Why Do They Hate Us?: The Suppressed History of U.S. Brutality Against the Middle East

May 22, 2009

“I know that I can never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government. For the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, and for the sake of justice, I cannot remain silent.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Iran, 1953:

The CIA overthrows the democratically-elected Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, a man who put his heart into trying to improve living conditions for the Iranian people. His main campaign promise was to put a stop to the corruption of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC). The AIOC had been cheating Iran out of the agreement it had made to split fifty percent of its profits with them, by preventing the Iranians from seeing their financial records and then under-reporting profits—thereby having to split only the under-reported sum with them, while keeping the entirety of what went unreported for themselves. This corrupt company’s dominance in Iran was such that even the water fountains near the company’s base were labeled “not for Iranians.” Thus, in order to protect its oil profits from the righteously indignant Iranians, the CIA replaced Mossadegh with the Shah, Reza Pahlavi—a brutal tyrant who put Iran under one of the most repressive reigns of terror the world has ever seen, lasting for a full twenty-five years. Hundreds or perhaps even thousands of civilians were murdered on the single day of September 8, 1978—still known to this day as “Black Friday” in Iran. By 1976, Amnesty International had concluded that the Shah’s security force, SAVAK, had “the worst human rights record on the planet,” and that the torture techniques the CIA had taught SAVAK were “beyond belief.” At least ten and probably more than twelve thousand innocent people had been murdered by the CIA-installed Shah, and innumerable others tortured and killed by the CIA-trained SAVAK, by the time the Iranian people finally rose up and overthrew Pahlavi in the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

Further Reading:

All the Shah’s Men, Stephen Kinzer.

[The terrorists] hate . . . our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.” –  George W. Bush, State of the Union Address; January 29, 2002

Iraq, 1959—1963:

The CIA wanted to assassinate then-lraqi Prime Minister General Abd al-Karim Qasim, who was buying weapons from the Soviet Union and putting communists in positions of power in Iraq. To that end, the agency hired Saddam Hussein, then 22, along with five other men. The hit failed because Saddam fired too soon, killing Qasim’s driver but only wounding Qasim himself. Qasim finally met his end in the Ba’ath party coup d’etat on Iraq in 1963. After that coup, the CIA provided the Ba’athists (still including Saddam Hussein) with a list of suspected communists, who the Ba’athists then rounded up and executed en masse. A former CIA official told the United Press International’s Richard Sale, “Four thousand communists got killed.”

“If the U.S. really believes that supporting terrorists makes you as guilty as the terrorists themselves, then it would have to put on trial most of its military and political leadership over the last handful of administrations, and more.” – Peter McClaren

Iraq, 1980—1988:

In early 1980, the Iranian government began protesting the secularism of the government of Iraq, instigating border clashes and encouraging Iraq’s Shiite and Kurdish populations to rise up against Saddam Hussein. On August 5, 1980, Hussein was welcomed to the Saudi Arabian capital city of Riyadh by Saudi officials who saw Hussein’s then-formidable army as a buttress against the expansionist policies of Iran. Saudi leaders advised Saddam to bring the fight into Iran—transmitting the “green light*” to go ahead with the invasion from President Jimmy Carter. (* In April 1981, then-Secretary of State Alexander Haig visited the Middle East, publishing a debriefing paper for President Ronald Reagan in which he corroborated this, reporting: “It was interesting to confirm that President Carter did in fact give the Iraqis the green light to launch the war against Iran, through Prince [now King] Fahd.”)

The Iran-Iraq war then began when Saddam Hussein launched a full-scale invasion of Iran in September 22 of 1980. According to an affidavit by former National Security Council official Howard Teicher, from 1982 (when President Ronald Reagan signed the National Security Decision Directive authorizing it) on, the White House “supported the Iraqi war effort by supplying the Iraqis with billions of dollars of credits, providing U.S. military intelligence and advice to the Iraqis, and closely monitoring third country arms sales to Iraq to make sure that Iraq had the military weaponry required.” Over the course of the Reagan and Bush Administrations, Saddam Hussein was sold sixty Hughes MD, five hundred “Defender” helicopters, eight Bell Textron AB 212 military helicopters, and infra-red sensors and thermal imaging scanners which were transferred illegally through a Dutch proxy company. The US Department of Commerce also licensed seventy biological exports to Hussein between 1985 and 1989, including at least twenty-one batches of lethal strains of anthrax, and several other toxins and bacteria, including E. coli and botulins. In total, several million dollars worth of equipment was provided illegally to Saddam Hussein by the U.S. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld travelled to Baghdad to meet with Saddam twice—once in 1983, and again in 1984. Howard Teicher, who travelled to Iraq with Rumsfeld both times, described the meetings: “Here was the U.S. government coming hat-in-hands to Saddam Hussein, and saying: ‘We respect you. How can we help you? Let us help you.'”

