Trial could dredge up sordid role of U.S.
By Jim Mullins*
December 23, 2003
Nine months after invading Iraq, U.S. Special Forces have finally captured
Saddam Hussein. Although this operation could be characterized as the
"Mission Accomplished" that President Bush declared seven and a half months
ago, it is far from over. Violent opposition to the occupation continues,
the reasons for the invasion are as murky as ever, and where Saddam should
be tried for his crimes and by what judicial authority is up in the air.
If the American people are ever to be made fully aware of developments in
the 44-year relationship between the United States and Saddam Hussein
leading up to this war, an open international trial is a must. Who is this
guy who looked like a homeless tramp when arrested? Is he the madman that we
were told would destroy us?
In 1959, Saddam was an up-and-coming thug, a "wiseguy" in Mafia parlance,
who made his "bones" in a CIA plot to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Gen.
Abdullah al-Karim Qasim. Qasim had joined the Baghdad Pact, a regional
agreement with Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Great Britain, put together as
a bulwark against Soviet influence. When he withdrew from the pact in 1959
and began to buy arms from the Soviets, the CIA set up a six-man team under
Saddam to assassinate him. He botched the job, killing his driver, but only
Saddam escaped and made his way to Cairo with CIA and Egyptian assistance.
He returned to Baghdad after Qasim was killed in a Baath Party coup. He soon
rose in the party apparatus and was put in charge of mass killings of Iraqi
Communists, picked up in a nationwide roundup from a list provided by the
He became president in 1980.
Relations between Iraq and Iran had been strained over the Shatt al-Arab
waterway, Iraq's only entrance to the Persian Gulf and Iran's shipping
channel from its largest refinery. After the elected prime minister,
Mohammad Mosaddeq, was overthrown in a CIA-orchestrated coup, Iran had
became a formidable military power, ruled by the shah, Mohammed Reza
Pahlevi, who forced Iraq to cede half of the waterway.
Saddam, as vice president in Iraq, was also pressured by the shah to expel
exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, earning Islamic fundamentalists' everlasting
hatred. Khomeini returned when the shah was overthrown and installed an
The shah and Saddam were both brutal, sadistic rulers.
Saddam, emboldened by Iran's weakened military, attacked, resulting in
eight years of debilitating warfare. The United States, although neutral,
began supplying Iraq with chemical and biological material, helicopters and
satellite information that proved invaluable to Iraq when Iran was on the
verge of winning the war.
Solid proof was revealed years later when the United Nations, prodded by
the United States, set a deadline by which Iraq had to provide a report on
its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs. When Saddam produced
the report, the United States tried to hide incriminating evidence by
removing pages documenting Western corporate involvement.
The redacted material was revealed by a reporter for a German newspaper,
Die Tageszeitung. Twenty-four major U.S. corporations -- Honeywell, Sperry
Corp., Rockwell, Dupont and Bechtel etc -- had sold chemicals and weaponry
to Iraq. In addition, U.S. government nuclear labs -- Lawrence Livermore,
Los Alamos and Sandia -- had trained visiting Iraqi scientists.
Congressional records show the Center for Disease Control and a private
biological sample company, the American Type Culture Collection, sent Iraq
strains of anthrax, botulism toxin and germs that cause gas gangrene.
U.S. cooperation continued through the Reagan and first Bush
administrations up to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
Saddam threatened to invade unless Kuwait paid him for oil allegedly
stolen by horizontal drilling during the Iran-Iraq war. Before invading,
Saddam called in U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie and told her of his
intentions. She replied that we took no position on the dispute. When he
invaded, she remarked that we didn't think he would take it all.
Saddam morphed from being a useful thug into a monster that must be
stopped at any cost.
A ruse that Iraq had massed an army on the Saudi border was used to
persuade the Saudis to agree to using their soil as a staging ground and to
build bases near the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, thus angering Osama bin
Laden. When the United States did not pull out as promised, he reactivated
his mujahedeen fighters and al-Qaida was born.
It would appear that the United States, during several administrations,
must have known of Saddam Hussein's barbarous behavior and that of the Shah
of Iran's murderous intelligence organization, SAVAK. But in the name of
misguided national interests condoned and used them throughout their rule --
to the detriment of democracy for their people, the principle that we now
proclaim as our foreign policy.
A fair and open international trial could answer the concerns of most
Americans as to the legitimacy of the present war and focus instead on
terrorism and conditions fomenting anti-Americanism around the world.
Jim Mullins is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy in
Washington, D.C., and a resident of Delray Beach.
Copyright (c) 2003, South Florida Sun-Sentinel