With Iraq, U.S. has never held high ground
by Larry Everest
(FinalCall.com) -- National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice
recently told the BBC, "There is a very powerful moral case for regime
change" in Iraq. On Sept. 12 at the United Nations, President Bush made
a similar case for an attack on Iraq, calling liberty for Iraqis a
"great moral cause" and justifying a regime change on the grounds that
"Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980" and "gassed many Iranians and 40
Future U.S. actions against Iraq will be guided by many
considerations. We must not deceive ourselves that "morality" is one of
them. During the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88, the United States was deeply
complicit both in Iraq’s invasion and its gas attacks.
Over almost a decade, the United States gave Iraq about $5 billion in
aid and encouraged allies to provide it with billions worth of arms,
including technology reportedly used in plants making mustard and nerve
gas. According to a 1994 Senate Committee Report, U.S. firms also
supplied Iraq with biological materials, including anthrax, botulism and
E. coli bacteria.
On April 14, 1980—five months before Iraq’s invasion—Zbigniew
Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security advisor, signaled U.S.
willingness to work with Iraq: "We see no fundamental incompatibility of
interests between the United States and Iraq."
According to Abul Hassan Bani-Sadr, then Iran’s president, Brzezinski
met directly with Saddam Hussein in Jordan two months before the Iraqi
assault. Journalist Robert Parry reported that in a secret 1981 memo,
Secretary of State Al Haig noted, "It was also interesting to confirm
that President Carter gave the Iraqis a green light to launch the war
against Iran through Fahd." Fahd was Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and is
After Iraq’s invasion, the United States opposed punitive UN
sanctions. Within two years it was directly aiding Iraq.
"In the spring of 1982, Iraq teetered on the brink of losing its war
with Iran," stated Howard Teicher, a staff member to the Reagan National
Security Council in a 1995 court affidavit. He said President Reagan
decided to do "whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from
losing the war with Iran." Teicher said Washington provided Iraq with
intelligence, advice and billions in credits, and made sure other
countries helped supply weapons.
The U.S. military was complicit in Iraq’s use of chemical weapons
against Iranian troops and Kurdish rebels. In August, the New York Times
reported that a team of more than 60 officers from the Defense
Intelligence Agency "provided Iraq with critical battle planning
assistance at a time when American intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi
commanders would employ chemical weapons in waging the decisive battles
of the Iran-Iraq war."
In 1986, the Washington Post reported that the CIA had been giving
Iraq intelligence it used to "calibrate" its mustard gas attacks. Some
50,000 Iranians were killed or wounded by Iraqi gas warfare.
One CIA officer told the Times that the Pentagon "wasn’t so horrified
by Iraq’s use of gas. It was just another way of killing people—whether
with a bullet or phosgene, it didn’t make any difference."
While aiding Iraq, the U.S. was also secretly encouraging Israel to
ship arms to Iran, and then began directly supplying the Islamic
Republic with U.S. weapons in 1985 as part of the infamous Iran-Contra
In February 1986, Iran captured Iraq’s Fao Peninsula, scoring a major
victory. In 1987, the New York Times reported that Iraqi officials
believed that their defeat "was due to faulty U.S. intelligence." Iraq
detected Iranian troop movements, an Iraqi official said, but the United
States "kept on telling us that the Iranian attack was not aimed against
Indeed, the Times reported that, "American intelligence agencies
provided Iran and Iraq with deliberately distorted or inaccurate
intelligence data in recent years." The motive was captured in the
headline: "Keeping Either Side From Winning."
By mid-1986, the United States feared Iraq might lose, and its
backroom dealings with Iran had collapsed. Washington increased aid to
Iraq, encouraged it to "step up its air war" on Iranian cities, and
directly intervened in the Gulf by reflagging Kuwaiti tankers and
engaging Iranian vessels. It was during this time that a U.S. Navy
vessel shot down an Iranian passenger jet, killing all 290 passengers
aboard in an incident Washington called "accidental."
In 1988-89, following an Iraqi gas attack that killed some 5,000
Kurds at Halabja—an event Bush referred to at the United Nations—U.S.
aid to Iraq actually increased. In 1991, intelligence sources told the
Los Angeles Times that American-supplied helicopters had been used in
such chemical attacks.
President Bush appears on the road to another war, which, in all
likelihood, will cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis. The U.S.
record in the Gulf—including its intimacy with the Hussein regime during
the 1980s—demonstrates that this war’s motives will include oil and
empire, but certainly not morality.
(Larry Everest is author of "Behind the Poison Cloud: Union Carbide’s
Bhopal Massacre." He traveled to Iraq in 1991 and shot the video "Iraq:
War Against the People." This article was transmitted via Pacific News