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A Lone Woman Testifies To Iraq's Order of Terror

This Washington Post story will be hard to read for the majority of Portland Indy Media readers who did not want to liberate Iraq by force It shows how barbaric the previous government was and why I am proud to be from the country that is helping restore human rights in Iraq. It also helps me understand why we may need to remain in the country for some time..
BAGHDAD -- She was walking hurriedly, as if in a trance, oblivious to the weakness in her legs, not seeing the bewildered looks of the American troops trailing her, not hearing her own cries of anguish. Jumana Michael Hanna, tears streaming down her face, had slipped into the darkest recesses of memory.

Hanna, a 41-year-old Assyrian Christian from a formerly rich and prominent Iraqi family, returned last week to the well of her nightmares: the police academy in Baghdad, a sprawling complex of offices, classrooms, soccer, polo and parade grounds -- and prison cells, some of them converted dog kennels, according to American officials who now control the campus.

This is the place where in the 1990s Hanna was hung from a rod and beaten with a special stick when she called out for Jesus or the Virgin Mary. This is where she and other female prisoners were dragged outside and tied to a dead tree trunk, nicknamed "Walid" by the guards, and raped in the shadow of palm trees. This is the place where electric shock was applied to Hanna's vagina. And this is where in February 2001 someone put a bullet in her husband's head and handed his corpse through the steel gate like a piece of butcher's meat.

Hanna has come back here to help the new occupation authorities in Iraq find the men who tormented her. After she identified some of the men through a series of photos of officers in the new Iraqi police force and provided other corroborating information to American and Iraqi officials, on Saturday morning an Iraqi police anti-corruption squad detained three men, including a brigadier general. U.S. and Iraqi officials are talking to a fourth man and seeking his cooperation. As of yesterday, none had been formally charged, but the investigation is continuing.

"For two months I've been here and heard the rumors about what happened to women, but no one came forward," said Bernard B. Kerik, the senior policy adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and former police commissioner in New York City. "This is the first case where someone has given us information that appears to be credible and that we can corroborate and act on. A lot of Iraqi women will see that we are serious. This is an event that will lead to closure for a lot of people -- and justice."

Hanna, who agreed to the use of her full name, is just one of hundreds and possibly thousands of women who were tortured and sexually assaulted by the agents of the last government, human rights officials said. For those who survived, their ordeal was often left unspoken, swept behind a cloak of family and societal shame. That will make prosecutions extremely difficult, American officials said, and makes Hanna's determination to expose her jailors all the more dramatic for an occupying authority eager to build a clean, new police force.

A month ago, homeless and seeking assistance from Americans for her mother, her two children and herself, Hanna went to the Baghdad Convention Center. A leadership conference was underway for about 60 officers in the reconstituted Iraqi police force. There, in the crowd, she said she saw the man she and the other female prisoners knew as the Major. She recalled he was the man who had laughed at their pain as he inflicted more and more of it, the man who extinguished his cigarette on Hanna's leg on the day she was ordered released. "Pain that no one can imagine," said Hanna. "Terrible, terrible pain. Pain that steals your honor."

Hanna fled the convention center in a blind panic, wandering aimlessly through the streets. Nearly two weeks later, she made her way to the Human Rights Society of Iraq, housed in a two-story building near the Ministry of Justice. Activists there told her that the U.S. occupying authorities in Iraq would want to know about her jailors, especially if they had returned to the police force.

And so, trembling, Hanna stood last week at the arched entryway of the police academy, seeking justice but fearing what lay beyond. Between tears and bouts of breathlessness, her story tumbled out in fragments as she guided her hosts, U.S. officials working to rebuild the Iraqi police force, from one scene of torture to another.

She pointed to a wall in a cell and said it hid a stairwell; the academy's Iraqi commissioner later confirmed its existence, U.S. officials said. At one moment, she walked through an open yard trying to find a second tree trunk, just like the first one, "Walid," but used only to tie prisoners for beatings with sticks or cable wire. She was convinced it was there, but no one could see a second trunk. And, finally, there it was, hidden behind some wild reeds and heaped brush. The guards called that one "Haneen," she said.

