History’s Deceptive Buildup against Saddam Hussein
It has been 18 years since the start of the Second Invasion of Iraq in 2003 dubbed “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” in a US-UK led coalition to topple Saddam Hussein and his Ba’athist government. By the time of the invasion, Iraq had been crippled by more than ten years of economic and military sanctions. An estimated 576,000 Iraqi children died of malnutrition due to the economic sanctions put forth by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 687 with enthusiastic British and American governmental support along with destroying their water supply and daily relentless bombing that murdered Iraqi civilians and subjected its survivors to uranium-related cancers for which the Sanctions Committee in New York had blocked or delayed vital medical equipment including chemotherapy drugs and pain-killers. This left suffering cancer patients in Iraq including children to die.
Why was this infliction of human cruelty directed at Iraqi civilians? Since the 1991 UN Resolution 687 stipulated that among many conditions, all stockpiles and production of Iraqi chemical and biological warfare agents and weapons were to be destroyed under the UN Special Commission’s supervision, by 1998 UN inspectors had reported that Iraq no longer had chemical and biological weapons or a nuclear program (even peaceful) in its possession with 90-95% of its destroyed biological and chemical capabilities verified and the other 5-10% unaccounted for because Iraq had ‘preemptively destroyed some stockpiles and claimed they never existed.’ Nevertheless, President Bill Clinton maintained the sanctions would not be lifted, citing “human rights violations and sponsorship of assassinations.” Never mind the fact that covert assassinations undertaken by the CIA were given the official approval of the Clinton administration when the president himself signed a Memorandum of Notification in addition to the attempted assassination by a NATO airstrike on Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic’s home.
This sour relationship between the United States and Iraq was a world away from the more genial correlation in the 1980s against Iran. The Iran-Iraq of 1980-88 was primarily ignited over border disputes, particularly the Shatt al-Arab waterway but other contributing factors point to Saddam Hussein’s fear of the new revolutionary leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran spilling over into Iraq’s Ba’athist establishment. Whatever the reason, Saddam prompted the first attack against Iran. The Iraqi President’s strategic calculation backfired and Iran had the upper hand on Iraq through the use of ‘human-wave attacks’ by mid-1982. No conflict in the Middle East would be complete without Western contribution.
The United States viewed Iran as a threat to the continued flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to Western Europe and Japan which had heavily depended on it unlike the United States. This fear oil-dependent countries had, the linked document noted, would satisfy the Soviet Union in spite of possible Western military force buildup in the region as a result. Since the Reagan administration was more hostile to Iran for not only deposing a puppet shah in favor of an Islamic revolution but for the infamous American hostage crisis of 1980.
So viewing Iraq as the more favorable party to US interests in the conflict prompted a working relationship between Iraqi intelligence and the CIA. The United States removed Iraq from the State Department’s list of State Sponsors of Terrorism for Saddam’s past support of Palestinian nationalist groups and not Islamist organizations sharing al-Qaeda’s ideology though the CIA had a past history of funding the mujahedeen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union that same decade where many would eventually go on join the Taliban and al Qaeda. It was under CIA Director William Casey that a Chilean front company was even used to supply cluster bombs to Iraq that were then applied against the human wave attacks of the Iranian army. In December 1983, President Reagan sent former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as a special envoy to meet personally with Saddam Hussein, thus establishing strong military and diplomatic ties between the United States and Iraq.
In 1925, the Geneva Protocol officially banned chemical warfare. The United States signed in 1975 and so was under international responsibility to prevent chemical weapons use while Iraq did not sign. Damning reports from the US Senate’s committee on banking, housing, and urban affairs in charge of supervising American exports policy disclosed that during the Reagan and Bush Sr. presidential administrations, materials including anthrax, VX nerve gas, and West Nile fever germs as well as those similar to tuberculosis and pneumonia were sold to Iraq up until March 1992.
Donald Riegle was then the chairman of the committee who stated: “UN inspectors had identified many United States manufactured items that had been exported from the United States to Iraq under licenses issued by the Department of Commerce, and [established] that these items were used to further Iraq’s chemical and nuclear weapons development and its missile delivery system development programs.” In spring of 1988, the US shared intelligence information via satellite imagery characterized as “targeting packages” with the Iraqi government in which Iranians were possibly planning to attack Iraq’s southern Fao Peninsula. As a result of this shared intelligence, Iraq carried out four successful chemical attacks on Iranian troops using sarin nerve agent which killed hundreds, possibly thousands, on the spot.
That same year, Iraq launched a nerve gas attack on the Kurdish village called Halabja and killed 5,000 men, women, and children while inducing chronic health problems in 7,000 more. During the war, the Kurds of northern Iraq had allied themselves with Iran and this incited authorization for high Baath officials in the same region to gas the Kurds. In the end, these US-assisted attacks would tilt the war in Iraq’s favor and bring Iran to its knees and open to negotiation. From the start, Iran suspected Iraq was using illegal chemical attacks on its armies but lacked the sufficient evidence to present a case to the United Nations that would incriminate Iraq. U.S. officials denied complicity in Iraqi chemical attacks for years.
