Posted by Jeff from bgp01107368bgs.wbrmfd01.mi.comcast.net (220.127.116.11) on Sunday, August 18, 2002 at 2:01PM :
assisted Iraqi regime
Paper says U.S. aided Saddam Hussein despite use of chemical arsenal
MSNBC STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS
Aug. 18 — The United States gave Iraq vital battle-planning help during its war with Iran as part of a secret program under President Ronald Reagan even though U.S. intelligence agencies knew the Iraqis would unleash chemical weapons, The New York Times reported Sunday.
THE HIGHLY CLASSIFIED covert program involved more than 60 officers of the Defense Intelligence Agency who provided detailed information on Iranian military deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for airstrikes and bomb-damage assessments for Iraq, the Times said.
The Times said it based its report on comments by senior U.S. military officers with direct knowledge of the program, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.
Iraq and neighboring Iran waged a vicious and costly war from September 1980 to August 1988, with estimates of 1 million people killed and millions more left as refugees.
CHEMICAL WEAPONS NEVER OPPOSED
U.S. intelligence officers never encouraged or condoned the use of chemical weapons by Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s forces, but they also never opposed such action because they considered Iraq to be struggling for its survival and feared that Iran would overrun the crucial oil-producing Persian Gulf states, the Times reported.
It has been known for some time that the United States provided intelligence assistance to Iraq during the war in the form of satellite photography to help the Iraqis understand how Iranian forces were deployed. But the complete scope of the program had not been known until now, the Times said.
The Times noted that Iraq’s deployment of chemical weapons during its war with Iran has been invoked by President Bush and Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser, as justification for seeking “regime change” in Iraq.
‘IT DIDN’T MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE’
While senior officials of the Reagan administration publicly condemned Iraq’s use of mustard gas, sarin, VX and other chemical weapons, Reagan, Vice President George Bush — father of the current president — and senior national security aides never withdrew their support for the covert program, the Times quoted military officers as saying.
The Pentagon “wasn’t so horrified by Iraq’s use of gas,” a veteran of the program told the newspaper. “It was just another way of killing people — whether with a bullet or phosgene, it didn’t make any difference.”
Retired Col. Walter P. Lang, the senior defense intelligence officer at the time, told the Times that he would not discuss classified information, but he added that officials of both the DIA and the CIA “were desperate to make sure that Iraq did not lose” to Iran.
“The use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern,” he said. What Reagan’s aides were concerned about, he said, was that Iran not break through to the Fao Peninsula and spread the Islamic revolution to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Powell, at the time the national security adviser, was among the Reagan administration officials who publicly condemned Iraq for its use of poison gas.
The current secretary of state, Colin Powell, who at the time served as national security adviser, was among the Reagan administration officials who publicly condemned Iraq for its use of poison gas, especially one incident in March 1988.
The Times said that in early 1988, after the Iraqis, with U.S. planning assistance, retook a key peninsula in an attack that restored Iraqi access to the Gulf, a defense intelligence officer, Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona, was dispatched to tour the battlefield with Iraqi officers.
Francona found that Iraq had used chemical weapons to secure its victory, observing zones marked off for chemical contamination and seeing unmistakable evidence that Iraqi soldiers had taken injections to guard against the effects of poison gas used against the Iranians, the Times said.
Powell, through a spokesman, called the Times account of the program “dead wrong” but declined to discuss it, the newspaper said. Both the DIA and retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Leonard Perroots, who supervised the program as the head of the agency, refused to comment, the Times said.
NBC: Iraqi envoy warns the U.S.
August 18 — Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf says Washington should not go in alone in Iraq.
WARNINGS ON WAR
The United States, meanwhile, is seeking to rally support for new military action against Baghdad. But in recent days President Bush appears to have tempered some of his bellicose speech with a call for more “debate” over the issue. Key figures in the 1991 Gulf War like then National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf have challenged Bush’s view that Saddam must be toppled as soon as possible.
On Sunday, Schwarzkopf told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that another war with Iraq is “not going to be an easy battle, but would be much more effective if we didn’t have to go it alone.”
Bush’s plan for “regime change ” in Baghdad has drawn stern criticism from Middle East and European allies who supported the 1991 Gulf War. “This is worldwide problem and therefore we don’t need to go it alone militarily,” Schwarzkopf warned.
Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., a member of the Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees, also noted the key role support for U.S. action would play in the Gulf.
“We’re going to have to at least get some support from allies, some money from allies, some bases from allies and show that because that is going to be required, ultimately, to have the kind of victory and the final result we need in Iraq,” Lugar told “Meet the Press.”
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