US Supported Iraq’s Use of Chemical Weapons, Even As It Inches to War With Syria on Lesser Allegations

John Glaser, August 26, 2013

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The calls for U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war are growing louder and louder amidst allegations that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, killing hundreds of people. The use of chemical weapons is beyond the pale, we’re told, and must be met with force to show Assad and the world that it is unacceptable.

But it’s important to remember that Washington doesn’t view the use of chemical weapons as unacceptable always and everywhere. The U.S. supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in its war against Iran throughout the 1980s, even as they knew Saddam was deploying chemical weapons on a scale far more devastating than anything seen in Syria to date. Indeed, it isn’t enough to say that we supported Hussein while he was deploying chemical weapons; we supplied him with intelligence about what Iranian targets to hit with the expectation that he would attack with chemical weapons. We then proceeded to block Iranian attempts to bring a case against Iraq to the United Nations.

Foreign Policy:

In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq’s war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein’s military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent.

The intelligence included imagery and maps about Iranian troop movements, as well as the locations of Iranian logistics facilities and details about Iranian air defenses. The Iraqis used mustard gas and sarin prior to four major offensives in early 1988 that relied on U.S. satellite imagery, maps, and other intelligence. These attacks helped to tilt the war in Iraq’s favor and bring Iran to the negotiating table, and they ensured that the Reagan administration’s long-standing policy of securing an Iraqi victory would succeed. But they were also the last in a series of chemical strikes stretching back several years that the Reagan administration knew about and didn’t disclose.

U.S. officials have long denied acquiescing to Iraqi chemical attacks, insisting that Hussein’s government never announced he was going to use the weapons. But retired Air Force Col. Rick Francona, who was a military attaché in Baghdad during the 1988 strikes, paints a different picture.

“The Iraqis never told us that they intended to use nerve gas. They didn’t have to. We already knew,” he told Foreign Policy.

According to recently declassified CIA documents and interviews with former intelligence officials like Francona, the U.S. had firm evidence of Iraqi chemical attacks beginning in 1983. At the time, Iran was publicly alleging that illegal chemical attacks were carried out on its forces, and was building a case to present to the United Nations. But it lacked the evidence implicating Iraq, much of which was contained in top secret reports and memoranda sent to the most senior intelligence officials in the U.S. government.

Foreign Policy presents the information here as an exclusive revelation not known before. But Francona spoke to the press about this as far back as 2002. The Guardian reported then that not only did the U.S. know about Iraq’s “daily” use of chemical weapons, but it even supplied Hussein with “vital ingredients for chemical weapons.”

The US provided [Iraq] less conventional military equipment than British or German companies but it did allow the export of biological agents, including anthrax; vital ingredients for chemical weapons; and cluster bombs sold by a CIA front organisation in Chile, the report says.

Intelligence on Iranian troop movements was provided, despite detailed knowledge of Iraq’s use of nerve gas.

Rick Francona, an ex-army intelligence lieutenant-colonel who served in the US embassy in Baghdad in 1987 and 1988, told the Guardian: “We believed the Iraqis were using mustard gas all through the war, but that was not as sinister as nerve gas.

“They started using tabun [a nerve gas] as early as ’83 or ’84, but in a very limited way. They were probably figuring out how to use it. And in ’88, they developed sarin.”

On November 1 1983, the secretary of state, George Shultz, was passed intelligence reports of “almost daily use of CW [chemical weapons]” by Iraq.

Beyond the historical hypocrisy on this issue, there are other indications readily available that suggest the excitement over chemical weapons use in Syria isn’t entirely rational or honest. To begin with, the estimates for total number of dead in the Syrian war go as high as 100,000. The current allegations are that 355 people were killed by the Syrian military’s use of chemical weapons. How does it make sense to inch towards all out war on the basis of .003 percent of the total deaths in the war?

I tried to explain that and other things in my latest piece at The Washington Times, in which I argued that chemical weapons use in Syria should do nothing to alter the case for U.S. intervention. The truth is, a U.S. intervention would almost certainly be worse, from a humanitarian and strategic perspective, than if the latest allegations are confirmed.

That’s still the case, and the American people agree. “Americans strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Syria’s civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict even if reports that Syria’s government used deadly chemicals to attack civilians are confirmed,” Reuters reports using data from a recent poll (emphasis mine).




19 Responses to “US Supported Iraq’s Use of Chemical Weapons, Even As It Inches to War With Syria on Lesser Allegations”

  1. We know it was the mercenary terrorists who used the poison gasses in Syria…NOT the Syrian Arab Army.

    Look at INTERESTS idiots… The US (along with AW.C, among others) has created the INCENTIVE for the mercenary terrorists to use chemical weapons…and to continue to use them…

    Stop blaming the victim Antiwar… This is sick!

  2. [...] Print This | Share This | Send a letter to the editor | Letters | Antiwar Forum [...]

  3. [...] US Supported Iraq’s Use of Chemical Weapons, Even As It Inches to War With Syria on Lesser All… (antiwar.com) [...]

  4. Anybody else find it ironic that these "facts" where "leaked" just in time to create some kind of a counter to the otherwise reasonable expectations for military response in Syria? America never green lighted a chemical attack. This is speculative at best. People that supported bringing Hussien to justice did so based on his use of Chemical Weapons. America was never in favor of this. Not when it happened, not when we brought Sadam to justice for it, and not when other nations are doing it despite fair warning.

