VX Gas in Iraq
Jude Wanniski
June 25, 1998


Memo To: Bill Cohen, Secretary of Defense
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: What? VX Gas in Iraq??

As much as I hate to say this, Bill, on the new issue raised by UNSCOM’s Richard Butler about VX gas being found in missile fragments buried somewhere in Iraq in 1991, I agree with Iraq that this is one more deceptive maneuver by OUR SIDE to prevent the lifting of sanctions. It saddens me to have to believe Saddam Hussein’s government over Uncle Sam, but the record I’ve observed since 1994 has persuaded me that we have been acting in BAD FAITH from 1991 onward. This latest episode is another  transparent maneuver to condition the American people that we must not lift the sanctions on Iraq as long as Saddam Hussein is in power. I genuinely believe the Baghdad government that we have contrived this VX report, falsifying the findings in some way to cook up this story. My guess is that the material presented to the American labs had been salted with traces of VX so that the scientists at Aberdeen would be able to confirm VX without having to perjure themselves down the line, if it came to that. Iraqi Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon is correct to point out that his government cannot trust a government that openly admits it will do anything in its power to overthrow it. The CIA usually operates clandestinely in such maneuvers, but in this case it has been overt in admitting its failed attempts to destabilize the regime and foment civil uprisings. You know as well as I do, Bill, that throughout the Cold War we played these kinds of games, and I wholeheartedly approved. Everything is fair in love and war, eh? But in peacetime, especially after 1.4 million Iraqi civilians have expired in ghastly deaths because of our “games,” I suggest it is time to call it quits.

This VX story does not add up. Iraq admits it attempted to produce weapons grade VX at the time of its war with Iran, but that it failed. Nobody anywhere asserts that they ever used VX gas. This new allegation derives from UNSCOM’s return to a site that Iraq itself had identified in 1991! In accordance with its agreement to destroy all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction at the end of the Gulf War, in exchange for a lifting of the sanctions, Iraq destroyed all such weapons in cooperation with UNSCOM by November 1991. No site was discovered without the assistance of Iraq. The site that led to the current dispute contained buried missile fragments that UNSCOM had inspected in 1991. Now, with the United States alarmed that Iraq has gained sympathy around the world as it has become clear we are not acting in good faith, and have no intention to lift the sanctions, UNSCOM insists on returning to the site of the missile fragments, digging up some shells, transporting them to a laboratory in Maryland, and wouldn’t you know? Traces of VX are found!

You should ask yourself, Bill, if any possible good can come from the United States conducting a foreign policy that slaps economic sanctions on countries around the world on the condition that they change their behavior, when we have no intention of lifting the sanctions even if they change their behavior. Even if this policy had not fundamentally contributed to the deaths of so many innocent civilians I would protest it.

In a broader context, you know as well as I, that when we dig the least bit beneath the surface of our policy toward Iraq, we quickly discover that as reprehensible as he may be, Saddam’s actions during the past 20 years have not been as clearly evil as we pretend. We supported him in his war with the Islamic fundamentalists of Iran, who openly called for the overthrow of the secular government in Baghdad. We did everything we could to encourage Iraqis to fight to the last man in that war, and the Pentagon you now administer will remind you if it is asked that it supplied chemical and biological weapons to Saddam to help him kill Iranians. You probably don’t need to be reminded that when Saddam, after the war, tried to dig himself out of the mountain of war debts that were smothering his economy, his efforts were thwarted by the greed of the Emir of Kuwait. The Emir, with innumerable ex-wives, was producing several hundred thousand barrels of oil per day above the amount he had agreed to within OPEC. Adding insult to injury, Kuwait was drilling at an angle under its border with Iraq, stealing Iraqi oil. To top it off, the oil fields had originally belonged to Iraq, but after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire following WWI, the British gave the oilfields to Kuwait.

So when Saddam, with his back to the wall, asked the United States government if it would mind if he went in and took back the oil fields, we told him through our ambassador to Baghdad that it was none our business. Saddam then made a final attempt to get reparations from the Emir, but the Emir snubbed and flew off to Paris, it being too warm for him in Kuwait City. The record also indicates, Bill, that Saddam had the early support of King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, who blamed the Emir for the fracas. Our government then strongarmed the Saudis and bought off the Egyptians to join us in a war against Saddam -- to teach him a lesson. The record also suggests that there did not have to be a war, that Saddam had tried again and again to avert one, agreeing to leave Kuwait without a fight, but that we had already decided to go ahead with the war for other political purposes in the Middle East. I say all this having reluctantly supported the Gulf War, but only after Cairo and the Saudis changed their minds and went along with our wishes. As I indicated earlier, it was not until 1994 that it became clear to me we had no intention of lifting the sanctions no matter what Baghdad did. And I was horrified when our then UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright said “Yes” when asked if bringing down Saddam was worth the deaths of the 500,000 Iraqi children who died of disease and malnutrition as a result of the sanctions -- according to the UN itself.

There have been no weapons of mass destruction found by UNSCOM without the cooperation of Iraq. And no weapons have been found and destroyed since November 1991, according to UNSCOM’s own records. For almost seven years since, we have used every ruse and excuse to keep the sanctions on, this recent VX baloney being the latest and among the most transparent. The sanctions should be lifted immediately.