DONALD RUMSFELD, the US defence secretary, is urging George Bush on to attack Iraq. He demands war because 'Iraq has nuclear and chemical weapons capacity'. But one of the US's top daily newspapers, the Washington Post, last week underlined Rumsfeld's gross hypocrisy.
It detailed how Rumsfeld played a key role in supporting and arming Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. He was a key part of the project that saw the US supply the Iraqi military with viruses such as anthrax and bubonic plague for use against his enemies.
Journalist Michael Dobbs says in the article, 'Declassified documents show Rumsfeld travelled to Baghdad at a time when Iraq was using chemical weapons on an 'almost daily' basis in defiance of international conventions. 'The story of US involvement with Saddam Hussein included large scale intelligence sharing, supply of cluster bombs through a Chilean front company and facilitating Iraq's acquisition of chemical and biological precursors.'
Rumsfeld was appointed by US president Ronald Reagan to be his special presidential envoy to Iraq for seven months from 1983 to 1984. The US government had come to back Iraq after Saddam Hussein launched war against Iran in 1980. The US had seen its ally, the Shah of Iran, toppled in 1979, and feared that revolution would spread across the Middle East unless the new Iranian government was smashed.
Rumsfeld was sent to Iraq because he was trusted to follow orders without question. He had been deputy defence secretary under US president Ford from 1975 to 1977, Ford's chief of staff from 1974 to 1975, US ambassador to NATO from 1973 to 1974 and held various jobs in US president Nixon's administration from 1969 to 1973. Rumsfeld's job was to boost US relations with Iraq-despite the regime's use of chemical weapons.
In November 1983, a month before Rumsfeld made his first visit to Iraq, US Secretary of State George Schultz was told intelligence reports showed that Iraqi troops were resorting to 'almost daily use of chemical weapons' against the Iranians. But when Rumsfeld arrived on 19-20 December, he did not condemn the Iraqi regime.
The message he carried to Saddam Hussein was that the US regarded 'any major reversal of Iraq's fortunes as a strategic defeat for the West'. Rumsfeld told Saddam Hussein that the US was ready for a resumption of full diplomatic relations, according to a State Department report of the conversation.
Iraqi leaders later described themselves as 'extremely pleased' with Rumsfeld's visit which had 'elevated US/Iraqi relations to a new level'. 'The fact that Iraq was using chemical weapons was hardly a secret,' says Michael Dobbs in the Washington Post.
On 5 March 1984 a US state department issued a statement saying, 'Available evidence indicates Iraq has used lethal chemical weapons.' The next month Rumsfeld went back to Baghdad to meet Tariq Aziz, then Iraq's foreign minister.
He again did not condemn the regime for using chemical weapons. On the day of his visit a United Nations report said, 'Mustard gas laced with a nerve agent has been used on Iranian soldiers in the 43-month Persian Gulf War between Iran and Iraq, a team of experts has concluded.'
Yet the New York Times reported from Baghdad on 29 March, 'American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with relations between Iraq and the United States and suggest normal diplomatic ties have been restored in all but name.' It was not simply that Rumsfeld said nothing about the Iraqi regime using poison gas. He sent out clear signals that Saddam Hussein was a man to do business with.
Dobbs confirms, 'The administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr authorised the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague. The US policy of cultivating Hussein as a moderate and reasonable Arab leader continued right up until he invaded Kuwait in August 1990, documents show.'
Dobbs reports the statement of Howard Teicher, a former National Security Council official, who accompanied Rumsfeld to Iraq in 1983. Teicher admitted in a sworn court affidavit in 1995 that the US 'actively supported the Iraqi war effort'.
Dobbs says in the Washington Post, 'A 1994 investigation by the Senate banking committee turned up dozens of biological agents shipped to Iraq during the mid-1980s under licence from the commerce department including various strains of anthrax.'
The weaponry supplied by the US in the 1980s has almost certainly been destroyed by now. But unlike 20 years ago Saddam Hussein is no longer a US ally. So the same Rumsfeld who brokered deals with Saddam Hussein is ready to murder Iraqi civilians in order to bring about 'regime change' and demonstrate US power.
'He is the most ruthless man I ever met.'
Henry Kissinger, US war criminal
'The non-governmental organisations, these people stand up and fuss at the United States because there's a baby in the streets who was killed by something.'
Rumsfeld on critics of the US war on Afghanistan, from a transcript of an interview with the editorial board of the New York Times, November
He is a millionaire as well
RUMSFELD LIKES to come across as a folksy character and is sometimes portrayed as a bit of a joke. In fact he is a cynical warmonger who is obscenely wealthy. He owns assets worth $217 million. From 1977 to 1985 he was the chief executive officer of G D Searle, the pharmaceutical firm which was later bought out by Monsanto, the company specialising in GM foods.
He cut a third of the workforce, which boosted shares in the company from $12 to around $60. From 1990 to 1993 as chairman and chief executive of General Instruments, which was bought out by Motorola, he carried out another jobs massacre and again shares shot up-from $15 to $50.
His management techniques earned him a place in Fortune magazine's 'Ten toughest bosses in America'. As a director of Gulfstream Aerospace, his stock in the company was valued at $11 million when the firm was acquired by General Dynamics in 1999. But he likes to claim that he kept his business interests in defence companies separate from his position as US defence secretary.
Rumsfeld is a key figure behind the Star Wars missile plan that would allow the US to launch a first strike against targets all over the world. In 1999 he headed a congressional commission that heavily promoted National Missile Defence.
He was awarded the 'Keeper of the Flame' by the right wing organisation the Centre for Security Policy. The group is pro Star Wars. It is funded by corporations which seek to become Star Wars contractors. Rumsfeld is against a ban on chemical weapons.
He opposes nuclear test bans, arguing that this would make it difficult to build new, more powerful weapons.