U.S. Hypocrisy on Chemical Weapons

How the U.S. Backed Saddam Hussein when the Iraqi Military Used Poison Gas

by Larry Everest

Revolutionary Worker #1165, September 1, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

If you think you've seen it all in terms of U.S. imperialist hypocrisy, lies, manipulation, and mass murder--wait. There's more.

Today the U.S. government is beating the drums for a preemptive war on Iraq. President Bush on his month-long Texas vacation talks casually of "regime change" in Baghdad--a euphemism for a U.S. military assault that could cost tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.

The pros and cons of various battle plans--like an "inside-out" blitzkrieg on Baghdad with 50,000 to 100,000 U.S. troops and massive airstrikes--are publicly, and shamelessly, discussed in the media. And military preparations are going on in the Gulf. The New York Times reported (August 19) "the first tangible signs of a logistical buildup around Iraq."

No evidence has been produced that Iraq can militarily threaten the U.S., or had anything to do with September 11. Yet those ruling the U.S. empire still demand "Saddam must go." Why? Because, they claim, the Hussein regime is trying to acquire "weapons of mass destruction"-- and has shown a willingness to use them.

Iraq's use of poisonous gas in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War has been repeatedly cited by Bush and his national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, as justification for a "regime change" in Iraq. Now it has come out that a covert U.S. operation aided and abetted Iraq when it was using chemical weapons against Iranian forces and its own Kurdish population.

The New York Times (8/18/02) reported that, according to senior military officers with direct knowledge of the secret program, U.S. officials "provided Iraq with critical battle planning assistance at a time when American intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the decisive battles of the Iran-Iraq war."

U.S. Role in Iran-Iraq War

It's long been known that the U.S. gave Iraq satellite intelligence to prevent an Iranian victory. But the Times article includes new information revealing the extent of U.S. involvement: "More than 60 officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] were secretly providing detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for airstrikes and bomb-damage assessments for Iraq."

This Pentagon program continued even when it became clear that the Iraqi military "had integrated chemical weapons throughout their arsenal and were adding them to strike plans that American advisers either prepared or suggested." U.S. plans in fact were made knowing that Iraq would use chemical weapons.

A DIA officer said the Pentagon "wasn't so horrified by Iraq's use of gas. It was just another way of killing people -- whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn't make any difference." Another U.S. intelligence officer told the Times, "The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern."

Thousands of Iranians were slaughtered or crippled by Iraqi gas attacks.

In other words, the U.S. rulers have no problem with chemical weapons and mass slaughter--so long as it serves THEIR imperialist interests.

U.S. Strategic Interests

In 1979, the Iranian revolution overthrew the U.S.'s loyal gendarme, the Shah. This, plus the Soviet Union's invasion of nearby Afghanistan, shocked the U.S. rulers. They counter-attacked, and one front was encouraging Iraq to invade Iran. The U.S. goals: weakening both countries, limiting their ability to cause trouble for U.S. interests in the region, and creating openings for increased U.S. leverage, while building up the U.S.'s regional military presence.

On April 14, 1980, five months before Iraq's invasion, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Advisor, signaled the U.S.'s willingness to work with Iraq: "We see no fundamental incompatibility of interests between the United States and Iraq...we do not feel that American- Iraqi relations need to be frozen in antagonisms."

According to Iran's president at the time, Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr, Brzezinski met directly with Saddam Hussein in Jordan two months before the Iraqi assault. Bani-Sadr has said, "Brzezinski had assured Saddam Hussein that the United States would not oppose the separation of Khuzestan (in southwest Iran) from Iran." Other journalists report that the Emir of Kuwait, Sadat of Egypt and the U.S. all urged Iraq to invade.

London's Financial Times reported that the U.S. fed satellite intelligence to Iraq leading them to believe Iranian forces would quickly collapse (they didn't). So, while the U.S. media talks on and on about Saddam Hussein as a brutal aggressor, the U.S. most likely prodded Iraq into a long, bloody war.

Supply and Manipulating Both Sides

The U.S. helped arm and manipulate both Iran and Iraq in order to prolong the war and cripple both countries.

