Back in the 1990’s, journalists used to joke, “Of course we know Iraq has chemical weapons. We have the delivery receipts to prove it!”
The joke turned out to be the exact truth.
While covering Iraq in 1990 – just before the first massive US bombing campaign – I discovered the US and Britain had secretly built a germ weapons arsenal for Iraq to use against Iran in the eight year-Iran-Iraq War.
This while both the US and Britain were fulminating with breathtaking hypocrisy against the alleged dangers of Iraq’s supposed WMD’s (weapons of mass destruction) that never existed. Some years later, the two leading apostles of attacking Iraq, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, delivered Philippics against Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs while never mentioning that high level of western support for Iraq’s late leader.
Last week the widely read “New York Times” ran a multi-page exposé entitled “Abandoned Chemical Weapons and Secret Casualties in Iraq.”
The NY Times played a key role in driving the US into two wars against Iraq. America’s leading newspaper is finally facing part of the ugly truth over Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the pretext used by the US to bomb, then invade Iraq. Perhaps it’s trying to atone, or clear its besmirched name.
Iraq had no nuclear weapons, as the US falsely claimed. But it did have an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons – delivered by the western powers. All were battlefield arms, not strategic, weapons. None could be delivered more than 100 kms.
According to the “New York Times,” after the second war against Iraq in 2003, 17 US servicemen and seven Iraqis were injured by mustard and nerve gas after they dug up buried caches of Iraq’s 1980’s chemical weapons. Shamefully, their plight was kept secret by the Pentagon; the soldiers were refused adequate medical care in order to cover up this sordid story.
But what I uncovered in Baghdad was far worse.
I found two British scientists who had been employed at Iraq’s top secret Salman Pak chemical and biowarfare laboratory near Baghdad. The Brits confided to me they were part of a large technical team secretly organized and “seconded” to Iraq in the mid-1980’s by the British government and the MI6 Secret Intelligence Service. Their goal was to develop and “weaponize” anthrax, plague, botulism and other pathogens for use as tactical germ weapons.
The US and Saudi Arabia feared Iran’s Islamic revolution would sweep the Mideast and overthrow its oil monarchs. So Washington and its Arab allies convinced Iraq’s president, Saddam Hussein, to invade Iran and overthrow its new government. Arms and money flowed to Iraq from the US, Britain, Kuwait and the Saudis.
After three years of WWI-style warfare, Iraq found its outnumbered troops could not stop Iranian human-wave attacks. Iran was slowly winning its bloody war against Iraq.
So the US and Britain supplied Saddam Hussein with chemical and biological weapons to break the waves of attacking Iranians. Chemical warfare manufacturing equipment – disguised as insecticide plants – came from Germany, France and Holland. The feed stock for the germ weapons came from a US laboratory in Maryland –approved by the US government.
Over 500,000 soldiers and civilians died in the eight-year Iran-Iraq conflict. To this day, Iran blames the US and the Saudis for instigating the war and causing some 250,000 Iranian casualties.
By contrast, in the Anglo-American view, chemical and biological weapons were fine – so long as used to kill Muslim Iranians. Used against westerners, they would be denounced as “terrorism.” In 2013, US President Barack Obama threatened Syria with war over unfounded claims that Damascus planned to use chemical weapons on US-backed insurgents.
My dispatches from Baghdad in 1990 were the first to reveal the US-British plan for Iraq to use biowarfare weapons like anthrax and plague on the Iranians. The US media never reported this story any more than Washington’s secret backing for old ally Saddam Hussein.
Few Americans know anything about their nation’s support for the demonized Saddam Hussein or the secret biological weapons story. Or that the deadliest biowarfare weapon used in the region was the destruction by the US airpower of Iraq’s water and sewage systems, a crime that led to the deaths, according to UN officials, of over 500,000 Iraqis, mostly children, from contaminated water. Iraq is still poisoned by depleted uranium munitions fired by US forces.
The Western powers prevented Iraq from importing chlorine to purify filthy, pest-ridden water, claiming the chlorine could be used in chemical weapons! Lead for school pencils was also banned as a possible nuclear plant component. This from the same nations that had been covertly supplying Iraq with germs and poison gas for use against Iran.
Why are these events of a quarter century ago relevant today?
Because the current horrible mess in Iraq and Syria is a direct result of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. ISIS is a manufactured monster that could have crawled out of the germ warfare plant at Salman Pak.