Missing U.S. Iraq History

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"Before George W. Bush gives the final order to invade Iraq -- a nation that has not threatened the United States -- the American people might want a few facts about the real history of U.S.-Iraq relations. Missing chapters from 1980 to the present would be crucial in judging Bush’s case for war.

"But Americans don’t have those facts because Bush and his predecessors in the White House have kept this history hidden from the American people. When parts of the story have emerged, administrations of both parties have taken steps to suppress or discredit the disclosures. So instead of knowing the truth, Americans have been fed a steady diet of distortions, simplifications and outright lies.

"This missing history also is not just about minor details. It goes to the heart of the case against Saddam Hussein, including whether he is an especially “aggressive” and “unpredictable” dictator who must be removed from power even at the risk of America’s standing in the world and the chance that a war will lead to more terrorism against U.S. targets.

"For instance, George W. Bush has frequently cited Saddam Hussein’s invasions of neighbors, Iran and Kuwait, as justification for the looming U.S. invasion of Iraq. “By defeating this threat, we will show other dictators that the path of aggression will lead to their own ruin,” Bush declared during a speech in Atlanta on Feb. 20.

"Leaving aside whether Bush’s formulation is Orwellian double-speak – aggression to discourage aggression – there is the historical question of whether Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush actually encouraged Saddam’s aggressions for geopolitical reasons or out of diplomatic incompetence....

"Beyond that missing history of U.S.-Iraq relations, there’s the secondary issue of cover-ups conducted by the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

Democratic sources say Clinton heeded personal appeals from the elder Bush and other top Republicans to close the books on the so-called “Iraqgate” investigation – as well as probes into secret Reagan-Bush dealings with Iran – soon after the Democrat defeated Bush in the 1992 election.

Some Democrats say Clinton agreed to shelve the investigations out of concern for national security and the country’s unity. Others suggest that Clinton was tricked by the wily elder Bush with promises that a pullback on the Iran-Iraq investigations might win Clinton some bipartisanship with the Republicans in Congress, a tantalizing prospect that turned out to be a mirage.

Whatever the reasons, Clinton’s Justice Department did bail out the Reagan-Bush team in the mid-1990s when more disclosures about the secret dealings with Iraq flooded to the surface. Perhaps the most important disclosure was an affidavit by former Reagan administration official Howard Teicher that was filed in connection with a criminal trial in Miami in 1995. The Teicher affidavit was the first sworn public account by a Reagan insider of the covert U.S.-Iraq relationship.

Teicher, who served on Reagan’s National Security Council staff, traced the U.S. tilt to Iraq to a turning point in the war in 1982 when Iran gained the offensive and fears swept through the U.S. government that Iran’s army might slice through Iraq to the oil fields of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

“In June 1982, President Reagan decided that the United States could not afford to allow Iraq to lose the war to Iran,” Teicher wrote in his affidavit. Teicher said he helped draft a secret national security decision directive that Reagan signed to authorize covert U.S. assistance to Saddam Hussein’s military.

“The NSDD, including even its identifying number, is classified,” Teicher wrote in 1995.

The effort to arm the Iraqis was “spearheaded” by CIA Director William Casey and involved his deputy, Robert Gates, according to Teicher’s affidavit. “The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq,” Teicher wrote.

In 1984, Teicher said he went to Iraq with Rumsfeld to convey a secret Israeli offer to assist Iraq after Israel had concluded that Iran was becoming a greater danger. “I traveled with Rumsfeld to Baghdad and was present at the meeting in which Rumsfeld told Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz about Israel’s offer of assistance,” Teicher wrote. “Aziz refused even to accept the Israelis’ letter to Hussein offering assistance because Aziz told us that he would be executed on the spot by Hussein if he did so.”

Another key player in Reagan’s Iraq tilt was then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, according to Teicher’s affidavit.

“In 1986, President Reagan sent a secret message to Saddam Hussein telling him that Iraq should step up its air war and bombing of Iran,” Teicher wrote. “This message was delivered by Vice President Bush who communicated it to Egyptian President Mubarak, who in turn passed the message to Saddam Hussein.

“Similar strategic operational military advice was passed to Saddam Hussein through various meetings with European and Middle Eastern heads of state. I authored Bush’s talking points for the 1986 meeting with Mubarak and personally attended numerous meetings with European and Middle East heads of state where the strategic operational advice was communicated.”

Teicher’s affidavit represented a major break in the historical mystery of U.S. aid to Iraq. But it complicated a criminal arms-trafficking case that Clinton’s Justice Department was prosecuting against Teledyne Industries and a salesman named Ed Johnson. They had allegedly sold explosive pellets to Chilean arms manufacturer Carlos Cardoen, who used them to manufacture cluster bombs for Iraq.



  • Erik P. Sorenson, "Gore Speech Reveals Saddam was a Bush Sr. Made Man," Republicons.org, March 14, 2003: "In 1992 during the heated campaign for the Whitehouse the mantra for the Bill Clinton/Al Gore team was "it's the economy, stupid", but the assault on (George Herbert Walker Bush) the elder could just have easily been targeted toward his administration's duplicity on Iraq. In September 1992 Senator and Vice Presidential candidate Al Gore addressed the Center for International Policy and articulated a comprehensive dissertation on the inconsistencies, fabrications and collaboration between the Ronald Reagan/Bush I administrations and Saddam Hussein."
  • Robert Scheer, "We Got Him ... Now What?" AlterNet, December 16, 2003.
  • Bill C. Davis, "Saddamania," Common Dreams, December 16, 2003.
  • Jim Lobe, "Rumsfeld and his 'old friend' Saddam," Asia Times, December 17, 2003: "How much more of this intimate relationship Saddam will recall when he gets a public forum is undoubtedly a concern of many current and past administration figures."
  • Robert Fisk, "Saddam Hussein, Like Adolf Hitler, Will Live on for Millions of People," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 17, 2003.
  • Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball, "Dubious Link Between Atta and Saddam. A document tying the Iraqi leader with the 9/11 terrorist is probably fake," Newsweek (MSNBC), December 17, 2003: "A widely publicized Iraqi document that purports to show that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta visited Baghdad in the summer of 2001 is probably a fabrication that is contradicted by U.S. law-enforcement records showing Atta was staying at cheap motels and apartments in the United States when the trip presumably would have taken place, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and FBI documents."
  • Pepe Escobar, "The Rat Trap, Part 1: How Saddam may still nail Bush," Asia Times, December 19, 2003: "The Christmas blockbuster from the Pentagon studios was a dream. This was the new Roman Empire at its peak - better than Ridleys Scott's Gladiator: a real, captive barbarian emperor, paraded on the Circus Maximus of world television. The barbarian was not a valiant warrior - but a bum. He was not hiding in a nuclear-proof bunker armed to his teeth - he was caught like "a rat" in a "spider hole". He was nothing but a pathetic ghost taking a medical for the world to see. What the bluish pictures did not show, though, is that former US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) asset Saddam Hussein is a reader of the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. An Arabic copy of Crime and Punishment was found in a shack near the "spider hole" where he was captured."
  • Dana Priest, "Rumsfeld was told to placate Saddam," Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), December 20, 2003: "Donald Rumsfeld went to Baghdad in March 1984 with instructions to deliver a private message about weapons of mass destruction: that the United States' public criticism of Iraq for using chemical weapons would not derail Washington's attempts to forge a better relationship, according to newly declassified documents."
  • "Video Clip of 'When Donald met Saddam'," Information Clearinghouse, December 23, 2003. Requires Windows Media Player.