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Spider's Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq.

By Alan Friedman This article or section resembles a .
Please help [ improve this article] by removing excessive trivia, irrelevant praise and criticism, lists and collections of links that are of .
 Bantam Books Bantam Books is a major U.S. publishing house owned by Random House and is part of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group. It was formed in 1945 by Walter Pitkin, Jr., Sidney B. Kramer, and Ian and Betty Ballantine. . 454 pp. $23.95.

Until August 2, 1990, when Saddam Hussein Saddam Hussein

(born April 28, 1937, Tikrit, Iraq—died Dec. 30, 2006, Baghdad) President of Iraq (1979–2003). He joined the Ba'th Party in 1957. Following participation in a failed attempt to assassinate Iraqi Pres.
 invaded Kuwait, the Bush Administration pursued a policy of constructive engagement toward Iraq. Having tilted to Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war Iran-Iraq War, 1980–88, protracted military conflict between Iran and Iraq. It officially began on Sept. 22, 1980, with an Iraqi land and air invasion of western Iran, although Iraqi spokespersons maintained that Iran had been engaging in artillery attacks on , the U.S. Government viewed Iraq as a bulwark against a fundamentalist revolutionary Iran and Saddam as a predictable if brutal asset.

In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf war Persian Gulf War
 or Gulf War

(1990–91) International conflict triggered by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. Though justified by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein on grounds that Kuwait was historically part of Iraq, the invasion was presumed to be
, Bush Administration officials claimed there had been no alternatives to this policy of befriending Saddam, and they denied allegations of misconduct. As one senior Administration official told me in an interview, "Everybody knew Hussein's reputation, and no one thought he was a potential member of the Kiwanis Club. But could he become a better member of the region? It was worth exploring the possibility, and we didn't have a lot to lose."

Not true; they had a lot to lose, and they did.

The policy of engaging Saddam Hussein must rank as one of the major failures of recent American history. Saddam was not moderated, and he was only strengthened by American aid before the invasion of Kuwait The Invasion of Kuwait, also known as the Iraq-Kuwait War, was a major conflict between the Republic of Iraq and the State of Kuwait which resulted in the 7 month long Iraqi occupation of Kuwait[4] . A brief look at his past behavior would have been enough to bury any hopes that he might become "moderate" or "reasonable," and no one could have seriously believed that he would not lash out lash out

1. to make a sudden verbal or physical attack

2. Informal to spend extravagantly

Verb 1.
 militarily, in the face of intractable economic problems and his own megalomaniac meg·a·lo·ma·ni·a  
1. A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.

2. An obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions.
 ambitions. Yet calculations of American interests in the Middle East led the Reagan and Bush Administrations to ignore reality, avoid hard decisions, and bend over Bend over may refer to the action of bending one's body over, as in to pick up something, or, for example, as the hydra does in order to move when hunting, in dancing (like in the various breakdance moves), gymnastics, and sports (like snap football).  backward to accommodate Saddam Hussein.

When Saddam became the enemy of the U.S. Government, the embarrassing past coziness was downplayed by Bush and company. When U.S. Representative Henry B. Gonzalez Henry Barbosa Gonzalez (May 3, 1916 – November 28, 2000) was a Democratic politician from the state of Texas. He represented Texas's 20th congressional district from 1961 to 1999.

Gonzalez was born in San Antonio, Texas.
 and the banking committee he chairs began asking questions about pre-Gulf war policy toward Iraq, the Bush Administration stonewalled. When Gonzalez, William Safire of The New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
 Times, and others raised allegations of illegal weapons sales, the Bush crowd angrily denied ever having "coddled" Saddam and refused to say more.

When a Justice Department investigation of the Atlanta branch of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Banca Nazionale del Lavoro SpA is an Italian banking firm. Founded in 1913 as Istituto di Credito per la Cooperazione, it was nationalized in 1929. It was re-privatized and listed on the Milan Stock Exchange in 1998, before being acquired by French banking group BNP Paribas  (BNL BNL Brookhaven National Laboratory (Upton, NY)
BNL Bibliothèque Nationale de Luxembourg (French)
BNL Banca Nazionale del Lavoro
BNL Berkeley National Laboratory
BNL Bare Naked Ladies
) uncovered more than $5 billion in loans to Iraq which had been partially underwritten by the Agriculture Department, Bush operatives pleaded ignorance. And when they did that, the media, the Congress, and the Atlanta judge in charge of the BNL case charged them with conspiracy, a conspiracy of illegally aiding Iraq before the war and covering up their crimes after.

One of the leading proponents of conspiracy theory is Alan Friedman, a reporter for the Financial Times who had a part in uncovering the BNL scandal. His book purports to document White House illegalities and attempts at a coverup. It does not. In almost 300 pages of text accompanied by dozens of documents, Friedman does not provide one shard of hard evidence of illegalities or conspiracy.

That is unfortunate, because he does provide compelling evidence of massive stupidity and of a Government guided by Machiavellian calculations of power. He demonstrates, as did Gonzalez in dozens of statements on the floor of Congress, that Reagan and Bush supported Saddam in the face of mounting evidence of Iraqi human-rights abuses, unconventional weapons programs, and a tendency to use those weapons.