"We'll nail the bastards," said Dennis Henley, the American director of reconstruction at the police academy.

Among those detained Saturday morning was the one-star brigadier general, who Hanna identified as taking part in her initial detention in November 1993. U.S. officials have not been able to identify the Major, who was Hanna's principal tormentor, and whose family name Hanna does not know. U.S. officials hope the detentions will provide further leads, Kerik said.

An Iraqi judge and an Iraqi female prosecutor were assigned to the case by the Ministry of Interior. U.S. officials said they planned to offer security to Hanna, who has been sleeping in an abandoned school on some nights in recent weeks because her friends were not able to house her entire family. She remains afraid that her future testimony could endanger her and her children.
A Dangerous Love Affair

The torment of Jumana Michael Hanna began as a love story in the summer of 1993. She was the only child of a venerable Iraqi family. She met Haitam Jamil Anwar, then a 30-year-old wood carver, son of immigrants from pre-independence India. It was an unsuitable match for Hanna's mother and, much more dangerously, Saddam Hussein's paranoid state.

Their first encounter was at Anwar's workshop when Hanna brought an old ornamental box inlaid with fine Iranian stones to the Indian craftsman for repair. He was funny, charming and flirtatious, she remembers. There was a promise that the box would be ready in two days and an immediate attraction that left her giddy afterward. The courtship began when, upon her return for the box, Anwar asked if he could see her again.

Because of Iraq's tribal traditions, where each marries his own, Hanna said she felt forced to hide her relationship from her mother. "I wanted her to marry an Iraqi man, a Christian man, not a foreigner," said Hanna's mother, Jeanne d'Arc Jacob Bahnam, 73, the daughter of an iron merchant who married a pharmacist from her own community. Her husband died in 1974.

The family lived in a fine house in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood, were members of the exclusive and largely Christian al-Hindia club, and vacationed in the United States and Europe. Wealthy and well-known, Hanna didn't lack suitors, her mother said. But she rejected them. She wanted, Hanna said, to fall in love.

On Aug. 15, 1993, Hanna and Anwar eloped and were secretly married by a sympathetic priest. In Iraq, however, the country's citizens needed state permission to marry a foreigner and the newlyweds had broken the law. A trip to the immigration authorities in Baghdad might have solved the problem, but Hanna, confident of her status as a member of a prominent family, went instead to the Olympic Committee in hopes that she could shortcut the bureaucracy. The Olympic Committee was the personal fiefdom of Hussein's eldest son, Uday, a psychopath and serial rapist whose penchant for cruelty and violence led him to even run afoul of his father when he bludgeoned to the death one of Hussein's close associates. The Olympic Committee building, now a burned-out ruin abutting the police academy grounds, was a symbol of the venality of Hussein's rule.

Hanna arrived at the building at 10 a.m. on Nov. 15, 1993. It was the beginning of a prison sentence of two years, three months and seven days without the approval of any court of law. Through much of that first day, she waited in one room after another on the promise that a meeting about her problem was imminent.

In the last room, where she was held for several hours, the door was locked. At sunset two men entered. She recalled they said they had to take routine security precautions in advance of a meeting with Uday Hussein. They slipped a black hood over her head and tied her hands behind her back. The anxiety, which had mounted through the day, flared into terror.
'They Took My Honor'

She was taken down to a lower level in an elevator and then along a passageway that seemed narrow because of the way the two men bumped against her. She was pushed into a room and tied, spread-eagle, to a bed.

"All of this period, I didn't resist," she said. "But on the bed, I knew. I said, 'I am like your sister; please don't do this.' I started to beg. They said if our sister married an Indian and started a network against the government, we would kill her. I kept praying, calling for Jesus and the Virgin Mary. I prayed to Muhammad. They damned them all."

