"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Speaking Ill of the Dead

(First in a series that allows a period of proper mourning before explaining why the world is better off for someone's passing):

Former UK (Labour) Foreign Secretary Robin Cook died suddenly August 6. Mr. Cook had previously resigned his post in protest of the Blair government joining the US in erasing the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein and his lovely sons Uday and Attila.

For four years as Foreign Secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment. Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam’s medium and long-range missiles programmes.

Equally proud of the "strategy of containment" was Cook's American counterpart, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright:

Lesley Stahl, on 60 Minutes: “We have heard that half a million children have died (in Iraq). I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And you know, is the price worth it?"

Madame Albright:“I think this is a very hard choice, but the price — we think the price is worth it.”

Osama bin Laden, after consulting Islamic scholars, has determined that 4 million Westerners must die to square accounts with the Muslim world. About a million are attributed to the sanctions that "contained" Saddam & Family. Osama is cruel but fair.

A half-million kids? A million altogether? I don't know, but the West has never effectively denied it, and it is now taken as gospel truth in the Islamic world.

What we do know is this Iraq War cost far fewer lives than the "peaceful" sanctions, and most of those who've died were guilty-as-hell enthusiastic al-Qaeda or Ba'athist homicidal maniacs, and that any further deaths today are from Muslims killing innocent Muslims.

What we do know is that Osama's 4 million strong butcher's bill will be justified not by Bush's action against Saddam, but by Cook's and Albright's.

Rest in peace as well as you can, Mr. Cook. By your own admission, you are partly responsible for the "strategy of containment," the sanctions that killed only the innocents in Iraq, because you lacked the guts to pull the trigger on a sadistic mass-murderer and his even more psychopathic anointed successors. Starvation is eco-friendly, and seldom makes the front page.

If Osama has any justification at all, it was you, Mr. Cook, who provided it. You and Madame Albright killed more Muslims than the Crusaders ever did. You expected to wash your hands and walk away? No, moral vanity isn't absolution. You thought war was bad? Your cowardly version of peace, "containment," was far more deadly.

Now it's up to we the living to clean up your mess. I hope you wish us luck from wherever you are now, Mr. Cook. I suppose you did your best, but the price was not worth it.

(Next: Peter Jennings)


Pastorius said...

Good writing, Tom.

Your post deals with an issue which conservatives generally are wont to discuss. The fact/accusation that 1 million people died because of the sanctions is accepted in the Islamic world.

I actually believe those numbers, because as you said we have never made an effort to refute them.

However, there was plenty of money flowing through the coffers of the Iraqi government to have more than taken care of those people. We know now where the money went.

It would seem that Saddam starved his own people as a publicity stunt. Actually, it was a very effective one. He is to be congratulated ...

In hell.

Tlaloc said...

"If Osama has any justification at all, it was you, Mr. Cook, who provided it."

While the sanction regime was certainly a horrible episode in US-arabia relations it's ridiculous of you to imply it's the only one.

Let's start a small list shall we?

Military support of Israel's attacks on civilians.

Military and economic support of the Mujahadeen.

Military and economic support of Saddam Hussein.

Overthrowing the democratic Iranian government and installing the despot Shah of Iran.

And so on...

These are all perfectly valid reasons for the moderates of the middle east to hate us.

James Elliott said...

That's true, T. If the CIA hadn't installed the Shah, we wouldn't be having to listen to the President make veiled threats and scare a whacky hard-right government into a nuclear arms race.

And, of course, if we hadn't been so pissed off about our "buddy" the Shah that we propped up Saddam's regime and gave him those chemical weapons we later got so mad at him for using (thank you, Donald Rumsfeld and Ronald Reagan), then maybe wouldn't have had to worry about Iraq, either.

Just sayin', TVD, how about a little bit of the ol' rhetorical vitriol for the enablers, eh? Rush Limbaugh would be so proud of you for parroting the right-wing talking points.

Tlaloc said...