So what turned the United States against Saddam Hussein and his Ba’athist government despite covert assistance? The Iran-Iraq War came to a ceasefire in 1988 and put Iraq deeply in debt as it had borrowed more than $14 billion to finance the war. He accused both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, two countries he borrowed from, of pandering to Western oil clients by keeping their oil prices low while Kuwait tapped crude oil from the Ar-Rumaylah oil fields on their shared border. In a meeting between U.S. ambassador April Glaspie and Saddam Hussein and Hussein’s Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz in July 1990 Saddam communicates a list of grievances and observable threats to which the Bush administration through Glaspie responds with only concerns over Saddam’s intentions and generalized wishes for friendship with Iraq and not the needed direct and explicit statement that an attack on Kuwait would result in American military response. This lack of warning within diplomatic or policy failure with Saddam along with past covert American support for Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War gave Saddam incentive to carry out his attack on Kuwait one week later.
And so, Iraqi and American relations were back in its hostile state with the complimentary attempted coup against Saddam in June 1996. In September 1998, Republican Congressman and then-chairman of the House International Relations Committee (today Foreign Affairs Committee) Benjamin A. Gilman of New York introduced a bill that would pass through the House and the Senate and be signed into law by President Clinton by the end of October. This law was called the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 and stated in regards to the official US policy toward Iraq: “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”
Gilman had complained that the Clinton administration held a “lethargic approach” towards military intervention in Iraq. Throughout his political career and described as a “hawk” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gilman had been a staunch supporter of Israel and further blamed the Clinton administration for “bullying” Israel into accepting terms favorable towards the Palestinians. In addition to voting to increase aid to Israel during his Congress tenure, Gilman would also head legislation in 2000 to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if they unilaterally declared a Palestinian state. A Washington Jewish Week tribute to the late Benjamin Gilman disclosed that “Gilman has done much behind the scenes to help Israel that cannot be made public, sources say, intervening with foreign governments as well as American administrations.” Given that Iraq and Israel had been enemies since Israel’s inception, it is no surprise Zionist politicians within the American government align their views on foreign relations with that of Israel’s.
The year prior, in 1997, two prominent neoconservatives named William “Bill” Kristol and Robert Kagan founded the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neo-conservative think tank focused on US foreign policy in order “to promote American global leadership.” Bill Kristol’s father, Irving Kristol was nicknamed the “godfather of neo-conservatism” with the highest-honor award named after him by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an equally neoconservative think tank Irving Kristol was a senior fellow at. In 2015, the Irving Kristol Award was bestowed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as AEI’s president Arthur C. Brooks praised Israel for serving “as a reminder that a commitment to free enterprise, democracy, human dignity, and the courage to defend one’s values are the best model to life up all people…” Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan would collaborate together in writing an article for the New York Times in 1998 titled “Bombing Iraq Isn’t Enough” and called for the Clinton administration to militarily remove Saddam Hussein from power.
It is important to note that out of the twenty-five people that signed PNAC’s founding statement of principles, ten would go on to serve in the Bush Jr. administration including Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, I. Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney, among others that would play a major part in the orchestration of the Second Invasion of Iraq. PNAC would amplify its aggressive stance against Iraq in a January 1999 memo in which they criticized Operation Desert Fox’s bombing in Iraq as “ineffective,” and “containment” as an illusion.
No one in the Bush administration had pursued a more aggressive and hard line stance in overthrowing Saddam than Paul Wolfowitz. A decorated US government official since the Reagan administration, it would be him and US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that attempted to involve Iraq in the ‘war against terror’ mere days after the September 11th attacks. Beginning in 1992, a document dubbed the ‘Wolfowitz Doctrine’ was leaked to the New York Times containing one tenet which stated an objective for the Middle East: “…our assistance to our Arab friends to defend themselves against aggression also strengthens security throughout the region, including for Israel.” Scooter Libby, to whom the document was written on behalf of, permitted the document to be circulated to Pentagon officials upon completion.
Scooter Libby was former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff in Washington and an attorney for Marc Rich spanning ten years. He arranged for Bill Clinton to pardon Rich on his last day in office for tax evasion and illegal oil deals with Iran that mostly went to benefit Israel via a secret pipeline during the hostage crisis despite US sanctions. Rich, who died in 2013 and was buried in Israel, was also well known throughout his career for assisting Israel in establishing secret financial arrangements in addition to regularly serving Mossad agents. Arguments put forth to explain why Clinton would make a controversial move point to Marc Rich’s then-wife Denise donating $450,000 to the ailing Clinton Library with past donations mounting to over a million dollars. Bill Clinton further explained himself that “Israeli officials of both major political parties and leaders of Jewish communities in America and Europe urged the pardon of Mr. Rich.”