  5. Your percentage calculation is wrong.

  6. .355%

  7. US hypocrisy over chemical weapons

    We might all agree with Secretary of State John Kerry that anyone using chemical weapons against civilians is committing a “moral obscenity” that “should shock the conscience of the world.”

    However, it would be hypocrisy for the US to use this as an excuse to bomb Syria. The sad truth is that US politicians of all major parties, and the Pentagon, and the State Department, and the rest of the USA war machine can all rely on the ignorance of Americans when it comes to denouncing Syria’s possible use of chemical weapons. Why? Because the American (and by extension Canadian) population has never been told the truth by the dominant US media about US governments’ support for and use of chemical weapons in Iraq or elsewhere.

    The weapons used by the US in Iraq against civilian populations included White Phosphorous, Napalm and depleted Uranium. The horrors inflicted by these weapons have been documented by a number of sources including the seasoned Independent reporter Robert Fisk – in particular he noted the deformities inflicted on the children of Fallujah born since the US attack on that city.

    Nor has the US media highlighted US support of Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against Iran during the Iraq-Iran war — weapons that included nerve gas on targets identified by US intelligence. Or for that matter has the media explained how or why US sources supplied anthrax and biological weapons information to Saddam.

    The story of the US use of chemical weapons goes back much further of course, with the best known post WW2 examples being the extensive use of Napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam – the US has never offered to “clean up” or compensate Vietnam for this outrage and the country still suffers from chemical pollution and unspent ordinance even today with many people still crippled and deformed by these pollutants.

    The answer to the situation in Syria is not more war, not US bombing — nor even the supply of weapons to the rebels via the most democratic and human rights-conscious countries of Saudi Arabia and the gulf states – but the hard grind of diplomacy and compromise that recognizes the interests of all Middle Eastern parties and favours no sect or particular interest. The US and those allies involved in Iraq and Afghanistan should probably stay out of it as they all have enough blood on their hands. This difficult diplomatic task could perhaps be entrusted to non-aligned countries such as Brazil, Argentina, South Africa or Finland.

  8. Of course you don t know ! How can you be sure of that? The attack was made against to one zone controled by rebelds, and only experts in one organized army know how to use it ! Believe what a stupid Russian said, tha the gas was launched by a home made rocket is absurd and funny. ! I am a Portuguese guy and i know very well the arabes, because i worked as engenieer in Syria. To kill one person for one arabe is the same that drink one glass og water……..of course was the Syrian army that attacked with gas, and will do agian if necessary. Assad's father already killed around 40 thound people in his regime….so for them is a normal act ….they are barbarians !!

  9. Back in 2002, Bush made the case for going to war in Iraq in order to secure WMD's. It was
    stated very firmly that there were satellite images of military convoys of material being transported. Now in 2013, more than 10 years later, either the US Intelligence, DHS, NSA spying, massive deployments of drones and the Patriot Act under Obama's tenure has been so incompetent and misguided that Syria's Government was able to develop and deploy military grade Chemical Weapons without US knowledge until after they were used or we're being lied to…

  10. [...] committed clear cut war crimes with total impunity. But while U.S. foreign policy is rotten and hypocritical to its core, the fact that Washington repeatedly claims to enforce international law by violating [...]

  11. US, Canadian, NATO, Israeli, Saudi manufacture, arming, supply, financing of foreign mercenaries (over 50% of supposed rebel forces), delivery of Sarin Nerve Gas & the media's False-Flag cover-up. We've a case of 'Intellectual-Cowardess', for western aligned nations whose economies are committed to war, but don't know how to engage supposed enemies in equal-time, recorded & published formal dialogues.
    Here's a compilation of sources for those who believe in looking at both-sides & truly want peace. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/e
    There are Dialectic ('both-sided') equal-time, recorded & published dialogue approaches which must become de rigeur in human relations as all humanity understood during our 100s of 1000s of years of 'indigenous' (Latin 'self-generating') peace & prosperity. We need to create a culture of dialectic rights in every home, school, company, institution, law & government with processes for every person having the right to challenge events & structures through dialogue. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/s

  12. [...] See full article here [...]

  13. [...] Irony… [...]

  14. [...] Syria and use it as a pretext for intervention, they fail to come to grips with the fact that the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as it unleashed chemical weapons attacks on tens of thousands of Iranians in the 1980s. They fail [...]

  15. [...] Syria and cite it as a pretext for intervention, they fail to come to grips with the fact that the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as it unleashed chemical weapons attacks on tens of thousands of Iranians in the 1980s. They fail [...]

  16. [...] US Supported Iraq’s Use of Chemical Weapons, Even As It Inches to War With Syria on Lesser All… (antiwar.com) [...]

  17. [...] Syria and cite it as a pretext for intervention, they fail to come to grips with the fact that the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as it unleashed chemical weapons attacks on tens of thousands of Iranians in the 1980s. They fail [...]

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  19. I am very happy that America return their army back from and everybody was worried about the war. In Syria Government should take action for those people who use the chemical weapons. This kind of war down the economy of the world and in result inflation rate is increase.