And if we hadn't supported the Anglo-Iranian Oil company stealing Iran's oil purely for the benefit of the Anglo- part then we wouldn't have had to worry about overthrowing their government because it did something naughty like try to keep it's natural resources for it's own benefit.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I see no need to insult me, James. They're my right-wing talking points.

Tom said...

If we hadn't have helped overthrow the unpopular Mossadegh, then we would have had to deal with either a Soviet-controlled regime or an earlier incarnation of the Ayatollah-run theocracy. Instead we supported the lesser of the evils and had a relatively friendly regime to deal with for twenty-five years.

Actually, we gave very little military support to Saddamm Hussein. In that case, what appeared at first to be the lesser of two evils was still a little too much a fan of Stalin for us to really cozy up to him. That's why the Iraqi Army carried AK-47s and drove T-72s, and didn't carry M-16s and fly F-16s.

Tlaloc said...

"Actually, we gave very little military support to Saddamm Hussein. In that case, what appeared at first to be the lesser of two evils was still a little too much a fan of Stalin for us to really cozy up to him."

It was mostky financial/intelligence support we gave hussein with a little military thrown in for garnish. As for your contention that we didn't really cozy up to him I have to ask how you make that leap of logic? After all right up until Kuwait we were regularly sending high ranking members of the cabinet to go press the flesh with him in front of photographers.

Tom said...

Yeah, but giving Saddam limited financial and intelligence support in the Iran-Iraq War and sending diplomats for photo-ops is a far cry from 'propping up' his regime.

In retrospect, they were probably the wrong actions, but they do not make the United States responsible for the creation or actions of Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Tlaloc said...

"Yeah, but giving Saddam limited financial and intelligence support in the Iran-Iraq War and sending diplomats for photo-ops is a far cry from 'propping up' his regime."

We did a lot more than just support them in the Iran-Iraq war.

"Initially, Iraq advanced far into Iranian territory, but was driven back within months. By mid-1982, Iraq was on the defensive against Iranian human-wave attacks. The U.S., having decided that an Iranian victory would not serve its interests, began supporting Iraq: measures already underway to upgrade U.S.-Iraq relations were accelerated, high-level officials exchanged visits, and in February 1982 the State Department removed Iraq from its list of states supporting international terrorism. (It had been included several years earlier because of ties with several Palestinian nationalist groups, not Islamicists sharing the worldview of al-Qaeda. Activism by Iraq's main Shiite Islamicist opposition group, al-Dawa, was a major factor precipitating the war -- stirred by Iran's Islamic revolution, its endeavors included the attempted assassination of Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz.)

Prolonging the war was phenomenally expensive. Iraq received massive external financial support from the Gulf states, and assistance through loan programs from the U.S. The White House and State Department pressured the Export-Import Bank to provide Iraq with financing, to enhance its credit standing and enable it to obtain loans from other international financial institutions. The U.S. Agriculture Department provided taxpayer-guaranteed loans for purchases of American commodities, to the satisfaction of U.S. grain exporters.

The U.S. restored formal relations with Iraq in November 1984, but the U.S. had begun, several years earlier, to provide it with intelligence and military support (in secret and contrary to this country's official neutrality) in accordance with policy directives from President Ronald Reagan. These were prepared pursuant to his March 1982 National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM 4-82) asking for a review of U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

One of these directives from Reagan, National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 99, signed on July 12, 1983, is available only in a highly redacted version [Document 21]. It reviews U.S. regional interests in the Middle East and South Asia, and U.S. objectives, including peace between Israel and the Arabs, resolution of other regional conflicts, and economic and military improvements, "to strengthen regional stability." It deals with threats to the U.S., strategic planning, cooperation with other countries, including the Arab states, and plans for action. An interdepartmental review of the implications of shifting policy in favor of Iraq was conducted following promulgation of the directive.

