A few hours had passed since hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 had plowed into the Pentagon. Emergency operations continued at both the Pentagon and Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. Across the nation, Americans were still trying to digest the horrifying spectacle being replayed on their television screens. And Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, along with a handful of aides, gathered in the undamaged Pentagon National Command Center to begin planning for war against Iraq.
At 2:40 p.m. on September 11th, according to notes taken from a participant in the meeting, Rumsfeld told his subordinates that he wanted the "best info fast. Judge whether [it's] good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time. Not only UBL [Osama bin Laden].... Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not." As CBS News summarized, Rumsfeld "was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq -- even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks."
The history of Rumsfeld's dealings with Saddam perfectly encapsulates Frederic Bastiat's maxim that governments grow by creating the poison and the antidote in the same laboratory. As a member of George W. Bush's cabinet, Rumsfeld insists: "No terrorist state poses a greater and more immediate threat to the security of our people and the stability of the world than the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq." But nearly 20 years ago, as a presidential emissary on behalf of Ronald Reagan, Rumsfeld helped facilitate the military, technological, and financial aid from Washington that effectively built Saddam into a regional menace.
As reported in these pages more than four years ago (see "Arming Saddam" in our March 30, 1998 issue), Rumsfeld visited Baghdad on December 17, 1983 bearing a handwritten letter for Saddam from President Reagan. "In it Reagan offered to renew diplomatic relations and to expand military and business ties with Baghdad," reported investigator Alan Friedman in his expose Spider's Web.
The supposed justification for the U.S. "tilt" toward Baghdad, as summarized in a recently released 1983 diplomatic cable written by Rumsfeld, was that "the U.S. and Iraq shared interests in preventing Iranian and Syrian expansion." Iraq invaded Iran in 1980, beginning a brutal war of attrition that would claim over a million lives by the time it ended in August 1988. During that conflict, the U.S. "gave Iraq vital battle-planning help ... by providing detailed information on Iranian military deployments, tactical planning for battles, plans for airstrikes and bomb-damage assessments," summarized an August 18th account on MSNBC.com.
In a January 1995 affidavit, former National Security Council staffer Howard Teicher testified:
In June 1982, President Reagan decided that the United States could not afford to allow Iraq to lose the war to Iran. President Reagan decided that the United States would do whatever was necessary and legal to prevent Iraq from losing the war with Iran.
President Reagan formalized this policy by issuing a National Security Decision Directive ("NSDD") to this effect in June 1982.... The NSDD, including even its identifying number, is classified.... Pursuant to the secret NSDD, the United States actively supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, by providing U.S. military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and by closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required.
The foreign aid floodgates opened for Iraq shortly after Rumsfeld's December 1983 visit to Baghdad. In 1984, the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Eximbank) provided a $500 million loan guarantee to Iraq to build the Aqaba oil pipeline, a project that earned the personal attention of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. But even more prodigious amounts of aid flowed from Washington to Baghdad via the Agriculture Department's Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). …