"They raped me twice that first day," she continued. "I don't know the persons. Two of them. I couldn't see them. They kept raping for four days as well as I can remember. They took my honor."

A guard, who was not one of the rapists, took her periodically to a bathroom and washed her himself because he said he couldn't untie her. He lifted the hood to allow her to smoke a cigarette before taking her back to the room in which she was held. "I thank him for this small favor," Hanna said.

On what she believes was the fifth day, another man entered the room. She recalled he railed at her about a British spy network. He told her she had wanted her papers stamped so he would stamp them. He applied electric shock to her vagina; she lost consciousness.

Hanna awoke in what she thought was a veterinary clinic for dogs because of the sound of barking. She was, in fact, in a room adjacent to the police academy kennels. A woman applied alcohol to her vagina in a crude attempt to clean it. Hanna was given a painkiller and put in a cell with 17 other women where she was kept for 10 days before she was questioned again.

"We were one body and soul," she said of the women in the cell. "We helped each other." All of the women, she said, had been detained or kidnapped and then raped, some for as long as six months before they were discarded by their captors and brought to the police academy. She remembers, in particular, a Christian girl, a 16-year-old from Baghdad who said she was kidnapped outside her school. She was beautiful, "like Barbie the doll," said Hanna, who speaks some English and French.

On the 10th day, Hanna said, she met the Major, then about 35 years of age, a broad-shoulder man with curly black hair balding at the temples. "He wanted to know about a British network," said Hanna, who said he began by slapping her in the face. "He was sure I was working for the British. He gave me names, Iraqi names, men. I said, 'Yes, yes. I signed every paper he wants.' "

Over the next seven months, Hanna said, she implicated people she had never heard of in a spy network she knew nothing about. She was routinely beaten and she said the Major, in a grotesque joke, kept three sticks on a wall hanging under the names Jesus, the prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali, whom Shiite Muslims believe is Muhammad's true heir. Whichever holy man a prisoner called out for determined which stick they were beaten with. The Major, she said, also routinely used electric shock and once set a police dog on her in a small room; the scar of the bite mark is still on her arm.

The Major "is a sadist," said Hanna. "He loves torturing, especially in the sensitive spot." But, she added, the Major never raped the prisoners. The women were sexually assaulted by other guards, particularly at night when they would come to the cells. "They choose a girl and take her to the yard," Hanna said.
Family Bled Dry

For months, Hanna's mother thought her daughter had simply fled with her new husband. But he had also been arrested. "I asked my relatives if they knew where they were," Bahnam said. "No one knew. I thought she had disgraced me."

After seven months, three men arrived at Bahnam's house and told her that her daughter had been arrested. They produced a handwritten letter from Hanna, secured by the Major, asking Bahnam to sign over her house to them in order to secure her daughter's release.

"I agreed," said Bahnam. "I asked for time and they said they would give me 15 days to get out." The house has since been sold and re-sold and is one of thousands of similar cases that may clog the Iraqi courts for years as victims of the last government seek compensation.

"I took my gold and went out," said Bahnam. "I went to a Muslim house and begged him and he said, 'You are welcome.' " That man, Ahmed Safar, who is still living in Baghdad, said he sheltered Bahnam because it was his obligation as a Muslim once she asked for his help. He had never seen her before she showed up at his doorstep.

Over the next 19 months, the security officers drained Bahnam of her remaining wealth, forcing her to convert her gold into cash -- about $25,000 in all, she estimates.

In early 1996, Hanna and her husband, who had been held in a detention center directly across from the police academy, were finally released. Anwar's body bore the marks of torture and one of his legs had been broken while he was in custody, Hanna said.

Moving from rental to rental over the next few years, the couple subsisted on part-time jobs. They had two children, Sabr, a girl, and Ayoub, a boy, but they never had their marriage sanctioned by the state.

