The Associated Press has a story today
that fails to provide the reader with some essential background information:
"Secretary of State Colin Powell visited a mass grave Monday to highlight perhaps the single biggest human-rights abuse of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime - the chemical weapons murder of some 5,000 people in March 1988."
What the story fails to tell us is how the U.S. responded to this "single biggest human-rights abuse" at the time it happened.
How did we respond? We ignored it, of course.
You see, in 1988, the U.S. was supporting Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran because our biggest concern at that time was the fundamentalist regime headed by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
ABC News has a good historical summary of that forgotten period of our history here.
"There was real concern in Washington that this Islamic revolution in Iran would catch fire, and would scorch the rest of the region," said Kenneth Pollack, a former Iraq analyst for the CIA and the National Security Council, "that the Iranians would go on a march and roll through Baghdad and into Riyadh and into the Saudi oil fields and effectively be able to corner the world's oil market."
So we were more concerned with securing the world's oil market in 1988 than we were with a few thousand Kurdistan casualties. The Kurdistan massacre took place in March 1988 - a very inconvenient time for the U.S. which was at the same time preparing to help strike a critical blow to Iran just one month later that would help Iraq to win the war...
"Soon after the United States began supplying Saddam's Iraq with critical intelligence, the American military launched an active — and secret — campaign against Iran. U.S. helicopters attacked Iranian gunboats from a secret platform in the Gulf. And on April 18, 1988, the U.S. military destroyed much of the Iranian navy just as Iraq launched a major offensive."
1988 is also the year that George Herbert Walker Bush became president. How did Bush Sr. respond to "the single biggest human-rights abuse of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime" ?
Why, he "signed a secret executive order, National Security Directive Number 26, that called for even closer ties between the United States and Iraq."
The E-N ran another version of this story Tuesday from the Washington Post that provides just a smidgen of background info.
"Although the United States condemned the Iraqi government's use of chemical weapons as a "grave violation" of international law, the Reagan administration did not sanction Hussein, who was regarded as a U.S. ally because of his war against Iran's Islamic revolutionary government. At the time, the State Department said there were "indications" that Iran had used chemical artillery shells against Iraqi positions in the area.
Asked today about the U.S. response, Powell, who was Reagan's national security adviser, told reporters that "there was no effort on the part of the Reagan administration to either ignore it or not take note of it." But when speaking to about 250 relatives of victims, Powell said there should have been a more aggressive response."
Notice how at the time that the massacre occurred, the Reagan administration tried to blame it on Iran.
The story also points out that Powell was "Reagan's national security adviser" at the time. Do you think he believed at the time that Iran was responsible for the gas attack rather than Hussein?
Today, Powell says there was no effort to ignore the attacks, but what about efforts to cover them up and mislead the American people about their origins?
Of course, we only covered up the attacks temporarily. We were more than happy to uncover them a few years later in time to drum up support for Gulf War I and now Powell is forced to use them again since there are no contemporary examples of WMD usage in Iraq that he can point to.