IRAQI WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION : MADE IN AMERICA
By J. Parnell McCarter
Among the reasons it is so hard to believe the Bush administration when it comes to Iraqi weapons of mass destruction is the fact that many of those weapons have been supplied by the USA. An article by Dennis Bernstein entitled “Made in America” (see
http://www.sfbg.com/News/32/21/Features/iraq.html ) documents some of these sales of weapons of mass destruction. The following are excerpts from that article:
IN JANUARY 1991 Iraqi president Saddam Hussein launched a barrage of long-range Scud missiles against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Dozens of people were wounded or killed -- including 28 U.S. soldiers who were asleep in their bunks when the Scuds hit. According to declassified secret nuclear, chemical, and biological logs kept by the Pentagon, Israeli police "confirmed nerve gas" at the site where the missile landed in downtown Tel Aviv.
While the incident was widely reported in the press, it was rarely mentioned that the technology used to increase the range of the missile that hit Israel, and to create the nerve gas that was apparently carried inside, was supplied to Iraq by U.S. and western corporations. Likewise, when U.S.-led allied forces bombed more than 30 chemical and biological weapons facilities during the 1991 war with Iraq, much of the deadly toxins that were released into the upper atmosphere, only to fall back down on the heads of U.S. forces, were created with the generous support of U.S. firms and America's leading politicians.
At one point, just a year before Iraq invaded Kuwait, Pentagon officials invited key Iraqi military technicians to a special conference in Portland, Ore., that amounted to a crash course in how to detonate a nuclear bomb.
Even today, the chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons U.S. troops could face in Gulf War II might as well be stamped "Made in the USA."
As the United States threatens to bomb Iraq for the third time this decade, the irony is brutal: Many of the same politicians, news media outlets, and interest groups that are promoting Gulf War II either supported or ignored the policies of the Reagan and Bush administrations that gave Iraq its deadly arsenal.
In fact, the problem goes far beyond the Middle East: If Saddam Hussein is capable of launching chemical, biological, or nuclear attacks, it will be the result of a long-standing U.S. policy of allowing defense contractors and other powerful corporations to sell the technology of death to almost anyone in the world who is willing to pay for it.
The Iraqi situation, former CIA military analyst Patrick Eddington told the Bay Guardian, "goes to the heart of the concept of nonproliferation and whether something like the international Chemical Weapons Convention is going to have any credibility."
"It has no chance of working if the countries who are the primary signatories, and for that matter the primary suppliers of dual-use technology," Eddington said, referring to technology that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, "are still cranking this stuff out and supplying it. It's a two-faced policy -- and that definitely includes the United States."
Documents obtained by the Bay Guardian -- many of which have been available for years, released during Congressional investigations -- shed disturbing light on the U.S. policy of arming Saddam Hussein, a policy that may again result in the exposure of hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers -- and millions of civilians -- to dangerous chemical and biological weapons.
"If tomorrow the Iraqis fired a missile with biological warheads on it," Gary Milholland of the Wisconsin Project for Nuclear Arms Control told the Bay Guardian, "the missile itself would have been purchased from Russia, upgraded with help from Germany, and the bacteria would be based on a strain imported from the United States…
In the early 1980s the Reagan administration chose to support Iraq over Iran in their bloody war. Neither country was exactly an ally, but the White House considered Iran the worse of the two nations, and cold war politics (along with a U.S. desire to maintain control of oil supplies in the Middle East) put us on the side of Iraq.
In accordance with a long and continuing tradition and policy, that meant the U.S. would arm Iraq to the teeth -- without much concern for the long-term consequences.
According to a 1990 report, "The Poison Gas Connection," issued by the L.A.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center (See sidebar), more than 207 companies from 21 western countries, including at least 18 from the United States, contributed to the buildup of Saddam Hussein's arsenal. Subsequent investigations turned up more than 100 more companies participating in the Iraqi weapons buildup.
The frontline cheerleader for America's corporate contributors to Saddam, the man who paved the way for Iraq to purchase millions of dollars worth of weapons and dangerous dual-use technology from U.S. corporations, was none other than the architect of Gulf War I, former president George Bush.
In a stunning July 27, 1992, speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, House Banking Committee chair Henry Gonzalez drove the Bush connection home in no uncertain terms:
"The Bush administration deliberately, not inadvertently, helped to arm Iraq by allowing U.S. technology to be shipped to Iraqi military and to Iraqi defense factories," Gonzalez said. "Throughout the course of the Bush administration, U.S. and foreign firms were granted export licenses to ship U.S. technology directly to Iraqi weapons facilities despite ample evidence showing that these factories were producing weapons." (See sidebar)
Gonzalez, who was accused by administration officials of jeopardizing national security for going public with his gritty revelations, also stated: "The president misled Congress and the public about the role U.S. firms played in arming Iraq."
