Unindicted Coconspirators

On July 8, 1982, Saddam Hussein visited the town of Dujail in northern Iraq, stumping in support of a disastrous war Iraq was fighting against neighboring Iran. There, in the middle of the heavily Shiite town, pro-Iranian elements attacked the President's motorcade. A massive firefight ensued, but Saddam escaped unharmed.

In retaliation, Saddam ordered the town flattened. 150 were executed. 1,500 were rounded up and imprisoned, to be interrogated and tortured for any scraps of information they might reveal. The rest of the population was driven out.

For this atrocity, Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death.

. . .

And some bold hypocrites are undoubtedly trying to make themselves heroes over it.

For those who've forgotten, here's a brief history:

The current regime is likely to pursue policies more favorable to the United States than any successor regime.

--Special National Intelligence Estimate: Prospects for Iraq
July 19, 1983


We have recently received additional information confirming Iraqi use of chemical weapons. We also know that Iraq has acquired a CW production capability, primarily from Western firms, including possibly a U.S. foreign subsidiary. [ . . . ]

It is important, however, that we approach Iraq very soon in order to maintain the credibility of U.S. policy on CW, as well as to reduce or halt what now appears to be Iraq's almost daily use of CW.

--Department of State, Information Memorandum: "Iraq Use of Chemical Weapons"
November 1, 1983


In October Iran accused Iraq of using CW and on November 8 it requested the UNSYG to investigate. Iran also stated it would soon submit a report providing information and evidence on Iraqi CW use, but has not yet done so. We do not know whether or when this issue will develop further at the UN. It is important to make our approach to the Iraqis on this issue as early as possible, in order to deter further Iraqi use of CW, as well as to avoid unpleasantly surprising Iraq through public positions we may have to take on this issue.

[ . . . ]

In July and August 1983, the Iraqis reportedly used a chemical agent with lethal effects against and Iranian forces invading Iraq at Haj Umran, and more recently against Kurdish insurgents.

--Department of State, Action Memorandum, "Iraq Use of Chemical Weapons"
November 21, 1983


It is present United States policy to undertake whatever measures may be necessary to keep the Strait of Hormuz open to international shipping. Accordingly, U.S. military forces will attempt to deter and, if that fails, to defeat any hostile efforts to close the Strait to international shipping. Because of the real and psychological impact of a curtailment in the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf on the international economic system, we must assure our readiness to deal promptly with actions aimed at disrupting that traffic.

--President Ronald Reagan, National Security Decision Directive 114
November 26, 1983




--Donald Rumsfeld (Special Envoy of President Ronald Reagan) & Saddam Hussein
December 20, 1983


In his 90-minute meeting with Rumsfeld, Saddam Hussein showed obvious pleasure with President's letter and Rumsfeld's visit and in his remarks removed whatever obstacles remained in the way of resuming diplomatic relations, but did not take the decision to do so. [ . . . ] Our initial assessment is that meeting marked positive milestone in development of US-Iraqi relations and will prove to be of wider benefit to US posture in the region.

--Charles Price cable to State Department: "Rumsfeld Mission: December 20 Meeting with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein"
December 21, 1983


I made clear that our efforts to assist were inhibited by certain things that made it difficult for us, citing the use of chemical weapons, possible escalation in the gulf, and human rights.

--Donald Rumsfeld cable to State Department: "Rumsfeld One-on-One Meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister"
December 21, 1983


I understand that there were legal constraints on EXIM financing for sales to Iraq arising from Iraq's links to international terrorists. Recently, the President of Iraq announced the termination of all assistance to the principal terrorist group of concern, among others. Iraq then expelled this group and its leader. The terrorism issue, therefore, should no longer be an impediment to EXIM financing for U.S. sales to Iraq.

--Lawrence Eagleburger, letter to William Draper
December 24, 1983


We are considering revising present policy to permit virtually all sales of non-munitions list dual use equipment to Iraq. (Heretofore we have discouraged or prohibited exports to Iraq of such items as light aircraft and heavy trucks.) We are also considering establishing procedures to permit case by case licensing of such non-lethal munitions list items as armored ambulances, communications gear, and electronic devices for the protection of VIP aircraft.

--George Shultz, State Department cable: "Follow-up Steps on Iraq-Iran"
January 14, 1984


In preparing Iraqi public opinion for major imminent hostilities, a statement by a military spokesman evening Feb 21 warned that a large scale Iranian offensive is imminent aimed at occupying Iraqi population centers. The statement goes on to declare that Iraq will not confine itself to a static defense but would be compelled to strike deep inside Iranian territory. The statement then gives a chilling warning that CW agents might be employed stating that, "the invaders should know that for every harmful insect there is an insecticide capable of annihilating it whatever their number and Iraq possesses this annihilation insecticide".

