Patrice Riemens on Sun, 31 Dec 2006 12:48:40 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Robert Fisk: Saddam takes CIA secrets to the grave

Couldn't close 2006 without some fine conspiracy text. But then the
conspiracy element is entirely rhetorical since none of what Fisk says is
so much a secret as a non-event (the neo-con ideology simply prescribes
that the past doesn't matter since it doesn't exist), and Saddam alive in
his dungeon would not have been able to add one single ounce of
information we don't already know - but only choose to ignore. Yet the
record stands, so...

bwo Sandy Matthers, Edinburgh (where they have shit weather for Hognany...)

  Saddam takes CIA secrets to the grave

                Robert Fisk:

He takes his secrets to the grave.
Our complicity dies with him

How the West armed Saddam, fed him intelligence on his 'enemies', equipped
him for atrocities - and then made sure he wouldn't squeal
Published: 31 December 2006

We've shut him up. The moment Saddam's hooded executioner pulled the lever
of the trapdoor in Baghdad yesterday morning, Washington's secrets were
safe. The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United
States - and Britain - gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the
one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want
the world to remember. And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that
Western support - given to him while he was perpetrating some of the worst
atrocities since the Second World War - is dead.

Gone is the man who personally received the CIA's help in destroying the
Iraqi communist party. After Saddam seized power, US intelligence gave his
minions the home addresses of communists in Baghdad and other cities in an
effort to destroy the Soviet Union's influence in Iraq. Saddam's
mukhabarat visited every home, arrested the occupants and their families,
and butchered the lot. Public hanging was for plotters; the communists,
their wives and children, were given special treatment - extreme torture
before execution at Abu Ghraib.

There is growing evidence across the Arab world that Saddam held a series
of meetings with senior American officials prior to his invasion of Iran
in 1980 - both he and the US administration believed that the Islamic
Republic would collapse if Saddam sent his legions across the border - and
the Pentagon was instructed to assist Iraq's military machine by providing
intelligence on the Iranian order of battle. One frosty day in 1987, not
far from Cologne, I met the German arms dealer who initiated those first
direct contacts between Washington and Baghdad - at America's request.

"Mr Fisk... at the very beginning of the war, in September of 1980, I was
invited to go to the Pentagon," he said. "There I was handed the very
latest US satellite photographs of the Iranian front lines. You could see
everything on the pictures. There were the Iranian gun emplacements in
Abadan and behind Khorramshahr, the lines of trenches on the eastern side
of the Karun river, the tank revetments - thousands of them - all the way
up the Iranian side of the border towards Kurdistan. No army could want
more than this. And I travelled with these maps from Washington by air to
Frankfurt and from Frankfurt on Iraqi Airways straight to Baghdad. The
Iraqis were very, very grateful!"

I was with Saddam's forward commandos at the time, under Iranian
shellfire, noting how the Iraqi forces aligned their artillery positions
far back from the battle front with detailed maps of the Iranian lines.
Their shelling against Iran outside Basra allowed the first Iraqi tanks to
cross the Karun within a week. The commander of that tank unit cheerfully
refused to tell me how he had managed to choose the one river crossing
undefended by Iranian armour. Two years ago, we met again, in Amman and
his junior officers called him "General" - the rank awarded him by Saddam
after that tank attack east of Basra, courtesy of Washington's
intelligence information.

Iran's official history of the eight-year war with Iraq states that Saddam
first used chemical weapons against it on 13 January 1981. AP's
correspondent in Baghdad, Mohamed Salaam, was taken to see the scene of an
Iraqi military victory east of Basra. "We started counting - we walked
miles and miles in this fucking desert, just counting," he said. "We got
to 700 and got muddled and had to start counting again ... The Iraqis had
used, for the first time, a combination - the nerve gas would paralyse
their bodies ... the mustard gas would drown them in their own lungs.
That's why they spat blood."

