Important note: Images and videos posted on this
website are very graphic. Viewers discretion is strongly advised!
A Dictator Created Then Destroyed By America
By Robert Fisk
30 December 2006
Saddam to the gallows. It was an easy equation. Who could be more deserving of that last walk to the scaffold - that crack
of the neck at the end of a rope - than the Beast of Baghdad, the Hitler of the Tigris, the man who murdered untold hundreds
of thousands of innocent Iraqis while spraying chemical weapons over his enemies? Our masters will tell us in a few hours
that it is a "great day" for Iraqis and will hope that the Muslim world will forget that his death sentence was signed - by
the Iraqi "government", but on behalf of the Americans - on the very eve of the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the
moment of greatest forgiveness in the Arab world.
But history will record that the Arabs and other Muslims and, indeed, many millions in the West, will ask another question
this weekend, a question that will not be posed in other Western newspapers because it is not the narrative laid down for
us by our presidents and prime ministers - what about the other guilty men?
No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don't gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn't invade Iran or Kuwait. He
only invaded Iraq. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead - and thousands of Western troops are dead - because
Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went
to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality.
In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised
and killed the innocent - we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam's shame at Abu Ghraib - and yet we are supposed
to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created.
Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths
of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the
Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam's weird trial, forbad any mention of this, his most obscene
atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war
crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.
And the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our "bunker buster" bombs and our phosphorous,
the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population
in the aftermath of our "victory" - our "mission accomplished" - who will be found guilty of this? Such expiation as we might
expect will come, no doubt, in the self-serving memoirs of Blair and Bush, written in comfortable and wealthy retirement.
Hours before Saddam's death sentence, his family - his first wife, Sajida, and Saddam's daughter and their other relatives
- had given up hope.
"Whatever could be done has been done - we can only wait for time to take its course," one of them said last night. But
Saddam knew, and had already announced his own "martyrdom": he was still the president of Iraq and he would die for Iraq.
All condemned men face a decision: to die with a last, grovelling plea for mercy or to die with whatever dignity they can
wrap around themselves in their last hours on earth. His last trial appearance - that wan smile that spread over the mass-murderer's
face - showed us which path Saddam intended to walk to the noose.
I have catalogued his monstrous crimes over the years. I have talked to the Kurdish survivors of Halabja and the Shia who
rose up against the dictator at our request in 1991 and who were betrayed by us - and whose comrades, in their tens of thousands,
along with their wives, were hanged like thrushes by Saddam's executioners.
I have walked round the execution chamber of Abu Ghraib - only months, it later transpired, after we had been using the
same prison for a few tortures and killings of our own - and I have watched Iraqis pull thousands of their dead relatives
from the mass graves of Hilla. One of them has a newly-inserted artificial hip and a medical identification number on his
arm. He had been taken directly from hospital to his place of execution. Like Donald Rumsfeld, I have even shaken the dictator's
soft, damp hand. Yet the old war criminal finished his days in power writing romantic novels.
It was my colleague, Tom Friedman - now a messianic columnist for The New York Times - who perfectly caught Saddam's character
just before the 2003 invasion: Saddam was, he wrote, "part Don Corleone, part Donald Duck". And, in this unique definition,
Friedman caught the horror of all dictators; their sadistic attraction and the grotesque, unbelievable nature of their barbarity.
But that is not how the Arab world will see him. At first, those who suffered from Saddam's cruelty will welcome his execution.
Hundreds wanted to pull the hangman's lever. So will many other Kurds and Shia outside Iraq welcome his end. But they - and
millions of other Muslims - will remember how he was informed of his death sentence at the dawn of the Eid al-Adha feast,
which recalls the would-be sacrifice by Abraham, of his son, a commemoration which even the ghastly Saddam cynically used
to celebrate by releasing prisoners from his jails. "Handed over to the Iraqi authorities," he may have been before his death.
But his execution will go down - correctly - as an American affair and time will add its false but lasting gloss to all this
- that the West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed his orders from Washington, that, for all his wrongdoing (and
this will be the terrible get-out for Arab historians, this shaving away of his crimes) Saddam died a "martyr" to the will
of the new "Crusaders".
