One of the more notable arguments employed against military intervention in Iraq back in 2003, was that Saddam’s regime posed no threat to the US or UK, and hadn’t attacked, threatened or killed anyone from the US or UK. Indeed, Michael Moore’s popular anti-intervention movie Fahrenheit 9/11 takes this claim and insists that Iraq was:
“A nation that had never threatened to attack the United States. A nation that had never murdered a single American citizen.”
– I find the argument to be shrouded in ambiguity and wholly misleading. Whilst it might be true that Iraqi soldiers were not waiting for the command to storm Pennsylvania Avenue, nor is there much in the way of evidence to link Saddam or Iraq’s Mukhabarat to a cooperative relationship with al-Qaeda despite George Bush’s manipulative insistence to the contrary; to say that Iraq under Saddam had not threatened the US, or been involved in the killing of a single American citizen, is entirely disingenuous, and works to play down – in an attempt to strengthen the anti-intervention position – the role Saddam’s Iraq played in harbouring, funding, and protecting those responsible for hideous acts of terrorism resulting in the deaths of US citizens.
To shoot back in time to 1993, after leaving office, President Bush Sr took a trip to Kuwait, two years after the US helped to rid Kuwait of Saddam’s forces. During the tip, Kuwaiti intelligence discovered a plot to assassinate Bush and the Kuwaiti Emir using bomb material that they believed could have caused devastation to a quarter mile radius of the bomb site. This means it would have also murdered several other key US and Kuwaiti officials in the entourage. Kuwait arrested several suspects, including Al-Ghazali and Al-Asadi, whom both explained that Iraqi intelligence had recruited them to carry out the assassination. Bomb technicians connected the bomb circuit board and detonator that was to be used to assassinate a former US President, to known Iraqi bombs from elsewhere. So did Saddam’s Iraq threaten the US? Yes. They threatened to blow up an ex-President, and were only stopped at the very last minute.
Prior to the assassination attempt on President Bush, Saddam’s regime gave refuge several times to (and then themselves assassinated) the Palestinian terrorist Sabri al-Banna – Abu Nidal – a man who ordered the deaths of 16 people at Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome from gunfire and killing two more when his men threw grenades at people boarding a flight to Israel. Nidal’s terrorist organisation is believed to have been involved in the 1972 Munich attack at the Olympics as well as aborted assassination attempts on the lives of Arafat and Abbas. Nidal, speaking of himself, said:
“I am the evil spirit which moves around only at night causing nightmares.”
– In 1986, Nidal’s group hijacked Pan AM flight 73. After sitting on the tarmac for several hours with 389 hostages, Nidal’s team threw grenades into the passengers in the cabin, injuring 100, and killing 16, including 7 Americans. Saddam had publicly kicked Nidal’s group out of Iraq in 1983 – three years before the Pan AM attack – in the hope of winning the US’s support for his war on Iran. But by 1988, Nidal’s group were back in Saddam’s good books, operating out of Syria, supported by Libya and Iraq, and were based primarily in Iraq from 1998, until Saddam had Nidal assassinated (though insisted he committed suicide) in 2004. Between 1998 and 2004, Nidal lived in Iraq, away from justice for his terrorist activities. Whether or not Saddam was involved in any way with the Pan AM massacre, is nor relevant, because he absolutely did harbour and give refuge to Nidal after the attack, allowing the terrorist network to continue unhindered. This also included harbouring Khala Khadr al-Salahat; a member of Abu Nidal’s organisation, found in Iraq in April 2003. Al-Salahat was responsible for designing the bomb that destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988.
A more direct connection between a Nidal attack and Saddam’s regime occurred earlier in their relationship. In 1982 (at the height of their courtship) Nidal was involved in an Iraqi ordered plot to murder the Israeli ambassador in London. Nidal’s group sent Hussein Ghassan Said, Marwan al-Banna (Nidal’s cousin), and Nawaf al-Rosan (a Baghdad intelligence colonel) to assassinate Shlomo Argov as he left a London hotel. Argov was shot in the head, but survived. The hit men later admitted that the guns used in the attack were handed to them by the Iraqi embassy in London, with the order coming from Baghdad. Saddam’s men were happily attempting to assassinate people on the streets of London, ordered by a man who would go on to murder 7 Americans using grenades in a hijacked plane, and later protected by Saddam.
In 1985, Muhammad Zaidan masterminded the attack on the Italian cruise ship, the MS Achille Lauro. After demanding the release of PLO prisoners held by Israel, and being denied docking rights at Tautus, the attackers murdered disabled Jewish-American passenger Leon Klinghoffer and threw his body overboard. Abbas was arrested and subsequently freed by the Italians, moved to Gaza for a while, fled to Iraq, where Saddam protected and used him as a conduit to make payments of $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. He died in 2004 in US custody in Iraq.
