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CIA Files Prove America Helped Saddam as He Gassed Iran (2013) (foreignpolicy.com)
185 points by georgecmu 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments

Of course they did. Anybody with the tiny knowledge of 20th century history wouldn't doubt that for a minute -- or believe BS sources like the NYT and other parrots of official policy that only print such stuff decades after, when it doesn't matter anymore.

I'm starting to wonder if there is a name for this fallacy where a relatively small and knowledgeable contingent is aware (and often only strongly suspicious) of some thing, and when that thing is broadly confirmed or publicized the small contingent get annoyed that it is non-news because "everybody already knew that".

I first noticed this when the Snowden leaks happened. A lot of the commentary (and what I thought and said myself) was of the sort, well yeah, of course the NSA is spying on everybody using our woefully insecure digital infrastructure! But no, we didn't actually know that until Snowden told us, and it was not (and still is not) actually common knowledge that digital communications are not generally private.

I've seen the same thing with the recent Facebook privacy kerfuffle, and now this.

I support people learning things long after the fact.[0]

However, consider the source of the jaded, deflated tone of this contigent of people when things they already knew or suspected come into the public debate: they were just recently the butt of jokes about tinfoil hats.

It's not the worst fate, but it does make somebody bitter.

[0]: That's History. Having an accurate historical record is of much value, as long as it is actually used to guide present and future decisions.

>But no, we didn't actually know that until Snowden told us, and it was not (and still is not) actually common knowledge that digital communications are not generally private.

This is simply, demonstrably false. Snowden's a bad example of what you're talking about. In fact, it's a good example of the opposite: people who didn't bother to pay attention to widely-available information suddenly acting like what they've just learned is completely new.

It wasn't just a "relatively small and knowledgeable contingent" that knew about the government's mass surveillance program. The New York Times broke the story on the Bush Administration surveillance program in 2005 (which forced Bush and Gonzales to publicly acknowledge the program's existence for the first time that December), and it and many other publications followed up on those stories for years. It was a major, widely-reported topic of discussion all throughout Bush's second term, with the discussion following the predictable party lines.

Snowden may have given us more detail about what was going on, but the public was already well aware of the government mass surveillance program long before he blew the whistle.

> Snowden's a bad example of what you're talking about

Actually, I think Snowden is a great example. Because apart from being in line with first principles (what would the NSA be doing if they weren't tapping communications cables?), the public was repeatedly exposed to the idea before Snowden. But yet they refused to listen until the topic happened to be presented in a way that caught on, which really illustrates the social-proof-power that mass media holds. And given this power, especially in a democracy, mass media can't help but be captured by entrenched interests.

For me the real shock of Snowden's revelations was just how poorly run these programmes were. Lax security, no oversight. Pretty much carte blanche for all involved because ... hur durr ... national security.

James Bond gets to do whatever he wants because he's "one guy" doing blackops on a fairly exceptional basis. When you've a whole swarm of James Bond wannabes you need to reel em in and have oversight.

"Cognitive dissonance". As in, the thing would have been accepted as "widely known" much sooner, had it not been shouted down for being inconvenient.

The phase you're describing is just the people who were making the point the whole time trying to get across that the outrage du jour is something they've been persistently talking about for years.

The US housing bubble is another good example, other than a few bloggers almost no one was covering it, and then once it happened everyone had seen it coming, it was obvious.

This might be repeated in Canada within the next few years as the sentiment of "we're different" is extremely strongly implanted in the Canadian psyche.

And now it is the bond bubble. Currently still in the phase of minority coverage.

What's the story behind that? Back in 2008ish when I used to follow this more closely, the conspiracy-theorist-sphere (the same people who told us the housing bubble was real, big, and about to pop) were discussing how interest rates were artificially low due to the US Treasury and mysterious offshore funds basically dominating the market.

No idea if that's still the case but I often wonder how we can have skyrocketing prices across so many asset classes yet near zero inflation. For example, Statistics Canada shows next to no inflation in the CPI component for shelter in BC: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/e... Whereas actual prices look more like this: http://news.buzzbuzzhome.com/2018/01/chart-greater-vancouver...

Obvious blatant lying (obvious because of the actual data, but also because it's mathematically impossible (after adjusting for interest rate differential) to have 10%+ annual price increases in the most expensive asset class for over a decade, no decrease in spending in other sectors, zero wage growth, and zero inflation), but good luck finding someone that works for a mainstream newspaper to print an article pointing that out.

