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Chemical Ali and U.S. Hypocrisy in Iraq

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Saddam Hussein’s cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, also known as “Chemical Ali,” has just received a death sentence by an Iraqi court. According to the Washington Post, the punishment was for “his role in crushing a Shiite revolt in 1991, after the Persian Gulf War.”

The context in which the crushing of that revolt took place is an interesting one and actually helps to shed some light on the current President Bush’s fraudulent use of the supposed WMD threat from Saddam to garner support for his invasion and occupation of Iraq.

After the Persian Gulf intervention succeeded in ousting Iraqi troops from Kuwait in 1991, many conservatives were urging President George H.W. Bush to order his military to proceed on to Baghdad, oust Saddam Hussein from power, and install a pro-U.S. regime.

Concerned that a U.S. invasion of Iraq for the purpose of regime change might involve the U.S. in a civil war, Bush I rejected the conservatives’ pleas.

However, in a series of speeches Bush I encouraged the Iraqi people to rise up and oust Saddam Hussein from power. Among those who responded to Bush call were Shiites in the southern part of Iraq, the ones that Chemical Ali got sentenced for killing.

As Saddam’s forces were reconstituting themselves to attack and suppress the Shiite uprising, the revolutionaries assumed that the U.S. military would come to their assistance, especially given that the U.S. had just defeated Saddam’s forces in Kuwait and given President Bush’s repeated calls for the Iraqi people to rise up against the Saddam regime.

As Saddam’s forces began massacring the Shiites, the Shiites begged Bush to order his military to come to their assistance. Their pleas, however, fell on deaf ears. Moreover, the ceasefire with Saddam that Bush’s military commander in Iraq, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, negotiated allowed Iraqi helicopters to fly over the areas where the Shiites were fighting, enabling Iraqi forces to more easily massacre the Shiite revolutionaries.

Another interesting twist to the Chemical Ali story is described in a August 18, 2002, story in the New York Times entitled “Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas.” The story details a covert U.S. program during the Reagan administration in which U.S. officials helped Saddam Hussein with battle planning in his war on Iran, despite knowing that Saddam’s forces were using poisonous gas against the Iranians. Even while such secret assistance was taking place, the Reagan administration was publicly decrying Saddam’s use of gas. According to the article, “The Pentagon wasn’t so horrified by Iraq’s use of gas, said one veteran of the program. It was just another way of killing people — whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn’t make any difference, he said.”

Now, carefully read the following sentence from that article:

“Iraq’s use of gas in that conflict is repeatedly cited by President Bush and, this week, by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, as justification for regime change in Iraq.”

So, back in 2002 Bush and Rice were citing a past use of gas to justify their goal of regime change in Iraq. Keep in mind also that despite all the rhetoric about Saddam’s WMDs during the 11 years of brutal sanctions against Iraq, U.S. officials always made it clear that if the Iraqi people would just oust Saddam Hussein from power and install a U.S. puppet, the sanctions would be lifted.

Why is all this important? Because it shows that regime change has always been the principle goal of U.S. officials ever since they dissolved their partnership with Saddam Hussein in 1991— when they encouraged the Iraqi people to revolt, when they imposed the sanctions, and when they initially cited Saddam’s past use of gas as a justification for regime change.

That suggests that Bush II’s use of the WMD threat to garner support for his invasion of Iraq was bogus. It’s obvious that he decided to invade Iraq to accomplish what his father had failed to accomplish and what many conservatives wanted him to accomplish — regime change. He just needed a way to nullify opposition and garner support for his upcoming invasion and he knew that citing Saddam’s past use of gas might not be sufficient to garner support, especially if people were to find out that U.S. officials had helped Saddam with his battle plans knowing that he was using gas.

Believing that Saddam Hussein still had some of the gas left over as well as some of the other WMDs that the U.S. had furnished him during the 1980s, Bush obviously decided that his best bet to garner support for an invasion was to convince the American people that Saddam was preparing a massive WMD attack on America. He knew that Americans would trust him and that they would not require him to show them the secret evidence that he was relying upon. Bush’s plan obviously entailed invading Iraq, effecting regime change, finding some leftover gas and other WMDs, and proclaiming himself a savior for saving America from an imminent WMD attack from Iraq. Americans would never be the wiser and Bush would have accomplished what his father had failed to accomplish— the ouster of Saddam Hussein from power and his replacement with a pro-U.S. puppet.

Most Americans believed all the mushroom-cloud references and other WMD scare references that were emanating from Bush and his subordinates. That’s why they overwhelmingly supported the invasion — as a self-defense measure, not a welfare measure in which the Iraqi people were “liberated” from tyranny.

Undoubtedly, Chemical Ali will be sent to the gallows for his use of poisonous gas against the Iraqi people. Too bad those U.S. officials who secretly helped Saddam with his battle plans with full knowledge that Saddam was using such poisonous gas won’t be put on trial as well. The same, of course, holds true for those U.S. officials, including President Bush, who intentionally misled the American people as to why they were invading Iraq, an invasion that has left millions of Iraqis dead, maimed, or exiled from a country that has also been destroyed.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.