In September 2002 Donald Rumsfeld set up a Pentagon unit called the Office of Special Plans (OSP) with Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith charged with the task of supplying senior officials in the Bush administration with stove piping intelligence on Iraq, specifically to find links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein to which one U.S. senator Carl Levin described as “…manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration’s decision to invade Iraq… that helped take this nation to war.” Thanks to Senator Levin’s efforts, the reports produced from OSP were declassified and publicized in 2007. The OSP knowingly collected data from the Iraqi National Congress and groups opposed to Saddam’s regime that the CIA and state department even doubted the validity of.
More shocking was the open and unfiltered ties to intelligence operations within Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office in Israel that would also bypass their own intelligence agency of Mossad and funnel information back to the Bush administration with a propagandist tone against Saddam’s Iraq. This was one of the defining moments of Douglas Feith’s own relationship with Israel’s right-wing Likud party. Feith, who with his father Dalck Feith attended the 100th anniversary dinner of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in 1997 and was specifically referred by the organization as “noted Jewish philanthropists and pro-Israel activists,” unsurprisingly and proudly proclaimed himself a Zionist just this year. His time as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy in 2001 was influenced by Richard Perle, the chairman of the Defense Policy Board promoted there by Donald Rumsfeld. While serving as aide to Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson in October 1970, Perle was caught revealing classified information to Israeli officials forwarded to him by another staff member that provided classified documents to the Israelis in 1967.
It would be Richard Perle who prepared a policy document in 1996 called A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm specifically for Benjamin Netanyahu who was Prime Minister of Israel at the time. Its purpose was to present a new approach for resolving Israel’s security issues in the Middle East. This new approach would stress “Western values” which can be inferred as a possible pandering tool to developed Western nations like the militarily powerful United States. Within the Clean Break, an aggressive policy against Saddam Hussein and the “containment” of Syria would be accomplished through the use of proxy forces. It was this document by Perle and his study group that stated contemporary Israeli-American relations.
“In recent years, Israel invited active U.S. intervention in Israel’s domestic and foreign policy for two reasons: to overcome domestic opposition to “land for peace” concessions the Israeli public could not digest, and to lure Arabs – through money, forgiveness of past sins, and access to U.S. weapons – to negotiate. This strategy, which required funneling American money to repressive and aggressive regimes, was risky, expensive, and very costly for both the U.S. and Israel, and placed the United States in roles is should neither have nor want.” Perle goes on to explain to Netanyahu how to change this in order to make Israel more self-reliant and not narrowly focused on territorial disputes in the region: “To reinforce this point, the Prime Minister can use his forthcoming visit to announce that Israel is now mature enough to cut itself free immediately from at least U.S. economic aid and loan guarantees at least, which prevent economic reform.”
To date, the fiscal year 2019 revealed $3.8 billion in foreign military aid to Israel and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee quietly passing a bill in 2020 to grant Israel a minimum of $38 billion over the next decade while Americans are and continued to be crippled by the economic devastation of COVID-19. This is in addition to strong congressional support for Israel resulting in Israel getting benefits unavailable to other countries.
In September 2002, though it was argued Netanyahu rejected the “Clean Break” plan, he nevertheless published an opinion piece titled “The Case for Toppling Saddam,” where he argued “today nothing less than dismantling his regime will do.” In October 2003 and many months already into the Second Invasion of Iraq, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina put forth a resolution that was approved by the U.S. Senate adopting the “Clean Break” policy for Israel “to express the sense of Congress that the removal of the Government of Saddam Hussein has enhanced the security of Israel and other United States allies.” Senator Mitch McConnell was more forward, “They [Israelis] are extremely grateful that there is one less terror state in the region to threaten Israel and the United States. In fact, you could argue that Israel benefits every bit as much, if not more so, from the change of regime in Iraq, than we do in the United States.”
In the end, Iraqi forces were swiftly overwhelmed by US-UK forces, the Ba’athist government fell, and Saddam Hussein was captured during Operation Red Dawn and executed three years later. The short-lived Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was put in place as the temporary administration in Iraq until a democratic government was founded. US Army Lieutenant General Jay Garner was appointed as its director but refused to initiate “de-Ba’athification” policies which included removing and possibly criminalizing members of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party from their positions in government and military in addition to seizing (looting) their assets and properties which were turned over to CPA authorities. Of course this led to Garner’s unexpected dismissal and replacement, L. Paul Bremer. Under Bremer, billions of dollars supposed to be spent rebuilding Iraq were unaccounted for, opposition Iraqi newspapers were censored, and foreign contractors were given immunity from Iraqi law. All of this was brought about over Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction which were not only non-existent but our great beneficiary for Saddam’s removal was well aware of this.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.