Wed Nov 15th, 2006 at 08:29:01 AM EST
The story behind our intelligence services arming Saddam is pretty clear, and Robert Gates was in it up to his eyeballs as a driving force. Howard Baker also, but then we knew that.
I don't have much confidence in the Iraq Study Group after what I've written here. Too many names are the same as those that created and covered up the mess.
If we are ever going to know how to get out of Iraq, we are going to have to know how we got in to Iraq. It appears that Bob Gates knows a lot more about that than he has explained so far.
Damn. Sometimes I wish I was making this shit up.
I'll try to summarise briefly with bullet points:
- 1982 Reagan signed a secret directive allowing US agencies like the CIA to do everything possible to make sure Saddam won the Iran-Iraq War (various documents in the National Security Archive).
- The CIA set up a huge transshipment hub in Marblehead, Ohio, through a front company on land it has used for similar purposes since the 1940s. The land was owned or at least operated by LaFarge at the relevant time, a company owned partly by George H.W. Bush.
- The importance of the Marblehead depot was its position on a penninsula in Lake Erie, so that documents for shipments for illegal goods often were forged to show shipments originating in Europe and transshipped from Canada, even though shipments originated in the USA.
- The CIA set up a supply network using the usual companies in the military-industrial complex to send massive quantities of arms components to Saddam.
- The payments for all the shipments went through the Atlanta branch of Banca Nazionale de Lavoro, with the complicity of Italian intelligence and US federal finance agencies for agricultural credits. (Anyone want to guess where Richard Perle was at this time?)
- UK intelligence cooperated in the arming programme through Matrix Churchill and other companies which provided fraudulent transshipment invoices to make it look like arms components were coming from Europe or Canada.
- Kissinger Associates did much of the administrative and networking detail to make sure Saddam got everything he wanted and none of the companies supplying was at risk.
From a 1996 review of Shell Game: A True Story of Banking, Spies, Lies, Politics - and the Arming of Saddam Hussein in The Nation:
Iraqgate was one of the costliest perversions of American democracy wrought by that monstrous legacy of the cold war known as the national security state. A secret, off-the-books foreign policy--begun under Ronald Reagan and carried to obscene lengths by George Bush--used the sanguineous dictator Saddam Hussein as a counterweight to the Islamist primitives of Iran. Bush's Saddam-coddling led directly to the miscalculations that provoked the Gulf War, in which materials and technology procured by Iraq from the United States were used to kill American soldiers. The horrific expenditure of lives and treasure on both sides has yet to be accurately calculated, but American taxpayers paid the bill twice over: first to help build up Iraq's military
machine, then (partially) to destroy it.
Thanks to Houston IndyMedia we have a lot of other documents relating to the arming of Saddam available online.
From the Affadavit of Howard Teicher Staff Member to the United States National Security Council from 1982 to 1987:
8. I personally attended meetings in which CIA Director Casey or CIA Deputy Director Gates noted the need for Iraq to have certain weapons such as cluster bombs and anti-armor penetrators in order to stave off the Iranian attacks. When I joined the NSC staff in early 1982, CIA Director Casey was adamant that cluster bombs were a perfect "force multiplier" that would allow the Iraqis to defend against the "human waves" of Iranian attackers. I recorded those comments in the minutes of National Security
Planning Group ("NSPG") meetings in which Casey or Gates participated.
9. The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq. My notes, memoranda and other documents in my NSC files show or tend to show that the CIA knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, munitions and vehicles to Iraq.
Investigation of Iraq-gate was frustrated by official obstruction and secrecy:
According to the US Export-Import Bank, Iraq used foreign credit to purchase arms from US firms
by Amy Kaslow, The Christian Science Monitor, April 19, 1991
One 1988 letter from Bechtel Financing Services Inc. states plans to build an ethylene oxide plant. Ethylene oxide is a precursor to mustard gas which the Iraqis hoped to produce. Exim turned down the loan application and Bechtel later secured financing with BNL, the state-owned Italian bank that manipulated CCC credits to help finance
billions of dollars in defense exports to Iraq.
In an effort to slow Capitol Hill's investigation of US policy, the administration is once again invoking national security concerns, says a congressional aide.
