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“Spider’s Web”: The Secret History of How the United States Illegally Armed Saddam Hussein; a Conversation with the Journalist Who Broke the Iraqgate Scandal That Involved President George Bush, James

StoryNovember 14, 2002
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With Iraqi President Saddam Hussein insisting that Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction we are going to spend the rest of the hour looking at how the United States helped illegally arm Iraq in the 1980s.

It was a scandal that took on Tom Clancy-like proportions: It involved a president, George Bush the First; future Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld; the current FBI head Robert Mueller and, in a minor role, even Henry Kissinger.

Over 10 years ago a reporter for the Financial Times named Alan Friedman uncovered the shocking story. He revealed that:

  • President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker had committed billions of taxpayer dollars to assist Saddam Hussein.
  • Bush and Baker allowed the export of U.S. technology that would directly help Baghdad build a massive arsenal of chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons. The arms were given to help Iraq fight Iran.
  • The CIA helped orchestrated illegal arms deals that involved Pinochet supporters in Chile, the apartheid regime in South Africa as well as most of the major NATO allies in Europe.

All of this was to prop up a man that President Bush and later his son would compare to Hitler.

“If the United States and its other allies had not provided a steady and thorough and substantial buildup of Iraq through the 1980s and right through Operation Desert Storm, Iraq today would not be a country with vast mobile missile launchers, good inertial navigation missile technology, rough, crude radioactive potential plutonium, chemical and biological weapons technology, and an assortment of other hardware and arsenal they’ve had,” Friedman told Democracy Now!

The scandal was known as Iraqgate. Today it is a mostly forgotten story even though it was a topic of concern of many leading politicians 10 years ago.

“Congressman (Charles) Schumer, today Senator Schumer, was on the vanguard of those investigating the illegal arming of Iraq by George Herbert Walker Bush’s foot soldiers and by people connected to the Bush administration,” said Friedman. “Al Gore knew and knows what happened, Senator Kerry knows what happened. There are a number of U.S. senators and some prominent Democrats and Republicans who know what happened. Why aren’t they speaking out today? I’m the guy who broke the story, that’s a question for you people in America to answer.”

As weapons inspectors plan to return to Baghdad next week, we will spend the rest of the hour with Alan Friedman as he unravels what he dubbed the spider’s web: the secret history of how the White House illegally armed Iraq.


  • Alan Friedman, global economics correspondent for the International Herald Tribune.

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