Friday, July 27, 2007

From Robert Fisks's The Great War for Civilization: Two excerpts on Rumsfeld and Saddam

In a comment thread at Annamarie's blog, I had the opportunity to transcribe from Robert Fisk's The Great War for Civilization as the discussion had evolved into one on the hypocrisy of the US's approach to Saddam Hussein over the years. I am publishing it here, because I think it's important that any transcription from this splendid book should be put online.

This is how I introduced it:

My enemy of my enemy is my friend is a cop-out, especially when you know that your enemy of your enemy is partaking in grave human rights violations. The intellectually bankruptcy is rather apparent on the part of those who ignored rave human rights violations in the 80s, and then condemned later on when it was convenient for them. I am transcribing the following from the Great War for Civilization by Robert Fisk.
And here is the transcription:
Throughout the early years of Saddam's rule, there were journalists who told the truth about his regime while governments -- for financial, trade and economic reasons -- preferred to remain largely silent. Yet those of us who opposed the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq in 2003 were quickly accused of being Saddam's 'spokesman' or, in my case, 'supporting the maintenance of the Baathist regime' -- this from, of all people, Richard Perle, one of the prime instigators of the whole disastrous war, whose friend Donald Rumsfeld was befriending Saddam in 1983. Two years later Rumsfeld's initial approach to the Iraqi leader -- followed up within months by a meeting with Tariq Aziz -- I was reporting on Saddam's gang-rape and torture in Iraq prisons. On 31 July, Wahbi Al-Qaraghuli, the Iraqi ambassador in London, complained to William Rees-Mogg, the Times Editor, that:
Robert Fisk's extremely one-sided article ignores the tremendous advances made by Iraq in the fields of social welfare, education, agricultural development, urban improvement and women's suffrage;and he claims, without presenting any evidence to support such an accusation, that 'Saddam himself imposes a truly terrorist regime on his own people.' Especially outrageous is the statement that: 'Suspected critics of the regime have been imprisoned at Abu Ghoraib (sic) jail and forced to watch their wives being gang-raped by Saddam's security me. Some prisoner's have had to witness their children being tortured in from of them.' It is utterly reprehensible that some journalists are quite prepared, without any supporting collaboration, to repeat wild, unfounded allegations about countries, such as Iraq...
'Extremely one-sided,' 'without presenting any evidence,' 'outrageous,' 'utterly reprehensible,' 'wild, unfounded allegations': these were the very same expressions used by the Americans and the British almost twenty years later about reports by myself or my colleagues which catalogued the illegal invasion of Iraq and its disastrous consequences. In February 1986, I was refused a visa to Baghadad on the grounds that 'another visit by Mr. Fisk to Iraq would lend undue credibility to his reports.' Indeed it would.

So for all these years -- until his invasion of Kuwait in 1990 -- we in the West tolerated Saddam's cruelty, his oppression and torture, his war crimes and mass murder. After all, we helped to create him. The CIA gave locations of communist cadres to the first Baathist government, information that was used to arrest, torture and execute hundreds of Iraqi men. And the closer Saddam came to war with Iraq, the greater his fear of his own Shia population, the more we helped him. In the pageant of hate figures that Western governments and journalists have helped to stage in the middle East -- peopled by Nasser, Ghadafi, Abu Nidal and, at one point, Yassir Arafat -- Ayatollah Khomeini was our bogeyman of the early 1980s, the troublesome priest who wanted to Islamicise the world, whose stated intention was to spread his revolution. Saddam, far from being a dictator, thus became, on the Associated Press news wires, for example -- 'a strongman.' He was our bastion -- and the Arab world's bastion -- against Islamic 'extremism.' Even after the Israelis bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, our support for Saddam did on waver. Nor did we respond to Saddam's clear intention of driving his country to war with Iran. The signs of impending conflict were everywhere. Even Shapour Bakhitiar, the Shah's last prime minister, was helping to stoke opposition to Khomeni from Iraq, as I discovered when I visited him in his wealthy -- but dangerous -- Paris exile in August 1980.
Here is another passage from Fisk's book:
What we had to forget if we were to support this madness, needless to say, was that President Ronald Reason dispatched a special envoy to meet Saddam Hussein in December 1983. It was essential to forget this for three reasons. First, because the awful Saddam was already using gas against the Iranians --which was one of the reasons we were now supposed to go to war with him. Second, because the envoy was sent to Iraq to arrange the re-opening of the US embassy -- in order to secure better trade and economic relations with the Butcher of Baghdad. And third, because the envoy was Donald Rumsfeld. One might have thought it strange, in the course of his folksy press conference, that Rumsfeld hadn't chatted to use about this interesting tit-bit. You might think he would wish to enlighten us about the evil nature of the criminal with whom he so warmly shook hands. But no. Until questioned much later about whether he warned Saddam against the use of gas -- he claimed he did, but this proved to be untrue -- Rumsfeld was silent. As he was about his subsequent and equally friendly meeting with Tariq Aziz -- which just happened to take place on the day in March 1984 that the UN released its damning report on Saddam's use of poison gas against Iran.