"Ever since we announced our intention to hold hearings, Justice, backed by State, tried to hold up data we requested from Eximbank," she says. A senior US Treasury official says Exim checked with Justice Department officials before sending over the requested documents.
A senior US Agriculture economist says the department curtailed discussion on Iraq. "They've told us we can't talk about Iraq's CCC program with anyone outside the USDA and we're even monitored on what we say inside the department itself. If we violate this, we'll find ourselves on some list, somewhere."
Naturally we did not limit ourselves to conventional and chemical weapons in building up Saddam's capabilities. We also provided the nuclear technologies which were later decried as the "smoking gun in the shape of a mushroom cloud."
Iraq: the Smoking Gun, Mednews - Middle East Defense News, SECTION: PROLIFERATION; Vol. 5, No. 2 & 3, November 4, 1991
Analysts at IAEA headquarters last week called it the "smoking gun." Seventeen pages in all, it was the discovery of this document - a top secret progress report on Iraq's nuclear weapons research project - that prompted the show-down last month in the Baghdad parking lot between UN inspectors and the Iraqi authorities.
. . .
PC-2 began in the mid-1980s as a $ 1 billion project engineered by Bechtel and Lummus Crest in the U.S., and coordinated by Industrial Projects Corps and the Technical Corps for Special Projects, Iraqi state organizations which have since been connected to nuclear weapons research. Mednews has learned from sources in Vienna that among the 60,000 pages of documents seized by the UN in Baghdad were procurement orders for PC-2 that suggested a nuclear tie-up.
As we know, it is Bush family tradition to "stay the course" when you've created a disaster, reward failure and avoid accountability. Just to show you how little changes, this excerpt from a Los Angles Times article in 1992 remains chilling today:
BUSH EXERCISED HANDS-ON ROLE IN IRAQ AID EFFORT, by Douglas Frantz, Los Angeles Times,
April 26, 1992
The agenda, classified secret, listed several options for getting tough with Hussein, who was openly threatening to destroy Israel and annex Kuwait. American food aid could be stopped. U.S. intelligence data could be withheld. President Bush could send the Iraqi dictator a strong, personal warning. But no such action was taken.
"There was a reluctance to jettison the existing policy," said an official who attended the session. "People weren't really too focused on Iraq. I don't remember any heated disagreement with continuing things as they were."
The meeting, just two months before Iraqi troops overran Kuwait, was a graphic demonstration of the failure by Bush and his top advisers to recognize that Hussein -- long seen as a counterweight to Iran -- had become a threat to U.S. interests. After almost a decade of fueling Iraq's massive war machine, Bush and his most trusted aides still clung
to the illusion that they could tame Hussein's violent ambitions and manipulate him to their own ends.
The tragic consequences of that misjudgment became clear in the following months as 500,000 American troops were dispatched to the Gulf, thousands of lives were lost and billions of dollars were spent to turn back a military juggernaut developed with Western technology and financed in significant part by American dollars.
. . .
He operated often through his most trusted adviser, Secretary of State James A. Baker III, and through the secretive National Security Council at the White House.
But it was Bush himself who -- at a critical period -- provided the catalyst for sweeping away internal objections to the escalating aid to Iraq by issuing NSD 26.
The secret order became the skewed lens through which events involving Iraq were viewed. After it was imposed, support for Hussein's regime at highest levels of the Administration did not waver despite rising concerns over the wisdom of the policy.
"Once you set policy at the top, an awful lot else flows from that and continues to flow from inertia and wishful thinking," said William B. Quandt, a Mideast expert at the Brookings Institution and former National Security Council staff member in the Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter administrations.
George Bush's role in shaping official U.S. policy toward Iraq can be traced to 1984, when he was vice president and part of a faction of top officials in President Ronald Reagan's Administration who backed Baghdad in its war with Iran because they saw Baghdad as a buffer to the Islamic fundamentalism that the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was
trying to export throughout the Middle East.
. . .
President Bush turned out to be as adamant a backer of Hussein as Vice President Bush. Instead of restricting economic aid, the new Bush Administration increased the subsidies. Instead of stopping the flow of technology, the new Bush Administration expanded the sales over objections from its own Commerce Department. This time, however, Bush had his own proxies to execute the policy.