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Rumsfeld's Iraq overture.

ITEM: A headline in the December 19, 2003 Washington Post proclaimed: "Rumsfeld Visited Baghdad in 1984 To Reassure Iraqis, Documents Show." A very telling subtitle added: "Trip Followed Criticism of Chemical Arms' Use." The article began:
 Donald H. Rumsfeld went to Baghdad
 in March 1984 with instructions to
 deliver a private message about
 weapons of mass destruction: that the
 United States' public criticism of Iraq
 for using chemical weapons would
 not derail Washington's attempts to
 forge a better relationship, according
 to newly declassified documents.

ITEM: The New York Times for December 23, 2003 published a similar story, headlined "Rumsfeld Made Iraq Overture in '84 Despite Chemical Raids." The story stated:
 As a special envoy for the Reagan administration
 in 1984, Donald H.
 Rumsfeld, now the defense secretary,
 traveled to Iraq to persuade officials
 there that the United States was eager
 to improve ties with President Saddam
 Hussein despite his use of chemical
 weapons, newly declassified documents
 show.... During [the Iran-Iraq]
 war, the United States secretly provided
 Iraq with combat planning assistance,
 even after Mr. Hussein's use
 of chemical weapons was widely

AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Shortly before Christmas 2003, the nation's "prestige press" were all atwitter about supposedly new information concerning Donald Rumsfeld's 1984 trip to Baghdad as a special envoy of Secretary of State George Shultz and President Reagan. More recent subscribers to this magazine are most likely unaware (and veteran readers may have forgotten) that we have covered this issue several times over the years--and have provided considerably more detail and context than the recent stories about the new "revelations."

In a March 30, 1998 article, "Arming Saddam," for instance, senior editor William Norman Grigg reported:
 In fact, secret deals had been struck
 between Iraq and the U.S. foreign
 policy establishment in 1983. Even as
 the Soviets were nurturing Iraq's embryonic
 chemical and biological
 weapons program, the U.S. State Department
 was making its own overtures
 to Saddam. With the help of an
 obscure U.S. Department of Agriculture
 program, an equally obscure Atlanta
 branch of an Italian bank, and
 the involuntary assistance of the U.S.
 taxpayers, the foreign policy establishment
 helped Saddam build his
 war machine, including his weapons
 of mass destruction.

 In 1982, as a prelude to the U.S.
 "tilt" toward Iraq in its war with Iran,
 the State Department dropped Iraq
 from its list of states that sponsor terrorism.
 As Alan Friedman points out
 in his expose Spider's Web, this move
 meant that "Baghdad would now be
 eligible for American government
 loan guarantees" and that covert operatives
 in the U.S. intelligence community
 "now had political cover to go
 ahead with their plans to provide U.S.
 equipment to Iraq, albeit by way of
 unofficial channels."

 On December 17, 1983--shortly
 after the Soviets had agreed to help
 build Saddam's CBW capacity--presidential
 envoy Donald Rumsfeld
 visited Baghdad bearing a handwritten
 letter from President Reagan to
 Saddam. "In it Reagan offered to
 renew diplomatic relations and to expand
 military and business ties with
 Baghdad," reports Friedman. Shortly
 thereafter the U.S. began to extend
 taxpayer-backed loan guarantees to
 Iraq. In 1984, for example, the U.S.
 Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) extended
 a $500 million loan guarantee
 to Iraq to build the Aqaba oil pipeline
 --a project that enjoyed the personal
 attention of then-Vice President
 George Bush.

 But Eximbank subsidies were too
 visible to serve as a means of underwriting
 Iraq's war machine. So the
 foreign policy establishment selected
 an obscure Agriculture Department
 program known as the Commodity
 Credit Corporation (CCC). "As relations
 between the United States and
 Iraq began to thaw in 1983 and 1984,
 the White House sliced Iraq a giant
 piece of the CCC pie," explains Peter
 Mantius in his book Shell Game. "Between
 1983 and early 1990, Iraq received
 $4.98 billion in farm loan
 guarantees from the CCC." Iraq is almost
 entirely dependent upon agricultural
 imports, and its war with Iran
 exacerbated this dependency. As Judith
 Miller and Laurie Mylroie point
 out, "The CCC credits were important
 to an increasingly cash-starved
 [Iraq]. Under the program, Baghdad
 had three years to repay the loans, and
 if Iraq defaulted, the U.S. government
 would be obligated to pay off the debt
 itself"--by extorting the requisite
 sum from the taxpayers, of course.

In an October 21, 2002 article entitled "Building the Beast of Baghdad," Mr. Grigg again reported on Rumsfeld's Baghdad mission. "The foreign aid floodgates opened for Iraq shortly after Rumsfeld's December 1983 visit to Baghdad," he noted. "In 1984, the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) provided a $500 million loan guarantee to Iraq to build the Aqaba oil pipeline, a project that earned the personal attention of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. But even more prodigious amounts of aid flowed from Washington to Baghdad via the Agriculture Department's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC)...."
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Title Annotation:Ahead Of The Curve
Author:Jasper, William F.
Publication:The New American
Date:Jan 26, 2004
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