Monday, December 15, 2003

Saddam taken alive

It is ironic that the two most notorious American parasite corporations engaged in the looting of Iraq, Halliburton and Bechtel, each have connections to both the Bush Administration and to Saddam Hussein's regime. Donald Rumsfeld was sent by Reagan to Iraq in order to facilitate the building of an oil pipeline from Iraq through Jordan by Bechtel. While Reagan Administration officials publicly complained about Saddam's use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war, officials including Rumsfeld were trying to lobby with Saddam to aid Bechtel in getting the contact to build the pipeline (Saddam eventually rejected the Bechtel plan as they were grossly overcharging him, proving that some things never change). Dick Cheney's story is even better. While Cheney was running Halliburton, he used European subsidiaries of Halliburton to enter into contracts with Saddam, thus getting around the stated American policy of not dealing with Iraq (a policy largely developed by Cheney when he was in government). When asked about the issue, Cheney outright lied (or here), and claimed that he had imposed a 'firm policy' against trading with Iraq. Human rights abuses and weapons of mass destruction which caused no concern for either Rumsfeld or Cheney in the 1980's and 1990's suddenly became important in 2002 and 2003, when the Bush Administration was fishing for excuses for a war. Of course, while Rumsfeld and Cheney have the most obvious questions to answer about American dealings with Saddam, there is a huge mostly undocumented history of American corporate dealings with Iraq to supply the equipment to make weapons of mass destruction. We now know, from the evidence of Iraqi scientists, that Saddam destroyed most or all of this stuff in the 1990's in fear of being discovered by UN arms inspectors, but it is not a joke to suggest that American assertions of Saddam's possession of such weapons was based in part on the fact that the American government was aware that American corporations had supplied such equipment to the Iraqis ('we know he has WMD's because we still have the receipts'). On top of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the weapons of mass destruction, other American sensitive points on recent Iraqi history concern the way Saddam was tricked into the Gulf War by April Glaspie, and the whole sordid history of the CIA's role in installing and supporting Saddam over the years. Saddam can give very interesting testimony about all of this (he has already denied he had weapons of mass destruction), which raises the obvious question: why was Saddam taken alive? The American military spent a considerable amount of time firing tank shells into the house in which Saddam's sons were holed up, making it absolutely certain that no one in the house was intended to be able to give embarrassing testimony. Saddam has presumably even more interesting things to say, and is motivated by anger at what he sees as the hypocrisy and bad faith of the Americans who supported him over the years and then turned on him so they could loot his country and support Sharon's policies in Israel. It would have been easy to say he resisted capture and was killed in a gun fight. I wonder whether Saddam was taken alive as part of the battle that is playing out in Washington between the neocons and the 'old school' Republicans around Bush's father. Saddam's testimony would destroy Cheney, Rumsfeld and the neocons. With Saddam alive in control of army officers sympathetic to the old-schoolers, the neocons can be forced into retreat. In particular, they can be forced to concede that the United States has to get out of Iraq for Bush to be reelected. Cheney may discover that his alleged heart isn't up to another election campaign, Rumsfeld is already a dead man walking after Rice redefined his role in Iraq without telling him and could be eased out, and the Wolfowitz-Feith-Cambone-Bolton crowd may suddenly find the private sector beckoning. It is possible that Saddam will never be allowed to testify, but as long as he is alive he represents a lever over Cheney and the neocons.