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The Biggest Turds, and Iraq
by Elson Boles
17 September 2002 21:13 UTC
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The Biggest Turds, and Iraq:
The Relevance of Yesterday's News Today

If you felt disgusted by the hypocrisy of US plans to make war on Iraq,
yet alone sickened at the inevitable slaughter of thousands of people,
but could only vaguely recall the details of how deep the hypocrisy
goes, then read on.  Keep in mind as you do that Bush Jr. has given the
following reasons for invading Iraq, all of which but the last are
accurate (the last is a mischaracterization):

1. Iraq used chemical weapons
2. Iraq has tried to build nuclear weapons
3. The US tried to bring Iraq into the "family of nations" -- said first
by Bush Sr.)

I posted a NYT article recently (8-21-02) in which US military officers
explained that the US helped Iraq use (kill) with chemical and
biological weapons during the Iraq-Iran war.  The US had not only helped
arm Iraq with military equipment right up to the time of the Kuwait
invasion (as also did Germany, Britain, France, Russia and others),
including high-tech equipment for manufacturing chemical weapons, but
the US also helped Iraq integrate chemical and biological weapons into
battle plans and targets that the US gave to the Iraqi military.  

As military officers involved revealed in the NYT article that I posted,
their efforts were part of a "highly classified program in which more
than 60 officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency were secretly
providing detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning
for battles, plans for air strikes and bomb-damage assessments for
Iraq."  At the same time the US was selling chemical and biological
weapons to Iraq which the Iraqi military -- with full US knowledge --
integrated into the battle plans, etc. that the US was providing.  As
retired Col. Walter P. Lang, a senior defense intelligence officer at
the time added, both D.I.A. and C.I.A. officials "were desperate to make
sure that Iraq did not lose" to Iran.  "The use of gas on the
battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern,"
he said.  The Pentagon "wasn't so horrified by Iraq's use of gas," said
one veteran of the program. "It was just another way of killing people 
whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn't make any difference," he

A Frontline video, _The Arming of Iraq_ (1990) detailed much of the
conventional and so-called "dual-use" weapons sold to Iraq.  We knew
from other sources in the early 1990s that since mid-1980s the US was
selling chemical and biological for weapons to Iraq and approving
private sales.  Baker, for example, noted that "on July 3, 1991, the
Financial Times reported that a Florida company run by an Iraqi national
had produced cyanide -- some of which went to Iraq for use in chemical
weapons -- and had shipped it via a CIA contractor" (see the article by
Russ Baker <http://www.cjr.org/year/93/2/iraqgate.asp>).   But the
extent of tacitly helping Iraq integrate those chemicals into war plans
provided by the US was only recently disclosed (as far as I know).  

Looking back into the affair reveals just how much else we already knew.
For example, a Nightline episode (1990) revealed that top Reagan
administration officials, those of the State Dept., of the Pentagon, and
Dir. of Central Intelligence, etc. collectively engaged in a massive
cover up of the USS Vincennes' whereabouts and actions when it shot down
an Iranian airliner in 1987 killing over 200 civilians.  The "massive
cover up" Koppel explained, was to hide the US Secret War against Iran
in which, among other actions, US special operations sunk half of Iran's
navy while giving battle plans and logistical information to Iraqi
forces.  We now know that when the US was providing war plans to Iraq,
US officials were fully aware that Iraq was integrating chemical weapons
into those battle plans.  In the last major battle some 65,000 Iranians
were killed, many by gas.  In continuing the probe, as Koppel would
explain in an episode of June 9, 1990, "It is becoming increasingly
clear that George Bush [Sr.], operating largely behind the scenes
throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing,
intelligence, and military help that built Saddam's Iraq into the
aggressive power that the United States ultimately had to destroy"
(Baker, ibid.).  

Actually, Bush Sr. was a minor player among US officials involved.  The
scandal of arms sales led to the financing scandal which involved many
of the very same circle of arms suppliers, covert operators, and policy
makers in and out of the US government who had been active in those
roles for years.  Recall, for example, the infamous Banca Nazionale del
Lavoro (BNL) scandal in which the National Security Council and CIA and
other US agencies tacitly approved about $4 billion in unreported loans
to Iraq through the giant Italian bank's Atlanta branch.  Iraq, with the
blessing and official approval of the US government, purchased computer
controlled machine tools, computers, scientific instruments, special
alloy steel and aluminum, chemicals, and other industrial goods for
Iraq's missile, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs.  