> I often wonder how we can have skyrocketing prices across so many asset classes yet near zero inflation

Well for one, the inflating assets aren't directly part of the CPI. And to the extent they are (eg bankrent on a new home purchase), they only apply to the sliver of people who just bought a house.

Furthermore one would expect the long term CPI trend to be downwards, due to technological progress and economic evolution. So the fact that we are not seeing that is indicative of huge inflation. eg Walmart hollowed out the economy by providing things "cheaper", and they did. But rather than this actually benefiting people (who should have to work less to afford those goods), even taken at its face value the CPI feedback system guarantees people's costs stay the same, meanwhile there are fewer jobs.

> Well for one, the inflating assets aren't directly part of the CPI. And to the extent they are (eg bankrent on a new home purchase), they only apply to the sliver of people who just bought a house.

I would agree with you, if not for:

- CPI is supposed to measure inflation - if the effects of monetary inflation (due to excessively free credit) in the largest household expense category by far are completely masked by the typical slow turnover of that asset, shouldn't that be accommodated in the calculation (again, keeping in mind what the advertised intent of the CPI is)?

- Despite the slow turnover, you would expect the increases to show up eventually, would you not?

- I can't find the link today, but in the past I discovered in the methodology description that index measurements are deliberately chosen outside major cities, as the prices there are "too volatile" and therefore "not representative" of overall prices (ignoring both population concentration, and the fact that we well know more and more of the population is moving to the major cities)

> Furthermore one would expect the long term CPI trend to be downwards, due to technological progress and economic evolution. So the fact that we are not seeing that is indicative of huge inflation.

Agreed, except for the people who are spending >= 50% of their take home pay on rent. If this very serious state of affairs isn't reflected in the CPI numbers, then I suggest we start a public debate on shutting that government department down so we can at least save citizens a few dollars on taxes, because I can't see what value it is providing beyond misleading propaganda.

If your mom/dad not know about it, "nobody" know it.

Is pretty obvious how much a elitist thinking and be part of a tiny minority (as "hackers") make obvious stuff like this nonobvious.

> A lot of the commentary (and what I thought and said myself) was of the sort, well yeah, of course the NSA is spying on everybody using our woefully insecure digital infrastructure!

The funny thing was that I used to think like you do, but Snowden's leaks showed that to be false. They spied on everybody in certain war zones, but in the US, they only spied on some people and only had a limited ability to query pen register metadata on all Americans.

The "now this" is from 2013.

My guess as to why it's on the front page right now is because of Syria. It's called whataboutism.

Exactly. Not only is this article from 2013, but other unnamed sources had told the big newspapers about this many years before that. Russia is simultaneously claiming that there were no chemical weapons used in Syria while pointing to Reagan helping Iraq when it used chemical weapons against Iran. The Soviet Union also supported Iraq in that war.

It doesn't work because anybody with a conscience can tell you that Reagan was wrong then, just as Putin is wrong now.

> It doesn't work because anybody with a conscience can tell you that Reagan was wrong then, just as Putin is wrong now.

They seem like part of a larger attack against western intelligence, and if you don't pay attention to the details I can understand why it comes off as damning.

It's easy to pretend that the CIA is some puppet master, but their job is intelligence. The intelligence agencies, analysts/strategists, and the decision makers aren't the same apparatus in the US.

Look at the later claims of WMD that were the pretense for war, there's plenty of evidence to show that the CIA wasn't making the claim that they had WMD. They made the claim that they didn't know. It was members of the Bush administration (policymakers) that were pushing the narrative.

But if you happen to be a nation state doing something damning it's convenient to blur the mistakes of the policymakers with the intelligence community to discredit the intelligence that's calling you out.

What are you talking about? The NYT covered Iraq's use of chemical weapons against Iran at the time. https://mobile.nytimes.com/1988/03/24/world/iran-charges-ira...

The NYT covered that the US knew Iraq was using chemical weapons and manufacturing more in 1984. https://mobile.nytimes.com/1984/03/30/world/us-aides-say-ira...

The New York Times covered that the US knew Iraq would use chemical weapons while helping Iraq (the same as this article) more than 15 years ago. https://mobile.nytimes.com/2002/08/18/world/officers-say-us-...