The U.S. had already received reports confirming that Saddam Hussein was using the chemical weapons the U.S. was supplying him with to gas innocent Kurds and Iranians when these meetings between Rumsfeld and Hussein took place. In 1984, for instance, the State Department arranged for the sale of 45 Bell 214ST helicopters to Iraq; four years later, the Los Angeles Times reported that “American-built helicopters” were being used to gas Kurdish civilians. There was never a single drawdown in the amount of equipment supplied to Saddam even in spite of all of these reports. In March of 1988, almost seven thousand Kurds were gassed to death by Hussein’s troops; and in response, according to a report in the International Herald Tribute, the U.S. State Department attempted to place the blame for this gassing on the Iranians, even though there was no evidence whatsoever of any Iranian involvement. [Note that members of the Bush Administration would later use the claim that “Saddam gassed his own people!” to support their invasion of Iraq.] Although the beginning of the Gulf War in 1990 marked the end of U.S. support of Saddam Hussein, U.S. corporations nonetheless continued to trade with Iraq through foreign subsidiaries. Among those who profited from such trade was Dick Cheney himself. Cheney became CEO of Halliburton in 1995; and accoding to the Washignton Post, two Halliburton subsidiaries sold more than $73 million in oil production equipment to Iraq under Cheney’s command.

Further Reading:

Spider’s Web: How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq, Alan Friedman

“It is also a fact that America is too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits America’s capacity for military intimidation. The pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion, except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well-being. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization.” – Zbigniew Brzezinski, Obama’s chief foreign policy adviser

Iran, 1988:

On July 3, 1988, USS Vinceness shot down Iran Air Flight 655 (IR655), killing 290 innocent civilian from six different nations—including 66 children. The US navy initially claimed that they mistakenly identified the passenger liner as an Iranian fighter, and denied that they were inside Iranian territorial waters—even though the US government’s investigations found that both IR655 and the USS Vincennes were inside Iran’s own territorial waters at the time of the attack. Further, the official investigation by the International Civilian Aviation Organization found that the US Navy guided missile cruiser’s attempts to contact Iran Air 655 were sent on the wrong frequency and addressed to a non-existent “Iranian F-14”. Instead of admitting its monstrous mistake and issuing an apology, the US Government awarded the people responsible for the atrocity with medals for “heroic achievement”.

Further Reading:

The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy, Reese Erlich

We are not hated because we practice democracy, value freedom, or uphold human rights. We are hated because our government denies these things to people in Third World countries. The hatred we have sown has come back to haunt us in the form of terrorism. Instead of sending our sons and daughters around the world to kill Arabs so we can have the oil under their sand, we should send them to rebuild their infrastructure, supply clean water, and feed starving children… In short, we should do good instead of evil. Who would try to stop us? Who would hate us? Who would want to bomb us? That is the truth the American people need to hear.” – Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bowman, National Catholic Reporter; October 2, 1998

Iraq, 1991 & 2003; Afghanistan, 2001; and various others:

Depleted Uranium (DU) is a radioactive substance left over after enriched uranium is separated from natural uranium in the process by which fuel for nuclear reactors is produced. Due to its incredibly high density, DU, when added to ammunition and the ballasts of cruise missiles, bestows either bullet or missile with a tremendous ability to pierce armor. But DU can also injure and kill civilians who are not targets of the weapon’s fire. When a DU-containing weapon hits its target, a large amount of kinetic energy is dissipated as heat, which results in large amounts of smoke containing a high concentration of DU particles—which, if inhaled or ingested, are severely toxic. Depleted uranium remains radioactive for more than four billion years before decaying, and particles of uranium become trapped permanently in the lungs of a person who breathes in smoke lingering after DU fire. Once trapped in a person’s lungs, DU particles begin to cause damage to the surrounding lung tissue, exposing it to eight hundred times the annual radiation dosage permitted by federal regulations for body exposure to radiation. Particles can also be swallowed or ingested, travelling to the kidneys or reproductive organs and causing damage from there. Depleted Uranium meets the United States government’s own definition of “weapon of mass destruction.”

