Saturday, December 27, 2003

Saddam Could "Embarrass" the West...

How the BBC Covered Up US Complicity With Saddam.


I dimly recall Medialens discussing an ITN mention of the potential "embarrassment" that Saddam could cause the West if he were to discuss his dealings in open court.

Now, the BBC has added its voice to that regimented choir, allowing Paul Reynolds to rehearse a disgusting littly hymn about how Jesus Rumsfeld was once tempted by Satan.

Take this, for instance:

"The trial might turn into more than an account of genocide, invasion, murder and massacre, dominant though that would be.

It could become a political event tinged with some embarrassment for countries and individuals who were once close to him.

Saddam Hussein's egocentric sense of history, largely centred around a vision of himself leading the Arab world as Saladin led it against the Crusaders, would surely tempt him to play to the gallery of Arab opinion..."



Two things. If it is truly a matter of mere "embarrassment", we are on a disastrous moral level, which reminds us of David Aaronovitch comparing the British empire to an "embarrassing Aunt" who farts. Secondly, if this has anything to do with Saddam Hussein pretending to be a Saladin, leading Arabs against the crusaders, one would expect him to play down his dealings with the West.

But the main part of the article, although presumably supposed to be the space for media dissent, bolsters pro-Western assumptions about Hussein and his relations with the United States and the United Kingdom. The hymn begins promisingly enough:

"[I]t is important to remember that Saddam Hussein's main supplier was the Soviet Union. He was sent its best equipment - Mig 29s, T 72 tanks, artillery, gunboats and Scud missiles."

This is true, although we'd expect therefore to be granted something in the way of context - "supplier" is different from "supporter", and something ought to be said about the reasons why the USSR would support Saddam, all the better to criticise their actions.

Under the heading "US diplomacy", the Beeb offers an interesting lead in:

"The role played by the United States turned out to be important diplomatically. And this is where Mr Rumsfeld came in."

Sorry? This is where the story starts? Are we absolutely sure. Oh well, let's see where it goes:

"In the early 1980s, the bogeyman for the Americans was Ayatollah Khomeini. He had come to power in Iran during the 1979 Islamic revolution."

The first propaganda line: The devil made them do it. Except, of course, that US support for Saddam and his Ba'ath party stretches back to 1963 if I'm not mistaken - and, oh, don't bother looking that up, cos I'm not mistaken. 'Kay?

The next verse:

"With Iran seen as the danger, Washington turned to Iraq as the bulwark.

Iraq had invaded Iran in 1980 but the Iranians had held the advance and were striking back with human wave attacks. Iraq was known, by 1983, to have used chemical weapons to stop these.

A US State Department memorandum in 1983 stated: "We have recently received additional information confirming Iraqi use of chemical weapons." "


All very well, loves, but this isn't the starting point for US support for Hussein, nor is it the reason. And you know it. Or perhaps not, because the next headline is:

"Iran the motive"

No, no, no! How many times do I have to tell you idiots? Here, let me help you. According to Said Aburish, (A Brutal Friendship, 1997), the CIA closely controlled the planning stages but also played a central role in the subsequent purge of suspected leftists after the coup. 5,000 were killed, including many doctors, lawyers, teachers and professors who formed Iraq's educated elite. The massacre was carried out on the basis of death lists provided by the CIA. The lists were compiled in CIA stations throughout the Middle East with the assistance of Iraqi exiles like Saddam, who was based in Egypt. An Egyptian intelligence officer, who obtained a good deal of his information from Saddam, helped the Cairo CIA station draw up its list. According to Aburish, however, the American agent who produced the longest list was William McHale, who operated under the cover of a news correspondent for the Beirut bureau of Time magazine.

MOTIVE NOT IRAN! Okay? Can I make it any clearer? Need I underline it any further?

But the BBC continues:

"Mr Rumsfeld had been defence secretary under President Ford and was then head of a private pharmaceutical company.

Minutes of their meeting in December 1983 were taken by an American diplomat and later released in edited form under the Freedom of Information Act. They were published by the National Security Archive, a private research group.

It is clear from the account that Mr Rumsfeld was concerned about Iran and that this was the motive for the American approach.

The minutes state: "Rumsfeld told Saddam that the US and Iraq shared interests in preventing Iranian and Syrian expansion."

