In December 1983, Rumsfeld, then a special envoy to the Middle East appointed by President Reagan, travelled to Baghdad to inform Saddam Hussein that the United States was ready to resume full diplomatic relations with Iraq.
A lengthy report in the Washington Post on December 30, 2002 – based on analysing thousands of pages of declassified government documents and interviews with former policy-makers – said that “US intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in shoring up Iraqi defences” following Rumsfeld’s visit.
The resumption of diplomatic relations was proposed despite warnings from the State Department a month earlier that Iraq was engaging in “almost daily use of CW [chemical weapons]” in the war against Iran.
At the time, the US judged that preventing an Iranian victory against Iraq was a higher policy priority than obeying the 1925 Geneva Protocol outlawing chemical warfare.
Before the visit, the US had removed Iraq from the State Department’s terrorism list, opening the door for arms deals with Western countries.
Again according to the Washington Post, a 1994 investigation by the US Senate Banking Committee turned up dozens of biological agents shipped to Iraq during the mid-’80s under licence from the Department of Commerce, including various strains of anthrax subsequently identified by the Pentagon as a key component of the Iraqi biological warfare program. The Commerce Department also approved the export of insecticides to Iraq, despite widespread suspicions that they were being used for chemical warfare.
These days Rumsfeld likes to downplay or even deny his role in helping arm Iraq with the makings of weapons of mass destruction. He has been quoted as saying he had “nothing to do” with helping Iraq fight Iran in the ’80s. However, the Washington Post says “the documents show that his visits to Baghdad led to closer US-Iraqi cooperation on a wide variety of fronts”.
The scale of the business done between Iraq and US corporations has never been made public, and recent efforts by the US Government suggest that, far from wanting to uncover the extent and details of the sources of Saddam’s weapons program, it has every interest in covering it up.
In mid-December 2002 Iraq released massive documentation which purported to provide an inventory of its arms programs. The television news showed tables of documents, 12,000 pages in all plus accompanying CD-ROMs. It was made available to the UN weapons inspection team under the terms of the Security Council resolution demanding full disclosure of the country’s efforts to build weapons of mass destruction.
According to a report in The Guardian newspaper on December 11, the US obtained agreement from Colombia, at the time serving as president of the Security Council, to hand over the documentation for it to analyse and copy. This was an apparent breach of a Security Council agreement that the document would be first analysed by UN specialists before being made available to member states.
The US provided copies of the full documentation to the four other permanent members: Russia, China, France and Great Britain. Whether anything was first removed from this report is a matter of contention.
What is known is that the 10 non-permanent members had to be content with an edited, scaled-down version. According to the German newsagency DPA, instead of the 12,000 pages, these nations – including Germany, which this month became president of the Security Council – were given only 3,000 pages.
So what was missing?
The Guardian reported that the nine-page table of contents included chapters on “procurements” in Iraq’s nuclear program and “relations with companies, representatives and individuals” for its chemical weapons program. This information was not included in the edited version.
On December 11, The New York Times said that Dr Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, had agreed to this. He told the Security Council that he was not going to release the names of the foreign suppliers to Iraq. His rationale: these suppliers could be valuable sources of information to UN inspectors.
Others have offered alternative explanations. A former UN weapons inspector, David Albright, told The Guardian in December that there would be widespread embarrassment if the extent to which British, French, German and other Western companies had supplied Iraq’s weapons build-up was known.
Now a German newspaper has blown the whistle and published a list of all these suppliers. National daily Die Tageszeitung ran its report on December 19 but it has been slow to get an airing in the English-speaking world. The US media has ignored it. Perhaps it hits too close to home.
The article claims that what it calls the “censorship” of the original Iraqi disclosure document was done at US urging. The report lists details of suppliers from US, China, France, Great Britain, Russia, Japan, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Sweden – but the standout supplier to Saddam was the US.
Twenty-four companies as well as the Departments of Defence, Energy, Trade and Agriculture all took part, as did the Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories. The US government evidently did not want this made public.
The US corporate contribution includes Hewlett-Packard (nuclear weapon, rocket and conventional weapons programs), Tektronix (nuclear, rockets), Eastman Kodak (rockets), Honeywell (rockets, conventional) and American Type Culture Collection (biological).
(Full details can be found in German at www.taz.de/pt2002/12/19/a0012.nf/text.)
This cosy arrangement lasted until 1990 when relations were abruptly terminated after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Since the conclusion of the first Gulf War, UN weapons inspectors have scoured Iraq for proscribed weaponry.
Whether there is anything left to find is a matter of fierce conjecture. Evidently Donald and Dubya (whose father was Vice-President when Rumsfeld made his mission to Baghdad) think they know something.
Isn’t it time they came clean?
It is in no one’s interests for Saddam Hussein to retain deadly weapons he has shown no compunction about using in the past, including on his own citizens. But by what crazy logic does the West go to war to disarm him of weapons it supplied in the first place? Instead of so-called smart bombs, how about a bit of smart diplomacy?
Sounds like a job for Donald Rumsfeld.