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The US hawks who sucked up to Saddam

Issue No. 1812

THE US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld is a key figure leading the charge for war against Iraq. He says Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is a monster who has to be stopped by US military might.

Yet this is the same man who had talks with Saddam Hussein in December 1983 when he was the Middle East envoy for then US president Ronald Reagan. 'It struck us as useful to have a relationship, given that we were interested in solving the Middle East problems,' Rumsfeld told the New York Times.

Rumsfeld was the highest ranking US official to visit Iraq in six years. After his meeting the Washington Post reported that there had been a 'shift in US policy'. The government was backing Iraq against Iran in a brutal war. Rumsfeld visited Iraq again in March 1984 for talks with then Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz.

On the day of his visit a team of UN experts issued a report which concluded that Iraq had used mustard gas laced with a nerve agent on Iranian soldiers. Rumsfeld said nothing about the damning UN report. Instead the New York Times reported, 'American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with relations between Iraq and the United States.'

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Sat 10 Aug 2002, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1812
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