Skip to comments.The U.S. Relationship With Saddam--Fantasy vs. Reality(Must read)
Posted on 01/13/2004 9:04:41 AM PST by finnman69
It is an article of faith among certain members of the left that "we helped to create Saddam." What does this mean exactly? What is the U.S. being accused of and why are the alleged U.S. sins so great? Today, I review the lengthy and complicated history of the U.S. relationship with Saddam Hussein.
Did we help to arm Saddam? Not really, while some U.S. arms sales were made to Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war, U.S. conventional arms sales pale in comparison to those of other countries, particularly those of the U.S.S.R., France and China. Did the U.S. aid Saddam in his unsuccessful attempts to develop nuclear weapons? No, that would be our faithful allies the French. (And, coincidently then-prime minister now French president Jaques Chirac.) Surely then the U.S. must have sold Saddam his chemical weapons right? Sorry, no. There's not much data to suggest that the U.S. knowingly sold any chemical weapons to Saddam although two U.S. companies (one Iraqi owned and both now defunct) apparently did so in violation of U.S. export controls. Indeed, the most recent evidence seems to point to Germany (both East and West) as the main source of Iraqi chemical weapons production and knowledge. Prior reports have tended to focus on the U.S.S.R. as the source of Iraq's chemical weapons.
Did the U.S. provide biological weapons to Saddam? Well, it would appear that U.S. research institutes and scientific supply companies did ship a number of bacteria samples to Iraq during the 1980s, but three caveats are important to remember when considering biological weapons and Iraq. First, legitimate and peaceful scientific research is conducted in almost every country on bacterium that could theoretically be weaponized. Research is conducted on bacteria in connection with agricultural efforts that, for example, seek to prevent foodstuffs from becoming spoiled (as in clostridium botulinum) or seek to prevent disease in livestock (as in anthrax). Bacteria is not really suitable as a weapon unless it is weaponized--a complex process in which the U.S. evidently had no role with respect to Iraq. Second, at the time when the biological samples were sold to Iraq, we were living in a more innocent age. There were few, if any export controls on sales of biological samples and almost any research institution in almost any country could have obtained the biological samples Iraq did, simply by asking. It was not until 1992 that the United States along with twenty-two other countries even agreed to control exports of organisms and the toxins as well as equipment that could be used in production of biological weapons. Third, while there is little doubt that Saddam had an active biological weapons program, there is no evidence that Saddam ever used his biological weapons on anybody. If you are going to charge the U.S. with complicity in Saddam's crimes, there should be an actual crime involved. So far as we know, none of Saddam's millions of victims met their end through biological warfare attack.
So what's left? What are these supposedly terrible things that the U.S. allegedly did? Here's your answer in all it's glory. Read through it word for word.:
Did U.S. government officials have some official visits and exchange pleasantries with Saddam? Check.
Did the State Department remove Iraq from its list of states supporting international terrorism during the Iran-Iraq War? Check.
Did we allow Iraq to participate in a U.S. guaranteed loan program during the Iran-Iraq War? Check.
Did we do a lot of other things that were helpful to Iraq during the course of its war with the fanatical Iranians? Yes.
Was the U.S. pursuing some business opportunities in Iraq? Undoubtedly.
Did all of this continue even after we learned that Iraq was using chemical weapons against Iran? You bet. Now for the money question--So what?
How do the U.S. activities vis-à-vis Iraq as exhaustively detailed in the National Security Archive amount to our creating Saddam? Particularly in comparison to those other countries like France, Germany and the U.S.S.R. who actually provided Saddam with significant weaponry? (And whose approval we were supposed to seek prior to removing Saddam.) There is a real world out there beyond the pages of leftist journals and the faculty lounge and that real world sometimes demands that we shake hands with some pretty disagreeable characters. Notice I said "shake hands", not "get into bed." It is simply a huge stretch to suggest that the U.S. relationship with Saddam was special or that Iraq enjoyed a favored position with the U.S. in comparison to some other Middle Eastern countries. Certainly the Gulf States in general and Saudi Arabia in particular shared closer relationships with the U.S. during the same period. You could also add Egypt and Jordan to the list of Arab countries that had closer relationships to the U.S. than Iraq enjoyed even at the pinnacle of U.S.-Iraq détente.
