Who's Keeping Saddam's Secret Safe?
By Rory O'Connor
Most Americans don't know the hidden history of Saddam's relations with America, because it has been kept from them by administrations of both parties and their cronies in the press, writes Rory O'Connor.
NEW YORK, Dec 22, 2003 -- In the week since Saddam Hussein was captured, the news pages and airwaves of the mainstream media have been filled with instant histories, purporting to tell you everything you need to know about the evil Iraqi dictator.
Here's what they didn't tell you: Saddam and the United States share a long and mutually beneficial alliance.
It began as far back as 1959, when the CIA put young Saddam on its payroll as part of a plot to assassinate then-Iraqi Prime Minister General Abd al-Karim Qasim. Although the coup failed, Saddam survived and later succeeded in seizing control of Iraq. As its ruler, he did business with a succession of United States presidents, from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
The relationship flourished after Iran's radical Islamic government kidnapped 52 Americans in Tehran, and began holding Carter's presidency hostage as well. The Iranians also acted belligerently toward neighboring Iraq, encouraging its Shiite and Kurdish populations to rise up. Communicating through Saudi intermediaries, Carter gave Saddam a 'green light' to invade Iran, and on September 20, 1980, he did. The war continued for eight years and took an estimated one million lives, as the United States cynically armed and assisted both sides.
The US- Saddam connection continued throughout Ronald Reagan's presidency. When Iran appeared to be winning the war, the Administration began secretly supplying technology that helped Saddam to build biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction -- which he used, both against Iran and Iraq's own Kurdish minority.
At the same time, (as revealed by this reporter in a nationally broadcast PBS Frontline program) our friends the Saudis gave Saddam more than five billion dollars to help build his nuclear capability -- an arrangement that, according to still-classified documents, both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency, headed by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, were well aware of.
Current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is also implicated in Saddam's secret history. As Reagan's special envoy in 1983, Rumsfeld hand-delivered a letter from the president to Saddam, telling the Iraqi "that the United States and Iraq shared interests in preventing Iranian expansion."
Rumsfeld never mentioned Saddam's chemical weapons. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were restored the next year.
The US coddled Saddam throughout his eight-year war with Iran -- and beyond. In 1989, President Bush signed a top-secret directive allowing even closer diplomatic ties and continuing economic assistance to Iraq, which had been devastated by the war.
Keeping Iraqi markets open to American producers was one major concern, as demonstrated in April, 1990, when a delegation of farm-belt senators, led by Robert Dole, met with Saddam. One delegate, Republican senator Alan Simpson, actually appeased Saddam by explaining that Iraq's problem was not with the US government, but with the "haughty and pampered" Western media.
Shortly thereafter, US Ambassador April Glaspie effectively gave Saddam a green light for another invasion: this time of Kuwait, telling him "we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait."
The rest, as they say, is history. But most Americans don't know the hidden history of Saddam's relations with America, because it has been kept from them by administrations of both parties and their cronies in the press.
We have been "fed a steady diet of distortions, simplifications, and outright lies," as one truth- telling reporter, Robert Parry, puts it. Parry, who as an Associated Press and Newsweek correspondent in the 1980's broke many of the Iran-Contra affair stories, has written extensively about Saddam's hidden history. His reporting can be found on his web site Consortiumnews.com, and in the biweekly paper In These Times.
The truth about Saddam's secret history with the United States is out there. Like those weapons of mass destruction, you just have to search for it!