Our Friend Saddam
My, how the past can keep coming back to bite you. Exhibit A as to why a public international trial for Saddam would not be welcome in Washington.
Although the editors at the Post decided to help their Bush Administration brethren by burying this story on Page A 42, a Freedom of Information Act request filed the nonprofit National Security Archive unearths a new memo outlining what instructions Rummy was operating under in his Reagan Administration days as Designated Suckup to Saddam Hussein.
Donald H. Rumsfeld went to Baghdad in March 1984 with instructions to deliver a private message about weapons of mass destruction: that the United States' public criticism of Iraq for using chemical weapons would not derail Washington's attempts to forge a better relationship, according to newly declassified documents.
Rumsfeld, then President Ronald Reagan's special Middle East envoy, was urged to tell Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz that the U.S. statement on chemical weapons, or CW, "was made strictly out of our strong opposition to the use of lethal and incapacitating CW, wherever it occurs," according to a cable to Rumsfeld from then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
The statement, the cable said, was not intended to imply a shift in policy, and the U.S. desire "to improve bilateral relations, at a pace of Iraq's choosing," remained "undiminished." "This message bears reinforcing during your discussions."
The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the nonprofit National Security Archive, provide new, behind-the-scenes details of U.S. efforts to court Iraq as an ally even as it used chemical weapons in its war with Iran.
An earlier trip by Rumsfeld to Baghdad, in December 1983, has been widely reported as having helped persuade Iraq to resume diplomatic ties with the United States. An explicit purpose of Rumsfeld's return trip in March 1984, the once-secret documents reveal for the first time, was to ease the strain created by a U.S. condemnation of chemical weapons.
The documents do not show what Rumsfeld said in his meetings with Aziz, only what he was instructed to say. It would be highly unusual for a presidential envoy to have ignored direct instructions from Shultz.
Last year, the Bush administration cited its belief that Iraq had and would use weapons of mass destruction -- including chemical, biological and nuclear devices -- as the principal reason for going to war.
But throughout 1980s, while Iraq was fighting a prolonged war with Iran, the United States saw Hussein's government as an important ally and bulwark against the militant Shiite extremism seen in the 1979 revolution in Iran. Washington worried that the Iranian example threatened to destabilize friendly monarchies in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Publicly, the United States maintained neutrality during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, which began in 1980.
Privately, however, the administrations of Reagan and George H.W. Bush sold military goods to Iraq, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological agents, worked to stop the flow of weapons to Iran, and undertook discreet diplomatic initiatives, such as the two Rumsfeld trips to Baghdad, to improve relations with Hussein.
Itís good to see how W must therefore be repudiating the foreign policies of Ronald Reagan and his own dad with his newfound concern for dictators having and using WMDs. And obviously Rummy in his current PNAC crusader mode proves that people can change, right?