I couldn't help but hearing a loud "duh" in my head when I read the headline. The issue is that one can safely assume that most people don't know this and when confronted with such facts, their brains discard them due to the cognitive dissonance created.

NYT? Have you even heard of the Pentagon Papers?

That was in the 60s, there was a anti-establishment sentiment then from upcoming baby boomers and such, even in mainstream journalism, that today is missing (heck, even anti-Trump people can be seen cheering for deep establishment figures and other career politicians, as long as they throw them an anti-Trump-only bone).


He did lie. He lied anyway. Bush implied that Iraqi intelligence was involved in 9/11, in order to conflate the case for war with Iraq with the justification for war in Afghanistan. He stated that "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa," a claim based on forged documents.

Cheney even stated that the administration was going to invade Iraq regardless of the evidence. It's clear they weren't intending to make a case for war in good faith so much as spin the public by any means they could.

The chemical weapons were destroyed well before Bush claimed that WMD's were a good justification for invading.

How does that timeline work?


Iraq actively researched and later employed weapons of mass destruction from 1962 to 1991, when it destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile and halted its biological and nuclear weapon programs.

Conveniently, articles like this always leave out how some European nations directly and knowingly helped Saddam with his chemical weapons programs, such as Germany and the UK. It was a united effort by the West, just as the vast destruction of Syria has been.

"As part of Project 922, German firms helped build Iraqi chemical weapons facilities such as laboratories, bunkers, an administrative building, and first production buildings in the early 1980s under the cover of a pesticide plant. Other German firms sent 1,027 tons of precursors of mustard gas, sarin, tabun, and tear gasses in all. This work allowed Iraq to produce 150 tons of mustard agent and 60 tons of Tabun in 1983 and 1984 respectively, continuing throughout the decade. All told, 52% of Iraq's international chemical weapon equipment was of German origin. One of the contributions was a £14m chlorine plant known as "Falluja 2", built by Uhde Ltd, a UK subsidiary of a German company; the plant was given financial guarantees by the UK's Export Credits Guarantee Department despite official UK recognition of a "strong possibility" the plant would be used to make mustard gas."



Why you're getting buried is beyond me. The article headline tries to tie the US to the gassing, when it was European countries (Germany and France especially) that were actually responsible for it.

Of course, why this topic hasn't been nuked is also beyond me. 100% political discussion.

Maybe because they began their comment with "conveniently". This implies the people who wrote this article have some kind of agenda. I, at least, don't know any specific reason to believe they do.

France provided Saddam with a nuclear breeder reactor. That seems to be much more dangerous than intel.

Paralleles to Saudi Arabia being armed by the US in the war on Yemen and resulting famine. Or US white phospherus being used in Lebanon by Israel.

Or the US using Agent Orange and inflicting shocking health effects to millions of Vietnamese. Hiroshima/Nagasaki pale in comparison.

This is a bit different - the health effects were not the intended outcome.

Or Russia supporting Assad.

This will probably get flagged as being non tech, but yea. Duh.

I've been reading The Dictators Handbook recently and it does a good job of explaining this situation. You help those that will keep you in power and give you the resources you want. Every American president will help regimes who will give them support and money, so they can pay their supporters (all the people at the top in DC) and then they use what's left over on the people. Democracies tend to spend more on people ideas, because there's a larger set of replaceable (voters) in the selectorate.

It doesn't matter if a leader is doing what is good or not good for the people. The chief goal of a leader is to get in power and stay in power. They have to pay off all their supports, or keys to power. If that involves things that are unsavory. You censor it. In democracies, you just make sure your supporters include the propaganda (a.k.a news) agencies.

If a leader does something that helps the people, like in Libya where they gave people free education, free power, housing subsidies, gas subsidies; but do so at the expense of their supporters (not playing ball with America in the oil trade), then the leaders get take out, given fake trials, killed and the propaganda networks demonize them. It's not hard to demonize them, because all leaders must be corrupt to get into power; so you can always find something to speak to that corruption. Lest we forget that Obama gave America over to the health care industry, killed thousands with predator drones and was the first president to spend every day in office at war.

What I dislike about this attitude is it's reductionist. No: not "Duh."

Here in America we have a very confusing system, and no not everything is explained by self interest. For example: George Washington voluntarily turning down more power. Yes, self interest is a large player in people's choices, larger than they publicly admit, and maybe larger than any other factor.

