March 22, 2004

Who's really running the "War on Terrorism"?

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and what are the real reasons the US went to war with Iraq?

Now more than ever, agnosticism is surrounding the Bush administration's policies on the War on Terror and the War in Iraq. Former antiterror adviser to the Bush administration, Richard Clark, recently said in a television interview, Bush ignored signs pointing to the attacks of September 11 and has done a terrible job battling terrorism (CNN article). On January of this year, former Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neill, spoke on his experience in the White House. He voiced criticism on president Bush's decision making process. He characterized president Bush's cabinet meetings as: "like a blind man in a room full of deaf people". He also said, that "from the very beginning there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad man and that going after Saddam was a topic of discussion only days after the inauguration" (CBS article).

What does this small picture inside the Bush White House tells us? The question is certainly lingering in the minds of people as the casualties mount in Iraq. Was the Bush team already bent on going after Saddam, even before getting to the White House? If the decision to bring Saddam's government out of power was directly related to 9/11, what were the real reasons to launch the attack on Iraq? Some journalistic investigative research, reveals, at the very least, interesting links between the Reagan, the Bush senior and the Current administrations. The thread starts in the 80s. To be more precise, December 1983.


It was then that president Reagan appointed Donald Rumsfeld, a former Defense Secretary in the Ford administration and at the time chairman of G. D. Searle -a worldwide pharmaceutical company- as special envoy to the Middle East. He was in an official mission to, among other things, visit with the Iraqi dictator and improve diplomatic relations, which had been damaged as a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The reason that the US government wanted to improve relations with Iraq was the possibility Iran would be gaining an edge on the war and perhaps winning it. But improved diplomatic relations was not all Rumsfeld sought. It turns out that at the time, in San Francisco, a multinational corporation by the name of Bechtel, with extensive ties to the republican foreign policy apparatus, was drawing plans to implement a project to build an alternative oil pipe-line from Iraq through to Aqaba (port city, located in the Red Sea at the most south-western corner of Jordan). Mr. Rumsfeld, in this meeting, talked a great deal about this project and its importance. (see here a transcript of that meeting)

The Reagan administration, to say the least, had close ties with Bechtel corporation. George Schulz, Reagan's Secretary of State came directly from the board of directors of Bechtel corporation as well as Caspar Weinberger, the then Secretary of Defense. The success of the project was a major goal for the Reagan administration. It met at least two objectives. One was to fulfill the long standing US policy to keep the flow of oil to the west free of interruptions. The other one, was to secure the contract to build an alternative pipeline through Aqaba. However, Saddam had his own reservations. He thought that such a project was a risk of being attacked by the Israelis. So, in the end he decided against the project.

By mid 1984, the newly improved relations with Iraq, had somewhat deteriorated (see here). Days before Rumsfeld's second visit to Baghdad in March 1984, the US government had publicly condemned Iraq's chemical weapons use, which had been going on since 1982 with the full knowledge of the US government. Rumsfeld went back empty handed, except for an increased mutual animosity.

Despite hardships in the US-Iraq relationship, the US government kept supporting and selling weapons to the Iraqi dictator. Among the aid, Saddam received, government secured loans, military ammunition, a contract with Bechtel to construct chemical plants and chemical weapons like Anthrax and bubonic pest.

So what do we make of these interesting facts? Most probably, they will stay as speculation, at least until more secret documents are released and made available to the public. However, it would be fair to ask, who are the real bosses directing the War on Terror and the War in Iraq from Washington, DC? What is the real role of people like Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Cheney and the board members of Halliburton and Bechtel corporations?

It is also interesting to point out that the people who argued for the Iraq war saying that Saddam possessed chemical weapons of mass destruction and thus he should be disarmed at all costs, are the same people that in the 80s were, first supplying Saddam with those weapons and second, when reports came that Saddam was using those weapons in violation of international law, did nothing to stop him.

GWU- National Security Archives
Online magazines: Counterpunch, Poe-News, tompaine, CNN, CBS.