In January 2001, Anwar went to the Ministry of Interior to try and sort out his children's papers before they started school; he also needed the papers so their church would baptize them. He was arrested and taken back to the cells near the police academy where he had been held before.

"He never came home," Hanna said. On Feb. 14, 2001, Anwar's body was passed through the front gate of the detention center to Hanna after she had been summoned there. "I lost my mind," she said. "I was hysterical." A taxi driver agreed to take the body to her church, where Hanna washed and dressed her husband for burial. Anwar had been shot in the head.

With her husband's body, she was also handed a piece of government paper recognizing her as the two children's legal guardian. They could now be baptized and go to school.
Finding Her Tormentors

Last Wednesday evening, Henley and Gerald F. Burke from the U.S. occupation authority's Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance took Hanna to a trailer near the former Republican Palace to examine photographs of officers who had joined the reconstituted police force since the fall of Baghdad.

As an American soldier scrolled through pictures on a computer screen, Hanna suddenly said, "Go back, go back." Klumb gave the mouse to Hanna, who stopped at one picture.

"This is Salah, this is Salah," shouted Hanna, dressed in black, as she has been since her husband's death. "He brought me to jail."

The computer showed a brigadier general, a smiling, gray-haired man, in the photo. Hanna said he was the man who detained her at the Olympic Committee when a hood was placed over her head before her supposed meeting with Uday Hussein.

Hanna continued to click through pictures. "No, no, no," she said.

And then: "Saddam, Saddam." She identified a police sergeant, the man who washed her in the bathroom at the Olympic Committee and gave her cigarettes.

Then she found two of the men who allegedly raped her and other women at the police academy, a police captain and a senior sergeant.

"They raped us, they raped us in the night," she said. The pictures continued to scroll, hundreds of them, and she identified two men who escorted her to interrogations but did not abuse her.

"This is Raad, Raad," she said at another point.

"He was responsible for the dogs. For the dogs." He was among those detained on Saturday. Hanna said that this man brought her and other women out to the tree trunk known as "Haneen." One of his preferred forms of torture, she said, was to order the women to strip, then tie them to the tree trunk, and smear wet sugar on them so the dogs would terrorize them as they licked it off their bodies. Hanna also identified his superior at the academy.

But Hanna failed to find the Major among the photographs. U.S. officials promised they would continue to look for him.

Once he is found, she said, "I will take off my black clothes."

Special correspondents Souad Mekhennet and Hoda Lazin contributed to this report.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company
hmm... 22.Jul.2003 08:49

this thing here

>This Washington Post story will be hard to read for the majority of Portland Indy Media readers who did not want to liberate Iraq by force It shows how barbaric the previous government was and why I am proud to be from the country that is helping restore human rights in Iraq. It also helps me understand why we may need to remain in the country for some time..<

this is a terrible story for sure, but i though we went to war against iraq because it posed an imminent threat to the security of the united states of america, due to it's possession of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

Message to [Wiseguy/Troll?] Poster of original article 22.Jul.2003 11:13

kilroy

"majority of Portland Indy Media readers who did not want to liberate Iraq by force It shows how barbaric the previous government was"

--your comment is false and disingenuous.

Iraq has DEFINITELY NOT been 'liberated'--it is currently under military occupation by a force whose own rank + file members have expressed dissatisfaction with their continued presence and raison d'etre for being there. Civil instability and random violence are rampant, and the US administration is having to return to the previously-scorned (by them) United Nations to ask for 'peacekeeping' assistance.
 http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=655&ncid=655&e=6&u=/oneworld/20030718/wl_oneworld/4536637691058532856

Iraqi 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'--whose "imminent" threat was given by the US administration as the reason for pre-emptive invasion--have not been found by this 200,000 strong occupying army . . . where are they?? Why haven't ANY of them been used AT ALL on the battlefield??
 http://traprockpeace.org/ios030711.html
 http://middleeastreference.org.uk/ios030711.html

RE: the previous government--Saddam Hussein was a longtime CIA operative finally installed by the US in a 1968 Ba'ath party coup.

