As I noted in a Moscow Times piece earlier this year, historian Roger Morris reminded us
â€“ in broad daylight, in the New York Times, a week before Bush launched
his invasion in 2003 â€“ that Saddam's regime had been helped to power by
not one but two coups supported by the CIA. The first brought the
Baathist Party to power in 1963 â€“ after the CIA had helpfully tried to
murder the incumbent strongman, Abdel Kassem, with a poisoned
handkerchief. Kassem, who had been Washington's boy as long as he posed
a counterweight to Egypt's Nasser and his "dangerous" secular
nationalism (oh, for some dangerous secular nationalists in the Middle
East today, eh?), left the reservation when he began "threatening
Western oil interests" and "talking of openly challenging" American
dominance in the Middle East, Morris notes. Operating from bases in
Kuwait, American agents lent military intelligence support to the
Baathist-led rebels and armed Kurdish separatists â€“ all with the
blessing of President John F. Kennedy.
The coup was successful; Kassem was tried for "crimes against the Iraqi people" and executed. The CIA then helpfully provided the successful Baathists with lists of "suspected communists and leftists." The Baathists then proceeded to systematically murder hundreds of people on the CIA lists. American arms were soon flowing to the new "legitimate government of Iraq" â€“ weapons which, as Morris notes, the Baathists turned against the Kurds whom the CIA had armed only months before. Meanwhile, "western corporations like Mobil, Bechtel and British Petroleum were doing business with Baghdad â€“ for American firms, their first major involvement in Iraq."
That was coup number one. Five years later, a Baathist faction led by Saddam Hussein's kinsman, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, staged a violent uprising against the government, again with CIA support. Where did Morris get this information? Straight from the horse's mouth: " Serving on the staff of the National Security Council under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the late 1960's, I often heard C.I.A. officers â€“ including Archibald Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and a ranking C.I.A. official for the Near East and Africa at the time â€“ speak openly about their close relations with the Iraqi Baathists." It is unlikely that the lowly thug and enforcer Saddam Hussein would have ever been in a position to take power in Baghdad if not for the assistance of the elist scions of power and privilege whose headquarters now proudly bears the name of one of its later chieftains, George Herbert Walker Bush.
Bush I proved a worthy successor to the illustrious Archie and his Baathist-loving colleagues. As both vice-president and president, he sustained Saddam in his harsh rule at every turn â€“ up to the very day that Hussein invaded Kuwait, with a nod and wink from Bush's envoy. With Ronald Reagan, he supported the infamous "tilt" toward Saddam in the Iran-Iraq war, with the United States providing military intelligence for Saddam's WMD attacks on Iranian positions, direct encouragement of his "area bombing" of Iranian cities, and diplomatic cover for him in the international community, removing his regime from the list of "terrorist supporters." This bond was sealed, of course, by the visit of Reagan's special envoy to the dictator: Donald Rumsfeld.
But Bush Senior had a special yen for Saddam; indeed, as I noted in March, his passionate embrace of Hussein seemed to know no bounds, so avidly did Bush ply the dictator with money, agricultural credits (which allowed Saddam to use his scarce hard currency for weapons) and advanced technology â€“ includuing "dual-use" gear for weapons of mass destruction â€“ despite the strong warnings of his own Cabinet against such reckless policies, and a 1989 report by the CIA that Iraq had greatly accelerated its nuclear program, and was by then the world's largest maker of chemical weapons. Bush ignored all this, and actually signed presidential directives ordering U.S. government agencies to cooperate more closely with Iraq â€“ even after Saddam "gassed his own people" in Kurdistan. (All this was reported in the Los Angeles Times in a remarkable, prize-winning series by Douglas Frantz and Murray Waas â€“ in 1992. But when the run-up to the next Iraq War came round 10 years later, there was almost no reference to this devastating work at all.)
But that was not all. Again, from March:
"Bush also used the global criminal network of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) to secretly funnel cash and weaponry to Saddam â€“ then intervened to quash federal investigations of the scam. What was BCCI? Only "one of the largest criminal enterprises in history," according to the U.S. Senate. What did BCCI do? "It engaged in pandemic bribery of officials in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas," says journalist Christopher Bryon, who first exposed the operation. "It laundered money on a global scale, intimidated witnesses and law officers, engaged in extortion and blackmail. It supplied the financing for illegal arms trafficking and global terrorism. It financed and facilitated income tax evasion, smuggling and prostitution." Sort of an early version of the Bush-Cheney Regime, then.
"The Italian bank BNL was one of BCCI's main tentacles. BNL's Atlanta branch was the primary funnel used to send millions of secret dollars to Saddam for arms purchases, including deadly chemicals and other WMD materials supplied by the Chilean arms dealer Cardoen and various politically-connected operators in the United States like, weapons merchant Matrix Churchill.
