Rumsfeld 'offered help to Saddam'
Declassified papers leave the White House hawk exposed over his role during the Iran-Iraq war
Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday December 31, 2002
The Reagan administration and its special Middle East envoy, Donald
Rumsfeld, did little to stop Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction
in the 1980s, even though they knew Saddam Hussein was using chemical
weapons "almost daily" against Iran, it was reported yesterday.
US support for Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq war as a bulwark against
Shi'ite militancy has been well known for some time, but using
declassified government documents, the Washington Post provided new
details yesterday about Mr Rumsfeld's role, and about the extent of the
Reagan administration's knowledge of the use of chemical weapons.
The details will embarrass Mr Rumsfeld, who as defence secretary in the
Bush administration is one of the leading hawks on Iraq, frequently
denouncing it for its past use of such weapons.
The US provided less conventional military equipment than British or
German companies but it did allow the export of biological agents,
including anthrax; vital ingredients for chemical weapons; and cluster
bombs sold by a CIA front organisation in Chile, the report says.
Intelligence on Iranian troop movements was provided, despite detailed
knowledge of Iraq's use of nerve gas.
Rick Francona, an ex-army intelligence lieutenant-colonel who served in
the US embassy in Baghdad in 1987 and 1988, told the Guardian: "We
believed the Iraqis were using mustard gas all through the war, but that
was not as sinister as nerve gas.
"They started using tabun [a nerve gas] as early as '83 or '84, but in a
very limited way. They were probably figuring out how to use it. And in
'88, they developed sarin."
On November 1 1983, the secretary of state, George Shultz, was passed
intelligence reports of "almost daily use of CW [chemical weapons]"
However, 25 days later, Ronald Reagan signed a secret order instructing
the administration to do "whatever was necessary and legal" to
prevent Iraq losing the war.
In December Mr Rumsfeld, hired by President Reagan to serve as a Middle
East troubleshooter, met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad and passed
on the US willingness to help his regime and restore full diplomatic
Mr Rumsfeld has said that he "cautioned" the Iraqi leader against using
banned weapons. But there was no mention of such a warning in state
department notes of the meeting.
Howard Teicher, an Iraq specialist in the Reagan White House, testified
in a 1995 affidavit that the then CIA director, William Casey, used a
Chilean firm, Cardoen, to send cluster bombs to use against Iran's
"human wave" attacks.
A 1994 congressional inquiry also found that dozens of biological
agents, including various strains of anthrax, had been shipped to Iraq
by US companies, under licence from the commerce department.
Furthermore, in 1988, the Dow Chemical company sold $1.5m-worth
(£930,000) of pesticides to Iraq despite suspicions they would be used
for chemical warfare.
The only occasion that Iraq's use of banned weapons seems to have
worried the Reagan administration came in 1988, after Lt Col Francona
toured the battlefield on the al-Faw peninsula in southern Iraq and
reported signs of sarin gas.
"When I was walking around I saw atropine injectors lying around. We saw
decontamination fluid on vehicles, there were no insects," said Mr
Francona, who has written a book on shifting US policy to Iraq titled
Ally to Adversary. "There was a very quick response from Washington
saying, 'Let's stop our cooperation' but it didn't last long - just