--William Eagleton, cable to State Department: "Iraqi Warning re Iranian Offensive"
February 22, 1984


[REDACTED] March 2 that a U.S. firm was preparing to export 22,000 pounds repeat pounds of phosphorous fluoride to Iraq. Department confirmed March 3 that shipment was to have taken place by air from JFK Airport to Iraq via Europe and that the customer in Iraq was purchasing the chemical for use in the manufacture of insecticides. Department officer advised the shipping agent of our concern over Iraq's possible intention to use the chemical in the manufacture of chemical weapons.

[ . . . ]

Beyond reiterating our urgent request that Iraq not make prohibited use of chemical weapons, you should inform the Iraqis that we are adamantly opposed to Iraq's attempting to acquire the raw materials, equipment, or expertise to manufacture chemical weapons from the United States.

--George Shultz, State Department cable: "U.S. Chemical Shipment to Iraq"
March 4, 1984


The United States has concluded that the available evidence substantiates Iran's charges that Iraq has used chemical weapons. The United States strongly condemns the prohibited use of chemical weapons wherever it occurs. There can be no justification for their use by any country.

[ . . . ]

While condemning Iraq's resort to chemical weapons, the United States also calls on the Government of Iran to accept the good offices proffered by a number of countries and international organizations to put an end to the bloodshed. The United States finds the present Iranian regime's intransigent refusal to deviate from its avowed objective of eliminating the legitimate government of neighboring Iraq to be inconsistent with the accepted norms of behavior among nations and the moral and religious basis which it claims.

--State Department Memorandum, Press Statement: Iraq's Use of Chemical Weapons
March 4, 1984


On March 2 I phoned Allison Fortier, minority staffer on the HFAC Europe and Mideast Subcommittee, to advise that we had notified Commerce that we have no foreign policy objection to the licensing of 2000, five-ton trucks, worth some $227 million, to be exported to Iraq. [ . . . ] Ms. Fortier asked whether we knew, or had asked Iraq, if the trucks were to be used for military purposes. I told her we presumed that this was Iraq's intention, and had not asked.

--State Department Memorandum, "Notifying Congress of [REDACTED] Truck Sale"
March 5, 1984


Kittani's reaction was, as could be expected, more sophisticated than the official outraged Iraqi line. We opened by simultaneously expressing dismay with each other's statements and positions. As the conversation settled down Kittani's complaint centered chiefly on timing and the manner in which we had presented the issue. He thought it would have better to allowed evidence from third parties to have fully developed before the US expressed itself publicly. He also thought a response to a question would have been better than a formal statement. He then noted the alleged chemical use had been on Iraqi soil and he compared it to use of nuclear weapons to shorten the war with Japan.

[ . . . ]

Kittani agreed that we should try to minimize the negative effects our disagreement on this issue would have on bilateral relations and attitudes.

--William Eagleton, State Department cable
March 7, 1984


Analyses of the samples showed that they contained residual amounts of toxic substances allegedly used by Iraq in the Gulf War. The experts specifically found evidence of poisoning by mustard gas and mycotoxin (yellow rain).

--Helene von Damm, cable to State Department: "Iranian War Wounded in Vienna"
March 13, 1984


US Delegate should work to develop general Western position in support of a motion to take "no decision" on Iranian draft resolution on use of chemical weapons by Iraq. If such a motion gets reasonable and broad support and sponsorship, US Delegate should vote in favor. Failing Western support for "no decision," US Delegate should abstain.

--Secretary of State George Shultz, cable to UN Ambassador
March 14, 1984


The Secretary dropped in on Under Secretary Eagleburger's one-on-one meeting with Ismet Kittani March 15 to reinforce the main message of the U.S. side: Our condemnation of Iraqi CW use was made as part of strong U.S. commitment to long standing policy, and not as a pro-Iranian/anti-Iraqi gesture. Our desires and our actions to prevent an Iranian victory and to continue the progress of our bilateral relations remain undiminished.

[ . . . ]

Eagleburger began the discussion by taking Kittani aside to emphasize the central message he wanted him to take back: Our policy of firm opposition to the prohibited use of CW wherever it occurs necessitated our March 5 statement condemning Iraq's use of CW. The statement was not intended to provide fuel for Khomeini's propaganda war, nor to imply a shift in U.S. policy toward Iran and Iraq. The U.S. will continue its efforts to help prevent an Iranian victory, and earnestly wishes to continue the progress in its relations with Iraq. The Secretary then entered and reiterated these points. Kittani noted that the March 5 statement regrettably had played into Khomeini's "media blitz," and thanked the Secretary and Under Secretary for the clarification of the U.S. position.

[ . . . ]

Kittani reported on his meetings the previous day with Senators Baker and Boschwitz (jointly, for an hour and a half), and Congressman Hamilton. Kittani noted strong congressional sentiments on the CW issue, and expressed appreciation for Boschwitz' apology for others' efforts to re-impose anti-terrorism controls on exports to Iraq and promise to do his best to modify such legislation.

[ . . . ]

Eagleburger closed the meeting by reiterating U.S. desire to see relations continue to improve at the pace Iraq finds appropriate.