Saddam key in early CIA plot
 http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20030410-070214-6557r

A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making
 http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/14/opinion/14MORR.html?th

The United States continued supporting him with chemical + biological weapons sales during Iraq's decade-long war vs. the Iranian fundamentalist regime.
 http://www.commondreams.org/views02/0802-01.htm

"why I am proud to be from the country that is helping restore human rights in Iraq"

--what country are you from? where have you been? what about the Palestinian West Bank? East Timor? El Salvador? Colombia? Myanmar [Burma] etc.

"also helps me understand why we may need to remain in the country for some time.."

--see above. The monthly bill for this bloody, oppressive occupation is $4 billion--of YOUR tax dollars (assuming you truly are an American . . .)

In addition, American citizens wrote and called their Congressional representatives TEN to ONE AGAINST the preemptive Iraq war [Invasion] resolution last fall.

Finally--the U.S. remains in Afghanistan, whose US-appointed corporate-oil connected ruler, Hamid Karzai, is in daily fear for his life, and the Taliban have returned . . .
===================================================================

Contrary to the steady diet of Saddam Hussein--Bogeyman being spewed by the American 'free press', Hussein has had intimate connections to the USA and American intelligence dating back to the late 1950s. Indeed, Hussein's connections to the USA are much like that of another American spawn and collaborater, USAma Bin Laden, who was created by and probably continues working for the CIA to this very day. The picture below of an American flag being draped over the face of Saddam's statue is revealing, but not in the sense that most Americans understand. Like USAma Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein was made in America.

Exclusive: Saddam key in early CIA plot

By Richard Sale
UPI Intelligence Correspondent
From the International Desk
Published 4/10/2003 7:30 PM
 http://www.upi.com/view.cfm?StoryID=20030410-070214-6557r

U.S. forces in Baghdad might now be searching high and low for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but in the past Saddam was seen by U.S. intelligence services as a bulwark of anti-communism and they used him as their instrument for more than 40 years, according to former U.S. intelligence diplomats and intelligence officials.

United Press International has interviewed almost a dozen former U.S. diplomats, British scholars and former U.S. intelligence officials to piece together the following account. The CIA declined to comment on the report.

While many have thought that Saddam first became involved with U.S. intelligence agencies at the start of the September 1980 Iran-Iraq war, his first contacts with U.S. officials date back to 1959, when he was part of a CIA-authorized six-man squad tasked with assassinating then Iraqi Prime Minister Gen. Abd al-Karim Qasim.

In July 1958, Qasim had overthrown the Iraqi monarchy in what one former U.S. diplomat, who asked not to be identified, described as "a horrible orgy of bloodshed."

According to current and former U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Iraq was then regarded as a key buffer and strategic asset in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. For example, in the mid-1950s, Iraq was quick to join the anti-Soviet Baghdad Pact which was to defend the region and whose members included Turkey, Britain, Iran and Pakistan.

Little attention was paid to Qasim's bloody and conspiratorial regime until his sudden decision to withdraw from the pact in 1959, an act that "freaked everybody out" according to a former senior U.S. State Department official.

Washington watched in marked dismay as Qasim began to buy arms from the Soviet Union and put his own domestic communists into ministry positions of "real power," according to this official. The domestic instability of the country prompted CIA Director Allan Dulles to say publicly that Iraq was "the most dangerous spot in the world."

In the mid-1980s, Miles Copeland, a veteran CIA operative, told UPI the CIA had enjoyed "close ties" with Qasim's ruling Baath Party, just as it had close connections with the intelligence service of Egyptian leader Gamel Abd Nassar. In a recent public statement, Roger Morris, a former National Security Council staffer in the 1970s, confirmed this claim, saying that the CIA had chosen the authoritarian and anti-communist Baath Party "as its instrument."