Documents gathered by Gonzalez and other independent investigators show that despite U.S. intelligence reports dating back to 1983 documenting Saddam's mass gassing of the Kurds and Iranians in the ongoing Iran-Iraq war, Bush pressed for support of the Iraqis. In a damning Oct. 21, 1989, cable from Secretary of State James Baker to then Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz, only a year after the mass gassing of the Kurds, Baker assured the Iraqis that the United States was very eager for a close working relationship with Saddam Hussein. "As I said in our meeting," Baker wrote, "the U.S. seeks a broadened and deepened relationship with Iraq on the basis of mutual respect. That is the policy of our president."
According to Gonzalez, senior Bush aides successfully lobbied against the concerns of other government officials to allow Iraq to purchase the technology -- technology that could be adapted for both civilian and military purposes. These high-level Bush officials, including Baker, forced this policy through despite substantial available evidence that the Iraqis were furiously working on developing nuclear weapons and other devices of mass destruction.
The CIA reported at a top-secret intelligence briefing in November 1989 that Iraq "is interested in acquiring a nuclear explosive capability" and to this end "is ordering substantial quantities of dual-use equipment." Nevertheless, Bush and other top U.S. officials continually pressured the Agriculture Department's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) and the U.S. Export-Import Bank to give Iraq credit for farm products and manufactured goods. From 1983 to 1990 the CCC provided Iraq with $5 billion in credits and loans to purchase U.S. exports. Between 1984 and 1990 the Eximbank insured $297 million of additional exports. As recently as seven months before the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Bush issued an order allowing the bank to provide even more credit to Iraq.
State Department documents drafted after Bush became president in 1989 warned that Iraq would rise out of the ruins of its eight-year war with Iran as a "great military and political power, and [Iraq] is aiming higher." They also indicated that Iraq was planning to use "a big-stick approach" to the border conflict with Kuwait.
According to Gonzalez's July 27, 1992, floor speech, as late as the fall of 1989, only months before Iraq invaded Kuwait, George Bush signed a top secret National Security Decision directive, known as NSD 26, ordering closer ties with Saddam Hussein and Iraq: "Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our long-term interests and support stability both in the Gulf and the Middle East," stated the top secret directive. "The United States remains committed to support the individual and collective self-defense of friendly countries in the area."
The Bush directive also encouraged U.S. firms to participate in the reconstruction of the Iraqi economy, "particularly in the energy area, where they do not conflict with our nonproliferation and other significant objectives."
And participate they did. According to House and Senate Banking Committee investigations, in the five years preceding the Gulf War, the U.S. Department of Commerce licensed more than $1.5 billion of strategically sensitive American exports to Iraq. Many were directly delivered to nuclear and chemical weapon plants as well as to Iraqi missile sites. More than 700 licenses were issued to U.S. corporations doing business in Iraq; many of these licenses were for the shipment of this dual-use technology to Iraq.
In April 1990, U.S. intelligence reported to the Bush administration that Hussein "has strengthened his ties to terrorist groups and may use terrorism to intimidate his Arab and western opponents." But Bush administration back-channel and international diplomatic and financial support continued unabated.
The cooperation between U.S. suppliers and Iraqi weapons planners continued up to the beginning of the war. U.S. technicians and officials moved back and forth easily between the two countries.
In one of the more stunning incidents, in September 1989, just one year before the Iraqi military stormed over the Kuwaiti border, U.S. military officials invited several Iraqi technicians to attend a "detonation conference" at the Red Lion Inn in Portland, Ore.
The conference -- the Ninth Symposium (International) on Detonation, was a crash course from the world's experts on how to detonate a nuclear weapon. Among the named sponsors of the conference were the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Armament Laboratory, the Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, the Army Ballistic Research Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Office of Naval Technology and Sandia National Laboratories, according to the conference proceedings.
The three Iraqis attending, M. Ahadd, S. Ibrhim, and H. Mahd, were all representing Al Qaqaa State Establishment in Iraq. Al Qaqaa, according to an Oct. 27, 1992, report by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, "was Iraq's major explosives and rocket fuel factory." It was also a "filling station for ballistic missiles" and home for Iraq's nuclear weapons program.
Joining the Iraqis in this quaint setting on the Columbia River, learning all about nuclear bomb detonation, were 445 participants from 20 countries, including Israelis and technicians from South Korea.