There is a lot of talk about stopping Iranian oil exports.

The report also sums up Saddam Hussein's reaction: "Saddam Hussein showed obvious pleasure with the President's letter and Rumsfeld's visit."

There is no mention of Mr Rumsfeld having raised the issue of chemical weapons with Saddam Hussein, though he said he did in an interview with CNN in 2002."



The BBC finishes its coverage of US-Iraqi relations with the following literary flourish:

"A report on another meeting, recorded that he did raise it with the Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, saying that "our efforts to assist were inhibited by certain things that make it difficult for us, citing the use of chemical weapons". Diplomatic relations between the US and Iraq were restored in 1984. Past alliances often embarrass governments."

The nice Mr Rumsfeld DID raise the use of chemical weapons, after all? This is reassuring, although one wonders in what context. It wasn't, possibly, the Iraqis saying "look, if you want us to kill people properly, you've got to give us the means" and Rummy saying "You've got it!"?

The fact that the result of that meeting was a restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries might offer some clue, but thankfully, we know the following -

On March 23, 1984, Iran accused Iraq of poisoning 600 of its soldiers with mustard gas and Tabun nerve gas. Donald Rumsfeld returned to Baghdad on March 24, 1984. On that same day, the UPI wire service reported that a team of UN experts had concluded that:

"Mustard gas laced with a nerve agent has been used on Iranian soldiers. Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld held talks with foreign minister Tariq Aziz."

Probably the most critical piece of information is that according to Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward, in a December 15, 1986 article , the CIA began to secretly supply Iraq with intelligence in 1984 that was used to "calibrate" mustard gas attacks on Iranian troops.

The US subsequently provided computer equipment to help with munitions development, financial assistance, diplomatic support, intelligence and chemical weapons .

After the US Senate unanimously supported the "Prevention of Genocide Act of 1988", the Reagan administration mounted a campaign against the act, which would have prevented any further equipment going to a dictator believed to have GASSED HIS OWN PEOPLE, YES, GASSED HIS OWN PEOPLE, and successfully turned it back. (Jentleson, Bruce W.
1994. With Friends Like These: Reagan, Bush, and Saddam, 1982-1990. New York: W.W. Norton. 1994
.)

In December 1998, "Dow Chemical sold $1.5 million of pesticides to Iraq, despite U.S. government concerns that they could be used as chemical warfare agents," reported The Washington Post , adding that an "Export-Import Bank official reported in a memorandum that he could find 'no reason' to stop the sale, despite evidence that the pesticides were 'highly toxic' to humans and would cause death 'from asphyxiation'."

Evidently, IRAN WAS NOT THE MOTIVE. According to a document published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, titled "Approved Licenses to Iraq, 1985-1990", "Reagan administration records show that between September and December 1988, 65 licenses were granted for dual-use technology exports. This averages out as an annual rate of 260 licenses, more than double the rate for January through August 1988."

And even when the American government knew the Iran war was over, and publicly admitted Saddam's use of chemical and biological weapons, Secretary of State James Baker received a memo from the State Department informing him that Iraq was aggressively developing chemical and biological weapons, as well as new missiles. In spite of this disturbing intelligence, the memo also instructed Baker to express the administration's "interest in broadening U.S.-Iraqi ties" to Iraqi Under-Secretary Hamdoon. (State Department memorandum, "Meeting with Iraqi Under Secretary Hamdoon," 24 March 1989).


Well, what's the point? What is the fucking point in going through all of this well-known record when we all know the BBC isn't going to change it's tune, and some chicken-necked ballbag licker from Republicans Abroad probably thinks the BBC already far too subversive, and we all know the whole point of the BBC is to spout propaganda horseshit?

This is the point: they get away with it too easy. I say we write these fuckers and let them know. Paul Reynolds, the banausic, irrelevant author of the piece, doesn't offer his e-mail address for the perfectly understandable reason that he cannot defend his idiotic little article. So, go to the top: richard.sambrook@bbc.co.uk

I'm not calling for childish abuse, now. We'll keep that for later. Just write him and point out just how truly awful the BBC's allegedly reputable coverage of the facts surrounding US support for Iraq has been. If anything else, it would be good to wipe the smug grin off his face as he realises his e-mail box is crammed with irritating complaints once again. Good, clean fun.