By the summer of 1983 Iran had been reporting Iraqi use of using chemical weapons for some time. The Geneva protocol requires that the international community respond to chemical warfare, but a diplomatically isolated Iran received only a muted response to its complaints [Note 1]. It intensified its accusations in October 1983, however, and in November asked for a United Nations Security Council investigation.

The U.S., which followed developments in the Iran-Iraq war with extraordinary intensity, had intelligence confirming Iran's accusations, and describing Iraq's "almost daily" use of chemical weapons, concurrent with its policy review and decision to support Iraq in the war [Document 24]. The intelligence indicated that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces, and, according to a November 1983 memo, against "Kurdish insurgents" as well [Document 25].

What was the Reagan administration's response? A State Department account indicates that the administration had decided to limit its "efforts against the Iraqi CW program to close monitoring because of our strict neutrality in the Gulf war, the sensitivity of sources, and the low probability of achieving desired results." But the department noted in late November 1983 that "with the essential assistance of foreign firms, Iraq ha[d] become able to deploy and use CW and probably has built up large reserves of CW for further use. Given its desperation to end the war, Iraq may again use lethal or incapacitating CW, particularly if Iran threatens to break through Iraqi lines in a large-scale attack" [Document 25]. The State Department argued that the U.S. needed to respond in some way to maintain the credibility of its official opposition to chemical warfare, and recommended that the National Security Council discuss the issue.

Following further high-level policy review, Ronald Reagan issued National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 114, dated November 26, 1983, concerned specifically with U.S. policy toward the Iran-Iraq war. The directive reflects the administration's priorities: it calls for heightened regional military cooperation to defend oil facilities, and measures to improve U.S. military capabilities in the Persian Gulf, and directs the secretaries of state and defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take appropriate measures to respond to tensions in the area. It states, "Because of the real and psychological impact of a curtailment in the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf on the international economic system, we must assure our readiness to deal promptly with actions aimed at disrupting that traffic." It does not mention chemical weapons [Document 26].

Soon thereafter, Donald Rumsfeld (who had served in various positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations, including as President Ford's defense secretary, and at this time headed the multinational pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle & Co.) was dispatched to the Middle East as a presidential envoy. His December 1983 tour of regional capitals included Baghdad, where he was to establish "direct contact between an envoy of President Reagan and President Saddam Hussein," while emphasizing "his close relationship" with the president [Document 28]. Rumsfeld met with Saddam, and the two discussed regional issues of mutual interest, shared enmity toward Iran and Syria, and the U.S.'s efforts to find alternative routes to transport Iraq's oil; its facilities in the Persian Gulf had been shut down by Iran, and Iran's ally, Syria, had cut off a pipeline that transported Iraqi oil through its territory. Rumsfeld made no reference to chemical weapons, according to detailed notes on the meeting [Document 31].

Rumsfeld also met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, and the two agreed, "the U.S. and Iraq shared many common interests." Rumsfeld affirmed the Reagan administration's "willingness to do more" regarding the Iran-Iraq war, but "made clear that our efforts to assist were inhibited by certain things that made it difficult for us, citing the use of chemical weapons, possible escalation in the Gulf, and human rights." He then moved on to other U.S. concerns [Document 32]. Later, Rumsfeld was assured by the U.S. interests section that Iraq's leadership had been "extremely pleased" with the visit, and that "Tariq Aziz had gone out of his way to praise Rumsfeld as a person" [Document 36 and Document 37].

Rumsfeld returned to Baghdad in late March 1984. By this time, the U.S. had publicly condemned Iraq's chemical weapons use, stating, "The United States has concluded that the available evidence substantiates Iran's charges that Iraq used chemical weapons" [Document 47]. Briefings for Rumsfeld's meetings noted that atmospherics in Iraq had deteriorated since his December visit because of Iraqi military reverses and because "bilateral relations were sharply set back by our March 5 condemnation of Iraq for CW use, despite our repeated warnings that this issue would emerge sooner or later" [Document 48]. Rumsfeld was to discuss with Iraqi officials the Reagan administration's hope that it could obtain Export-Import Bank credits for Iraq, the Aqaba pipeline, and its vigorous efforts to cut off arms exports to Iran. According to an affidavit prepared by one of Rumsfeld's companions during his Mideast travels, former NSC staff member Howard Teicher, Rumsfeld also conveyed to Iraq an offer from Israel to provide assistance, which was rejected [Document 61].