Under the direction of the Reagan and Bush administrations, US
government agencies continued the sales, despite the opposition of some
US Congresspersons, right up to the invasion of Kuwait.   But the early
reports on BNL's activities and the startling revelations that the US
government, including the CIA and Department of Agriculture,
astonishingly knew that BNL was financing these purchases, were rather
comical in view of later revelations.  US government officials didn't
just know and approve, but some were employees at BNL directly or
indirectly.  It was Representative Henry Gonzalas (D-Texas) who
relentlessly brought key information into the Congressional Record
(despite stern warnings by the State Department to stop his personal
investigation for the sake of "national security").  Gonzalas revealed,
for example, that Henry Kissinger was an employee of BNL and that,
during the height of the scandal, BNL was a paying client of Kissinger
Associates.  He also learned that Brent Scowcroft served as vice
chairman of Kissinger Associates until being appointed as National
Security Advisor to President Bush in January 1989.  Even Dan Quayle was
involved, suggesting to Iraqi officials to approach his friends at BNL.
(See <http://www.fas.org/spp/starwars/congress/1992/h920428g.htm>)

Perhaps the most bizarre revelations about former US officials concerned
a Washington-based enterprise called "Global Research" which played a
middleman role in selling uniforms to Iraq.  It was run by none other
than Spiro Agnew (Nixon's former VP who resigned to avoid bribery and
tax evasion charges), John Mitchell (Nixon's chief of staff and
Watergate organizer), and Dick Nixon himself.  Their involvement was
also in the mid-1980s mind you, more than a decade after Watergate.  And
to make sure the deal went through, Dick himself wrote a cozy letter to
former dictator Ceausescu.

US Provided Large Quantities and Varieties of Deadly Chemicals

By 1992 we also learned about the massive quantities of chemical weapons
that the US -- not just Germany -- was selling to Iraq.  In looking for
additional material for my students, I ran across Congressional Records
from a Senator Riegle who, in his investigation of the Gulf War
Syndrome, found that the US government had approved the sale of large
quantities and varieties of chemical and biological materials to Iraq,
including anthrax, components of mustard gas, botulinum toxin (which
causes vomiting, double vision, dilation of the pupils, paralysis of the
muscles involving swallowing, and is often fatal), histoplasma
capsulatum (which causes a disease that superficially resembles
tuberculosis and may cause pneumonia, enlargement of the liver and
spleen, anemia, acute inflammatory skin disease marked by tender red
nodules, usually on the shins), and many other chemicals.  Those sales
were made between 1985 and 1989.  Riegle stressed that he looked back
only as far as 1985, implying that the sales probably began earlier.
(See the original <http://home.earthlink.net/~founders/armiraq.cfm> or
an abbreviated version:

The scandal of Iraq-gate was that despite the international embargo on
weapons sales to Iraq (and Iran) since the early 1980s, and despite the
ending of the Iraq-Iran war in 1988, and despite Saddam's killing of
hundreds of innocent Kurdish people with chemical-biological weapons, US
agencies and officials continued to build up Iraq's forces even just
weeks prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, all the while publicly
condemning Iraq's use of gas.  And as for the invasion, was it a set up?
Note first that the US knew it was coming but continued the sales.
Newspaper reports about the infamous meeting between then Ambassador
Glaspie and Iraq officials, and a special ABC report included in the
series "A Line in the Sand," indicated that, although the US officials
told Iraq that it disapproved, they said the US would not interfere.

The arming of Iraq and Iran up to the Gulf War is probably what Richard
Armatige (then Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security
Affairs, and now Deputy Secretary of State), had in mind when he said in
an interview, with a hint of pride in his voice, that the US "was
playing one wolf off another wolf."  (What does that make the US?)
Logically, in light of US foreign policy -- including the same kind of
pride that Bush Sr., Oliver North, and others verbalized in hearings
about using the Ayatollah's money to fund the Contras as "a right idea"
-- the setting up of Iraq would very consistent with maintaining parity
among Middle Eastern allies and foes.  If Iraq's military could be
leveled, then potential instability caused by the rapid growth of Iraqi
military power could be averted, and oil prices would probably decline
since Iraq would need to step up sales to rebuild.  

The only problem with this scenario is that there were many operators
making huge profits from arms sales to Saddam who were either members of
the US government or former members with influence.  One US official
interviewed in the PBS video expressed his disappointment with Iraq's
invasion and subsequent Gulf War because the relationship with Iraq
could have continued to be "very profit..uh mutually profitable."  In
the end, the middle run interests of the US government took precedence
over the short-run profit interests of the shadow government, though
granted, it is frequently difficult to distinguish the composition and
interests of the two at the highest levels.

