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.

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