- (Note - This four year old article contains extremely
relevant information for today...)
- The United States almost went to war against Iraq in
February because of Saddam Hussein's weapons program. In his State of the
Union address, President Clinton castigated Hussein for "developing
nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them."
- "You cannot defy the will of the world," the
President proclaimed. "You have used weapons of mass destruction before.
We are determined to deny you the capacity to use them again."
- Most Americans listening to the President did not know
that the United States supplied Iraq with much of the raw material for
creating a chemical and biological warfare program. Nor did the media report
that U.S. companies sold Iraq more than $1 billion worth of the components
needed to build nuclear weapons and diverse types of missiles, including
the infamous Scud.
- When Iraq engaged in chemical and biological warfare
in the 1980s, barely a peep of moral outrage could be heard from Washington,
as it kept supplying Saddam with the materials he needed to build weapons.
- From 1980 to 1988, Iraq and Iran waged a terrible war
against each other, a war that might not have begun if President Jimmy
Carter had not given the Iraqis a green light to attack Iran, in response
to repeated provocations. Throughout much of the war, the United States
provided military aid and intelligence information to both sides, hoping
that each would inflict severe damage on the other. Noam Chomsky suggests
that this strategy is a way for America to keep control of its oil supply:
- "It's been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign
policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources
of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the United States and
its clients, and, crucially, that no independent indigenous force will
be permitted to have a substantial influence on the administration of oil
production and price."
- During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq received the lion's share
of American support because at the time Iran was regarded as the greater
threat to U.S. interests. According to a 1994 Senate report, private American
suppliers, licensed by the U.S. Department of Commerce, exported a witch's
brew of biological and chemical materials to Iraq from 1985 through 1989.
Among the biological materials, which often produce slow, agonizing death,
- * Bacillus Anthracis, cause of anthrax.
- * Clostridium Botulinum, a source of botulinum toxin.
- * Histoplasma Capsulatam, cause of a disease attacking
lungs, brain, spinal cord, and heart.
- * Brucella Melitensis, a bacteria that can damage major
- * Clostridium Perfringens, a highly toxic bacteria causing
- * Clostridium tetani, a highly toxigenic substance.
- Also on the list: Escherichia coli (E. coli), genetic
materials, human and bacterial DNA, and dozens of other pathogenic biological
agents. "These biological materials were not attenuated or weakened
and were capable of reproduction," the Senate report stated. "It
was later learned that these microorganisms exported by the United States
were identical to those the United Nations inspectors found and removed
from the Iraqi biological warfare program."
- The report noted further that U.S. exports to Iraq included
the precursors to chemical-warfare agents, plans for chemical and biological
warfare production facilities, and chemical-warhead filling equipment.
- The exports continued to at least November 28, 1989,
despite evidence that Iraq was engaging in chemical and biological warfare
against Iranians and Kurds since as early as 1984.
- The American company that provided the most biological
materials to Iraq in the 1980s was American Type Culture Collection of
Maryland and Virginia, which made seventy shipments of the anthrax-causing
germ and other pathogenic agents, according to a 1996 Newsday story.
- Other American companies also provided Iraq with the
chemical or biological compounds, or the facilities and equipment used
to create the compounds for chemical and biological warfare. Among these
suppliers were the following:
- * Alcolac International, a Baltimore chemical manufacturer
already linked to the illegal shipment of chemicals to Iran, shipped large
quantities of thiodiglycol (used to make mustard gas) as well as other
chemical and biological ingredients, according to a 1989 story in The New
- * Nu Kraft Mercantile Corp. of Brooklyn (affiliated with
the United Steel and Strip Corporation) also supplied Iraq with huge amounts
of thiodiglycol, the Times reported.
- * Celery Corp., Charlotte, NC
- * Matrix-Churchill Corp., Cleveland, OH (regarded as
a front for the Iraqi government, according to Representative Henry Gonzalez,
Democrat of Texas, who quoted U.S. intelligence documents to this effect
in a 1992 speech on the House floor).
