A View on U.S.-Iraqi History
By Jim Garrison

I have just returned this week [March 2003] from traveling in the Middle East and Europe, where I felt compelled to go on the eve of the imminent invasion. I visited Jordan and spent a week reflecting on the future of civilization amidst the ruins of ancient civilizations. I also had the opportunity to spend time with Prince Hassan, who is a co-chair of the Commission of Globalization and deeply involved with the current situation. I stopped in Brussels and London on the way back.

What struck me was the almost universal opposition to the impending war and the increasing anti-American sentiment from people who deeply care about the United States. Most people expressed a feeling of dismay and pessimism regarding what they perceive as the arrogance of power and the cynicism of politics emanating from Washington and London.

I took the time to do a little research into our diplomatic relations with Iraq to refresh my memory of how we got to the present state of affairs. I pass it on for your information:

In the 1970s and 1980s, the fundamental goals of U.S. policy in the Middle East were to protect Israel and to promote stable governments in the region that would allow oil to flow reliably to the Western industrial nations. U.S. designs for the region were dramatically upset in 1979 when the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrew the Shah of Iran, who at the time was America’s closest ally in the Middle East, besides Israel. The Ayatollah then set up a radical Islamic regime. In late 1979, Iranian militants stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took forty-three American diplomats as hostages. They were not released until 1981.

Looking for a counter to the Ayatollah, the United States and its European allies began to support Iraq, where Saddam Hussein had just taken power. Western support for Iraq included intelligence information, military equipment, and agricultural credits. The United States also deployed in the Persian Gulf the largest naval force since the Vietnam War. Ostensibly sent for the purpose of protecting oil tankers, it ended up engaging in attacks on Iran's navy. Washington encouraged and supported Iraq to wage war against the Iranians, which it did from 1979 to 1988.

Ironically, it was Donald Rumsfeld, now Secretary of Defense, who in 1983 was sent by President Reagan as the American envoy to pave the way for the restoration of diplomatic relations with Iraq, which had been severed in 1967 as a result of the Six Day War between Israel and the Arab states.

During this period of U.S. support, Iraq used poison gas against thousands of Iranian soldiers and against hundreds of Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. U.S. and British intelligence actually facilitated the Iraqi use of gas against the Iranians. In 1985, the British company Uhde Ltd. built the Fulluja II plant fifty miles outside Baghdad, which the Iraqis used for mustard and nerve gas production. The Thatcher government provided $21 million in financial backing through insurance guarantees. In addition, Washington eased up on its own technology export restrictions to Iraq, which allowed the Iraqis to import supercomputers, machine tools, poisonous chemicals, and even strains of anthrax and bubonic plague.

The United States and Britain helped arm Iraq with the very weapons of mass destruction that the Bush Administration and the Blair government are now using as justification for forcibly removing Saddam from power. When Secretary of State Colin Powell offered proof of Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons capacity to the UN Security Council last month, he showed satellite photos of the Fullaja II plant. The American and the British governments are sure that Saddam has the chemical and biological weapons because they had helped secure them for him.

When the Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988, the United States continued its support for Iraq, providing Saddam with military hardware, advanced technology, and agricultural credits. The United States looked to Saddam to maintain stability in the Gulf. In August 1990, Saddam invaded Kuwait.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Jim Garrison is president of the State of the World Forum and author of the Paraview Press book Civilization and the Transformation of Power and the forthcoming America as Empire.

© Jim Garrison 2003

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