A View on U.S.-Iraqi
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
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
Civilization and the Transformation of Power and the
forthcoming America as Empire.
© Jim Garrison 2003