--State Department cable
March 18, 1984


The Secretary and Larry Eagleburger met with MFA Under Secretary Ismet Kittani at the Department March 15. They clarified that our CW condemnation was made strictly out of our strong opposition to the use of lethal and incapacitating CW, wherever it occurs. They emphasized that our interests in (1) preventing an Iranian victory and (2) continuing to improve bilateral relations with Iraq, at a pace of Iraq's choosing, remain undiminished. To emphasize this point, Eagleburger conveyed to Kittani the Vice President's invitation to Tariq Aziz to come to Washington at a mutually convenient time. Nonetheless, in a follow-up discussion with Dick Murphy, Kittani professed the Government of Iraq to be "unpersuaded" of our claimed motives in condemning Iraq for CW use. This message bears reinforcing during your discussions.

--State Department cable: "Briefing Notes for Rumsfeld Visit to Baghdad"
March 24, 1984




--President Ronald Reagan & Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz
November 26, 1984


From 1985 to 1990, US controls on exports of specialized, high-technology dual-use products were steadily weakened despite repeated protests from high-ranking officials in the Energy and Defense Departments. However, in retrospect it is clear that until the invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the US foreign policy agencies that had embraced the economic tools of statecraft (primarily State and Commerce) were able to continually override those agencies focused on national security (Defense and the CIA). Correspondingly, the Iraqi record on terrorism remained largely unchanged. In 1982 Iraq was tied to the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to London, the hit man being a colonel in the Iraqi intelligence services. After expelling the well-known Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal under pressure from the US Congress, Saddam proceeded to patch up relations with Yasir Arafat, who thanked the Iraqi leader for his "donations" of weapons to reequip the Palestine Liberation Organization after it had been driven out of Beirut by Israeli forces. In October 1985 the Iraqi government assisted the escape of the terrorists responsible for the murder of wheelchair-bound US citizen Leon Klinghoffer on the cruise ship Achille Lauro, and Baghdad refused to revoke the diplomatic passport held by Abu Abbas, the lead terrorist in the high-profile attack. In 1985 two Iraqi-based terrorists were captured in Rome in transit to planned attacks on American targets. Despite official public denials from the US executive branch, it was acknowledged in a then-classified Reagan Administration document that Iraq continued to support terrorism.

--Douglas Borer


In 1988, immediately after the end of the Iran-Iraq War, using US-built helicopters, Saddam unleashed brutal gas attacks on the Kurds. Approximately 30 villages were gassed with chemical agents that included mustard gas and nerve toxins. Normally the United States would lead the outraged international response to any such act. (One can only imagine the response at the time if the Sandinista government in Nicaragua had gassed the US-supported Contras.) In fact, the Reagan Administration did sponsor a resolution in the United Nations condemning the use of chemical weapons, and it tightened some export controls; however, the great majority of all dual-use export licenses were approved by the Reagan Administration.

--Douglas Borer


Saddam's gassing of Kurdish civilians in 1988 from American-made helicopters did foment a significant congressional reaction, primarily from the Senate.

In early September the Senate unanimously passed the Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988. In its original form, the legislation called for the following changes in US policy toward Iraq:
  • An embargo on all dual-use technology exports
  • The elimination of all CCC and Export-Import Bank credits
  • An embargo on all US imports of Iraqi oil
  • A requirement that all loans to Iraq under consideration in international financial institutions (the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, etc.) be opposed by the United States

--Douglas Borer


Husayn Kamil, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law and Minister of Industry, fulminated to Bechtel representatives September 10 about the Senate's passage of the genocide bill. In lengthy diatribe, Kamil denied charge of CW use and described Senate action as part of Zionist conspiracy to embarrass and undermine Iraq after its "victory" over Iran.

[ . . . ]

Bechtel recently signed a technical services contract to manage the implementation of Iraq's Petrochemical Project II. The $2 billion project involves the construction of a 450,000 ton/yr ethylene plant. U.S. firms have reportedly won $300 million contracts to build the plant (Lummus) and to supply rotating equipment for it (Elliot-United Technologies) Should the Senate act become U.S. law, U.S. suppliers will be precluded from selling items containing restricted technology. Bechtel representatives said that U.S. firms -- including Bechtel -- will resort to non-U.S. sources to carry out their respective contracts.

--Cable from April Glaspie to State Department: "Minister of Industry Blasts Senate Action"
September 13, 1988


As members of the Senate saw it, the time had come for exercising whatever leverage the United States held in its relationship with Iraq. However, despite the unanimous support of the Senate, over the course of the next few months, the sanctions bill was systematically watered down, and it eventually died under the heavy influence of both the Administration and opponents within the House of Representatives.

--Douglas Borer

2 comments:

Dan Trabue said...

No fair using real facts!

Where did you get all this stuff (and where'd you get the time to compile it)?!

catastrophile said...

That was a Saturday night. The Saturday night of the Saddam verdict, as it happens. I slept well Sunday.