According to another former senior State Department official, Saddam, while only in his early 20s, became a part of a U.S. plot to get rid of Qasim. According to this source, Saddam was installed in an apartment in Baghdad on al-Rashid Street directly opposite Qasim's office in Iraq's Ministry of Defense, to observe Qasim's movements.

Adel Darwish, Middle East expert and author of "Unholy Babylon," said the move was done "with full knowledge of the CIA," and that Saddam's CIA handler was an Iraqi dentist working for CIA and Egyptian intelligence. U.S. officials separately confirmed Darwish's account.

Darwish said that Saddam's paymaster was Capt. Abdel Maquid Farid, the assistant military attaché at the Egyptian Embassy who paid for the apartment from his own personal account. Three former senior U.S. officials have confirmed that this is accurate.

The assassination was set for Oct. 7, 1959, but it was completely botched. Accounts differ. One former CIA official said that the 22-year-old Saddam lost his nerve and began firing too soon, killing Qasim's driver and only wounding Qasim in the shoulder and arm. Darwish told UPI that one of the assassins had bullets that did not fit his gun and that another had a hand grenade that got stuck in the lining of his coat.

"It bordered on farce," a former senior U.S. intelligence official said. But Qasim, hiding on the floor of his car, escaped death, and Saddam, whose calf had been grazed by a fellow would-be assassin, escaped to Tikrit, thanks to CIA and Egyptian intelligence agents, several U.S. government officials said.

Saddam then crossed into Syria and was transferred by Egyptian intelligence agents to Beirut, according to Darwish and former senior CIA officials. While Saddam was in Beirut, the CIA paid for Saddam's apartment and put him through a brief training course, former CIA officials said. The agency then helped him get to Cairo, they said.

One former U.S. government official, who knew Saddam at the time, said that even then Saddam "was known as having no class. He was a thug -- a cutthroat."

In Cairo, Saddam was installed in an apartment in the upper class neighborhood of Dukki and spent his time playing dominos in the Indiana Café, watched over by CIA and Egyptian intelligence operatives, according to Darwish and former U.S. intelligence officials.

One former senior U.S. government official said: "In Cairo, I often went to Groppie Café at Emad Eldine Pasha Street, which was very posh, very upper class. Saddam would not have fit in there. The Indiana was your basic dive."

But during this time Saddam was making frequent visits to the American Embassy where CIA specialists such as Miles Copeland and CIA station chief Jim Eichelberger were in residence and knew Saddam, former U.S. intelligence officials said.

Saddam's U.S. handlers even pushed Saddam to get his Egyptian handlers to raise his monthly allowance, a gesture not appreciated by Egyptian officials since they knew of Saddam's American connection, according to Darwish. His assertion was confirmed by former U.S. diplomat in Egypt at the time.

In February 1963 Qasim was killed in a Baath Party coup. Morris claimed recently that the CIA was behind the coup, which was sanctioned by President John F. Kennedy, but a former very senior CIA official strongly denied this.

"We were absolutely stunned. We had guys running around asking what the hell had happened," this official said.

But the agency quickly moved into action. Noting that the Baath Party was hunting down Iraq's communist, the CIA provided the submachine gun-toting Iraqi National Guardsmen with lists of suspected communists who were then jailed, interrogated, and summarily gunned down, according to former U.S. intelligence officials with intimate knowledge of the executions.

Many suspected communists were killed outright, these sources said. Darwish told UPI that the mass killings, presided over by Saddam, took place at Qasr al-Nehayat, literally, the Palace of the End.

A former senior U.S. State Department official told UPI: "We were frankly glad to be rid of them. You ask that they get a fair trial? You have to get kidding. This was serious business."

A former senior CIA official said: "It was a bit like the mysterious killings of Iran's communists just after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979. All 4,000 of his communists suddenly got killed."

