Saturday, October 14, 2006

The True Iraq Appeasers

click the arrow for audio about this from Democracy Now!.

Published: September 4, 2006
Peter W. Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, is author of "The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End."

WASHINGTON In his most recent justification of his Pentagon stewardship, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reached back to the 1930s, comparing the Bush administration's critics to those who, like Joseph Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Britain, favored appeasing Adolf Hitler. Rumsfeld avoided a more recent comparison: the appeasement of Saddam Hussein by the Reagan and first Bush administrations.

The reasons for selectivity are obvious. So many of Saddam's appeasers in the 1980s were principals in the 2003 Iraq war, including Rumsfeld (and now Robert Gates).

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan initiated a strategic opening to Iraq, which was then in the third year of a war of attrition with neighboring Iran. Although Iraq had started the war with a blitzkrieg attack in 1980, the tide had turned by 1982 in favor of Iran, and the Reagan administration was afraid Iraq might actually lose.

Rumsfeld, whom Reagan had chosen as his emissary, visited Saddam in December 1983 and March 1984. Inconveniently, Iraq had begun to use chemical weapons against Iran in November 1983, the first sustained use of poison gas since a 1925 treaty banning that.

Rumsfeld never mentioned this blatant violation of international law to Saddam, instead focusing on shared hostility toward Iran and an oil pipeline through Jordan. Rumsfeld apparently did mention it to Tariq Aziz, Iraq's foreign minister, but by not raising the issue with the paramount leader he signaled that good relations were more important to the United States than the use of poison gas.

This message was reinforced by U.S. conduct after the Rumsfeld missions. The Reagan administration offered Saddam financial credits that eventually made Iraq the third-largest recipient of U.S. assistance. It normalized diplomatic relations and, most significantly, began providing Iraq with battlefield intelligence. Iraq used this information to target Iranian troops with chemical weapons. And when Iraq turned its chemical weapons on the Kurds in 1988, killing 5,000 in the town of Halabja, the Reagan administration sought to obscure responsibility by falsely suggesting Iran was also responsible.

On Aug. 25, 1988 - five days after the Iran-Iraq War ended - Iraq attacked 48 Kurdish villages more than 150 kilometers from Iran. Within days, the U.S. Senate passed legislation, sponsored by Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island, to end U.S. financial support for Saddam and to impose trade sanctions.

To enhance the prospects that Reagan would sign his legislation, Pell sent me to eastern Turkey to interview Kurdish survivors who had fled across the border. As it turned out, the Reagan administration agreed that Iraq had gassed the Kurds, but strongly opposed sanctions, or even cutting off financial assistance. Colin Powell, then the national security adviser, coordinated the Reagan administration's opposition. The Pell bill died at the end of the congressional session in 1988.

The next year, President George H.W. Bush's administration actually doubled U.S. financial credits for Iraq. A week before Saddam invaded Kuwait, the administration vociferously opposed legislation that would have conditioned U.S. assistance to Iraq on a commitment not to use chemical weapons and to stop the genocide against the Kurds.

At the time, Dick Cheney, now vice president, was secretary of defense and a statutory member of the National Security Council that reviewed Iraq policy. By all accounts, he supported the administration's appeasement policy.

In 2003, Cheney, Powell, and Rumsfeld all cited Saddam's use of chemical weapons 15 years before as a rationale for war. But at the time Saddam was actually gassing his own people, they considered his use of chemical weapons a second-tier issue.

The Reagan and first Bush administrations believed that Saddam could be a strategic partner to the United States, a counterweight to Iran, a force for moderation in the region, and possibly help in the Arab-Israel peace process. That was, of course, an illusion. A ruthless dictator who mounted an attack on his neighbor, Iran, who used chemical weapons, and who committed genocide against his own Kurds was never likely to be a reliable American ally.

Saddam, having watched the United States gloss over his crimes in the Iran war and at home, concluded he could get away with invading Kuwait. It was a costly error for him, for his country, and eventually for the United States, which now has the largest part of its military bogged down in the Iraqi quagmire.

Meanwhile the architects of the earlier appeasement policy now maintain the illusion that they have a path to victory, if only their critics would shut up.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former U.S. ambassador to Croatia, is author of "The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End."


Tumbleweed said...

Hello Starrider, while still in Arizona I could see the you tubes clips you incorporate so skillfully in you impressive blog. The dial up line too slow. I was having high hopes to watch them while in Europa on a faster network... still not working really well, I like your approach and your non-violent point of view. Where we would differ is religion: to me all the religions, big bang and all the cosmogonies of the world are metaphors for the same:a way of telling people what it is to live a 'good' 'meaningful' life. So I try not to have the us/them situation (good link!).I have put you in my bookmarks and thanks for making me think.

Anonymous said...

To tumbleweed: The way of peace is right. Starrider and I had a long running discussion many months ago, and I was persuaded by His logic and his following the teachings of Jesus to the only logical conclusion, peace. I had the struggle with nationalist drive that is plugged so prevalently. I have written a couple of posts since then that may interest you. The first is my attempt to contrast and compare the Church with Religion. I don't think they are synonymous.
The second is was a follow-up to the first.
The third is on a book that starrider recommended to me about both subjects that you mention,
1)Religion vs. disciples of Christ and
2)Peace of Christ vs. War/aggression of the nations
Also, to help with the slower speed connections try this.

The best way to go with Geotheology Blog and dial-up service is to go to any of these three links
This is way... better than downloading your whole front page.And you still get all of the options for reading or viewing.If you are using IE7 there will be a hyperlink down in the lower right hand corner that looks like this "View feed properties..." and you can change the update schedule for feeds.This is the way to go, on RSS post feeds or Atom post feeds.If you are using Firefox Browser it will ask if you want to add the RSS Post Feed to your book marks and then you will get a new book mark with each and every post that fits your criteria (Your desired criteria must be set in the FireFox options panel)
God bless,

Starrider said...

I apologize for the slow response. I have been wound up making new posts. Thanks for the Kudos. I enjoyed your own blog when I visited it a while back.

I wouldn't be too sure we differ much on religions. In fact I ran across an article recently that I sent around that said basically what is said in you "We and Them"
post. That most of the conflicts in the world would wither if people would just stop thinking in terms of Us and Them or the alien other and start looking at the whole thing as WE. That in fact, despite the perversions of the original message, was exactly what the famous Jewish Carpenter from Galilee was talking about when he said to Love your neighbor as yourself and to love your enemies.

Its really too bad that people have taken that message and just turned it inside out.

Come back and see me bro.