- The following companies were also named as chemical and
biological materials suppliers in the 1992 Senate hearings on "United
States export policy toward Iraq prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait":
- * Mouse Master, Lilburn, GA
- * Sullaire Corp., Charlotte, NC
- * Pure Aire, Charlotte, NC
- * Posi Seal, Inc., N. Stonington, CT
- * Union Carbide, Danbury, CT
- * Evapco, Taneytown, MD
- * Gorman-Rupp, Mansfield, OH
- Additionally, several other companies were sued in connection
with their activities providing Iraq with chemical or biological supplies:
subsidiaries or branches of Fisher Controls International, Inc., St. Louis;
Rhone-Poulenc, Inc., Princeton, NJ; Bechtel Group, Inc., San Francisco;
and Lummus Crest, Inc., Bloomfield, NJ, which built one chemical plant
in Iraq and, before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, was building
an ethylene facility. Ethylene is a necessary ingredient for thiodiglycol
- In 1994, a group of twenty-six veterans, suffering from
what has come to be known as Gulf War Syndrome, filed a billion-dollar
lawsuit in Houston against Fisher, Rhone-Poulenc, Bechtel Group, and Lummus
Crest, as well as American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) and six other
firms, for helping Iraq to obtain or produce the compounds which the veterans
blamed for their illnesses. By 1998, the number of plaintiffs has risen
to more than 4,000 and the suit is still pending in Texas.
- A Pentagon study in 1994 dismissed links between chemical
and biological weapons and Gulf War Syndrome. Newsday later disclosed,
however, that the man who headed the study, Nobel laureate Joshua Lederberg,
was a director of ATCC. Moreover, at the time of ATCC's shipments to Iraq,
which the Commerce Department approved, the firm's CEO was a member of
the Commerce Department's Technical Advisory Committee, the paper found.
- A larger number of American firms supplied Iraq with
the specialized computers, lasers, testing and analyzing equipment, and
other instruments and hardware vital to the manufacture of nuclear weapons,
missiles, and delivery systems. Computers, in particular, play a key role
in nuclear weapons development. Advanced computers make it feasible to
avoid carrying out nuclear test explosions, thus preserving the program's
secrecy. The 1992 Senate hearings implicated the following firms:
- * Kennametal, Latrobe, PA
- * Hewlett Packard, Palo Alto, CA
- * International Computer Systems, CA, SC, and TX
- * Perkins-Elmer, Norwalk, CT
- * BDM Corp., McLean, VA
- * Leybold Vacuum Systems, Export, PA
- * Spectra Physics, Mountain View, CA
- * Unisys Corp., Blue Bell, PA
- * Finnigan MAT, San Jose, CA
- * Scientific Atlanta, Atlanta, GA
- * Spectral Data Corp., Champaign, IL
- * Tektronix, Wilsonville, OR
- * Veeco Instruments, Inc., Plainview, NY
- * Wiltron Company, Morgan Hill, CA
- The House report also singled out: TI Coating, Inc.,
Axel Electronics, Data General Corp., Gerber Systems, Honeywell, Inc.,
Digital Equipment Corp., Sackman Associates, Rockwell Collins International,
Wild Magnavox Satellite Survey, Zeta Laboratories, Carl Schenck, EZ Logic
Data, International Imaging Systems, Semetex Corp., and Thermo Jarrell
- Some of the companies said later that they had no idea
Iraq might ever put their products to military use. A spokesperson for
Hewlett Packard said the company believed that the Iraqi recipient of its
shipments, Saad 16, was an institution of higher learning. In fact, in
1990 The Wall Street Journal described Saad 16 as "a heavily fortified,
state-of-the-art complex for aircraft construction, missile design, and,
almost certainly, nuclear-weapons research."
- Other corporations recognized the military potential
of their goods but considered it the government's job to worry about it.
"Every once in a while you kind of wonder when you sell something
to a certain country," said Robert Finney, president of Electronic
Associates, Inc., which supplied Saad 16 with a powerful computer that
could be used for missile testing and development. "But it's not up
to us to make foreign policy," Finney told The Wall Street Journal.