Although official U.S. policy still barred the export of U.S. military equipment to Iraq, some was evidently provided on a "don't ask - don't tell" basis. In April 1984, the Baghdad interests section asked to be kept apprised of Bell Helicopter Textron's negotiations to sell helicopters to Iraq, which were not to be "in any way configured for military use" [Document 55]. The purchaser was the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. In December 1982, Bell Textron's Italian subsidiary had informed the U.S. embassy in Rome that it turned down a request from Iraq to militarize recently purchased Hughes helicopters. An allied government, South Korea, informed the State Department that it had received a similar request in June 1983 (when a congressional aide asked in March 1983 whether heavy trucks recently sold to Iraq were intended for military purposes, a State Department official replied "we presumed that this was Iraq's intention, and had not asked.") [Document 44]

During the spring of 1984 the U.S. reconsidered policy for the sale of dual-use equipment to Iraq's nuclear program, and its "preliminary results favor[ed] expanding such trade to include Iraqi nuclear entities" [Document 57]. Several months later, a Defense Intelligence Agency analysis said that even after the war ended, Iraq was likely to "continue to develop its formidable conventional and chemical capability, and probably pursue nuclear weapons" [Document 58]. (Iraq is situated in a dangerous neighborhood, and Israel had stockpiled a large nuclear weapons arsenal without international censure. Nuclear nonproliferation was not a high priority of the Reagan administration - throughout the 1980s it downplayed Pakistan's nuclear program, though its intelligence indicated that a weapons capability was being pursued, in order to avert congressionally mandated sanctions. Sanctions would have impeded the administration's massive military assistance to Pakistan provided in return for its support of the mujahideen fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.)

In February 1984, Iraq's military, expecting a major Iranian attack, issued a warning that "the invaders should know that for every harmful insect there is an insecticide capable of annihilating it whatever the number and Iraq possesses this annihilation insecticide" [Document 41]. On March 3, the State Department intervened to prevent a U.S. company from shipping 22,000 pounds of phosphorous fluoride, a chemical weapons precursor, to Iraq. Washington instructed the U.S. interests section to protest to the Iraqi government, and to inform the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that "we anticipate making a public condemnation of Iraqi use of chemical weapons in the near future," and that "we are adamantly opposed to Iraq's attempting to acquire the raw materials, equipment, or expertise to manufacture chemical weapons from the United States. When we become aware of attempts to do so, we will act to prevent their export to Iraq" [Document 42].

The public condemnation was issued on March 5. It said, "While condemning Iraq's chemical weapons use . . . The United States finds the present Iranian regime's intransigent refusal to deviate from its avowed objective of eliminating the legitimate government of neighboring Iraq to be inconsistent with the accepted norms of behavior among nations and the moral and religious basis which it claims" [Document 43].

Later in the month, the State Department briefed the press on its decision to strengthen controls on the export of chemical weapons precursors to Iran and Iraq, in response to intelligence and media reports that precursors supplied to Iraq originated in Western countries. When asked whether the U.S.'s conclusion that Iraq had used chemical weapons would have "any effect on U.S. recent initiatives to expand commercial relationships with Iraq across a broad range, and also a willingness to open diplomatic relations," the department's spokesperson said "No. I'm not aware of any change in our position. We're interested in being involved in a closer dialogue with Iraq" [Document 52].

Iran had submitted a draft resolution asking the U.N. to condemn Iraq's chemical weapons use. The U.S. delegate to the U.N. was instructed to lobby friendly delegations in order to obtain a general motion of "no decision" on the resolution. If this was not achievable, the U.S. delegate was to abstain on the issue. Iraq's ambassador met with the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Jeane Kirkpatrick, and asked for "restraint" in responding to the issue - as did the representatives of both France and Britain.