Indeed, there is no great surprise about the sordid assortment of
officials and individuals directly or indirectly involved -- from the
infamous US-based international arms dealer Sarkis Songhanalian and
former Gen. Secord, to Oliver North and Richard Nixon -- and many
others.  They had been part of covert US arms and drug deals and Mafioso
dating back decades.  But their operations did become of major concern
in the 1980s to many citizens and politicians when investigators began
to reveal how this "shadow government" was circumventing explicit
domestic and international laws against arming certain regimes and
terrorist organizations.  Democrats found ammo that helped get Clinton

I refer to the various "gates" -- Iran-Contra gate, Iraq-gate, BNL-gate
etc. -- in which the public learned that the shadow government folks
played all sides of many wars since the profits were very high, but also
for ideological reasons.  Perhaps the most well-documented case is the
flipside of "Iraq-gate": "Iran-Contra gate."  While arming Iraq to the
teeth with all these weapons of mass destruction and taking some of the
cash for themselves, Oliver North, Bush Sr., Dennis McFarlane, and Gen.
Secord, and others purchased from the CIA spare parts for US-made
weapons and more than two thousand TOW missiles, which the CIA had
purchased at discount rates from the Pentagon, and which Secord and
North sold Iran (not Iraq) in exchange for cash and the release of US
hostages in Lebanon.

In public, Ronnie Reagan had repeatedly condemned negotiations with
terrorists, and even stated on national TV that there had been no
negotiations with terrorists.  He went back on air a few months later
and said that while he still didn't believe "in his heart" that the US
had negotiated with terrorists, the facts told him "otherwise."  The
facts were that the shadow operators in and out of the government
"wheeled and dealed" around their respective governments' laws as
directed by the highest levels of government.  

Many considered these trades as "business as usual."  Secord, for
instance, unashamedly told Congressional investigators that his
arms-dealing firm, the "Enterprise," which sold the TOWs to other
brokers and then to Iran, was a legitimate profit-making business.  And
as we all know, at the other end of the deal, North delivered a portion
of the proceeds from those sales through Swiss banks to fund the
terrorist Contras -- also with money from wealthy right-wingers and
politicians around the world.  This was detailed in Bill Moyers' PBS
video, "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" (1993?).  

Of course, it was not only illegal to sell weapons to the Contras per
the Boland Act, but in other spheres of the operation, the US government
flagrantly broke international law.  Recall that the CIA had, in
addition to providing military hardware and lists of targets for Contra
raids, also mined the harbors of Nicaragua.  When the US was taken to
the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and convicted of violating
international laws, President Reagan disregarded this conviction saying
the ICJ had no jurisdiction over the United States. 

In a Cesspool, the Biggest Turds Rise to the Top

Juxtapose Reagan's anti-UN position and stress on US sovereignty with
Bush Jr.'s push for the UN to take action.  Bush Jr. argued a few days
ago at the United Nations that Iraq is making a fool of the Security
Council by failing to following UN mandates.  Many of us are in a debate
about this juxtaposition.  Some argue that this is not just a short-term
political maneuver in which the US government could hardly sound more
hypocritical and one-sided in its proud role as the world's leading
enforcer of double standards.  Others argue that the US is in decline
and can no longer pursue unilateral policies.  

Yet, even Wallerstein, who tends to take the later position, as
discussed on this listserve, more recently notes that the US will
probably get the support it wants, which contrasts his also recent
comments on how the US is isolating itself.  Time will tell just how
much the US is really declining.  Yes, US hegemony is gone, as
Wallerstein defined it, but the residual power and its use requires more
analysis than that.  In my view, US relations with Middle East countries
are part of the continuing Mafioso-like racket of oil: get the oil money
back via arms sales; and later, via the IMF or World Bank, get even
more, plus additional political leverage and cheap oil as the
indebtedness caused by continued weapons purchases and regional
instability grows and grows.  In world-systems terminology, these are
among the mechanisms of the core-periphery relationship and the trend of
intensifying global inequality.  But it also seems this racket is also
taking us into the construction of a world-empire.

In any case, Bush Jr. is correct that Iraq was willing to use chemical
weapons and has been trying to build nuclear weapons.  Of course, he
just fails to mention that the US was willing to sell and help Iraq use
those weapons of mass destruction against Iranians.  Saddam would not be
the tyrant he is without the US government.

Finally, what about Bush Jr.'s third contention, that the US had tried
to bring Saddam into the "family of nations?"  In view of the thousands
upon thousands of women, children, and men butchered with US arms and
battle plans by US- trained and financed "freedom fighters" and brutal
sub-imperialist regimes, one could only characterize that family as
being composed of unscrupulous, profiteering, vile accomplices to mass
murder.  Is there any basic difference of character between Ceausescu
and Nixon, Reagan and Khomeini, Bush Sr. and Jr. and Saddam?  No. They
are a family -- the family of our world's criminal government and
business leaders.  This is the reason (and not the operations in Bosnia)
why the Bush administration and friends oppose the formation of the
World Court.

Elson Boles
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Sociology
Saginaw Valley State University
University Center
Saginaw MI, 48710

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