Nov 11, 2006 10:37 am


With the guilty verdict in Saddam Hussein's trial in Baghdad, some commentators have claimed American manipulation of the trial aimed at shielding from scrutiny evidence of American support for Saddam's genocidal regime during the 1980s. Gwynne Dyer is one, who goes so far as to claim that the US sought to exclude from the trial documents and testimony"that would reveal the extent of US complicity in Saddam's crimes in the earlier phase of his career, when the Reagan administration was supporting Iraq in the 1980-88 war against Iran."

The US did not even establish diplomatic relations with Saddam's Iraq until 1984. Regardless of which facts about its dealings with Baghdad the US might prefer never emerge, could the US be said to have been supporting Saddam, before or after that date? East Timorese Prime Minister Jose Ramos Horta, someone not easily dismissed as a right-wing lackey of Washington, concisely put that canard to rest in a 2003 interview with me, at which time he was East Timor's Foreign Minister:

There is very little truth in that. First, throughout the Ba'ath Party rule, from the very beginning, it sided with the Soviet Union. Both Iraq and Syria developed close relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba. The Soviet Union provided almost up to 70 to 80 per cent of Iraq's weapons needs. The rest was provided by France.

Until recently … 60 per cent of the weapons purchased by Iraq were supplied by Russia, 20 percent by France and the rest by different countries like China and so on. The UK comes very low, one percent, and US almost none, actually none. And although politically, the US took great pleasure Iraq and Iran slaughtering each other, therefore weakening each other - and its obviously true that the US back then was much more sympathetic to Iraq for purely pragmatic reasons - it did not really side with one or the other.

And let us not forget that the non-aligned countries, of which the two countries are members, Iraq and Iran, neither the Islamic Conference nor the Arab League were able to help bring about peace between the two countries. So I find sometimes a bit too cynical and misguided for people to say well the US supported Iraq in the war against Iran.

Facts rather than platitudes from Mr Dyer would be an advantage.

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