, writes, “Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty, and democracy, but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world.” According to Scheuer, Osama’s objective was “to drastically alter U.S. and Western policies toward the Islamic world.” Scheuer further notes, “He (bin Laden) is a practical warrior, not an apocalyptic terrorist in search of Armageddon.”


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