British scholar Con Coughlin, author of "Saddam: King of Terror," quotes Jim Critchfield, then a senior Middle East agency official, as saying the killing of Qasim and the communists was regarded "as a great victory." A former long-time covert U.S. intelligence operative and friend of Critchfield said: "Jim was an old Middle East hand. He wasn't sorry to see the communists go at all. Hey, we were playing for keeps."

Saddam, in the meantime, became head of al-Jihaz a-Khas, the secret intelligence apparatus of the Baath Party.

The CIA/Defense Intelligence Agency relation with Saddam intensified after the start of the Iran-Iraq war in September of 1980. During the war, the CIA regularly sent a team to Saddam to deliver battlefield intelligence obtained from Saudi AWACS surveillance aircraft to aid the effectiveness of Iraq's armed forces, according to a former DIA official, part of a U.S. interagency intelligence group.

This former official said that he personally had signed off on a document that shared U.S. satellite intelligence with both Iraq and Iran in an attempt to produce a military stalemate. "When I signed it, I thought I was losing my mind," the former official told UPI.

A former CIA official said that Saddam had assigned a top team of three senior officers from the Estikhbarat, Iraq's military intelligence, to meet with the Americans.

According to Darwish, the CIA and DIA provided military assistance to Saddam's ferocious February 1988 assault on Iranian positions in the al-Fao peninsula by blinding Iranian radars for three days.

The Saddam-U.S. intelligence alliance of convenience came to an end at 2 a.m. Aug. 2, 1990, when 100,000 Iraqi troops, backed by 300 tanks, invaded its neighbor, Kuwait. America's one-time ally had become its bitterest enemy.
=========================================

March 14, 2003
 http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/14/opinion/14MORR.html?th

A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making

By ROGER MORRIS

SEATTLE -- On the brink of war, both supporters and critics of United States policy on Iraq agree on the origins, at least, of the haunted relations that have brought us to this pass: America's dealings with Saddam Hussein, justifiable or not, began some two decades ago with its shadowy, expedient support of his regime in the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980's.

Both sides are mistaken. Washington's policy traces an even longer, more shrouded and fateful history. Forty years ago, the Central Intelligence Agency, under President John F. Kennedy, conducted its own regime change in Baghdad, carried out in collaboration with Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi leader seen as a grave threat in 1963 was Abdel Karim Kassem, a general who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. Washington's role in the coup went unreported at the time and has been little noted since. America's anti-Kassem intrigue has been widely substantiated, however, in disclosures by the Senate Committee on Intelligence and in the work of journalists and historians like David Wise, an authority on the C.I.A.

From 1958 to 1960, despite Kassem's harsh repression, the Eisenhower administration abided him as a counter to Washington's Arab nemesis of the era, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt -- much as Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush would aid Saddam Hussein in the 1980's against the common foe of Iran. By 1961, the Kassem regime had grown more assertive. Seeking new arms rivaling Israel's arsenal, threatening Western oil interests, resuming his country's old quarrel with Kuwait, talking openly of challenging the dominance of America in the Middle East -- all steps Saddam Hussein was to repeat in some form -- Kassem was regarded by Washington as a dangerous leader who must be removed.

In 1963 Britain and Israel backed American intervention in Iraq, while other United States allies -- chiefly France and Germany -- resisted. But without significant opposition within the government, Kennedy, like President Bush today, pressed on. In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, American agents marshaled opponents of the Iraqi regime. Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi communications and radioing orders to rebels. The United States armed Kurdish insurgents. The C.I.A.'s "Health Alteration Committee," as it was tactfully called, sent Kassem a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief, though the potentially lethal gift either failed to work or never reached its victim.

Then, on Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. "Almost certainly a gain for our side," Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to Kennedy the day of the takeover.

As its instrument the C.I.A. had chosen the authoritarian and anti-Communist Baath Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political faction influential in the Iraqi Army. According to the former Baathist leader Hani Fkaiki, among party members colluding with the C.I.A. in 1962 and 1963 was Saddam Hussein, then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after taking part in a failed assassination of Kassem in 1958.