By 1982, the war's momentum had shifted to Iran, which was threatening Basra, Iraq's second largest city. According to a 1995 affidavit by Howard Teicher, a National Security Council staffer from 1982-1987, "In the Spring of 1982, Iraq teetered on the brink of losing its war with Iran.... In June, 1982, President Reagan decided that the United States...would do whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran."

Teicher states that after Reagan signed a secret National Security Directive in June 1982, "The United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing U.S. military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required."

Anti-personnel cluster bombs were a U.S. favorite. "CIA Director [William] Casey was adamant that cluster bombs were a perfect `force multiplier,' for Iraq," Teicher states, and "the CIA authorized, approved and assisted Cardoen [the supplier] in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other munitions to Iraq."

Over the next years, the U.S. and its allies provided billions of dollars for high-tech weapons to Iraq. The British sold Iraq tanks, missile parts, and artillery; the French provided howitzers, Exocet missiles, and Mirage jet fighters; and the West Germans supplied the technology used in six Iraqi plants reportedly producing nerve and mustard gas.

William Blum, author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2 and Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower , writes about how the U.S. knew about and helped Iraq get biological weapons. Blum writes, "According to a 1994 Senate Committee Report: From 1985, if not earlier, through 1989, a veritable witch's brew of biological materials were ex- ported to Iraq by private American suppliers pursuant to application and licensing by the U.S. Department of Commerce."

The deadly mix included anthrax, botulism, and E. coli bacteria. According to Blum, the Senate Report states, "that these microorganisms exported by the United States were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and removed from the Iraqi biological warfare program."

Tilting U.S. Support

During the Iran-Iraq War, the U.S. cynically tilted to one side, then the other, to advance its agenda--which included trying to regain influence in Iran. A May 1985 CIA memo to Director Casey said, "Our tilt to Iraq was timely when Iraq was against the ropes and the Islamic revolution was on a roll. The time may now have to come to tilt back...."

The U.S. secretly encouraged Israel to ship Iran arms in the early 1980s, and then in 1985 began covertly sending Iran weapons. This secret plot collapsed when it was publicly revealed during the "Iran-Contra" scandal of the mid-1980s.

In September 1986, Reagan officials Oliver North and Robert McFarlane also promised Iran the U.S. could, in Oliver North's words, "bring our influence to bear with certain friendly Arab nations" to oust the Hussein regime.

In February 1986, as these secret discussions were taking place, Iran delivered a major blow to Iraq when it captured the Fao Peninsula. The New York Times (1/19/87) reported that Iraqi officials believed that their defeat at Fao "was due to faulty U.S. intelligence." Iraq detected Iranian troop movements, but the U.S. "kept on telling us that the Iranian attack was not aimed against Fao."

In fact, according to the Times (1/12/87), "American intelligence agencies provided Iran and Iraq with deliberately distorted or inaccurate intelligence data in recent years." The motive, captured in the Times headline: "Keeping Either Side From Winning."

The Iranian victory at Fao, fears of an Iraqi defeat, and the collapse of the U.S.'s backroom dealings with Iran, led the U.S. to tilt back toward Iraq.

According to the Washington Post's Bob Woodward, in late 1986 "[CIA Director] Casey had met with senior Iraqis to...encourage more attacks on Iran, especially against economic targets." Teicher states that, "In 1986, President Reagan sent a secret message to Saddam Hussein telling him that Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran..."

In 1988, after Iraq used poison gas against Kurdish civilians at Halabja in northern Iraq, U.S. aid to Iraq actually increased. Journalist Jeremy Scahill writes, "U.S. intelligence sources told the L.A. Times in 1991, they `believe that the American-built helicopters were among those dropping the deadly bombs.' "


President Bush's National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice recently argued that the U.S. has a "moral case" for war on Iraq.

One only need examine the cesspool of deceit, manipulation and complicity in mass carnage that comprises the record of U.S. actions in the Iran-Iraq war to catch the stench of the "morality" guiding Rice and the rest of the U.S. ruling class. These imperialists thought nothing of encouraging and aiding a gruesome slaughter which, by most accounts, led to the killing or wounding of over a million Iranians and Iraqis.

The war the U.S. now threatens on Iraq would be equally criminal, enormously destructive, and motivated, as before, solely by concerns of empire and global domination.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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