- In 1982, the Reagan Administration took Iraq off its
list of countries alleged to sponsor terrorism, making it eligible to receive
high-tech items generally denied to those on the list. Conventional military
sales began in December of that year. Representative Samuel Gejdenson,
Democrat of Connecticut, chairman of a House subcommittee investigating
"United States Exports of Sensitive Technology to Iraq," stated
- "From 1985 to 1990, the United States Government
approved 771 licenses for the export to Iraq of $1.5 billion worth of biological
agents and high-tech equipment with military application. [Only thirty-nine
applications were rejected.] The United States spent virtually an entire
decade making sure that Saddam Hussein had almost whatever he wanted. .
. . The Administration has never acknowledged that it took this course
of action, nor has it explained why it did so. In reviewing documents and
press accounts, and interviewing knowledgeable sources, it becomes clear
that United States export-control policy was directed by U.S. foreign policy
as formulated by the State Department, and it was U.S. foreign policy to
assist the regime of Saddam Hussein."
- Subsequently, Representative John Dingell, Democrat of
Michigan, investigated the Department of Energy concerning an unheeded
1989 warning about Iraq's nuclear weapons program. In 1992, he accused
the DOE of punishing employees who raised the alarm and rewarding those
who didn't take it seriously. One DOE scientist, interviewed by Dingell's
Energy and Commerce Committee, was especially conscientious about the mission
of the nuclear non-proliferation program. For his efforts, he received
very little cooperation, inadequate staff, and was finally forced to quit
in frustration. "It was impossible to do a good job," said William
Emel. His immediate manager, who tried to get the proliferation program
fully staffed, was chastened by management and removed from his position.
Emel was hounded by the DOE at his new job as well.
- Another Senate committee, investigating "United
States export policy toward Iraq prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait,"
heard testimony in 1992 that Commerce Department personnel "changed
information on sixty-eight licenses; that references to military end uses
were deleted and the designation 'military truck' was changed. This was
done on licenses having a total value of over $1 billion." Testimony
made clear that the White House was "involved" in "a deliberate
effort . . . to alter these documents and mislead the Congress."
- American foreign-policy makers maintained a cooperative
relationship with U.S. corporate interests in the region. In 1985, Marshall
Wiley, former U.S. ambassador to Oman, set up the Washington-based U.S.-Iraq
Business Forum, which lobbied in Washington on behalf of Iraq to promote
U.S. trade with that country. Speaking of the Forum's creation, Wiley later
explained, "I went to the State Department and told them what I was
planning to do, and they said, 'Fine. It sounds like a good idea.' It was
our policy to increase exports to Iraq."
- Though the government readily approved most sales to
Iraq, officials at Defense and Commerce clashed over some of them (with
the State Department and the White House backing Commerce). "If an
item was in dispute, my attitude was if they were readily available from
other markets, I didn't see why we should deprive American markets,"
explained Richard Murphy in 1990. Murphy was Assistant Secretary of State
for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs from 1983 to 1989.
- As it turned out, Iraq did not use any chemical or biological
weapons against U.S. forces in the Gulf War. But American planes bombed
chemical and biological weapons storage facilities with abandon, potentially
dooming tens of thousands of American soldiers to lives of prolonged and
permanent agony, and an unknown number of Iraqis to a similar fate. Among
the symptoms reported by the affected soldiers are memory loss, scarred
lungs, chronic fatigue, severe headache, raspy voice, and passing out.
The Pentagon estimates that nearly 100,000 American soldiers were exposed
to sarin gas alone.
- After the war, White House and Defense Department officials
tried their best to deny that Gulf War Syndrome had anything to do with
the bombings. The suffering of soldiers was not their overriding concern.
The top concerns of the Bush and Clinton Administrations were to protect
perceived U.S. interests in the Middle East, and to ensure that American
corporations still had healthy balance sheets. - William Blum is the author
of "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World
War II" (Common Courage Press, 1995).