As of May 2002, of the nearly seven hundred thousand troops who served during the recognized conflict phase of the Gulf War (1990-1991), in which depleted uranium was used heavily, almost one hundred sixty thousand veterans have been awarded disability for health effects collectively known as Gulf War Syndrome. Says Dr. Mona al-Jibowei, Dean of the science faculty at Baghdad University: “[At least] the allied soldiers went home after being exposed to depleted uranium. Iraq has lived with its devastating effects for the past 12 years.” Iraq is not the only place in the Middle East the United States has used DU. An estimated 900 tons of DU were released in the initial 2001 invasion of Afghanistan—according to the White House’s website, a total of twenty-four thousand bombs were used just in the first year of operations in Afghanistan, suggesting that a minimum of three thousand tons of DU was dispersed into the Afghan atmosphere in only the first twelve months of conflict. These statistics barely scratch the surface of the extent to which the U.S. has used depleted uranium in the Middle East, and the DU dropped during the initial bombing of Afghanistan in 2001 alone is expected to be the cause of as many as nine million Afghan deaths from cancer over the next decade.

One of the most devastating effects of Depleted Uranium is to damage a person’s DNA, leading to severe birth defects in his children. In 1989, before any DU had ever touched Iraq, there were eleven birth defects per hundred thousand births, and an average of about thirty deaths from cancer per year. Now that DU has been used on Iraq by the United States twice, there are one hundred and six birth defects per hundred thousands births, and an average of six hundred deaths from cancer per year. The birth defects caused by Depleted Uranium radiation are by no means trivial. Children are born with hideously misshapen bodies, facial deformities that include features entirely missing, massive tumors. . . and whatever the hell this is, it’s one of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in my entire life. Although it is a matter of public record that the U.S. made extensive use of DU weapons in the 1991 Gulf War, 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, and 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon refuses to acknowledge that it has used DU anywhere, or that DU would pose any danger even if it had. Were the Pentagon to acknowledge its use of radiation poisoning, demands would immediately be made for it to clean up the horrific mess it has left behind.

Free Online Documentary: Depleted Uranium: The Invisible War

“After the Americans destroyed our village and killed many of us, we also lost our houses and have nothing to eat. However, we would have endured these miseries and even accepted them, if the Americans had not sentenced us all to death. [But] when I saw my deformed grandson, I realized that all my hopes of the future have vanished for good, different from the hopelessness of the Russian barbarism, even though at that time I lost my older son Shafiqullah. This time, however, we are [a] part of the invisible genocide brought on us by America, a silent death from which I know we will not escape.” – displaced Afghan citizen Jooma Khan, of Laghman province, in an interview in March of 2003

Iraq, 1990-2002:

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported in December 1995, that more than one million Iraqis died—567,000 of them children—as a direct consequence of the United-States supported U.N. economic sanctions on Iraq. An April 1997 nutritional survey, carried out by UNICEF with the participation of the World Food Program (WFP) and Iraq’s Minister of Health, indicated that in Central and Southern Iraq, 28% of Iraq’s three million children were at risk of death from acute malnutrition. UNICEF reported later that more than four thousand children under the age of five were dying every single month from hunger and disease. More children have died in Iraq as a direct result of these U.S.-supported sanctions than the combined total of both atomic bombs on Japan and the ethnic cleansing of Yugoslavia. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported a six-fold increase in the mortality rate for children under five, an explosive rise in the incidence of endemic infections such as cholera and typhoid, and a marked increase in the incidence of measles, poliomyelitis, and tetanus. Malaria reached epidemic levels. The WHO also stated that the majority of all Iraq had “subsisted on a semi-starvation diet for these past several years [because of U.S. sanctions].” Children born after the Gulf War, hardly involved in the politics of sanctions, were forced nonetheless to suffer in silence without access to pain killers, drugs, antibiotics, or hope. Some childhood cancers had reached an 80% cure rate prior to the sanctions; thanks to the sanctions, without access to cancer-fighting drugs the survival rate for children with these cancers dropped to 0%.

In the face of this overwhelming atrocity, it would seem natural to assume that U.S. policymakers saw these innocent deaths as a regrettable consequence of the sanctions, not their purpose.  However, recent documentation demonstrates beyond doubt that the U.S. intentionally destroyed Iraq’s water system even in spite of knowing full well in advance the effects it would have on innocent Iraqi civilians and children. Madeleine Albright, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations at the time, was confronted with these statistics in an interview on 60 Minutes on May 10, 1996. When Lesley Stahl pointed out that “half a million children have died . . . more than died in Hiroshima,” Albright replied: “I think the price is worth it.”