When he was captured in November of 2003, the insurgency against American troops increased in ferocity. After his death,
it will redouble in intensity again. Freed from the remotest possibility of Saddam's return by his execution, the West's enemies
in Iraq have no reason to fear the return of his Baathist regime. Osama bin Laden will certainly rejoice, along with Bush
and Blair. And there's a thought. So many crimes avenged.
But we will have got away with it.
He Takes His Secrets To The Grave.
Our Complicity Dies With HimHow
the West armed Saddam, fed him intelligence on his 'enemies', equipped him for atrocities - and then made sure he wouldn't
By Robert Fisk
Published: 31 December 2006
We've shut him up. The moment Saddam's hooded executioner pulled the lever of the trapdoor in Baghdad yesterday morning,
Washington's secrets were safe. The shameless, outrageous, covert military support which the United States - and Britain -
gave to Saddam for more than a decade remains the one terrible story which our presidents and prime ministers do not want
the world to remember. And now Saddam, who knew the full extent of that Western support - given to him while he was perpetrating
some of the worst atrocities since the Second World War - is dead.
Gone is the man who personally received the CIA's help in destroying the Iraqi communist party. After Saddam seized power,
US intelligence gave his minions the home addresses of communists in Baghdad and other cities in an effort to destroy the
Soviet Union's influence in Iraq. Saddam's mukhabarat visited every home, arrested the occupants and their families, and butchered
the lot. Public hanging was for plotters; the communists, their wives and children, were given special treatment - extreme
torture before execution at Abu Ghraib.
There is growing evidence across the Arab world that Saddam held a series of meetings with senior American officials prior
to his invasion of Iran in 1980 - both he and the US administration believed that the Islamic Republic would collapse if Saddam
sent his legions across the border - and the Pentagon was instructed to assist Iraq's military machine by providing intelligence
on the Iranian order of battle. One frosty day in 1987, not far from Cologne, I met the German arms dealer who initiated those
first direct contacts between Washington and Baghdad - at America's request.
"Mr Fisk... at the very beginning of the war, in September of 1980, I was invited to go to the Pentagon," he said. "There
I was handed the very latest US satellite photographs of the Iranian front lines. You could see everything on the pictures.
There were the Iranian gun emplacements in Abadan and behind Khorramshahr, the lines of trenches on the eastern side of the
Karun river, the tank revetments - thousands of them - all the way up the Iranian side of the border towards Kurdistan. No
army could want more than this. And I travelled with these maps from Washington by air to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt on
Iraqi Airways straight to Baghdad. The Iraqis were very, very grateful!"
I was with Saddam's forward commandos at the time, under Iranian shellfire, noting how the Iraqi forces aligned their artillery
positions far back from the battle front with detailed maps of the Iranian lines. Their shelling against Iran outside Basra
allowed the first Iraqi tanks to cross the Karun within a week. The commander of that tank unit cheerfully refused to tell
me how he had managed to choose the one river crossing undefended by Iranian armour. Two years ago, we met again, in Amman
and his junior officers called him "General" - the rank awarded him by Saddam after that tank attack east of Basra, courtesy
of Washington's intelligence information.
Iran's official history of the eight-year war with Iraq states that Saddam first used chemical weapons against it on 13
January 1981. AP's correspondent in Baghdad, Mohamed Salaam, was taken to see the scene of an Iraqi military victory east
of Basra. "We started counting - we walked miles and miles in this fucking desert, just counting," he said. "We got to 700
and got muddled and had to start counting again ... The Iraqis had used, for the first time, a combination - the nerve gas
would paralyse their bodies ... the mustard gas would drown them in their own lungs. That's why they spat blood."
At the time, the Iranians claimed that this terrible cocktail had been given to Saddam by the US. Washington denied this.
