Saddam Hussein, former employee of the American federal government, was captured near a farmhouse in Tikrit in a raid performed by other employees of the American federal government. That sounds pretty deranged, right? Perhaps, but it is also accurate. The unifying thread binding together everyone assembled at that Tikrit farmhouse is the simple fact that all of them - the soldiers as well as Hussein - have received pay from the United States for services rendered.
It is no small irony that Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad, the monster under your bed lo these last twelve years, was paid probably ten thousand times more during his time as an American employee than the soldiers who caught him on Saturday night. The boys in the Reagan White House were generous with your tax dollars, and Hussein was a recipient of their largesse for the better part of a decade.
(William Rivers Pitt, "We Caught the Wrong Guy")
If you think that Pitt's reference to Saddam as a "former [government] employee" is just an over-the-top rant, look at the photo below. Can you tell who's shaking hands with the "Butcher of Baghdad?"
That's right: it's Donald Rumsfeld! The picture is a little grainy because it's from a video of Rumsfeld's first visit (20 December 1983) to Iraq, as Reagan's special envoy. I only wish the media were as liberal and contrarian as they're purported to be, so everyone could have seen this image before the war began. Unfortunately, the corporate media function as lapdogs more often than watchdogs these days. (Serendipitously, Garry Trudeau addressed the same issue this morning.)
Saddam has a long history with the US, starting in 1959 when the CIA paid him to assassinate Iraq's prime minister. (The attempt failed, but it wasn't the last time he was on our payroll.) Check here for some details about our support for Saddam during the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, and here for a broader historical commentary.
As Pitt summarizes in his book War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know:
Fearing the rise of Soviet influence in Iran, and fearing an Iranian takeover of the region, the Reagan administration began actively arming and supporting Saddam Hussein. By 1982, Iraq was removed from the list of terrorist sponsoring nations. By 1984, America had restored full diplomatic relations with Iraq, and was actively sharing military intelligence with Hussein's army. This aid included arming Iraq with potent weapons, providing satellite imagery of Iranian troop deployments and tactical planning for battles, assisting with air strikes, and assessing damage after bombing campaigns. (p. 20)
Paramilitary thugs like Saddam were called "freedom fighters" far too often in that era, including when the CIA supplied the Taliban (and Osama bin Laden) while they fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Perhaps the simplistic "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" attitude should be abandoned based on its demonstrated potential for unforeseen consequences?
Thanks for reading.
Quote of the Day:
The term "blowback," which officials of the Central Intelligence Agency first invented for their own internal use, is starting to circulate among students of international relations. It refers to the unintended consequences of policies that were kept secret from the American people. What the daily press reports as the malign acts of "terrorists" or "drug lords" or "rogue states" or "illegal arms merchants" often turns out to be blowback from earlier American operations.
Chalmers Johnson, (Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire, p. 8)
A few pages later, Johnson discusses "...the spiral of blowback and retaliation that is undoubtedly not yet at an end in the case of bin Laden." If only his - and others' - warnings had been heeded when they were published in 2000, instead of being passed along to the incoming administration and then ignored...