Now I suppose, if I wanted to really cut some slack I could try to see W. as an avenging angel, trying to quietly (in terms of the family name) clean up problems his pappy had a hand in making. But even a pilot as experienced as I in flights of fancy has some limits.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
U.S. was a key supplier to Saddam
By SEAN GONSALVES
Last week I reported that, with White House approval, U.S. officials -- acting in our name -- continued to supply Saddam Hussein with biochemical warfare ingredients until after the Gulf War.
But digging deeper into my stacks of source material on the murky matter, and after further discussions with several scientific sources of mine, there's some confusion as to when we actually stopped sending this deadly commerce.
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs report, more commonly known as the Reigle report, says we last shipped a pathogen to Iraq on Nov. 28, 1989.
However, as BusinessWeek reported last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director sent former Sen. Donald Reigle a list of "all biological materials, including viruses, retroviruses, bacteria and fungi, which CDC provided to the government of Iraq from October 1, 1984, through October 13, 1993." The letter also reveals that the original list sent to Reigle's office failed to identify at least one other additional shipment.
But whether or not we stopped sending Saddam this stuff just before or just after the Gulf War is really beside the point. The fact remains that even after Saddam gassed the Kurds in 1988, the Bush administration thought it proper to keep sending these materials until at least a year after what is now Saddam's most infamous atrocity (though not his most heinous act).
In 1982 President Reagan removed Iraq from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, despite U.S. intelligence reports that Iraq was pursuing a biochemical warfare program, making the rogue nation eligible for dual-use and military technology.
And even though Reagan's Secretary of State George Schultz admits in his book "Turmoil and Triumph" that reports of Iraq using chemical weapons against Iranian troops first began "drifting in" at the end of 1983, he still helped to convince the National Security Council to sell Iraq 10 Bell helicopters that same year.
The helicopters were supposedly for crop spraying though it's now known that Iraq used them in the 1988 chemical attacks against the Kurds at Halabja.
Last week, the American Gulf War Veterans Association reported "that on December 19, 1983, the Middle Eastern envoy who carried a handwritten note from President Reagan to Saddam Hussein to 'resume our diplomatic relations with Iraq' was none other than our present Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld." (See www.gulfwarvets.com/ news11.htm).
The AGWVA also points out: "Probably the most critical piece of information is that according to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, in a December 15, 1986 article, the CIA began to secretly supply Iraq with intelligence in 1984 that was used to 'calibrate' mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops" -- meaning that Rumsfeld and company not only knew about the chemical warfare attacks but helped Iraq target the victims!
According to House Committee on Government Operations report "Strengthening the Export License System," from July 18 right up until the day Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Bush administration approved of $4.8 million in advanced technology product sales to Iraq -- the end-user being Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI), which was identified in 1988 as a facility for Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.
When Saddam was at the pinnacle of his power Rumsfeld and other hard-liners had no problem sitting down at the discussion table with one of the world's axis of evil.
But now, with Saddam's diminished military, it's considered appeasement to pursue weapons inspections and diplomatic efforts? Where's the logic in that?
Edward Peck, former chief of mission to Iraq and deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism under Reagan, has this to say: "Our government is constantly saying that there must be discussions between parties in disagreement, to avoid or at least reduce the risk of war: India and Pakistan; North and South Korea; the Israelis and the Palestinians; the Protestants and the Catholics in Northern Ireland. So why don't we talk to Iraq?"
"This (current Bush policy) is not merely dynamic hypocrisy, it is shatteringly unwise. At the height of the Cold War, we knew the Soviet Union could, with the push of a button, eliminate us from the face of the Earth. That was a known, not hypothetical threat -- a real one. But we had an embassy in Moscow, and they had one here, not because we loved and trusted each other, but because we didn't. You lose nothing when you talk, but the failure to do so in this case may cost us dear."
Despite Peck's sound advice, I wouldn't be surprised if the Ashcroft alliance attempted to smear him as being a Saddam apologist or a blame-America-first terrorist sympathizer.
The Bush administration has a lot of explaining to do.
I just hope Congress has the courage to ask the difficult questions before they vote on a war resolution.
Sean Gonsalves is a columnist with the Cape Cod Times. E-mail: email@example.com