Moreover, the period in which Saddam and the U.S. had any type of relationship was exceedingly short, less than twelve years out of the Baath partys thirty-six years in power in Iraq. From 1968 to 1980, Iraq was firmly a Soviet client state with which the U.S. had no formal diplomatic relations. The U.S. relationship with Saddam began as a result of the Shi'a Islamic Revolution in Iran and Saddam's decision to go to war with Iran in 1980 following that revolution in the hope of regaining a strategic waterway he had been forced to relinquish in a prior war with Iran.
At the time Saddam attacked Iran, Iran's mullahs were threatening to export their revolution throughout the Persian Gulf. U.S. vital ally Saudi Arabia felt particularly threatened by the Iranian revolution because most of Saudi Arabias oil fields are in areas with majority Shi'a populations. It is a sad fact of life that when you threaten the Persian Gulf oil fields, you threaten the economies of the U.S., Europe and Japan. None of these states were prepared to countenance Iranian interference in other oil producing countries.
Moreover, Iran had loudly self-identified as an enemy of the U.S. and (as if we could forget) had humiliated the U.S. by holding our diplomats hostage for 444 days. And the Iranians were not just engaging in lip service when they described themselves as being at war with the "Great Satan." During the course of the Iran-Iraq War, the Iranians also waged a proxy war against the U.S. by financing terrorist attacks on U.S. targets throughout the Middle East. Iran-backed Hezbollah began attacking and kidnapping Americans throughout Lebanon. In 1983, Hezbollah operatives bombed the U.S. Embassy and Marine Barracks in Beirut. Also in 1983, an Iranian-backed group known as Al Dawa, or "The Call" bombed the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. Unsuccessful attempts by the Reagan Administration to trade arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages held by Hezbollah ultimately led to the Iran-Contra Affair. Moreover, in the midst of the Iran-Iraq War, the proxy war with the U.S. turned into an a undeclared full-fledged shooting war between the U.S. Navy and Iranian naval forces after Iran began to threaten neutral shipping in the Persian Gulf and (by design) oil supplies to the industrialized world.
Under the circumstances, Saddam's invasion of Iran was a perfect opportunity to blunt the Iranian threat and the U.S. would have been crazy not to take advantage of the situation by tilting toward Iraq. (Some have even suggested that the U.S. encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in the first place, but there is little evidence to support the charge, nor would the U.S. have had much influence over then-Soviet client Iraq.) Thus, some military aid was given to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, particularly after the war began to turn against Iraq after 1984. The aid consisted primarily of sharing satellite photo reconnaissance with the Iraqi army. In August 2002, an article appeared in the New York Times suggesting that the U.S. actually aided the Iraqis in tactical planning during the Iran-Iraq war but the report was denied by virtually every possible on the record source.
So thats the full account of U.S. involvement with Saddam so far as is known at this point. What is striking about such involvement is how largely symbolic it was compared to that of France, Germany and the U.S.S.R. In Saddam, the U.S. found an enemy of the Iranian revolution who would help to blunt Iran's evil designs on the rest of the Middle East. A policy which, by the way, appears to have been largely successful insofar as Iranian backed revolution did not in fact sweep through the Shi'a populations of the Middle East. Had we not backed Saddam, particularly after he began to lose the Iran-Iraq war, me might now be facing a far more powerful threat in the Middle East consisting of a super Shi'a state comprised of Iran, Bahrain, and parts of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
At the end of the day, what little support Saddam received from the U.S. ended with Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the relationship between Saddam and the U.S. returned to its natural state of mutual hostility. So, given all of the above, why do some continue to insist that the U.S. "created Saddam?" I will attempt to answer that question tomorrow in Part II of this posting.
Posted by Darren at January 13, 2004 10:19 AM | TrackBack