Most of us have seen the picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam in the mid-1980s, but my recollections of the extent of Republican support for Saddam at that time have always been a bit cloudy.
This piece by Peter Galbraith, a former US ambassador to Croatia, gives chapter and verse.
Here’s the money quote:
On Aug. 25, 1988 — five days after the Iran-Iraq War ended — Iraq attacked 48 Kurdish villages more than 100 miles from Iran. Within days, the US Senate passed legislation, sponsored by Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island, to end US financial support for Hussein and to impose trade sanctions. To enhance the prospects that Reagan would sign his legislation, Pell sent me to Eastern Turkey to interview Kurdish survivors who had fled across the border. As it turned out, the Reagan administration agreed that Iraq had gassed the Kurds, but strongly opposed sanctions, or even cutting off financial assistance. Colin Powell, then the national security adviser, coordinated the Reagan administration’s opposition.
The Pell bill died at the end of the congressional session in 1988, in spite of heroic efforts by Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts to force it through by holding up a raft of administration nominations.
The next year, President George H.W. Bush’s administration actually doubled US financial credits for Iraq. A week before Hussein invaded Kuwait, the administration vociferously opposed legislation that would have conditioned US assistance to Iraq on a commitment not to use chemical weapons and to stop the genocide against the Kurds. At the time, Dick Cheney, now vice president, was secretary of defense and a statutory member of the National Security Council that reviewed Iraq policy. By all accounts, he supported the administration’s appeasement policy.
I haven’t checked the claims here, and perhaps supporters of the current administration can find some extenuating circumstances. But on all the evidence, Saddam shouldn’t be alone in the dock in Baghdad today.*
* Of course, plenty of others in France, Russia and elsewhere were just as complicit as Rumsfeld, Cheney, Powell and the rest of the Republicans. And the Australian government, through AWB, was double-dealing with Saddam right up to the invasion. They stand condemned too.