By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Saddam Hussein’s regime was crushed by the combined military might of American and British forces in a lightning-quick, three-week war. But there’s still more work to be done, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon this month.
"We still need to find and secure Iraq’s weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities," said Rumsfeld. "We still must find out everything we can about how the Iraqi regime acquired its capabilities, and the proliferation that took place by countries in the industrialized world."
A glance at his datebook would provide some of the answers. In 1983, Rumsfeld, then a private citizen, traveled to Baghdad to meet with the Iraqi dictator. Rumsfeld delivered President Ronald Reagan’s personal message of support to Hussein, who was already three years into his eventual eight-year war with Iran. The American envoy also discussed a proposed joint-venture oil pipeline with the Iraqi leader. That project, also championed by the San Francisco–based Bechtel Group, never materialized, but Rumsfeld’s mission underscored the reality that for more than 30 years the economic interests of American industry were firmly embedded into the geopolitical goals of U.S. policymakers.
Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. Commerce Department approved at least $1.5 billion in exports with possible military applications from U.S. companies to Iraq, and the Agriculture Department administered a U.S.-goverment-guaranteed loan program that provided billions to Iraq. Thanks largely to the first George Bush, American taxpayers unwittingly co-signed for much of the loan money, and the government had to make good on these loans when Iraq later defaulted. Almost all of the transactions were legal under U.S. and international law at the time, even when the transactions either had direct military or dual-use (civilian and military) applications. Over and over again, the deals were encouraged and even abetted by the U.S. government, even after American officials had proof that Iraq was using chemical weapons to kill Iranian troops and subdue Kurdish uprisings. In fact, the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration even provided Hussein’s regime with military intelligence during his bloody eight-year war with Iran.
American officials tolerated Hussein’s despotism because they viewed his regime as a secular bulwark against the Islamic fundamentalist revolution spawned by the Iranian revolution. That is, until Iraq invaded oil-rich Kuwait in 1990. Most, though not all, of Iraq’s commerce with American companies ended after the first Gulf War in 1991.
Now the business cycle is starting all over again. Last week, the Bechtel corporation received a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure. The contract, initially worth $34.6 million, could eventually total nearly $700 million over the next 18 months. Perhaps Bechtel’s institutional knowledge was a plus, given its status as a major player in Hussein’s Iraq — during the time when doing business with Hussein was endorsed by U.S. policy. At the very least, Bechtel’s ties to the old regime are not being held against it.HOW TO NAVIGATE THE LIST:
Click on a company name or U.S. government agency from the list below to go directly to a description of their acknowledged or documented involvement with Iraq.
Some of these businesses are no longer operating. A number of these companies did not respond to the Weekly’s calls for comment. All who did denied wrongdoing, even when they confirmed their exports to Iraq. Some companies have since changed hands, and representatives of the new businesses said they had no information on exports by the old firms. Nearly all of the documentation for this list comes from official sources, investigations and multiple interviews with authoritative sources. Some of the source material is presented at the end of the entire list.