Some links on Saddam's history

Given the misery that Saddam has inflicted upon the people of Iraq, justice demands that his connection to the US deserves to get a wide airing now that he has been captured. It is uncertain if Saddam himself will try and incriminate the US in his defense against war crimes - though Iran has certainly indicated its intent in that regard. Juan Cole provides a succinct summary of the relationship:

Saddam may confirm what former CIA analysts have been telling reporters for years: that Saddam was an agent of the CIA in the 1960s; that the CIA helped him target Iraqi communists in 1963 during a brief period of Baath rule; and that when the Baath came back to power in 1968, the CIA favored Saddam's clan over a rival Baath leader, ensuring that he was in a position to come to power.

Michael Moore makes a similar point, with much more detail:

We created a lot of monsters -- the Shah of Iran, Somoza of Nicaragua, Pinochet of Chile -- and then we expressed ignorance or shock when they ran amok and massacred people. We liked Saddam because he was willing to fight the Ayatollah. So we made sure that he got billions of dollars to purchase weapons. Weapons of mass destruction. That's right, he had them. We should know -- we gave them to him!

We allowed and encouraged American corporations to do business with Saddam in the 1980s. That's how he got chemical and biological agents so he could use them in chemical and biological weapons. Here's the list of some of the stuff we sent him (according to a 1994 U.S. Senate report):
* Bacillus Anthracis, cause of anthrax.
* Clostridium Botulinum, a source of botulinum toxin.
* Histoplasma Capsulatam, cause of a disease attacking lungs, brain, spinal cord, and heart.
* Brucella Melitensis, a bacteria that can damage major organs.
* Clostridium Perfringens, a highly toxic bacteria causing systemic illness.
* Clostridium tetani, a highly toxigenic substance.

And here are some of the American corporations who helped to prop Saddam up by doing business with him: AT&T, Bechtel, Caterpillar, Dow Chemical, Dupont, Kodak, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM (for a full list of companies and descriptions of how they helped Saddam, click here.

We were so cozy with dear old Saddam that we decided to feed him satellite images so he could locate where the Iranian troops were. We pretty much knew how he would use the information, and sure enough, as soon as we sent him the spy photos, he gassed those troops. And we kept quiet. Because he was our friend, and the Iranians were the "enemy." A year after he first gassed the Iranians, we reestablished full diplomatic relations with him!

Later he gassed his own people, the Kurds. You would think that would force us to disassociate ourselves from him. Congress tried to impose economic sanctions on Saddam, but the Reagan White House quickly rejected that idea -- they wouldn�t let anything derail their good buddy Saddam. We had a virtual love fest with this Frankenstein whom we (in part) created.

And, just like the mythical Frankenstein, Saddam eventually spun out of control. He would no longer do what he was told by his master. Saddam had to be caught. And now that he has been brought back from the wilderness, perhaps he will have something to say about his creators. Maybe we can learn something... interesting. Maybe Don Rumsfeld could smile and shake Saddam's hand again. Just like he did when he went to see him in 1983 (click here to see the photo).

and an article in the Village Voice points out that the cooperation between Reagan's government and Saddam occurred with full knowledge of Saddam's style of rule:

What did the U.S. do during this war? Ronald Reagan sent Don Rumsfeld (then chair of drug giant G.D. Searle and a former Defense secretary under Gerald Ford) to be a special envoy to Saddam Hussein. Rummy reportedly got along well with Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister, and cozied up to Saddam himself, whom Secretary Strangelove now wants to kill. In reports of Rummy's chats with Saddam, the special envoy doesn't discuss torture or the miseries of the local population. But during that era, Reagan officials talked often with Iraqi officials, and the U.S. removed Iraq from terrorist status, freed up loans for agriculture, encouraged arms trading, and helped out Iraqi nuclear development. U.S. policy on Iraq's use of poison gas was to condemn it formally but cultivate a relationship with Saddam, a counterweight to Iran's mad mullahs. American and European firms, meanwhile, sold Saddam equipment that may have contributed to the manufacture of the gas. According to U.S. government communiqu�s, Rumsfeld and Tariq Aziz agreed in December 1983 that "the U.S. and Iraq shared many common interests." And Rumsfeld expressed "our willingness to do more" for Iraq in its war with Iran. When the Iranians tried to get the UN to pass a resolution against the use of gas, Reagan told Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick to stall or, if necessary, abstain.

Note that all of this could be used by Saddam in his defense. While I agree that he should be tried in an Iraqi court, it's no coincidence that the Administration is steadfast against the idea of an international tribunal, where all of this sordid history is much more likely to be aired.

UPDATE: Andrew Reeves in comments says, "Catching evil dictators is a great thing, but it would be better if we did not have a policy of working with evil dictators when it seems in Washington's best interests." EXACTLY - which is why we need to stop rewarding foreign policy ideolouges who think this is acceptable with positions of elected power.

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