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Helping Hussein: According to recently released documents, 24 U.S. firms exported arms and materials to Baghdad, as buildings blocks for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.

Iraq's U.S. Arsenal

Complicity of firms in Saddam's crimes against humanity now well-documented

By Paul Rockwell

YEARS AGO, at the peak of the Vietnam War, a group called Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam published a book titled In the Name of America, a shocking recounting of the systematic violations of the laws of war made by United States forces abroad. The graphic and detailed information played a role in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s decision to "break silence," to speak out against U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam.

The phrase has been revived in recent weeks during nationwide protests against an invasion of Iraq by the United States, including local Santa Clara County Supervisor Blanca Alvarado, who introduced a county resolution opposing the U.S. military action, which was adopted last month.

We now know who supplied Saddam Hussein with materials of mass destruction and where his military regime, notorious for atrocities against Iraqis, Iranians and Kurds, acquired helicopters, germs and lethal chemicals--an arsenal of terror. Iraq acquired its weapons of mass destruction from, among others, the United States and Britain--the very countries preparing all-out war to disarm Iraq.

In December, in the long-awaited 11,000-page report to the United Nations Security Council, an Iraq Weapons Inventory listed more than 150 foreign companies, including European and U.S. companies, that allegedly supplied Saddam Hussein with deadly and dual-use material.

Hoping to downplay its own culpability in Iraq's past war crimes, the U.S. reportedly suppressed the list of firms that contributed to Saddam's arsenal, but the dossier was leaked to a German newspaper, Die Tageszeitung, which published it. More information trickled onto the back pages of The New York Times and the Washington Post. The main facts are no longer in dispute.

The U.S. companies listed, some of which have facilities in Silicon Valley, include Spectra Physics, Honeywell, Dupont, Eastman Kodak, Bechtel, Tektronix, Unisys, Rockwell and Hewlett-Packard. They allegedly provided materials for Iraq's rocket program, planned nuclear weapons program and conventional weapons program, which includes military logistics as well as supplies and materials for building weapons plants.

The complete list included 24 companies with home bases in the United States, along with 50 subsidiaries of foreign companies that conducted their arms business with Iraq from within U.S. borders.

In addition to these companies, another group designated in the report as Iraq's arms suppliers includes the U.S. Ministries of Defense, Energy, Trade and Agriculture, as well as Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia National laboratories.

The article in Die Tageszeitung reported that German involvement with Iraq outstripped that of all other countries combined. The newspaper reported that Siemens had sold Baghdad at least eight sophisticated medical machines used to destroy kidney stones in patients, but which also contain switches that can be used as detonators for atomic bombs.

One Yardstick

In violation of the Geneva Protocol of 1925 (which outlaws chemical warfare), the Reagan-Bush administration authorized the sale of poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, from anthrax to bubonic plague, throughout the '80s. In 1982, while Saddam Hussein constructed his machinery of war, Reagan and Bush removed Iraq from the State Department's list of terrorist states.

According to newly declassified documents mentioned in the Washington Post Weekly Edition (Jan. 6-12, 2003), Iraq was already using chemical weapons on an "almost daily basis" when Donald Rumsfeld met with Saddam Hussein in 1983, consolidating the U.S.-Iraq military alliance.

Subsequently, the Pentagon supplied logistical and military support; U.S. banks provided billions of dollars in credits; and the CIA, using a Chilean conduit, increased Saddam's supply of cluster bombs. U.S. companies also supplied steel tubes and chemical substances, the types of material for which the Security Council is now searching.

As late as 1989 and 1990, according to a report from U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), U.S. companies, under permits from the first Bush administration, sent mustard gas materials, live cultures for bacteriological research, to Iraq. U.S. companies helped Iraq build a chemical weapons factory, and then shipped Hussein a West Nile virus, hydrogen cyanide precursors and parts for a new nuclear plant.

The infamous massacre at Halabja--the gassing of the Kurds--took place in March 1988. On Sept. 19, six months later, U.S. companies sent 11 strains of germs and four types of anthrax to Iraq, including a microbe strain called 11966, developed for germ warfare at Fort Detrick in the 1950s. (Judith Miller provides a partial account of the sordid traffic in U.S. chemicals and germs in her book Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War.)

Dow Chemical (known for its production of napalm during the Vietnam War) sold large amounts of pesticides, toxins that cause death by asphyxiation.

Twenty-four U.S. firms exported arms and materials to Baghdad. France also sent Hussein 200 AMX medium tanks, Mirage bombers, and Gazelle helicopter gunships. As Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Armitage testified in 1987, "We cannot stand to see Iraq defeated."

The vast, lucrative arms trade in the Middle East laid the groundwork for Saddam's aggression against Kuwait. Without high-tech weapons from Europe and the United States--from the very countries now conducting an arms-proliferation investigation--Iraq's wars against Iran and Kuwait would never have taken place.

Revelations of the United States' role in Iraq's arms buildup spawn a host of questions: Why aren't United States and European scientists, who invented and produced lethal materials for Saddam, subject to interrogations, like their counterparts in Iraq? Are U.S. companies sending their deadly material to other dictators? Why are there no congressional hearings on the companies that profit from war and suffering, the traffic in arms? And where are the headlines, the front-page stories in the mainstream media?

U.S. officials take a dismissive attitude to revelations about complicity in Saddam's military reign of terror in the '80s. Officials tell us that American corporations did nothing wrong when they shipped chemicals, germs and nuclear materials to Iraq. After all, they say, Saddam was a U.S. ally in the '80s and the shipments stopped when it became clear he was not.

The entire U.S. arms trade is based on the 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 essay on empire and nationalism applies directly to the mendacity of the Bush administration: "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."

Now the world is faced with a tragic irony: The world's leading merchant of death is taking us to war to stop arms proliferation in the very region to which it shipped chemicals and arms for more than 10 years.

Nobel Peace Laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez tells us, "The time has come to rein in the unchecked sale of death and misery on the international market." It is time to measure human rights by one yardstick--to hold the suppliers, not just the purchasers of death, accountable for their handiwork."


U.S. Firms That Supplied Iraq's Weapons Program*
1.Honeywell (R, K)
2.Spectra Physics (K)
3. Semetex (R)
4. T.I. Coating (A, K)
5. Unisys (A, K)
6.Sperry Corp. (R, K)
7. Tektronix (R, A)
8. Rockwell (K)
9. Leybold Vacuum Systems (A)
10. Finnigan-MAT-U.S. (A)
11. Hewlett-Packard (A, R, K)
12. Dupont (A)
13. Eastman Kodak (R)
14. American Type Culture Collection (B)
15. Alcolac International (C)
16. Consarc (A)
17. Carl Zeiss--U.S. (K)
18. Cerberus (LTD) (A)
19. Electronic Associates (R)
20. International Computer Systems (A, R, K)
21. Bechtel (K)
22. EZ Logic Data Systems, Inc. (R)
23. Canberra Industries, Inc. (A)
24. Axel Electronics, Inc. (A)

Key:
A = nuclear weapon program
B = biological weapon program
C = chemical weapon program
R = rocket program
K = conventional weapons, military logistics, supplies at the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, and building of military plants

*According to the German daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung, which identified this list as a since-deleted portion of Iraq's 11,000-page report to the U.N. Security Council.


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From the February 20-26, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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