The list of U.S. corporations that teamed up with Saddam reads like a who's who of America's favorite defense contractors. According to the Wiesenthal report and the Senate Banking Committee they include Hewlett-Packard, Honeywell, and Sperry/Unisys among others.
In a letter dated July 9, 1992, twenty Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee petitioned the attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate "serious allegations of possible violations of federal criminal statutes by high-ranking officials of the Executive Branch."
Among the potential criminal violations cited in the petition were making false statements, obstruction of justice, concealment or falsification of records, perjury, mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States or to commit an offense against the United States, and financial conflict of interest by high executive branch officials.
The 1992 letter further cited the Bush administration's "willful and repeated failure" to comply with requests by the House Judiciary and other committees for both documents and witnesses.
According to the 27-month Gonzalez Investigation, the Bush administration set up an "interagency" group after the Gulf War to prevent Congress from finding out about U.S. aid to Iraq before the Kuwait invasion.
Gonzalez's concerns centered on the handling by the Justice Department of the investigation into Banka Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) in Atlanta. Most of Iraq's purchases of sensitive technology were handled by BNL. According to Gonzalez, Iraq had set up a secret network to buy equipment for missiles and for nuclear, chemical, and germ weapons. More than $5 billion in soft loans were funneled through the bank to the Iraqis in the five years leading up to the war. According to Gonzalez's compelling investigation, almost half of the $5 billion was funneled directly into Iraq's ambitious weapons program.
The Bush administration's task was to limit the investigation to one low-level bank official in Atlanta, resisting any attempt to connect the Iraqi loans to high administration officials or to BNL's mother bank in Italy and other shady institutions, such as the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the CIA's bank of choice.
To this end, at least five federal agencies apparently misled, lied to, and blatantly stonewalled prosecutors in charge of the BNL investigation. According to a strongly worded October 1992 statement by the then chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, David Boren, in support of the appointment of a special prosecutor, the CIA "with strong advice" from the Justice Department "authored a misleading letter to the acting U.S. attorney in Atlanta" regarding the BNL investigation. "In light of this new information," Boren stated, "I call on the attorney general to meet his obligations ... and appoint a special prosecutor."
To make his case, Boren cited the concerns of the federal judge in the stymied BNL case. In a sharp rebuke of the government's behavior, Judge Marvin Shoob accused Bush officials of stonewalling and deception in the BNL case and joined the call for a special prosecutor.
"High-level officials in the Justice Department and the State Department met with the Italian ambassador," stated the frustrated federal judge, and "...decisions were made at the top levels of the United States government and within the intelligence community to shape this case." Shoob also noted that "the local prosecutor in this matter received ... highly unusual and inappropriate telephone calls from the White House Office of Legal Counsel."
Despite the strong words from Boren, Gonzalez, and Shoob, a special prosecutor was never appointed, and no administration officials were ever indicted or even forced to testify. Low-level bank officials ultimately took the rap for a multibillion-dollar, illegal, secret government scheme, spearheaded by the president of the United States, to arm Iraq.
And the coverup, thanks to Clinton officials, continues to this day. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Gore called the coverup of the secret Bush policy to arm Iraq "bigger than Watergate ever was," but in a Jan. 16, 1995, report, the Clinton Justice Department absolved the Bush administration and stated that it had found no evidence "that U.S. agencies or officials illegally armed Iraq."
London Independent reporter Robert Fisk has written movingly about riding back to Tehran in a train with young Iranian soldiers returning from the front during the bloody war with Iraq -- a war fueled by western politicians and western arms dealers. "All of them were coughing up Saddam Hussein's poisons from their lungs into blood-red swabs and bandages," writes the veteran Middle East reporter. "And the mustard gas that was slowly killing them permeated the whole great 20-carriage train as it thundered up from the desert battlefields of the first Gulf War." Fisk points out it was not only technology that the United States and the Europeans provided Saddam with to create nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, but the means to efficiently deploy them.
"The Americans had sold him helicopters to spray the crops with pesticide," Fisk said, "the 'crops,' of course, being human beings." And in an astounding revelation Fisk stated, "I later met the [German] arms dealer who flew from the Pentagon to Baghdad with U.S. satellite photos of the Iranian front lines to help Saddam kill more Iranians."
Iranians weren't the only victims. Tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and military personnel were doused with chemical and biological warfare agents in the first Gulf War. In fact, Gulf veterans have filed a billion-dollar class action lawsuit in federal court in Galveston, Texas, against companies that supplied Iraq with the dual-use technology to create its weapons of mass destruction. Among the companies named are Bechtel, M.W. Kellog, Dresser Industries, and Interchem Inc…