Saddam Hussein: Made in the USA

by Mike Burke, February 14, 2003


"The Bush administration [has] sent U.S. technology to the Iraqi military and to many Iraqi military factories, despite over-whelming evidence showing that Iraq intended to use the technology in its clandestine nuclear, chemical, biological, and long-range missile programs."

No this quotation is not pulled from a conspiracy-minded website, but from the Congressional Record from July 27, 1992. They are the words of the late Congressman Henry Gonzalez of Texas.

For months in the early 1990s Gonzalez released hundreds of documents that outlined how the highest levels of the U.S. government - including Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and current Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - had secretly and illegally helped arm Saddam Hussein. The scandal was known as Iraqgate.

In 1991, Charles Schumer, then a New York Congressman, now the New York Senator, said Hussein was Bush's Frankenstein: "He had been created in the White House laboratory with a collection of government programs, banks, and private companies." At the time, future Vice President Al Gore said, "Bush is presiding over a cover up significantly worse than Watergate."

But Iraqgate is now all but forgotten in the wake of the Clinton-era scandals of Whitewater and Monica. The definitive account of Iraqgate, Alan Friedman's Spider's Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq, is long out of print.

But the U.S. role in arming Iraq has recently resurfaced.

In December, the White House boldly seized Iraq's 12,000-page weapons document in order to censor parts for the non-permanent Security Council states.

Among the information deleted was a list of U.S. corporations, government agencies and laboratories that aided Iraq. The companies included Honeywell, Kodak, Bechtel, Dupont and Hewlett-Packard. Among the government agencies were the Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce and Agriculture. And then there were government nuclear weapons laboratories Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia, which all offered training to Iraqi scientists. This information emerged only after a German news reporter obtained unedited portions of the Iraq documents.

U.S.-Iraqi relations extend back to June 1982 when President Reagan issued a National Security Decision Directive in the midst of the Iraq-Iran war. According to an affidavit by former National Security Council official Howard Teicher, from 1982 on the White House "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." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld twice, in 1983 and 1984, visited Baghdad to meet with Saddam Hussein. Teicher, who traveled to Baghdad with Rumsfeld, described the mission: "Here was the U.S. government coming hat-in-hands to Saddam Hussein and saying, 'We respect you, we respect you. How can we help you? Let us help you.' "

Rumsfeld's trips came at a time when the U.S. knew Iraq had already begun gassing Iranians. In 1985, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control sent samples of an Israeli strain of West Nile virus to a microbiologist at Basra University in Iraq. The U.S. would also send over "various toxins and bacteria," including botulins and E. coli.

In 1986, Taicher would later recall, "President Reagan sent a secret message to Saddam Hussein telling him that Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran. This message was delivered by Vice President Bush who communicated it to Egyptian President Mubarak, who in turn passed the message to Saddam Hussein." And the U.S. continued throughout the 1980s in backing Hussein by providing military assistance and diplomatic cover for war crimes.

In 1984, the State Department arranged for the sale of 45 Bell 214ST helicopters to Iraq. Four years later The Los Angeles Times reported that "American-built helicopters" were used to gas Kurdish civilians. In March 1988 up to 6,800 Kurds were gassed to death in Halabja by Hussein's troops. In response the U.S. State Department attempted, according to a recent report in The International Herald Tribune, to place blame for the gassing also on the Iranians despite no evidence of Iranian involvement. When the UN Security Council passed a resolution to censure the Halabja attack it called on "both sides to refrain from the future use of chemical weapons."

In July 1990, days before Iraq invaded Kuwait, U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie met with Saddam Hussein and gave him what many believe to be a green light for invading Kuwait.

Speaking for President Bush, Glaspie said, "we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait." Hussein invaded Kuwait beginning a war that has yet to end. Leading the fight then Secretary of Defense was Dick Cheney.

While the Gulf War marked the end of U.S. support for Hussein, private U.S. corporations continued to quietly trade with Iraq through foreign subsidiaries. And among those who profited most was Cheney himself. In 1995, Cheney took over as CEO of Halliburton, a Dallas-based oil-field supply corporation. According to The Washington Post, two Halliburton foreign subsidiaries sold more than $73 million in oil production equipment and supplies to Iraq under Cheney's command. Cheney had helped Halliburton become the biggest U.S. oil contractor for Iraq.

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