"As soon as the BNL case broke, Bush moved to throttle the investigation. He appointed lawyers from both Cardoen and Matrix to top Justice Department posts â€“ where they supervised the officials investigating their old companies. The overall probe was directed by Justice Department investigator Robert Mueller. Meanwhile, White House aides applied heavy pressure on other prosecutors to restrict the range of the probe â€“ especially the fact that Bush cabinet officials Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger had served as consultants for BNL during their pre-White House days as spear-carriers for yet another secretive international front that profits from war, weapons, and the avid greasing of highly-placed palms: Kissinger Associates. The U.S. Senate later found that the probe had been unaccountably "botched" â€“ witnesses went missing, CIA records got "lost," all sorts of bad luck. Most of the big BCCI players went unpunished or got off with wrist-slap fines and sanctions."
Sadly though, Saddam, like Kassem, wandered off the reservation. Bush was forced to turn on his protÃ©gÃ© after Saddam made the foolish move of threatening the Kuwaiti royals â€“ Bush's long-time oil business partners, going back to the early 1960s. Again, from that March piece:
"Saddam's conflict with Kuwait centered on two main issues: first, his claim that the billions of dollars Kuwait had given Iraq during the war with Iran was simply straightforward aid to the nation that was defending the Sunni Arab world from the aggressive onslaught of the Shiite Persians. The Kuwaitis insisted the money had been a loan, and demanded that Saddam pay off. There was also Saddam's claim that Kuwait was "slant-drilling" into Iraqi oilfields, siphoning off underground reserves from across the border. These disputes raged for months; a deal to resolve them was brokered by the Arab League, but fell apart at the last minute when Kuwait suddenly rejected the agreement, saying, "We will call in the Americans."
"How worried was Bush about the situation? Let's look at the historical record. In the two weeks before the invasion of Kuwait, Bush approved the sale of an additional $4.8 million in "dual-use" technology to factories identified by the CIA as linchpins of Hussein's illicit nuclear and biochemical programs, the Los Angeles Times reports. The day before Saddam sent his tanks across the border, Bush obligingly sold him more than $600 million worth of advanced communications technology. A week later, he was declaring that his long-time ally was "worse than Hitler."
"Yes, the Kuwaitis had called in their marker. Like a warlord of old, Bush used the US military as a private army to help his business partners. After an extensive bombing campaign that openly â€“ even gleefully â€“ mocked international law in its targeting of civilian infrastructure (a tactic repeated in Serbia by Bill Clinton â€“ now regarded as an "adopted son" by the elder Bush), the brief 100-hour ground war slaughtered fleeing Iraqi conscripts by the thousands â€“ while, curiously, allowing Saddam's crack troops, the aptly-named Republican Guard, to escape unharmed. Later, these troops were used to kill tens of thousands of Shiites who had risen in rebellion against Saddam â€“ at the direct instigation of George Bush, who not only abandoned them to their fate, but specifically allowed Saddam to use his attack helicopters against the rebels, and also ordered US troops to block Shiites from gaining access to arms caches. It was one of the worst, most murderous betrayals in modern history â€“ and has been almost entirely expunged from the American memory.
"Then came the Carthaginian "peace" of the victors â€“ Iraq sown with the salt of sanctions, which led to the unnecessary death of at least 500,000 children, according to UN's conservative estimates."
Now Bush the Son has surpassed the Father in Iraq (while the holy spirit of Archie Roosevelt hovers over the land). More than 650,000 dead in just three and a half years, Iraqi society destroyed, extremists empowered â€“ with American backing â€“ and the United States itself dishonored beyond measuring by officially sanctioned torture and atrocity, mass arrests and imprisonment without charges, the Guernica-like destruction of Fallujah, the still-ongoing (and still-unreported) bombing of civilian areas, and by every other offense instigated and subsumed under what the Nuremberg prosecutors called the "great international crime": a war of aggression.
Bush II and Cheney took office with the full intent to launch such a war, using the broken regime of Saddam Hussein as the springboard for a morally insane scheme of global dominance by an unchallenged and unchallengeable "unipolar" American empire. Cheney began drawing up these plans while still serving as Defense Secretary in the Bush I administration, and they were carefully refined during the Clinton interregnum by a series of interlocking groups and "think tanks," culminating in the now-infamous "Project for a New American Century," founded by Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Jeb Bush and other power players in the world of militarist extremism.
This group, in public letters and weighty "policy documents," openly proclaimed the overwhelming "necessity" of overthrowing Saddam and establishing a strong "military footprint" in the Middle East, as well as planting new U.S. bases all over the world â€“ with a special concentration in Central Asia â€“ embracing the concept of unilateral military action as a cornerstone of national strategy, and increasing military spending by astronomical amounts. All of this was planned, laid out, set down and published months â€“ even years â€“ before the first plane struck the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. Administration insiders like former Treasury Secretary John O'Neill and former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke have confirmed the Bush Faction's early, avid interest in "taking out" Saddam.
