There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Spider's Web on the bus

Finished Alan Friedman's "Spider's Web: The secret history of how the White House illegally armed Iraq," a 1993 volume that documents, literally, the efforts of the Reagan and Bush I administrations, Britain and Italy to arm Iraq during and after the Iran-Iraq War.

I found this book on a shelf in my study when I went to put away Ahmed Rashid's "Descent into Chaos," which deals with the current Bush disaster. "Spider's Web" was one of those remainder books I picked up somewhere and never read. Reading it today gives a whole new perspective on U.S. involvement in Iraq.

For instance, take this from Friedman's "Endgame" chapter:

In the 1980s, at times in the name of anti-Soviet containment, and because of the obsessive drive to guarantee access to Persian Gulf oil, the Reagan and Bush administrations, with people like George Bush and James Baker in positions of primary responsibility, did virtually anything they wanted. The government's lack of accountability, either to Congress or to the public, was so egregious as to pose a silent threat to the principles of American democracy.
Who was the defense secretary in this period? Dick Cheney. And who was President Reagan's special Middle East envoy? Donald Rumsfeld. And then there's Robert Gates, today's defense secretary who worked for Bush I in the CIA and in the White House as deputy national security adviser. Is it any wonder that today's "war on terror" suffers from the same lawlessness?

The first Gulf War was full of irony. As Operation Desert Storm was broadcast live on CNN:
Millions of dollars' worth of the military equipment that the West had covertly supplied to Iraq, and billions more in high technology that Saddam Hussein had illicitly obtained, were now being bombed by his principal suppliers.

The cluster bomb factories that Carlos Cardoen had supplied and built were among the very first targets. Those had arrived in Iraq with CIA knowledge and blessings. The radar-guided antiaircraft systems that resembled fireworks over CNN as they assisted Baghdad's defenses had wound their way to the Iraqi capital from James Guerin's companies in Pennsylvania. The computers from Hewlett-Packard, the trucks from General Motors, the satellite down-links from California, and a thousand more U.S.-supplied components of Saddam's huge military machine were being methodically obliterated.
The depth of the U.S., British and Italian involvement in supporting Iraq's weapons programs, including its efforts to build nuclear-weapons-capable missiles, is outlined by Friedman in detail and supported by 73 pages of documents and another 69 pages of notes.

At the time, President George H.W. Bush lamely excused this commerce as an effort by the world community to bring Iraq into the family of nations. A more glaring example of immoral government actions is hard to imagine. At least it was hard to imagine before the current administration's preemptive return to the region.

Regime change, anyone?

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