COVER/Margie Burns

Iraq: The Best of Enemies

Reagan's Ally is George II's Megalomaniac

US businesses built up Saddam Hussein, they'll profit again from taking him down

"The enemy of my enemy is my customer." -- said to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1992 by a US customs official who had stopped the sale to Iraq of detonation capacitors that could be used in a nuclear weapon.

Saddam Hussein received tremendous help from Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and from US corporations, and continues to receive passive economic assistance from the current Bush administration. One article could hardly list everything the Reagan and Bush administrations have given Iraq, but even a quick overview suggests the picture.

Reagan official Howard Teicher was a staffer for the National Security Council from 1982 to 1987. He had regular contact with CIA Director William Casey and Deputy Director Robert Gates and traveled with Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq. In a 1995 affidavit for a civil lawsuit, Teicher describes Reagan's Iraq policy as one of consistent, unequivocal support for Saddam Hussein in the war against Iran, when Iran was perceived to be the greater threat (ironically, the fear was that a victorious Iran would then invade Saudi Arabia):

"CIA Director Casey personally spearheaded the effort to ensure that Iraq had sufficient military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to avoid losing the Iran-Iraq war ... the United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing US military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure Iraq had the military weaponry required. The United States also provide strategic operational advice to the Iraqis to better use their assets in combat. For example, 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. 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 ... advice was passed to Saddam Hussein through various meetings with European and Middle Eastern heads of state."

"I personally attended meetings in which CIA Director Casey or CIA Deputy Director Gates noted the need for Iraq to have certain weapons such as cluster bombs and anti-armor penetrators in order to stave off the Iranian attacks. When I joined the NSC staff in early 1982, CIA Director Casey was adamant that cluster bombs were a perfect 'force multiplier' that would allow the Iraqis to defend against the 'human waves' of Iranian attackers. I recorded those comments in the minutes ..."

Teicher's NSC files are in the Ronald Reagan presidential archives in Simi Valley, Calif. The affidavit can be found online at (search for "teicher").

President Reagan legalized conventional military sales to Iraq in 1982, and resulting sales amounted to more than a billion dollars' worth of exports with military use in the same year. Along with direct military-use products and even more "dual-use" exports, however, the Reagan and Bush administrations furnished more indirect potencies: with the assistance in intelligence -- if you call it that -- and money and arms, the United States also furnished Saddam with biological and chemical capabilities.

The US Department of Commerce licensed 70 biological exports to Iraq between 1985 and 1989, including at least 21 batches of lethal strains of anthrax, sent by the American Type Culture Collection, then located in Rockville, Md., and now in northern Virginia. (It shares one building with George Mason University; its landlord for its main building is the Prince William County, Va., Board of Supervisors.) Shipments continued beyond Reagan under President Bush, after the Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988. In other words, Saddam Hussein was still able to purchase biological products for at least four more years after the justification of US/administration worry about Iran's threat to Saudi oil was past.

Also between 1985 and 1989, Iraq's Atomic Energy Commission got 17 batches of "various toxins and bacteria." In 1985, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) shipped at least 3 samples of West Nile Fever virus to Basra University. Other lethal biological samples included botulins and E. coli.

In 1994, then-Sen. Don Riegle (D-Mich.) reported a list of lethal bio-products sent to Iraq. Their presence was verified by UN inspectors in Iraq.

Too many US corporations supplied Iraq with chemicals to list here; a class-action lawsuit filed by over a thousand Gulf War vets in Galveston, Texas, in 1994 (Coleman et al. v Alcolac et al.) names several, including Alcolac, Phillips Petroleum, Unilever, Allied Signal and Teledyne.

However, the Texas Supreme Court dismissed the American Type Culture Collection as a defendant, saying it cannot be sued in a Texas state court because it has no Texas location. A federal district court in Texas has already dismissed the case for lack of federal jurisdiction. Your tax dollars, and Republican judges, at work.

Aside from biological and chemical products, American companies were also licensed by the Commerce Department to supply Saddam with computers, components, electronics, and specialized equipment for future weaponry. Other US shipments went to Iraq without benefit of license, some directly to Iraq and some through other countries including Canada, Germany and Switzerland. The late US Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Texas), chairman of the House Banking Committee, entered at least 30 documents into the Congressional Record as part of his heroic investigations into US assistance to Iraq -- investigations in which he was thwarted at every juncture, be it noted, by the CIA, the Bush Department of Justice, and their supporters -- mostly GOP -- in Congress. (See and 1992.)