Further Reading:

Iraq Under Siege: The Deadly Impact of U.S. Sanctions, Anthony Arnove

“The road to safety begins by ending aggression, but reciprocal treatment is part of justice. The [attacks] that have taken place . . . are only reactions to your . . . destruction and killing of our kinfolk in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine. Reciprocal treatment is fair, and the one who starts injustice bears greater blame. . . the killing of the Russians was in response to their invasion of Afghanistan and Chechnya; the killing of Europeans was in response to their invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan; and the killing of Americans on the day of New York was in response to their invasion of the Arabian Peninsula.” – Osama bin Laden, in a taped message released in November of 2002.

All over the world:

Before reading this article, try to answer this question: How many military bases does the United States have in other countries?

(a) 100; (b) 300; (c) 700; or (d) 1,000.

Further Reading:

Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, Chalmers Johnson

“America is a Nation with a mission – and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, and we have no ambitions of empire. Our aim is peace.” – George W. Bush

Sudan, 1998:

On August 20th, President Clinton bombed the Al-Shifa plant in northern Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, on the pretext that the factory was believed to have been used in the manufacture of chemical weapons. In reality it was nothing of the sort. The al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant supplied as much as seventy percent of the medicines used in Sudan, roughly half of those used in Afghanistan, and ninety percent of those used for malaria in the entire region—its number one cause of death. The majority of those in Sudan and even Afghanistan suffering from malaria were left to die, with no other source for the medicines they needed. Under-Secretary of State Thomas Pickering explained that “the physical evidence [for the manufacture of chemical weapons at the al-Shifa facility] is a soil sample; analysis of it shows the presence of a chemical whose simple name is EMPTA, a known precursor for the nerve agent VX.” However, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons reported that EMPTA could in fact be used for “legitimate commercial purposes,” such as fungicides and anti-microbial agents; in other words, if it was present in the sample, its presence did not necessarily indicate the development of any nerve agents. Several experts in chemical warfare also reported that “there are agricultural insecticide[s] . . . that can easily be mistaken for EMPTA.” The soil sample, the only supposed evidence of chemical processing at the facility, was never released so that the presence of EMPTA could be verified by anyone outside the U.S. government. The export manager for the factory, Alamaddin al-Shibli, went so far as to claim it impossible for the soil sample to even exist, stating: “There’s no way to take a sample of soil from this factory, according to [its] construction. It’s either concrete or cement or carpet.” Thus, it seems likely that the story about the soil sample could well have been fabricated, and never even existed in the first place—but even if it did, it would scarcely have been justification for the United States to destroy the entire facility and leave the majority of Sudan and Afghanistan without medical care.

Two days after the bombing, the Sudanese government issued an official complaint to the United Nations Security Council, stating: “The allegations . . . that [the factory] producted chemical weapons for terrorist purposes are devoid of truth; the U.S. government has no evidence for this.” The Sudanese minister of information, Dr. Ghazi Saleheddin, said that “[the U.S. government has] not produced any convincing evidence. It’s not enough to produce soil which could have been made up in the United States itself, and to claim that the soil contains toxic agents. For a factory to produce toxic agents, you need special facilities, special preparations, special storage areas and preparations facilities. You can’t keep things to yourself and keep claiming you have the final proof without allowing people to verify your claims.” The Sudanese government continued pressing for “a fact-finding mission to come from the U.S. Administration,” reiterating that “it is not difficult to investigate; the factory is there; it has been closed from the day it was bombarded.” CNN’s Mike Hanna reported that the Sudanese government had been “giving the media every access to the site. Certainly, the Sudanese government is going out of its way to insist that it has nothing to hide, and it continues to call for that international investigation team to come inspect this missile site, and determine, once and for all, exactly what was produced here.” President Bashir, while being sure to make clear that he had “no animosity towards the American people,” called Clinton “a war criminal of the first degree,” pointing out in addition that if the facility had been manufacturing chemical weapons, bombing it would have directly endangered the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. Germany’s ambassador to Sudan from 1996 to 2000, Werner Daum, said that “several tens of thousands” woudl be “a reasonable guess” as to the number of Sudanese civilians who died from treatable illnesses thanks to the medicinal shortage created by the destruction of the facility.

(To Be Continued . . . )