At the time, the Iranians claimed that this terrible cocktail had been
given to Saddam by the US. Washington denied this. But the Iranians were
right. The lengthy negotiations which led to America's complicity in this
atrocity remain secret - Donald Rumsfeld was one of President Ronald
Reagan's point-men at this period - although Saddam undoubtedly knew every
detail. But a largely unreported document, "United States Chemical and
Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their possible
impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War", stated that
prior to 1985 and afterwards, US companies had sent government-approved
shipments of biological agents to Iraq. These included Bacillus anthracis,
which produces anthrax, andEscherichia coli (E. coli). That Senate report
concluded that: "The United States provided the Government of Iraq with
'dual use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi
chemical, biological and missile-systems programs, including ... chemical
warfare agent production facility plant and technical drawings, chemical
warfare filling equipment."

http://img227. imageshack. us/img227/ 9378/duringtheir aniraqwarsadcb5. jpg

Nor was the Pentagon unaware of the extent of Iraqi use of chemical
weapons. In 1988, for example, Saddam gave his personal permission for
Lt-Col Rick Francona, a US defence intelligence officer - one of 60
American officers who were secretly providing members of the Iraqi general
staff with detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning
and bomb damage assessments - to visit the Fao peninsula after Iraqi
forces had recaptured the town from the Iranians. He reported back to
Washington that the Iraqis had used chemical weapons to achieve their
victory. The senior defence intelligence officer at the time, Col Walter
Lang, later said that the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis "was
not a matter of deep strategic concern".

I saw the results, however. On a long military hospital train back to
Tehran from the battle front, I found hundreds of Iranian soldiers
coughing blood and mucus from their lungs - the very carriages stank so
much of gas that I had to open the windows - and their arms and faces were
covered with boils. Later, new bubbles of skin appeared on top of their
original boils. Many were fearfully burnt. These same gases were later
used on the Kurds of Halabja. No wonder that Saddam was primarily tried in
Baghdad for the slaughter of Shia villagers, not for his war crimes
against Iran.

We still don't know - and with Saddam's execution we will probably never
know - the extent of US credits to Iraq, which began in 1982. The initial
tranche, the sum of which was spent on the purchase of American weapons
from Jordan and Kuwait, came to $300m. By 1987, Saddam was being promised
$1bn in credit. By 1990, just before Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, annual
trade between Iraq and the US had grown to $3.5bn a year. Pressed by
Saddam's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, to continue US credits, James Baker
then Secretary of State, but the same James Baker who has just produced a
report intended to drag George Bush from the catastrophe of present- day
Iraq - pushed for new guarantees worth $1bn from the US.

In 1989, Britain, which had been giving its own covert military assistance
to Saddam guaranteed £250m to Iraq shortly after the arrest of Observer
journalist Farzad Bazoft in Baghdad. Bazoft, who had been investigating an
explosion at a factory at Hilla which was using the very chemical
components sent by the US, was later hanged. Within a month of Bazoft's
arrest William Waldegrave, then a Foreign Office minister, said: "I doubt
if there is any future market of such a scale anywhere where the UK is
potentially so well-placed if we play our diplomatic hand correctly... A
few more Bazofts or another bout of internal oppression would make it more

Even more repulsive were the remarks of the then Deputy Prime Minister,
Geoffrey Howe, on relaxing controls on British arms sales to Iraq. He kept
this secret, he wrote, because "it would look very cynical if, so soon
after expressing outrage about the treatment of the Kurds, we adopt a more
flexible approach to arms sales".

Saddam knew, too, the secrets of the attack on the USS Stark when, on 17
May 1987, an Iraqi jet launched a missile attack on the American frigate,
killing more than a sixth of the crew and almost sinking the vessel. The
US accepted Saddam's excuse that the ship was mistaken for an Iranian
vessel and allowed Saddam to refuse their request to interview the Iraqi

The whole truth died with Saddam Hussein in the Baghdad execution chamber
yesterday. Many in Washington and London must have sighed with relief that
the old man had been silenced for ever.

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