After becoming President in January 1989, Prescott Bush's son, George Herbert Walker Bush - father of our current President - authorized a series of programs that not only armed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein but also provided him with technology that assisted in his development of chemical weapons like Sarin gas, and biological weapons, which he still possesses. Apologists for Bush (the elder) say that, after the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s left the region unstable, he was just trying to establish a new balance of power. Not so. Bush directives and policies, including relationships with the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) were directly and deliberately responsible for creating the army the U.S. fought in 1991.
A story by Russ W. Baker, in the March/April issue the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), provided the most compelling overview of Iraqgate that I have seen.
"ABC News Nightline opened last June 9 with words to make the heart stop ÔIt is becoming increasingly clear,' said a grave Ted Koppel, Ôthat George Bush, operating largely behind the scenes throughout the 1980s, initiated and supported much of the financing, intelligence, and military help that built Saddam's Iraq into the aggressive power that the United States ultimately had to destroy...
"Why, then, have some of our top papers provided so little coverage?" Baker poignantly asks.
" The result: readers who neither grasp nor care about the facts behind facile imagery like The Butcher of Baghdad and Operation Desert Storm. In particular, readers who do not follow the story of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, which apparently served as a paymaster for Saddam's arms buildup, and thus became a player in the largest bank-fraud case in U.S. history.
"Complex, challenging, mind-boggling stories (from Iran-Contra to the S&L crisis to BCCI) increasingly define our times: yet we don't appear to be getting any better at telling them...
"Much of what Saddam received from the West was not arms per se, but so-called dual-use technology -- ultra sophisticated computers, armored ambulances, helicopters, chemicals, and the like, with potential civilian uses as well as military applications. We've learned that a vast network of companies, based in the U.S. and abroad, eagerly fed the Iraqi war machine right up until August 1990, when Saddam invaded Kuwait.
"And we've learned that the obscure Atlanta Branch of Italy's largest bank, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, relying partly on U.S. taxpayer-guaranteed loans, funneled $5 billion to Iraq from 1985 to 1989. Some government-backed loans were supposed to be for agricultural purposes, but were used to facilitate the purchase of stronger stuff than wheat. Federal Reserve and Agriculture department memos warned of suspected abuses by Iraq, which apparently took advantage of the loans to free up funds for munitions. U.S. taxpayers have been left holding the bag for what looks like $2 billion in defaulted loans to Iraq.
"... In fact, we now know that in February 1990, then Attorney General Dick Thornburgh [appointed by George H.W. Bush] blocked U.S. investigators from traveling to Rome and Istanbul to pursue the case...
"... As New York Times columnist William Safire argued last December 7, ÔIraqgate is uniquely horrendous: a scandal about the Systematic abuse of power by misguided leaders of three democratic nations [The U.S., Britain, and Italy] to secretly finance the arms buildup of a dictator."
While Democrat Henry Gonzales, Chairman of the House Banking Committee during the period, stood as the lone voice from the wilderness in raising alarms about Bush's obvious corruption, the rest of the Congress sheepishly ignored all the signs demanding immediate action. Gonzales' voice reportedly fell silent after his empty car was machine-gunned in a Washington suburb in what passed for a drive-by shooting.
The CJR continues: "Meanwhile, The Village Voice published a major investigation by free-lancer Murray Waas in its December 18, 1990 issue... "That American troops could be killed or maimed because of a covert decision to arm Iraq,' Waas wrote, "is the most serious consequence of a U.S. foreign policy formulated and executed in secret, without the advice and consent of the American public..."
The L.A. Times, on Feb 23, 1992, dug deep enough to find secret National Security Decision Directives by the Bush Administration in 1989 ordering closer ties with Baghdad and paving the way for $1 billion in new aid. The Times' series, co-authored with Waas, emphasized that, "buried deep in a 1991 Washington Press piece - that Secretary of State James Baker, after meeting with Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz in October 1989, intervened personally to support U.S. government loans guarantees to Iraq."
Baker's CJR report also noted, "On October 3, the [Wall Street] Journal reported [BNL official Christopher] Drogoul's assertion that the director general of Iraq's Ministry of Industry and Military Production had told him, ÔWe are all in this together. The intelligence service of the U.S. government works very closely with the intelligence service of the Iraqi government.' Three weeks later, the Journal reported that [Henry] Gonzales Ôproduced a phone-book-sized packet of documents' showing the involvement of U.S. exporting firms... The documents mentioned one... which designed parts for Iraq's howitzers and was financed through BNL..."
In the wake of highly suspicious anthrax outbreaks in Florida, just miles from where several of the WTC suicides pilots trained, we add one final note. In his 1998 book "Bringing the War Home" author William Thomas writes, " Under that same [weapons transfer] program, 19 containers of Anthrax bacteria were supplied to Iraq in 1988 by the American Type Culture Collection company, located near Fort Detrick, MD, the site of the US Army's high security germ warfare labs."