Socialist Worker

Well worn road from friend to foe

Issue No. 1767

THE US says it is going to 'take out' the 'evil' Osama Bin Laden. We have been here before. The US and its allies have declared many individuals 'evil' as a prelude to launching military assaults.

Almost all those figures have either been built up by the West, or at the very least received tacit support.


IRAQ IS high on the list of targets the US is preparing to bomb. Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, fell out with the West after he invaded neighbouring Kuwait in August 1990.

But his entire career up to that point depended on backing from the US. Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party seized power in Iraq through a coup in 1963. The US CIA helped organise that coup in order to get rid of an independentminded government.

The US then supported Saddam as he unleashed a reign of terror which included mass public executions of members of the Iraqi Communist Party. The West turned even more sharply to back Saddam after the pro-Western Shah who ruled neighbouring Iran was overthrown in a popular revolution in 1979. The US initially supported Iraq when it invaded Iran. It described Saddam Hussein as a bastion against the spread of radical Islamism.

In March 1988 Saddam used poison gas to murder over 5,000 Kurdish villagers at Halabja as part of a wider campaign against the Kurdish minority. Western countries supplied him with the poison gas. The flow of Western arms to Saddam accelerated in the late 1980s as the US again threw its weight behind Iraq in the ongoing war with Iran. That support stopped only when Saddam misread the position of his US ally and invaded pro-western Kuwait.


PANAMANIAN dictator General Noriega took power with the help of the CIA in March 1983. He had been a paid US agent since 1967. By 1972 US officials had hard evidence he was involved in the drugs trade.

But the CIA, headed by George Bush Sr, continued to protect him as he rose to become head of Panama's secret police. Noriega provided important intelligence on opponents of US policy in Central America throughout the 1980s.

He was a key link in the CIA plot to fund the Contra terrorist attacks on Nica-ragua through the proceeds of cocaine trafficking. George Bush Sr flew with Oliver North (who was in charge of channelling funds to the Contras) to Panama City in 1983 to meet Noriega. The US sent troops in to overthrow Noriega in December 1989 only when he became too much of an embarrassment, and domestic opposition had exposed the drugs money behind the Contras.


THE SERBIAN leader was the last 'evil tyrant' the US was going to sort out. But he is a man who got the blessing of the West when he came to power in 1989. One senior US diplomat, Richard Holbrooke, famously said Milosevic was 'a man we can do business with'.

That was in the early 1990s, as Milosevic was tightening his grip on the Albanian population in Kosovo. The Dayton peace agreement which ended the Bosnian war in 1995 was about stabilising the regimes of Milosevic in Serbia and Franjo Tudjman (his mirror image) in Croatia.


THE US relied on Osama bin Laden in the 1980s as it tried to bring the Afghan resistance movement to Russian occupation under Western control. As we show on page 10, he was close friends with prince Turki al-Faisal, who was until three weeks ago head of the secret police in Saudi Arabia, the US's main Arab ally.

But US arrogance in its war against Iraq in 1991 drove Osama Bin Laden to break with his one-time allies. He is the latest in a long line of figures to have been built up by the US only then to fall foul of the West and be declared the embodiment of evil.

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Sat 22 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1767
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