Our Man In Baghdad
It's unlikely we will ever know for sure what the U.S. government has been doing with Saddam Hussein over the past 40 or so years. According to documents unearthed from the Reagan era, we know Reagan sent Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad to egg on the dictator in his war with Iran. At the time, the U.S. provided Saddam with loans, military intelligence and other assistance.
One story has it that Rumsfeld, then a drug company CEO, was also a messenger boy for top Reagan administration officials who wanted to get rich building an oil pipeline from Iraq to Jordan. Chief among them was Secretary of State George Schultz, a former top official of Bechtel. He supposedly hoped to cash in on the deal if Bechtel got to build the pipeline.
Now comes a UPI story, based on interviews with various British and U.S. intelligence sources, claiming that from Jack Kennedy in the early 1960s on up to the first Persian Gulf War in 1991, Saddam was in the hands of the CIA. In his early 20s, Saddam was recruited to kill Iraqi prime minister Abd al-Karim Qasim, UPI reports. Qasim had given the U.S. a fright by backing out of the pro-West Baghdad Pact, which brought together Turkey, Britain, Iran and Pakistan in a defensive alliance against the Soviets. Having ditched the pact, Qasim started buying Soviet arms and installing Communists in top positions, all of which led then-CIA chief Allen Dulles to say Iraq was "the most dangerous spot in the world."
According to the UPI report, Saddam led a farcical attempt to kill Qasim. Saddam and his six-man hit squad took up residence in a Baghdad apartment, but when the moment arrived, they got nervous and started shooting too soon, missing Qasim and ending up grazing Saddam. One of the hit men got a grenade stuck in the lining of his coat, and another put the wrong kind of bullets in his gun. Eventually, Qasim was killed in a coup rumored to have been encouraged by the CIA. Whether true or not, once the minister was killed, the CIA men gave the Baathist hierarchy lists of names of suspected Communists, whom they rounded up and murdered. A former senior U.S. State Department official told UPI, "We were frankly glad to be rid of them." Saddam became head of the Baathist intelligence apparatus.
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Ever since, the CIA took care of Saddam, helping to spirit him out of Baghdad to Tikrit, and from there to Syria and Beirut, and on to Egypt. He seems never to have been popular among the spies because he was thuggish and too low-class.
During the 1980s, the CIA drew close to Saddam's Baathist party—currently reviled as a bunch of vicious killer thugs, but then warmly regarded as our allies against the wacko ayatollahs in Iran. The CIA was providing Iraq with battlefield intelligence gained from a Saudi AWACS plane. It was during this period that Rumsfeld visited the dictator to see how the U.S. could help out.
The U.S. manipulations in the Middle East then became even more confusing as the CIA provided intelligence reports to both Iraq and its Iranian enemy. One former official told UPI he personally signed off on a document that shared U.S. satellite intelligence with Iraq and Iran "in an attempt to produce a military stalemate." On doing so, he said, "I thought I was losing my mind."
"The UN is slowly dying," said Gardiner, adding that it should rid itself of countries that terrorize their own populations. He saw Great Britain and the U.S. taking the lead, with Britain emerging from the decay of the old Europe as the second most powerful nation in the world. Gardiner argued that with its lengthy occupation of Northern Ireland, "there is a strong case to be made for Britain taking the command of the security element of a postwar force under the overall command of General Tommy Franks' postwar Iraq security operation."
Phillips predicted that U.S. troops would be in Iraq for anywhere from two to five years.
THE DISEASE IN VOGUE
By comparison to other plagues, SARS at this point is pretty minor. Around the world, 42 million people are living with AIDS. Last year, there were 5 million new cases and 3.1 million deaths. In sub-Saharan Africa there are 29.4 million cases of AIDS, and many of those are infected with tuberculosis.
Access to clean water is absolutely crucial to preventing diseases such as hepatitis and childhood diarrhea. According to the UN, one-fifth of the planet's more than 6 billion people lack safe water.
Additional reporting by Phoebe St. John and Joanna Khenkine.
There is little doubt SARS is a dangerous disease, but at this stage, it may be blown out of proportion. As popular Hong Kong journalist Nury Vittachi was reminding residents there last week, more than 99 percent of Hong Kong's population is free of SARS, and the survival rate for those with the disease is above 90 percent.For conservative thinkers, whose views infuse Washington politics nowadays, Iraq presents a welcome opportunity to implant Western ideas in the Arab world. Last week, amid the city's jubilation over the fall of Baghdad, some of these thinkers gathered at the Heritage Foundation to discuss the outlines of a new democratic Iraq. Two of the foundation's scholars, John C. Hulsman and James Phillips, suggested that "a good political model" for a postwar Iraqi federation already exists: "the so-called Great Compromise of 1787 that enabled the creation of America's constitutional arrangement among the states." Such a scheme envisions the U.S. laying out the broad contours of a decentralized federal system that would ensure "local autonomy" and provide "an equitable disbursement of Iraq's oil and tax revenues" and which would "pose no threat to the U.S. or its neighbors." That means giving each of the nation's major subgroups—Kurds, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims—equal representation in an upper house of a legislature. Hulsman said the idea is to "set the bar low," so as to "leave [Iraq] better than we found it." Oil revenue is the key to doing this, and he foresees using 30 percent of the revenue to finance this decentralized government, noting, "We're not running an empire here." Nile Gardiner, their British associate, warned that under no circumstances should the UN be permitted to run anything, save for perhaps something like a food program. As for participation by the old Europe, they saw some hope for Germany but none for France.
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