The Curious History of the U.S. and Saddam Hussein

Revolutionary Worker #1195, April 20, 2003, posted at

The U.S. invaders and occupiers claim to be the great deliverers of salvation for the Iraqi people from the despotic rule of Saddam Hussein. U.S. officials loudly denounce Hussein's crimes, and the U.S. media obediently takes up this theme. But there is one fact that people will not hear from the mouths of Bush, Rumsfeld, and other U.S. spokesmen--it was the U.S. itself that was behind the rise to power of Hussein's Ba'ath Party and that backed its brutal rule for many years.

As the U.S. government tries to justify its imperialist power move in the Persian Gulf as a "liberation" of Iraq, it's more important than ever for people--especially here in the U.S.--to understand the real history of the U.S. relationship with Saddam Hussein. The following is a brief sketch of that history, up to the 1991 Gulf War.


1944:U.S. State Department memo refers to Middle Eastern oil as "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history." During U.S.-British negotiations over control of Middle Eastern oil, President Roosevelt tells the British ambassador, "Persian oil is yours. We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait. As for Saudi Arabian oil, it's ours." On August 8, 1944, the Anglo-American Petroleum Agreement is signed, splitting Middle Eastern oil between the U.S. and Britain.

1960: U.S. works to covertly undermine the government of Iraq by supporting anti-government Kurdish rebels and by attempting, unsuccessfully, to assassinate Iraq's leader, Abdul Karim Qassim, an army general who had restored relations with the Soviet Union and lifted the ban on Iraq's Communist Party.

1963: U.S. supports a coup by the Ba'ath party to overthrow the Qassim regime, including by giving the Ba'ath names of communists to murder. Soon after the U.S.-backed coup, Saddam Hussein becomes the head of the Ba'ath party. According to one account, "Armed with the names and whereabouts of individual communists, the national guards carried out summary executions. Communists held in detention...were dragged out of prison and shot without a hearing... [B]y the end of the rule of the Ba'ath, its terror campaign had claimed the lives of an estimated 3,000 to 5,000 communists."

1973-1975: U.S. supports Kurdish rebels in Iraq in order to strengthen Iran and weaken the then pro- Soviet Iraqi regime. When Iran and Iraq cut a deal, the U.S. withdraws support from the Kurdish rebels, denies the Kurds refuge in Iran, and stands by while the Iraqi government kills many Kurdish people.

Spring-Summer 1980: The U.S. government is greatly shocked by the downfall of its key puppet in the Persian Gulf, the Shah of Iran, in 1979 and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As part of its counterattack, the U.S. begins to prod Saddam Hussein to invade Iran. In spring 1980 Zbigniew Brzezinski, U.S. President Carter's national security advisor, signals the U.S.'s willingness to work with Iraq in a meeting with Saddam Hussein in Jordan two months before Iraq invades Iran. Brzezinski assures Saddam Hussein that the U.S. would not oppose the Iraq takeover of southwest Iran. The pro-U.S. regimes of Kuwait and Egypt also urge Iraq to invade.

September 1980:Iraq invades Iran with tacit U.S. support, starting a bloody eight-year war. The U.S. supports both sides in the war--"tilting" to one side or another at various times--in order to prolong the war and weaken both sides, while trying to draw both countries into the U.S. orbit. The U.S. opposes UN action against the invasion, removes Iraq from its list of "terrorist" nations, allows U.S. arms to be transferred to Iraq, provides Iraq with intelligence on Iran, economic aid, and political support, and encourages its Gulf allies to lend Iraq over $30 billion for its war effort. Meanwhile, the U.S. also provides Iran with arms. The U.S. military provides important intelligence information on Iran and advice on strike plans to the Iraqi military--while fully aware that the Iraqi regime had chemical weapons in its arsenal and was prepared to use them.

1983: U.S. President Ronald Reagan sends Donald Rumsfeld as a special representative to Baghdad to firm up relations with Saddam Hussein.

1988: The Iraqi regime launches poison-gas attacks on Kurdish villages in northern Iraq, killing thousands of Kurds. The U.S. increases its support for the Iraqi regime.

July 1990: April Glaspie, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, meets with Saddam Hussein, who reveals Iraq's intention to take military action against Kuwait for overproducing its oil quota, slant drilling for oil in Iraqi territory, and encroaching on Iraqi territory--seriously harming war-weakened Iraq. Glaspie replies, "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." When Iraq invades Kuwait, the U.S. imperialists turn on their man, Saddam Hussein--seizing the moment to assert U.S. hegemony in the post-Soviet world and strengthen their grip on the Persian Gulf. The U.S. condemns Iraq, rejects a diplomatic settlement, imposes sanctions, and prepares for an all-out military assault on Iraq. After a six-month military buildup, the U.S.-led coalition launches Operation Desert Storm.

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