Friedman documents shady arms deals involving individuals who were connected with the CIA CIA: see Central Intelligence Agency.

(1) (Confidentiality Integrity Authentication) The three important concerns with regards to information security. Encryption is used to provide confidentiality (privacy, secrecy).
 and shows that these transactions were in line with White House policy. In fact, Friedman provides enough evidence to demand further investigation of the complicity of the Reagan White House in illegal arms deals.

However, after tracing the career of such people as Chilean arms merchant Carlos Cardoen, who sold cluster bombs to Iraq and once met with Robert Gates, he only spends thirty-three of his pages on the pre-Gulf war Bush Administration. Another hundred pages are devoted to the efforts of White House counsel C. Boyden Gray Clayland Boyden Gray, born February 6, 1943, is the United States Ambassador to the European Union. He took that post on January 17, 2006, when President George W. Bush granted him a recess appointment to the post.  and special assistant Nicholas Rostow to evade the questioning of Gonzalez. The fact is that Friedman found no evidence of Bush illegalities prior to the war. He bases his case on circumstantial evidence circumstantial evidence

In law, evidence that is drawn not from direct observation of a fact at issue but from events or circumstances that surround it. If a witness arrives at a crime scene seconds after hearing a gunshot to find someone standing over a corpse and holding a
; because the White House was unwilling to talk, Friedman assumes the Bush crowd was trying to cover up illegalities, especially illegal weapons transfers. However, guilty behavior is not proof of guilt.

It may be that Friedman's allegations are correct, and I agree with his call for an independent prosecutor. He does not demonstrate a compelling motive. The legal policy of guaranteed loans combined with legal arms sales by the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese achieved the aims of the White House. There was thus no reason to arm Iraq illegally, and no motive. As for the subsequent coverup, the prewar policy was deeply flawed and embarrassing to the Bush Administration. Officials' attempts to disguise what they did are as easily explained by the fear of political fallout as by fear of indictments.

In short, while Friedman may be right, he has made a mistake by casting his work as a proof of a "systematic abuse of power." By raising the stakes so high, he and others allow the Bush Administration to duck responsibility for their actions. It is as if a thief had been accused of murder; he is brought to trial and found not guilty. But he gets away with robbery.

Friedman has demonstrated that the Bush Administration was guilty of systemic stupidity, short-sightedness, willful ignorance, and an appalling lack of morality. He goes too far.

But Robert Kaplan does not go nearly far enough. In The Arabists, Kaplan attempts to capture the mindset mind·set or mind-set
1. A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations.

2. An inclination or a habit.
 of those State Department officials in charge of Middle East policy. The term "Arabist" refers to the Middle East hands at State; traditionally, Arabists were diplomats who learned Arabic and immersed themselves in Middle Eastern culture.

Kaplan, a contributing editor at The Atlantic Monthly, has written what is essentially a book of anecdotes within anecdotes, many of them concerning diplomats who were active decades ago. But Arabists of the past interest him because of his belief that "the famous encounter in July 1990 between U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was, in reality, two centuries in the making. Glaspie entered Saddam's lair freighted with the baggage of a venerable Arabist tradition."

Because of this baggage, Kaplan writes, America's Middle East diplomats were anti-Israel and favorably disposed toward Arab governments and in the end to Saddam Hussein himself. It is often difficult to tell what Kaplan thinks of these Arabists; he quotes them liberally without assessing the validity of what they say. For instance, he reports an interview with Joseph Sisco, a former assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs The Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs is the head of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs within the American Department of State. The Assistant Secretary guides operation of the U.S. , saying that Sisco believed "the very breadth, depth, and texture of the Arabists' knowledge of the Arab world . . . worked to immobilize im·mo·bi·lize
1. To render immobile.

2. To fix the position of a joint or fractured limb, as with a splint or cast.

 their analytical thinking." This, we assume, is an explanation for why Glaspie was so conciliatory con·cil·i·ate  
v. con·cil·i·at·ed, con·cil·i·at·ing, con·cil·i·ates
1. To overcome the distrust or animosity of; appease.

 toward Saddam, but is Kaplan accepting Sisco's rationale?

It seems he is, and that is a problem. By placing Arabist culture at the root of American policy toward Iraq, Kaplan makes a determinist argument. He suggests that, because they were blinded by their knowledge and empathy, the Arabists were conditioned to sympathize with Saddam.

Fair enough. But with one exception he has such empathy for them that he fails to hold them responsible for their decisions. The exception is April Glaspie. Kaplan has no trouble blaming Glaspie for the tilt toward Saddam, and he makes snide remarks in support of those who claimed that it was inappropriate for a woman to serve as ambassador to Iraq. Kaplan believes that Glaspie, who was far from the Washington inner circle, exerted significant influence. Such a belief flies in the face of evidence. Glaspie was, like many ambassadors, an instrument of policy, not an architect of it.

There are bound to be many more books on the Gulf war and American policy toward Iraq. One can only hope that future authors will be more careful.

Zachary Karabell is a national-security fellow at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He recently completed a study of U.S. policy toward Iraw before the Gulf war.)
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Author:Karabell, Zachary
Publication:The Progressive
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1994
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