But the Iranians were right. The lengthy negotiations which led to America's complicity in this atrocity remain secret - Donald
Rumsfeld was one of President Ronald Reagan's point-men at this period - although Saddam undoubtedly knew every detail. But
a largely unreported document, "United States Chemical and Biological Warfare-related Dual-use exports to Iraq and their possible
impact on the Health Consequences of the Persian Gulf War", stated that prior to 1985 and afterwards, US companies had sent
government-approved shipments of biological agents to Iraq. These included Bacillus anthracis, which produces anthrax, and
Escherichia coli (E. coli). That Senate report concluded that: "The United States provided the Government of Iraq with 'dual
use' licensed materials which assisted in the development of Iraqi chemical, biological and missile-systems programs, including
... chemical warfare agent production facility plant and technical drawings, chemical warfare filling equipment."
Nor was the Pentagon unaware of the extent of Iraqi use of chemical weapons. In 1988, for example, Saddam gave his personal
permission for Lt-Col Rick Francona, a US defence intelligence officer - one of 60 American officers who were secretly providing
members of the Iraqi general staff with detailed information on Iranian deployments, tactical planning and bomb damage assessments
- to visit the Fao peninsula after Iraqi forces had recaptured the town from the Iranians. He reported back to Washington
that the Iraqis had used chemical weapons to achieve their victory. The senior defence intelligence officer at the time, Col
Walter Lang, later said that the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis "was not a matter of deep strategic concern".
I saw the results, however. On a long military hospital train back to Tehran from the battle front, I found hundreds of
Iranian soldiers coughing blood and mucus from their lungs - the very carriages stank so much of gas that I had to open the
windows - and their arms and faces were covered with boils. Later, new bubbles of skin appeared on top of their original boils.
Many were fearfully burnt. These same gases were later used on the Kurds of Halabja. No wonder that Saddam was primarily tried
in Baghdad for the slaughter of Shia villagers, not for his war crimes against Iran.
We still don't know - and with Saddam's execution we will probably never know - the extent of US credits to Iraq, which
began in 1982. The initial tranche, the sum of which was spent on the purchase of American weapons from Jordan and Kuwait,
came to $300m. By 1987, Saddam was being promised $1bn in credit. By 1990, just before Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, annual
trade between Iraq and the US had grown to $3.5bn a year. Pressed by Saddam's foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, to continue US
credits, James Baker then Secretary of State, but the same James Baker who has just produced a report intended to drag George
Bush from the catastrophe of present- day Iraq - pushed for new guarantees worth $1bn from the US.
In 1989, Britain, which had been giving its own covert military assistance to Saddam guaranteed £250m to Iraq shortly after
the arrest of Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft in Baghdad. Bazoft, who had been investigating an explosion at a factory at
Hilla which was using the very chemical components sent by the US, was later hanged. Within a month of Bazoft's arrest William
Waldegrave, then a Foreign Office minister, said: "I doubt if there is any future market of such a scale anywhere where the
UK is potentially so well-placed if we play our diplomatic hand correctly... A few more Bazofts or another bout of internal
oppression would make it more difficult."
Even more repulsive were the remarks of the then Deputy Prime Minister, Geoffrey Howe, on relaxing controls on British
arms sales to Iraq. He kept this secret, he wrote, because "it would look very cynical if, so soon after expressing outrage
about the treatment of the Kurds, we adopt a more flexible approach to arms sales".
Saddam knew, too, the secrets of the attack on the USS Stark when, on 17 May 1987, an Iraqi jet launched a missile attack
on the American frigate, killing more than a sixth of the crew and almost sinking the vessel. The US accepted Saddam's excuse
that the ship was mistaken for an Iranian vessel and allowed Saddam to refuse their request to interview the Iraqi pilot.
The whole truth died with Saddam Hussein in the Baghdad execution chamber yesterday. Many in Washington and London must
have sighed with relief that the old man had been silenced for ever.
'The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East' by Robert Fisk is now available in paperback
VIDEO: The Hidden Wars of Desert Storm
VIDEO Sky TV Conspiracies: Iraq / The Great Iraq Heist
Genocide Against Iraq Began 15 Years Ago
VIDEO Paying The Price: Killing The Children Of Iraq
History of US and UK Intervention in Iraq