U.S. officials now admit (with a certain reluctance) that Saddam Hussein acquired lethal chemicals, germs, biological seed stocks-materials of mass destruction-from U.S. companies under state department permits throughout the ’80s. Rumsfeld himself was part of the sordid military alliance with Saddam.
At a committee hearing Jan. 29, quoting passages from the Washington Post, Senator Barbara Boxer (Democrat, California) described U.S. shipments of anthrax and strains of bubonic plague to the Iraqi regime.
She expressed shock and outrage at the immorality and folly of U.S. arms trade policy. Iraq was already using chemical weapons on an “almost daily basis” when Donald Rumsfeld met with Saddam Hussein in 1983, consolidating the United States-Iraq military alliance.
It is time to break the silence, to pose the questions that can awaken our sleeping souls. Are U.S. companies sending their deadly material to other dictators?
Will U.S. weapons of mass destruction be turned against U.S. troops and American personnel? Why do we even permit the sale of death for profit? A congressional hearing is long overdue.
U.S. officials, to be sure, take a dismissive attitude to revelations about complicity in Saddam’s military reign of terror in the ’80s.
They tell us that, since Saddam was a strategic ally in the ’80s, the arms merchants did nothing wrong.
The entire U.S. arms trade is based on a heinous premise: that atrocities and war crimes in the third world are acceptable so long as they fit within U.S. global strategy and aims. Saddam’s crimes were invisible in the ’80s.
The same crimes became grist for front-page demonization of Saddam in the ’90s, after-and only after-Saddam threatened Western access to oil.
George Orwell’s brilliant essay on empire and nationalism applies directly to the mendacity of the Bush administration.
He says that “actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them. There is almost no kind of outrage-torture, imprisonment without trial, assassination, the bombing of civilians-which does not change its moral color when it is committed by ‘our’ side….The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”
It is time to measure human rights by one yardstick-to hold the suppliers, not just the purchasers of death, accountable for their handiwork.