“We would not be facing the problems in Iraq today if the technologically advanced countries of the world had seen the danger and strictly enforced the economic sanctions against Iraq.”
— Donald Rumsfeld in 2003 condemning the “old Europe” nations
The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
This principle, if such a simplistic, self-serving viewpoint can be given that status, has guided American foreign policy ever since I’ve been paying attention, regardless of how evil, murderous and monstrous the “friends” might be — just so long as they were on “our side.”
Such was the case in Vietnam, Chile, Cuba, Iran, Nicaruaga, the Phillipines, Panama — anywhere corrupt dictators were willing to accept our money and arms in return for a pledge of allegiance to the “anti-Communist” cause, or any other perceived threat to the interests of our military-industrial complex..
Certainly this was the reasoning during the Reagan administration, when our government and corporations were providing all kinds of support to Saddam Hussein during his protracted war with Iran — the common enemy.
Remember, Iran had seized 400 American civilians after overthrowing the corrupt Shah (another one of our close “friends”) and installing a rabid fundamentalist anti-American regime fronted by the fierce Ayatollah Kolmeini. And never mind that the hostages were released unharmed Jan. 20, 1981, the very day of Reagan’s first inauguration — his foreign-policy team still saw Iran as a harbinger of an increasingly hostile Middle East, and was ready to go to any lengths to stop this threat to our oil suppliers.
So Saddam, the mortal enemy of Iran, was courted as a friend worthy of our unswerving assistance, and the man Reagan sent to Baghdad to cultivate this warm relationship as his Middle East envoy was none other than our present Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who now makes loud noises about the evil nature of the former dictator. In a grainy 1983 photo Rumsfeld is pictured smiling and pumping the hand of the man he now portrays as an Arabic Hitler.
Declassified documents reveal that, at the time, Saddam was routinely using chemical weapons against Iranian troops, an egregious violation of the international rules of war. But while publicly cautioning Hussein against their continued use, behind the scenes Rumsfeld let him know we were still backing him all the way. In 1982 Iraq had been removed from the State Department’s list of terrorist countries and the following year, just before Rumsfeld’s visit, Reagan had signed a national-security directive expanding relations with Iraq.
Although it may seem incredible in the current war climate, there is overwhelming evidence of this country’s complicity in helping Saddam develop the lethal chemical agents he first used against Iran, then his own rebellious Kurds and, just possibly, American forces during the Gulf War of George the First, who continued Reagan’s policy of supporting Iraq until its invasion of Kuwait.
“. . . it was Donald Rumsfeld’s trip to Baghdad that opened the floodgates during 1985-90 for lucrative U.S. weapons exports — some $1.5 billion worth — including chemical/biological and nuclear weapons equipment and technology, along with critical components for missile delivery systems for all of the above,” writes Stephen Green in a well-documented 2003 article in CounterPunch.
But don’t just take his word for it. In 1994 U.S. Senator Donald Riegle, chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs that was investigating the Gulf War syndrome contracted by thousands of American soldiers in Iraq, put it this way in a letter to the head of the Forensic Science Center at Lawrence Livermore National Labs:
” As you know, many of the matrerials used in the Iraqi chemical and biological warfare program, as well as their nuclear weapons program, were exported directly from the U.S.”
Want some more? During the committee’s hearings “it was learned that UN inspectors identified many U.S.-manufactured items . . . that were used to further Iraq’s chemical and nuclear weapons development and missile development programs,” the Banking Committee’s report states.
Many other sources supply incontrovertible evidence of our role in arming our former friend as well.
So the next time you hear Rumsfeld, George Bush II, Condoleeza Rice, or (expletive deleted) Dick Cheney citing the gassing of the Kurds as proof of the need to get rid of Saddam by sacrificing of the lives of a thousand American soldier so far, weigh their hypocritical words accordingly.
Weapons of mass destruction, anyone?
David Grant Long writes from Cortez.