News Analysis

As George W. Bush’s administration continues their reckless path towards war with Iraq, splits are occurring in the ruling class as world and national opposition grows.

Bush’s main claim is that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction that require a U.S. invasion. Yet former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter debunked this claim. He told CNN July 18, “No one has substantiated the allegations that Iraq possesses … or is attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”

The U.S., not Iraq, terminated U.N. weapons inspections in December 1998 on the eve of Operation Desert Fox, he said. “As of December 1998, we had accounted for 90 to 95 percent of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capability. We destroyed all the factories, all of the means of production.”

But how did these means of production get there in the first place? The roots go to the Cold War and the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in which the Pentagon and corporations armed both sides.

An Aug. 18 New York Times expose uncovers the role of the Reagan-Bush administration. One of several unnamed U.S. officials who participated in a top secret operation during the 1980s told the Times that the Reagan-Bush administration “wasn’t so horrified by Iraq’s use of gas. … It was just another way of killing people. Whether with a bullet or phosgene didn’t make any difference.”

Jody Dodd, leadership and outreach coordinator of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (U.S. Section), greeted the expose and told the People’s World, “It is typical of their hypocrisy. Bush (junior) criticizes Iraq for using nerve gas. Yet Bush (senior) used depleted uranium warheads in the Persian Gulf war and there is much evidence that Gulf War illness is really radiation sickness caused by these weapons.”

The U.S., she added, “unfortunately has a long, ugly history of massacres and oppression. The U.S. was the first to use nuclear weapons, in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The U.S. military and the ruling elite will use these weapons to advance their interests.”

Nowhere is that more true than in the Middle East, where control of Persian Gulf oil drives Bush’s policy of war in the region.

Dodd pointed out that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, a close friend of Bush senior, last week publicly condemned Bush’s war drive against Iraq. Kissinger and Scowcroft, said Dodd, “care nothing about the human lives that would be lost. What concerns them is that their economic interests will be jeopardized by another Gulf war.”

The Times expose stops short of exposing the U.S. corporate and ruling class roots behind the arming of both Iraq and Iran in the genocidal war.

Over a decade ago, then-Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Texas, revealed that Bechtel Corporation set up a plant in Iraq to produce ethylene oxide, a precursor chemical that is easily converted to mustard gas.

Then-Secretary of State George Shultz, who had been president of Bechtel, sent a hasty warning that the company terminate the $1 billion deal.

Financing for the project came through the Atlanta branch of the Italian bank Banco Nazionale Lavoro (BNL), which played the main role in doling out $36.4 billion in credits for Iraq’s acquistion of U.S. weapons technology.

In a speech on the House floor Feb. 21, 1991, Gonzalez said, “Well, of course, Bechtel was there and of course … the Secretary of State … this was just one example … of the largest corporations in our country doing extensive business(with Iraq). And what in? Chemical projects.”

Even a right-wing author like Kenneth Timmerman had to acknowledge the U.S. role and corporate profit motive in arming Iraq. In his book “Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq,” Timmerman charges that the U.S., Britain, France and West Germany joined in an orgy of weapons and high technology sales to Iraq which he called “the biggest arms bazaar in world history.”

In July of 1986, Reagan’s National Security Advisor, Admiral John Poindexter issued a National Security Decision Directive ordering the Commerce Department to “be more forthcoming on Iraqi license requests” for the delivery of U.S. technology to Hussein.

The Reagan-Bush administration was worried “about being placed in a position where it would have to admit that it had tacitly condoned the creation of an Iraqi chemical weapons manufacturing capability,” Timmerman continues. “A careful analysis of export licenses awarded U.S. companies selling high tech goods to Iraq would show the Department of Commerce, the State Department and the Pentagon knew exactly what the Iraqis were up to and decided to let them steam ahead.”

In a classic “divide and conquer” scheme, the Reagan administration armed both sides of the bloody Iran-Iraq war, smuggling tons of advanced weaponry to Iran aboard freighters and Boeing 747 cargo planes in the infamous Iran-contra conspiracy, which Reagan admitted Nov. 4, 1986.

Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North hid the profits from the illegal Iranian arms sales in Swiss bank accounts and doled it out to mercenary contras waging a genocidal war against the people of Nicaragua and El Salvador.

All this recent history should help show the true ruling-class roots and interests in perpetrating war and weapons of mass destruction.

The author is the editor of People’s Weekly World and can be reached at



Tim Wheeler
Tim Wheeler

Tim Wheeler estimates he has written 10,000 news reports, exposés, op-eds, and commentaries in his half-century as a journalist for the Worker, Daily World and People’s World. Tim also served as editor of the People’s Weekly World newspaper. He lives in Sequim, Wash., in the home he shared with his beloved late wife Joyce Wheeler. His book News for the 99% is a selection of his writings over the last 50 years representing a kind of history of the nation and the world from a working-class point of view.