It was 11:30am on April 30th, 1980, when six terrorists from the Democratic Revolutionary Movement for the Liberation of Arabistan – sponsored by Saddam’s Iraq – stormed the Iranian Embassy in London, and held 26 people hostage. During the days that followed the terrorists went on UK TV to announce that they intended to kill hostages. True to their word, they murdered Abbas Lavasani and threw his body out of the window. BBC Journalist Chris Cramer who was one of the hostages talks of the terror he felt at being held captive in Britain, by Saddam’s terrorists:
“My fear was that having killed one hostage, why shouldn’t they kill the next one? And then again, why shouldn’t it be me?”
– It took a full SAS siege to bring the crisis to an end. Saddam’s Iraq directly sponsored a terrorist attack on Iran, on UK soil.
In February 2003, the government of the Philippines expelled the Iraqi diplomat Husham Husain for using the Iraqi embassy to make connections with known Islamist group Abu Sayyaf (not affiliated with al-Qaeda). Officials in the Philippines say that Husain received a phone call from a leading Abu Sayyaf member in October 2002, a day after an Abu Sayyaf planted bomb blast in Zamboanga City that killed American serviceman SFC Mark Wayne Jackson. The bomb was deliberately set off near to Camp Enrile Malagutay – a camp playing host to American troops. The same cell phone used to call Husain was later used in an attempt to blow up a Catholic shrine in the same area. Iraq denied that Husain had taken any phone call from Abu Sayyaf members (one of Iraq’s many lies). But then in 2006, an eight-page fax recovered from Iraq and sent from the Iraqi Embassy in Manila to Baghdad in 2001, showed that Iraq had been funding Abu Sayyaf. After Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 20 holiday makers from the Dos Palmas resort, including three Americans, which gained international attention and was undertaken without Iraq’s knowledge, the Iraqi’s lost their patience. The document reads:
“The kidnappers were formerly (from the previous year) receiving money and purchasing combat weapons. From now on we (IIS) are not giving them this opportunity and are not on speaking terms with them.”
– This confirms that the Iraqi embassy in Manila was funding a terrorist organisation and ordering them to purchase weapons, but it also seems to suggest that support for Abu Sayyaf ended in 2001, and yet it is quite clear that Husham Husain – the Iraqi diplomat – had contact with a member of Abu Sayyaf a day after the bombing of Zamboanga. It seems Iraq and Abu Sayyaf rekindled their flame sometime after the bombing of Zamboanga. The Philippine’s immigration commissioner Andrea Domingo said that Husain operated an ‘established network’ of terrorists in the country, and Abu Sayyaf terrorist Hamsiraji Sali informed The Philippine Daily Inquirer that Baghdad had been funding them with up to $20,000 a year between 2000 and 2003. A direct link between the death of an American (deliberately targeted), and Saddam’s Iraq.
The 1993 attempt on President Bush’s life, and the 2000 – 2003 (at least) funding of Abu Sayyaf, along with the harbouring of Abu Nidal and Khala Khadr al-Salahat post-1990, is a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 687, part 32, which reads:
“Requires Iraq to inform the Security Council that it will not commit, or support any act of international terrorism or allow any organization directed towards commission of such acts to operate within its territory and to condemn unequivocally and renounce such acts, methods and practices of terrorism.”
– And so to suggest Saddam’s regime posed no threat, and played no part in the threatening or murdering of American citizens, is a gross distortion of the whole story. Saddam utilised terrorist cells when he could (often at arms length), and irritated them elsewhere (Mullah Krekar insisted that Saddam was his sworn enemy). Saddam’s regime openly funded terrorist activities that lead to the killing of Americans. His regime attempted to assassinate an ex-President. His regime conducted a terrorist attack on a foreign embassy in London. His regime protected those already responsible for countless murders and terrorist attacks. His regime was behind the attempted murder of an Israeli official on the streets of Britain. But to read or hear some anti-war commentators – just as insistent that Saddam had not threatened or attacked the US or killed or threatened any US citizen, as George Bush was insistent that Saddam and al-Qaeda were working side by side – you would walk away under the impression that Saddam’s regime was an innocent victim of Western imperialist aggression. And that is of course, the manipulative aim. I am quite sure that the anti-war movement itself is guilty of lying or manipulating to secure support for its cause. By doing so, they grossly hide from view the crimes of one of history’s most brutal regimes, in the hope of strengthening their own position. Ironically, manipulating and hiding the facts, is the very same tactic they accuse the West of committing.