August 31, 2006
Peter W. Galbraith has an excellent column in the Boston Globe today explaining the deep irony of Donald Rumsfeld’s attempt to associate those opposing his Iraq war with those who appeased Hitler.
Ronald Reagan sent Rumsfeld to meet with Saddam Hussein in during the war Iraq started with Iran:
… the Reagan administration was afraid Iraq might actually lose. Reagan chose Rumsfeld as his emissary to Hussein, whom he visited in December 1983 and March 1984. Inconveniently, Iraq had begun to use chemical weapons against Iran in November 1983, the first sustained use of poison gas since a 1925 treaty banning that.
Rumsfeld never mentioned this blatant violation of international law to Hussein, instead focusing on shared hostility toward Iran and an oil pipeline through Jordan.
[after the war]…President George H.W. Bush’s administration actually doubled US financial credits for Iraq. A week before Hussein invaded Kuwait, the administration vociferously opposed legislation that would have conditioned US assistance to Iraq on a commitment not to use chemical weapons and to stop the genocide against the Kurds. At the time, Dick Cheney, now vice president, was secretary of defense and a statutory member of the National Security Council that reviewed Iraq policy. By all accounts, he supported the administration’s appeasement policy.
In 2003, Cheney, Powell, and Rumsfeld all cited Hussein’s use of chemical weapons 15 years before as a rationale for war. But at the time Hussein was actually doing the gassing — including of his own people — they considered his use of chemical weapons a second-tier issue.
Galbraith, by the way, interviewed survivors of Iraq’s slaughter of Kurds in 1988, gathering evidence to support Claiborne Pell’s bill that would have ended US financial support for Iraq. The leader of the Reagan administration’s opposition? Colin Powell.
Rumsfeld has looked Hussein in the eye when our government was supporting him. Rumsfeld calling other appeasers is yet more evidence that the flaws we see in others are the flaws we see in ourselves.
And I don’t want to let the appeaser charge stick in any way. I was not against the Iraq war because I wanted to appease terrorists. I want to fight terrorists. I just oddly insist that we fight them where they are and not where they aren’t.