Sat, Oct 15, 2005 - Page 9 News List

Saddam and Washington: from a pampered child to bogeyman


Saddam Hussein played diplomatic games with four US presidents, but Ronald Reagan was his favorite.

"Reagan and me, good," he is supposed to have said in broken English to four US guards, according to GQ magazine.

"The Cleenton [Bill Clinton], he's okay. The Bush, father and son, no good," he reportedly said.

This evaluation charts the rise and fall of Saddam from the pampered child to the bogeyman of the US.

During Reagan's presidency, the US State Department crossed Iraq off the list of countries supporting terrorism and Saddam bought heavily on the US arms market, including components for chemical weapons.

Saddam's arsenal was allowed to flourish although the UN had evidence since 1984 that Saddam was using chemical weapons against enemy troops in the war against Iran (1980 to 1988).

Saddam is supposed to have received loans of around US$40 billion during the Reagan era because Washington wanted to prevent an Iranian victory at all costs.

Reagan's emissary, current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, went to Baghdad in December 1983 and early 1984 to prepare for the resumption of diplomatic relations which had been broken off following the Six Days War in 1967.

When the Iran-Iraq war ended in 1988, Saddam's quarrel with Kuwait over debts, borders and oil prices escalated. At that time former president George Bush was in the White House.

On July 25, 1990, a few days before the invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, US ambassador April Glaspie met the Iraqi dictator. She expressed hopes for a swift diplomatic solution to the dispute, but, according to the minutes taken by Iraqi officials, also said: "We have no opinion about inter-Arab conflicts like the dispute over the border with Kuwait."

When asked if that remark might have been taken as a green light for the invasion of Kuwait, she replied: "We foolishly did not recognize that he [Saddam] is stupid."

The war to liberate Kuwait took place at the beginning of 1991. The US-led coalition pounded Iraqi troops in Kuwait and made it to within 80km of Baghdad, but Saddam stayed in power.

In the years following the first Gulf war, during Clinton's presidency, Saddam played a cat-and-mouse game with UN weapons inspectors charged with overseeing the end of Iraq's weapons programs.

"With the exception of Adolf Hitler, the world has never seen anyone as evil as Saddam Hussein," then US secretary of state Madeleine Albight said.

Wrangling over the inspections culminated in December 1998 with the bombing by the US and Britain of Iraqi military installations.

Four years later, the US government cited alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD), unproven links to al-Qaeda and massive human-rights violations as the basis for the war to oust Saddam.

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell now regrets presenting the supposed proof of WMD in Iraq to the UN Security Council on Feb.5, 2003.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the US broke with its decade-long policy of Iraqi containment. Saddam was to be removed as a threat to his neighbors and to Israel, and Iraq was to be made into a model of freedom and democracy in the Middle East.

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