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PNAC member of the week: Donald H. Rumsfeld

1-17-04

  Donald H. Rumsfeld was sworn in as the 21st Secretary of Defense on January 20, 2001. Before assuming his present post, the former Navy pilot had also served as the 13th Secretary of Defense, White House Chief of Staff, U.S. Ambassador to NATO, U.S. Congressman and chief executive officer of two Fortune 500 companies. But most importantly, he was a wrestling champion at Princeton famous for using the fireman's carry as his finishing move. (1) (4) Legend has it that Henry Kissinger describes Rumsfeld as "the most ruthless man he ever met."
  He came to Washington, DC in 1957, during the Eisenhower Administration. Ironically, it was Eisenhower who warned us about the military industrial complex taking over our government. One has to wonder if it wasn't young Rumsfeld and his pals that Ike was warning us about. As a director for Gulfstream Aerospace, his stock in the company reportedly was valued at $11 million when the company was acquired by defense contractor General Dynamics in 1999. But Rumsfeld has scrupulously avoided any direct dealings with defense companies, either serving on boards or purchasing stock, apparently to avoid the appearance of impropriety in case he was asked to fill a defense department post again. (3)

  Five years before Saddam Hussein’s now infamous 1988 gassing of the Kurds, a key meeting took place in Baghdad that would play a significant role in forging close ties between Saddam Hussein and Washington. It happened at a time when Saddam was first alleged to have used chemical weapons. The meeting in late December 1983 paved the way for an official restoration of relations between Iraq and the US, which had been severed since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

With the Iran-Iraq war escalating, President Ronald Reagan dispatched his Middle East envoy, a former secretary of defense, to Baghdad with a hand-written letter to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and a message that Washington was willing at any moment to resume diplomatic relations.

That envoy was Donald Rumsfeld.

Throughout the period that Rumsfeld was Reagan’s Middle East envoy, Iraq was frantically purchasing hardware from American firms, empowered by the White House to sell. The buying frenzy began immediately after Iraq was removed from the list of alleged sponsors of terrorism at the Whitehouse's behest in 1982. According to a February 13, 1991 Los Angeles Times article:

“First on Hussein's shopping list was helicopters -- he bought 60 Hughes helicopters and trainers with little notice. However, a second order of 10 twin-engine Bell "Huey" helicopters, like those used to carry combat troops in Vietnam, prompted congressional opposition in August, 1983... Nonetheless, the sale was approved.”

In 1984, according to The LA Times, the State Department—in the name of “increased American penetration of the extremely competitive civilian aircraft market”—pushed through the sale of 45 Bell 214ST helicopters to Iraq. The helicopters, worth some $200 million, were originally designed for military purposes. The New York Times later reported that Saddam “transferred many, if not all [of these helicopters] to his military.”

In 1988, Saddam’s forces attacked Kurdish civilians with poisonous gas from Iraqi helicopters and planes. U.S. intelligence sources told The LA Times in 1991, they “believe that the American-built helicopters were among those dropping the deadly bombs.”

In response to the gassing, sweeping sanctions were unanimously passed by the US Senate that would have denied Iraq access to most US technology. The measure was killed by the republican White House.  (2)
 
 
As a result of the openings created by Rumsfeld's diplomatic triumphs, U.S. companies were recruited and encouraged, both covertly and overtly, to ship poisonous chemicals and biological agents to Iraq, by the administrations of both Reagan and George Bush Sr. Care packages to Saddam included sample strains of anthrax and bubonic plague, and components which would be used to develop nerve poisons like sarin gas and ricin. That's where Rummy's connections to major pharmaceutical and technology companies came into play. (4)
 
 
13 Aug 1996 Tom Brokaw, taped from a satellite transmission that he did not know was being broadcast announces to the world "Rummy [Donald Rumsfeld] used to get even with guys in the White House by leaking stuff to [Dan] Rather that didn't have any basis in fact."
 
The Bechtel connection:

Bechtel has long been intertwined with Republican foreign policymakers, globally and in Iraq. It turns out that many of today's war hawks spent a couple years in the 1980s trying to get Saddam to sign an oil pipeline contract. Even though Saddam was gassing Iranians at the same time, people like Donald Rumsfeld had some quality face-time with the "evil dictator" pitching a plan that would benefit, beyond all other interests, Bechtel -- and, potentially, Hussein.

Rumsfeld flew to Baghdad, twice, as Reagan's special envoy. According to newly-available documents, a lot of his business was nothing more than advancing Bechtel's business. Following a script crafted by then-Secretary of State George Shultz -- who went directly from the CEO seat at Bechtel into the Reagan team -- he pitched the idea of building an oil pipeline from Iraq to Jordan in December 1983.

But it was all for naught. Two years after Rumsfeld broached the plan with Saddam, the dictator finally rejected Bechtel's proposal. He found better pipeline deals involving Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and thought the U.S. company doubled the actual construction cost.

While this signaled the end of U.S.-Iraqi oil diplomacy, the Reagan and first Bush administrations settled into a constructive engagement routine with Saddam. Bechtel signed contracts with Saddam in 1988, after "Chemical Ali" gassed thousands of Kurds, to build a huge dual-use chemical plant on the outskirts of Baghdad. Saddam named Bechtel as one of the corporate suppliers of technology for chemical weapons in its U.N. declaration last year. Construction stopped only after Saddam's troops invaded Kuwait, and his police held Bechtel employees in confinement. The last Bechtel employee left Iraq in December 1990. (5)

You know the rest.

 

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