With Saddam Hussein’s trial to being tomorrow, with the main charge against him being that he ordered the murder of 143 men from the village of Dujail after an attempt to assassination him in 1982, I think a history review will be useful. So, because my friend Hemingway (he actually just looks like Hemingway) advised me to keep my posts brief, here the thumbnail version.
The U. S. government severed diplomatic relations with Iraq following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. In 1979 a popular revolution overthrew the U. S. installed Shah of Iran and a few years later war broke out between Iraq and Iran.
In 1983, with Iran, a much larger country with a much larger population, gaining ground in the Iran-Iraq war, President Reagan dispatched his Middle East envoy, Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad to inform Hussein that the U. S. was prepared to resume diplomatic relations at any time.
According to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, Rumsfeld and Hussein discussed “topics of mutual interest”. Rumsfeld, meanwhile, remarked that Hussein “made it clear that Iraq was not interested in making mischief in the world” and “it struck us as useful to have a relationship given that we were interested in solving the Middle East problems.”
Rumsfeld returned to Baghdad in March 1984 to meet with Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. On March 24, with Rumsfeld still in Baghdad, news reports from the U. N. indicated that “Mustard gas laced with a nerve agent has been used on Iranian soldiers in the 43-month Persian Gulf War between Iran and Iraq, a team of U.N. experts has concluded… Meanwhile, in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, U.S. presidential envoy Donald Rumsfeld held talks with Foreign Minister Tarek Aziz (sic) on the Gulf war before leaving for an unspecified destination.” Before Rumsfeld’s 1984 visit, on March 5, 1984, the U. S. State Department issued a statement saying “available evidence indicates that Iraq has used lethal chemical weapons.”
Subsequent to Rumsfeld’s Baghdad visits Iraq obtained military helicopters from U. S. firms which, according to U. S. intelligence agencies, were used by Iraqi forces to drop chemical weapons on Kurdish civilians. Additionally, Rumsfeld and Cheney facilitated the transfer biological weapon precursors to Iraq from a lab in Maryland; and U. S. intelligence, relating to Iranian troop movements, was passed on to Iraq for use in targeting chemical weapons attacks on the Iranians.
Neither Rumsfeld nor any other Regan administration official ever raised any objections to Iraqi chemical weapons attacks.