'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, December 08, 2004


So the Dutch police have captured a businessman, Frans van Anraat, who has been on the lam for the past twenty years. Van Anraat is accused of complicity with Saddam Hussein's gas attacks against the Kurds because he served as a middleman facilitating Iraq's acquisition of chemical weapons during the 1980's. Here's a Guardian story about the arrest.

American Leftist is all for trying people who were involved in Saddam Hussein's war crimes but wonders what the point is of targeting such small-timers in the complicity racket. Why not go after the big guys?

The government of the United States of America at the time, for example, was deeply complicit in Hussein's atrocities. See, for example, this Salon piece from last month:

When word first broke in 1983 that Iraq was using mustard gas against Iranian troops, the Reagan administration (after an oral tap on the wrist delivered by then Middle East envoy Donald Rumsfeld) studiously ignored the issue. Saddam, after all, was then the West's de facto partner in a war against the feared fundamentalist regime of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. Saddam's chemical weapons were provided largely by companies in Germany and France. The United States provided him with --among many other things -- vital satellite intelligence on enemy troop positions.

U.S. support for Saddam increased in 1988 when Rick Francona, then an Air Force captain, was dispatched to Baghdad by the Defense Intelligence Agency. His mission: to provide precise targeting plans to the Iraqis to cripple a feared a new Iranian offensive. Shortly after arriving, Francona discovered that the Iraqis were now using even more deadly chemical weapons -- nerve gas -- against the Iranians. He informed his superiors in Washington.

The response, he said, was immediate. "We were told to cease all of our cooperation with the Iraqis until people in Washington were able to sort this out. There were a series of almost daily meetings on 'How are we going to handle this, what are we going to do?' Do we continue our relations with the Iraqis and make sure the Iranians do not win this war, or do we let the Iraqis fight this on their own without any U.S. assistance, and they'll probably lose? So there are your options -- neither one palatable." Francona concluded, "The decision was made that we would restart our relationship with the Iraqis ... We went back to Baghdad, and continued on as before. "

This policy continued even after it was discovered that Saddam was using chemical weapons against his own people, the Kurds of Halabja. Fourteen years later, in March 2003, attempting to justify the coming invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush repeatedly cited the Halabja atrocity. "Whole families died while trying to flee clouds of nerve and mustard agents descending from the sky," he said. "The chemical attack on Halabja provided a glimpse of the crimes Saddam Hussein is willing to commit." But President Bush never explained the assistance that the United States had given Saddam at the time.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?