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1982: U.S. provides billions in aid to Saddam Hussein for weapons to kill Iranians.


On September 19, 2002, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee during the mostly cursory debate on an imminent attack on Iraq-an attack justified by the weapons of mass destruction the US had given Saddam Hussein in the 80s, and his use of those weapons, which America had tacitly condoned. Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia referred to this Newsweek article, and asked Rumsfeld pointed questions on America’s involvement in arming Iraq.

SEN. BYRD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding these hearings. Mr. Secretary, to your knowledge, did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapons during the Iran-Iraq War? Are we in fact now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Certainly not to my knowledge. I have no knowledge of United States companies or government being involved in assisting Iraq develop, chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

SEN. BYRD: Mr. Secretary, let me read to you from the September 23, 2002 Newsweek story. I read this -- I read excerpts, because our time is limited: ""Some Reagan officials even saw Saddam as another Anwar Sadat, capable of making Iraq into a modern secular state, just as Sadat had tried to lift up Egypt before his assassination in 1981. But Saddam had to be rescued first. The war against Iran was going badly by 1982. Iran's 'human wave attacks' threatened to overrun Saddam's armies. Washington decided to give Iraq a helping hand. After Rumsfeld's visit to Baghdad in 1983, U.S. intelligence began supplying the Iraqi dictator with satellite photos showing Iranian deployments. Official documents suggest that America may also have secretly arranged for tanks and other military hardware to be shipped to Iraq in a swap deal -- American tanks to Egypt, Egyptian tanks to Iraq. Over the protest of some Pentagon skeptics, the Reagan administration began allowing the Iraqis to buy a wide variety of" -- quote -- "dual use" -- close quote -- "equipment and materials from American suppliers. According to confidential Commerce Department export-control documents obtained by NEWSWEEK, the shopping list included a computerized database for Saddam's Interior Ministry, presumably to help keep track of political opponents; helicopters to transport Iraqi officials; television cameras for video surveillance applications; chemical-analysis equipment for the Iraq Atomic Energy Commission, IAEC, and, most unsettling, numerous shipments of bacteria/fungi/protozoa to the IAEC. According to former officials, the bacteria cultures could be used to make biological weapons, including anthrax. The State Department also approved the shipment of 1.5 million atropine injectors, for use against the effects of chemical weapons, but the Pentagon blocked the sale. Helicopters, some American officials later surmised, were used to spray poison gas on the Kurds. The United States almost certainly knew from its own satellite imagery that Saddam was using chemical weapons against Iranian troops. When Saddam bombed Kurdish rebels and civilians with a lethal cocktail of mustard gas, sarin, tabun and VX in 1988, the Reagan administration first blamed Iran, before acknowledging, under pressure from congressional Democrats, that the culprits were Saddam's own forces. There was only token official protest at the time. Saddam's men were unfazed. An Iraqi audiotape, later captured by the Kurds, records Saddam's cousin Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as Ali Chemical, talking to his fellow officers about gassing the Kurds. 'Who is going to say anything?,' closed quotes, he asks. Quote, 'The international community? F-blank them,'" exclamation point, closed quote.

Now, can this possibly be true? We already knew that Saddam was a dangerous man at the time. I realize that you were not in public office at the time, but you were dispatched to Iraq by President Reagan to talk about the need to improve relations between Iraq and the U.S. Let me ask you again: To your knowledge, did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapon during the Iran-Iraq War? Are we in fact now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown? The Washington Post reported this morning that the United States is stepping away from efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention. I'll have a question on that later. Let me ask you again: Did the United States help Iraq to acquire the building blocks of biological weapon during the Iran-Iraq War? Are we in fact now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown?

SEC. RUMSFELD: I have not read the article. I, as you suggest, I was for a period in late '83 and early '84, asked by President Reagan to serve as Middle East envoy after the Marines -- 241 Marines were killed in Beirut. And as part of my responsibilities, I did visit Baghdad. I did meet with Mr. Tariq Aziz, and I did meet with Saddam Hussein, and spent some time visiting with them about the war they were engaged in with Iran.

At the time our concern of course was Syria, and Syria's role in Lebanon and Lebanon's role in the Middle East, and the terrorist acts that were taking place. As a private citizen, I was assisting only for a period of months. I have never heard anything like what you have read. I have no knowledge of it whatsoever, and I doubt it.

Perhaps he should read the Reigle Report, from the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, written by Senators Reigle and D’Amato in 1994. That may refresh his memory, assuming he doesn’t doubt the report’s accuracy.

Following the eight year war with Iran and gassing of the Kurds, the United States continued to aid Saddam Hussein and oil rich Iraq, right up until 1990. Then, on August 2nd, Iraq invaded Kuwait, thus beginning the Gulf War. Unless they completely destroyed and rebuilt their army and weapons, the Iraqis were using the same weapons they'd used in their war with Iran, the same weapons we'd sent them and helped them to acquire.

On February 27th, the United States announced the liberation of Kuwait and the return to power of the Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.



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