Every policy that the Bush-Cheney regime has pursued has grown out of that long pre-existing vision of domination and empire, a vision that has nothing to do with "protecting the American people from terrorism." Almost immediately after 9/11, the Bush Faction began diverting resources and money â€“ often illegally â€“ from the effort to find Osama bin Laden into the desired war with Iraq, as Bush's former top commander, General Tommy Franks, has admitted. Britain's Tony Blair eagerly joined this effort, as the Downing Street memos detail in painful detail.
In fact, Bush and Blair got their first taste of war crime blood in May 2002. That was when they launched a ferocious air war against Iraq, espite the unequivocal ruling by Blairâ€™s own lawyers that such a campaign constituted a clear act of military aggression. As I noted in an article last year:
"The avowed purpose of this bombing campaign â€” openly admitted by U.S. military brass â€” was to destroy Iraqâ€™s defenses in preparation for the long-planned ground assault. It began months before the U.S. Congress gave its rather vague approval for possible military action to enforce the disarming of Iraqâ€™s nonexistent WMD. â€¦The memos reveal that Bush and Blair had already decided on war, during their April 2002 meeting at Bushâ€™s ranch in Crawford. No doubt the two Christian leaders â€” who bray their faith in Jesus at every opportunity â€” knelt in prayer together as they sealed their pact of blood. From that point on, the memos show, Blair and Bush ignored all concerns about legality, all questions about the shaky WMD evidence and the extensive worries of many insiders about the near-total lack of planning for the postwar situation. They sought only to â€œcreate the political conditionsâ€ for war, manufacturing public consent through slick, fear-mongering propaganda and, in the memosâ€™ most famous phrase, by â€œfixing the facts and intelligence around the policyâ€ of aggressionâ€¦.
"Not only were they clearing the path for the coming invasion, but the memos show that the leaders also hoped to provoke Saddam into retaliating, thereby giving them a PR excuse for war: â€œself-defenseâ€ against Iraqi â€œaggression.â€ But Saddam, this â€œraging madmanâ€ lusting to destroy America with his fearsome weapons, did nothing. And here we see how the bombing campaign strips bare the Big Lie that drove the whole enterprise: the supposed threat of Saddamâ€™s WMD. The Crawford knee-benders never would have launched their war if they really believed Saddam might rain anthrax on Jerusalem or slip Osama a plutonium core or gas Coalition troops as they came across the border. They knew, as his lack of response to the air assault proved, that the WMD threat was empty, that Saddam, their former ally, was a broken reed.
"In fact, Saddam spent the months of bombardment frantically offering a virtual surrender: unhindered WMD inspections, free elections under international supervision, support for any U.S. position on Israel-Palestine, vast oil concessions. But these offers, negotiated through back channels with U.S. intelligence and leading neo-conservatives, were spurned by Bush, The New York Times reported in November 2003."
What Bush and Blair wanted was conquest, not disarmament or Iraqi freedom or a damping down of terrorism in the world. They wanted the power and status given to "war leaders" â€“ as George II himself confirmed to a Bush family biographer, Mickey Herskowitz, in 1999. Herskowitz, whose work was too considered too truthful to be used as a propaganda piece in the 2000 campaign â€“ but who has nonetheless remained close to Bush Senior â€“ said Bush was lusting for war long before taking office, as Guerilla News Network reported in 2004:
"He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999," saidâ€¦Herskowitz. "It was on his mind. He said to me: 'One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.' And he said, 'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invadeÂ·.if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."Thus, by his own admission, Bush regards war â€” slaughter, ruin, chaos and terror â€” as the measure of success, the path to greatness. He sees blood as the prime lubricant for his rapacious domestic policies. He uses unprovoked military aggression to achieve his personal and political goals.
This personal psychopathology dovetailed with calculating geopolitical ambitions of Dick Cheney. From the GNN story:
"According to Herskowitz, George W. Bush's beliefs on Iraq were based in part on a notion dating back to the Reagan White House - ascribed in part to now-vice president Dick Cheney, Chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee under Reagan. "Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade."
"Bush's circle of pre-election advisers had a fixation on the political capital that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher collected from the Falklands War. Said Herskowitz: 'They were just absolutely blown away, just enthralled by the scenes of the troops coming back, of the boats, people throwing flowers at [Thatcher] and her getting these standing ovations in Parliament and making these magnificent speeches.'"
Every action that the Bush Faction has taken in regard to Iraq, and to its so-called "War on Terror," has grown out of these plans, schemes and psychological needs that manifested themselves long before 9/11. And every such action has actually increased the danger and virulence of terrorism in the world â€“ not least the state terror that Bush and Cheney have visited upon Iraq, on a scale far surpassing the wildest dreams of bin Laden and his ilk.
None of it, not a single bit of it, has anything whatsoever to do with the security of the American people. It has only to do with the aggrandizement of George Walker Bush, Richard Bruce Cheney, and their courtiers, their corporate cronies, and their fellow feasters on the bodies of the dead.