Again, too many companies provided essential assistance to Iraq to list here. A scant list would include 60 Hughes helicopters in 1982, at least 56 military helicopters from Bell Textron in 1984, and $8 million worth of Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters in the late '80s; equipment for a tungsten-carbide manufacturing plant (later blown up) from Kennametal (Latrobe, Pa.); mainframes and other advanced computer systems from Digital, IBM and Hewlett Packard; a supercomputer from Silicon Graphics in California; and military technology including glass fiber and machine tools from Matrix-Churchill (based in Britain and Cleveland, Ohio). Matrix-Churchill also sold equipment to an arms dealer and manufacturer in Chile, Carlos Cardoen, who sent it to Iraq. The lawsuit in which Teicher's above affidavit is filed involves Cardoen.

Congressional committees in both the House and the Senate in the early '90s documented extensive provisions to Iraq. Rep. Samuel Gejdenson (D-Conn.) reported that "From 1985 to 1990, the United States Government approved 771 licenses for the export to Iraq of $1.5 billion worth of biological agents and high-tech equipment with military application." Every significant decision approving the numerous pricey deals with Iraq was made at the highest levels of government, and involved federal agencies including the CIA, the DOJ, the Export-Import Bank, the Commerce Department, and the Agriculture Department among others.

The Financial Times on Nov. 3, 2000, reported that Halliburton or its subsidiaries did more than $23 million worth of work for Iraq between 1988 and 1999. With Dick Cheney at the helm, the company basically ensured that Saddam Hussein's oil fields would stay up and running after the Iran-Iraq war and again after the Gulf War. You'd think that American security personnel at some of these subsidiaries would be prime sources of intelligence information, if the administration were intensively investigating 9/11. Doesn't Vice President Cheney have any pull with his old company?

The current Bush administration does not mention where the much-touted "weapons of mass destruction" came from, nor that they've been extensively bombed already. But regrettably, the same corporations that profited by dealing with Iraq before -- including Cheney's Halliburton -- would also profit from an invasion of Iraq, and from a "rebuilding" afterward. The same companies are well able to purchase both Bush foreign policy and the bloodthirsty commentary that supports it -- defying reason, evidence, and common sense -- in the media.

Halliburton, of course, is an enormous oil-field-supply company, providing the equipment and facilities that make it possible for oil fields to operate. Its more than 500 subsidiaries include dozens of companies in the United Kingdom, where it began (explaining the hapless British Prime Minister Tony Blair's twinship with Bush's Mideast policies), 11 or so companies in Saudi Arabia, and at least 28 companies in that notable oil-producing behemoth, the Cayman Islands. It also has companies in Pakistan, Russia and Kazakhstan, meaning it profits from any pipeline conducting Russian oil to the West across Afghanistan or thereabouts.

There can be little doubt that the whole get-Saddam campaign is bogus on moral grounds. Iraq depends for existence on its oil revenues (as even the CIA World Fact Book shows). It would go under if not for exporting oil. And it exports oil to -- whom? Why, to US allies: Russia, France, Switzerland, Jordan and Turkey. But far from dampening that oil commerce, Bush's saber-rattling has boosted oil prices for Saddam (as well as for Bush campaign donors in the American energy sector).

But then, it would be ethically inconsistent for Bush to pressure US allies to keep them from doing what the administration itself does: As of last May, the American Petroleum Institute listed Iraq number eight on the top-ten list of foreign suppliers of oil to the US.

A year earlier, indeed, the US got over 90% of Iraq's UN-approved oil-for-food deals; now those UN-certified oil sales are dropping -- which means that Putin's Russia can become a bigger customer for Iraqi oil, through backdoor deals that release Putin from UN constraints. Putin is currently meeting and greeting the Iraqis, along with leaders of North Korea and Iran -&endash; all of whom were softened up for dealing with Russia by Bush's "Axis of Evil" remarks. It would be good to know whether Putin somehow influenced those comments, which have worked to Russia's benefit in the short run.

Most observers agree by now that the porous administration "sanctions" against Iraq have done more to injure the Iraqi populace than to injure Saddam Hussein. There is only too much reason to believe that, if the administration were to replace Saddam with a Bush-White-House puppet like the one in Afghanistan, the main beneficiaries would similarly be not the Iraqi people but some of the largest energy and technology companies, and incidentally the demented "think tanks" and other white-collar goon squads they hire in D.C. and New York, now so busily justifying an undeclared war and unprovoked invasion of another country.

Margie Burns is a Texas native who now writes from Washington, D.C. . Email

This article was posted on Sept. 13.

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