Rumsfeld's Iraqi Mission

One reason we know that Saddam Hussein is "a bad guy," as George W so eloquently describes him, is that George himself has told us again and again that in the 1980s ol' Saddam engaged in the horror of chemical warfare against the Kurds in his own country and against the Iranians. This is inhumane, Bush noted, so that's why the American government needed to oust Saddam and take over Iraq.

But which government was it that had helped build up Saddam's military and had winked at the very chemical weapons that the Bush administration now condemns? Yes, the American government, then headed by Ronald Reagan!

And which American official was sent to Iraq back then to give Saddam a hug and assure him that a little poisonous gas wouldn't get in the way of the warm, fuzzy feelings that our government had for him? Donald Rumsfeld, now the Pentagon chief who also has been wailing about how awful Saddam was to use those nasty weapons!

Newly released documents from the National Security Archive show that, because of American "business interests" in Iraq, the Reagan government wanted Saddam to win his ongoing war against Iran. But in 1984, when world leaders began to criticize Saddam's "almost daily" use of poisonous gas against the Kurds and Iranians, under pressure, the U.S. was forced to issue a public condemnation of this use.

But the declassified documents show that Rumsfeld was secretly dispatched in '84 to tell Saddam that our condemnation was strictly about the general principle of anyone using such weapons, not specifically about his gassing of Kurds and Iranians, and -- wink, wink -- that our government's top priority was not to stop the gassing, but "preventing an Iranian victory." In short, Rumsfeld told Saddam to do what he had to do and pay no mind to the U.S.'s public pronouncements about the horror of chemical warfare.

Today's feigned outrage looks silly in light of yesterday's complicity in the horror.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card


Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.