According to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human rights organization, the 1963 coup was accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers of Iraq's educated elite -- killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll, but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures.

The United States also sent arms to the new regime, weapons later used against the same Kurdish insurgents the United States had backed against Kassem and then abandoned. Soon, Western corporations like Mobil, Bechtel and British Petroleum were doing business with Baghdad -- for American firms, their first major involvement in Iraq.

But it wasn't long before there was infighting among Iraq's new rulers. In 1968, after yet another coup, the Baathist general Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr seized control, bringing to the threshold of power his kinsman, Saddam Hussein. Again, this coup, amid more factional violence, came with C.I.A. backing. Serving on the staff of the National Security Council under Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon in the late 1960's, I often heard C.I.A. officers -- including Archibald Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt and a ranking C.I.A. official for the Near East and Africa at the time -- speak openly about their close relations with the Iraqi Baathists.

This history is known to many in the Middle East and Europe, though few Americans are acquainted with it, much less understand it. Yet these interventions help explain why United States policy is viewed with some cynicism abroad. George W. Bush is not the first American president to seek regime change in Iraq. Mr. Bush and his advisers are following a familiar pattern.

The Kassem episode raises questions about the war at hand. In the last half century, regime change in Iraq has been accompanied by bloody reprisals. How fierce, then, may be the resistance of hundreds of officers, scientists and others identified with Saddam Hussein's long rule? Why should they believe America and its latest Iraqi clients will act more wisely, or less vengefully, now than in the past?

If a new war in Iraq seems fraught with danger and uncertainty, just wait for the peace.

Roger Morris, author of "Richard Milhous Nixon: The Rise of an American Politician," is completing a book about United States covert policy in Central and South Asia.
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SEE ALSO:

Saddam Hussein--The Making of a Dictator [article + video]
 http://www.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=306061&group=webcast


This story 22.Jul.2003 12:47

anonymous

This story should be hard for ANYONE to read. Your reason for posting it is unfortunately shallow.

I wonder... 22.Jul.2003 13:14

someone

Where this poster was during the 80's when many of us were protesting the sale of arms to Iraq (and Iran for that matter). Wearing a "Bomb Iran" t-shirt, supporting Reagan and his "freedom fighters" the Taliban, or perhaps completely unaware of a foreign policy supporting brutal dictatorships like Hussein (among many others, both historically, and currently).

I have no problem reading an article like this; it shows just how awful and reprehensible the government of the united states has been in it's 20 years of military, political, and economic support of the Hussein regime. Remember, Hussein's party was the minority, they could never have seized or retained power without the support of the United States. Ultimately, all of the atrocities of that regime are blood on the hands of the united states taxpayers and politicians. I'm glad to know that in the 80's when I opposed the actions of the united states' government, I was indeed doing the right thing, as I am by opposing the current administration. Thank you for posting this reassurance.

the summary says it all 22.Jul.2003 14:06

idunno

The summary where the person who posted this says "this will be hard to read " for people who opposed Mr. Top Gun's war really tells us a lot, by demonstrating the extraordinary incapacity or unwillingness of the US junta's supporters to actually assimilate and respond to the actual criticisms of most opponents of the war. I have hardly ever found an opponent of the war who didn't readily acknowledge Hussein's barbarity. The point that we make is not that Hussein was/is not barbarous, but rather, that spilling the blood of thousands of innocents could only possibly be justified if one has a high degree of confidence that the situation will necessarily be greatly improved, a confidence that is wholly unjustified to confer upon the people who are waging these wars, given their track record. Everything we know about their track records, their actions throughout their careers, the way in which they came to power, and their personal and political biographies and ideologies puts the lie to any notions that their motives in this war are humanitarian in any way. It suggests, rather, an extraordinary ruthlessness and cunning of just the sort that led them previously to support and coddle Mr. Hussein himself when it served their purposes at that time.