By Norman Solomon
Saddam Hussein has received a death sentence for crimes he committed more than a year before Donald Rumsfeld shook his hand in Baghdad. Letâ€™s reach back into history and extract these facts:
* On Dec. 20, 1983, the Washington Post reported that Rumsfeld â€œvisited Iraq in what U.S. officials said was an attempt to bolster the already improving U.S. relations with that country.â€
* Two days later, the New York Times cited a â€œsenior American officialâ€ who â€œsaid that the United States remained ready to establish full diplomatic relations with Iraq and that it was up to the Iraqis.â€
* On March 29, 1984, the Times reported: â€œAmerican diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with relations between Iraq and the United States and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been restored in all but name.â€ Washington had some goodies for Saddamâ€™s regime, the Times account noted, including â€œagricultural-commodity credits totaling $840 million.â€ And while â€œno results of the talks have been announcedâ€ after the Rumsfeld visit to Baghdad three months earlier, â€œWestern European diplomats assume that the United States now exchanges some intelligence on Iran with Iraq.â€
* A few months later, on July 17, 1984, a New York Times article with a Baghdad dateline sketchily filled in a bit more information, saying that the U.S. government â€œgranted Iraq about $2 billion in commodity credits to buy food over the last two years.â€ The story recalled that â€œDonald Rumsfeld, the former Middle East special envoy, held two private meetings with the Iraqi president here,â€ and the dispatch mentioned in passing that â€œState Department human rights reports have been uniformly critical of the Iraqi President, contending that he ran a police state.â€
* Full diplomatic relations between Washington and Baghdad were restored 11 months after Rumsfeldâ€™s December 1983 visit with Saddam -- who went on to use poison gas later in the decade, actions which scarcely harmed relations with the Reagan administration.
* As the most senior U.S. official to visit Iraq in six years, Rumsfeld had served as Reaganâ€™s point man for warming relations with Saddam. In 1984, the administration engineered the sale to Baghdad of 45 ostensibly civilian-use Bell 214ST helicopters. Saddamâ€™s military found them quite useful for attacking Kurdish civilians with poison gas in 1988, according to U.S. intelligence sources. â€œIn response to the gassing,â€ journalist Jeremy Scahill has pointed out, â€œsweeping sanctions were unanimously passed by the U.S. Senate that would have denied Iraq access to most U.S. technology. The measure was killed by the White House.â€
These are facts that the public should know about the current defense secretary of the United States.