When the U.S. Rescued Saddam

Against the Current, No. 74, May/June 1998

Stanley Heller

SADDAM HUSSEIN’S GREATEST crime was the invasion of Iran in 1980. The resulting war left an estimated million dead and 1.7 million wounded.

When the war went badly for Saddam and Iranians drove out his troops and attacked Iraq, the noble nations of the West and the peace-loving monarchies of the Gulf aided Hussein. With weapons and loans they helped the “Butcher of Baghdad” in his hour of need. When the war ended Saddam retained some of the land he had conquered.

That’s old history, of course, and nothing is more irrelevant than yesterday’s news. But when the Clintons and Albrights talk about Saddam as evil incarnate, let us remind them that the U.S. government [then] didn’t demand from Iraq that Saddam step down, or that Iraq offer to pay compensation or forswear future attacks on Iran.

The Dirty Details

Our satellite reconnaissance photos of Iranian troop positions were given to Iraq. We sold Saddam jeeps, helicopters and Lockheed L-100 transports. There’s also the matter of $1 billion in agricultural credits. We also looked the other way as the French sold him Mirage jets and the German government supplied him the chemicals to make poison gas. And we said nothing when the Kuwaitis and Saudis loaned him $100 billion.

Last and certainly not least was direct military interference. Saddam started the “tanker wars” and the U.S. government immediately stuck its nose in supposedly to assure the “safety of international shipping.”

Somehow we were only concerned with Iran. We reflagged Kuwaiti ships as our own and dared Khomeini [the Iranian religious dictator—ed.] to sink them.

When Saddam’s jets killed 37 sailors on the U.S.S. Stark it was all immediately forgiven. In contrast, Iranian ships and airplanes were treated with the utmost suspicion.

In 1988 the U.S. Vincennes blew up an Iranian civilian airliner, killing hundreds. Our government said it was an accident, but at the very least it was negligent homicide. A nearby navy captain said the Vincennes was nicknamed “Robocruiser” for its aggressive behavior.

The United States didn’t call Saddam a Hitler or a madman in the 1980s. Ronald Reagan didn’t raise an eyebrow when Hussein gassed Iraqi Kurds.

The State Department knew who they were helping when they saved his behind. It has no right to complain about him now.

ATC 74, May-June 1998