A senior U.N. official who had participated in a fact-finding mission to investigate Iran's complaint commented "Iranians may well decide to manufacture and use chemical weapons themselves if [the] international community does not condemn Iraq. He said Iranian assembly speaker Rafsanjani [had] made public statements to this effect" [Document 50].

Iraqi interests section head Nizar Hamdoon met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Placke on March 29. Hamdoon said that Iraq strongly preferred a Security Council presidential statement to a resolution, and wanted the response to refer to former resolutions on the war, progress toward ending the conflict, but to not identify any specific country as responsible for chemical weapons use. Placke said the U.S. could accept Iraqi proposals if the Security Council went along. He asked for the Iraqi government's help "in avoiding . . . embarrassing situation[s]" but also noted that the U.S. did "not want this issue to dominate our bilateral relationship" [Document 54].

On March 30, 1984, the Security Council issued a presidential statement condemning the use of chemical weapons, without naming Iraq as the offending party. A State Department memo circulating the draft text observed that, "The statement, by the way contains all three elements Hamdoon wanted" [Document 51].

On April 5, 1984, Ronald Reagan issued another presidential directive (NSDD 139), emphasizing the U.S. objective of ensuring access to military facilities in the Gulf region, and instructing the director of central intelligence and the secretary of defense to upgrade U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities. It codified U.S. determination to develop plans "to avert an Iraqi collapse." Reagan's directive said that U.S. policy required "unambiguous" condemnation of chemical warfare (without naming Iraq), while including the caveat that the U.S. should "place equal stress on the urgent need to dissuade Iran from continuing the ruthless and inhumane tactics which have characterized recent offensives." The directive does not suggest that "condemning" chemical warfare required any hesitation about or modification of U.S. support for Iraq [Document 53].

A State Department background paper dated November 16, 1984 said that Iraq had stopped using chemical weapons after a November 1983 demarche from the U.S., but had resumed their use in February 1984. On November 26, 1984, Iraq and the U.S. restored diplomatic relations. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, in Washington for the formal resumption of ties, met with Secretary of State George Shultz. When their discussion turned to the Iran-Iraq war, Aziz said that his country was satisfied that "the U.S. analysis of the war's threat to regional stability is 'in agreement in principle' with Iraq's," and expressed thanks for U.S. efforts to cut off international arms sales to Iran. He said that "Iraq's superiority in weaponry" assured Iraq's defense. Shultz, with presumed sardonic intent, "remarked that superior intelligence must also be an important factor in Iraq's defense;" Tariq Aziz had to agree [Document 60]."

from here. See the site for links to the documents.

Tom Van Dyke said...


The contention was that "containment" had a higher political and human cost than war itself, a contention that was not addressed.

It is impolite to hijack the comments sections with lengthy tangents of your own choosing. Please desist.

Tom said...

Thanks for the link, which proves my point. We did not want the Iranians to wipe out Iraq, for obvious reasons, but we were never very comfortable with supporting the Iraqis because of their use of chemical weapons. We did just enough to help Iraq survive the Iran-Iraq War, supporting what we saw as the lesser of two evils.

Tlaloc said...

"The contention was that "containment" had a higher political and human cost than war itself, a contention that was not addressed."

Who made that contention?

"Thanks for the link, which proves my point. We did not want the Iranians to wipe out Iraq, for obvious reasons, but we were never very comfortable with supporting the Iraqis because of their use of chemical weapons."

Uh no, it says the opposite. It says that despite publically saying we condemned chemical weapons use we privately went ahead and gave him a ton of support. See how that's opposite of what you said?

Jay D. Homnick said...

We never own those bugs we slip money to, we just hire them now and again.

In the case of Iraq and Iran we slipped 'em both a few bucks here and there when we needed 'em, making us the lessor of two weevils.

Tom said...