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u.s. and iraq go way back

  1. (CBS) Newly released documents show that U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, played a leading role in building up Iraq's military in the 1980s when Iraq was using chemical weapons, a newspaper reports.

    It was Rumsfeld, now defense secretary and then a special presidential envoy, whose December 1983 meeting with Saddam Hussein led to the normalization of ties between Washington and Baghdad, according to the Washington Post.

    The cozy relationship was an effort to build a regional bulwark against America's enemies in Iran.

    The newspaper says a review of a large tranche of government documents reveals that the administrations of President Reagan and the first President Bush both authorized providing Iraq with intelligence and logistical support, and okayed the sale of dual use items — those with military and civilian applications — that included chemicals and germs, even anthrax and bubonic plague.

    Foreign affairs experts are split on whether the policy made sense given the different dynamics of an earlier era when the Soviet Union was still a player in the Middle East, when Iranian fundamentalism was unchecked by the current efforts toward reform, and when Saddam was already a valued friend of European U.S. allies like the French.

    Vital American interests were also at stake. The U.S. assistance to Iraq came only after Iran gained the upper hand in their eight-year war, and looked poised to threaten the Persian Gulf states, Kuwait and even Saudi Arabia — key suppliers of oil to the United States.

    Kenneth Pollack, a one-time CIA analyst and author of a current book advocating war with Iraq, told the Post, "It was a horrible mistake then, but we have got it right now. My fellow [CIA] analysts and I were warning at the time that Hussein was a very nasty character. We were constantly fighting the State Department."

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