But jumping from that to helping a foreign dictator use chemical weapons is not a "duh."

And anyone who keeps up with congressional hearings and discussions or even watches C-SPAN from time-to-time knows that there are multiple sides to any decision that gets made. We have a democracy made up of various representatives, and parties, sometimes competing on issues. Even the currently ruling majority being the same party as the president doesn't guarantee that a certain decision will hold.

On situations of global conflict it's even more complex. We have to negotiate with our allies and with organizations like the UN and NATO. And move within the confines of various agreements and deals we've made with other entities. And take in different intelligence reports and strategic assessments.

The modern world is more complex than we want it to be. But overly-simplified perspectives of it aren't always helpful.

Personally, I think "duh" is the perfect sentiment for this. What governments, ours and "corrupt" ones, are really doing behind closed doors vs what we're told by our media is vastly different. The hysterics over the latest Syria gassing and the Russian hackers epidemic are just the latest examples in a long line of using the media to manipulate public opinion and keep people fighting among themselves so they never find out what's really going on. And those that do peek behind the curtains, brand them conspiracy theorists. Works like a charm.

I hear this theory a lot. And it's not paranoid, but it's also not fruitful without substantiation.

You need to develop your theory and gather some evidence. How is the government controlling media? Which media? Why are there no whistleblowers? What's your evidence? Obviously the US government isn't censoring the internet.

In the meantime, I fear you're actually making people more skeptical of you by jumping to conclusions

> And those that do peek behind the curtains, brand them conspiracy theorists.

Well that didn't take long.

Oh good lord, you talk as if this is the first time you've heard such a theory. Everything you ask for has been well discussed and proof of varying degrees provided, as I imagine you well know.

The parent comment to mine seems to have been granted an interesting status, it now loads as collapsed under all browsers, including incognito.

This frustrates me, because I think your behavior makes people trust government MORE. Because you're inarticulate, don't link to any articles, and also unfriendly, it pushes people in the neutral zone away from your cause.

If you think there's objective proof of widespread government manipulation of newspapers, then link to the wikipedia article. If you acknowledge a neutral set of intellectual and informed judges (wikipedia) find it absurd, then don't go around saying it's "proven."

This comment is excellent (except for the proven slip-up), but you probably knew that.

True. "Duh" might be heavy handed. But this is certainly no surprise.

Let's not forget we (read: CIA, I believe) trained UBL & Co to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. And then what happened.

And then of course, there's are previous antics in Iran. That is, we have a history there, and it's not pretty.

I'm not being troll-y, but I have to ask: What do you find confusing about the American system (that a quick read of history doesn't explain)?

> Obama gave America over to the health care industry

This is disingenuous at best - health care costs have and will continue to grow every year. At least for its first few years, the ACA decreased the growth of health care spending. We'll see how it goes now that it's being played around with.

I don't think that's true. I worked in Health Insurance for three years during the height of the ACA debates. I had high hopes for the ACA, but most of the positive provisions where crippled and the ACA varies heavily from state to state.

Had everyone been forced to buy from the marketpalce, we would have seen a more significant difference. After living outside the US and returning, I wrote about this last year:


I took a look at your article - what points in my claim (i.e., annual health care cost growth decreased in the first years of the ACA compared to expectations) do you find incorrect? I'm happy to find primary references if you'd like.

EDIT: As I said before (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16933813), an individual's health care costs depend most strongly on personal factors like employer contributions.

Part of the ACA was capping profit percentages, which just incentivises insurance companies to increase revenue and spending to increase real profits year after year.

Do you live in the US? My insurance now costs me more than half of my mortgage. Prior to the ACA it was about half of that.

I do live in the US. The growth figures relate to population-level metrics. At the level of the individual, other factors are also at play, like the willingness of one's employer to subsidize health insurance.

EDIT: a reference - https://wire.ama-assn.org/practice-management/health-care-sp...

>Lest we forget that Obama gave America over to the health care industry, killed thousands with predator drones and was the first president to spend every day in office at war.

I believe LBJ spent every day of his presidency at war as well.

You could say that, but the level of involvement in the "advisory period" of the Vietnam War must have been matched in various Caribbean ventures in the early 20th Century. I suppose that you might as well count Lincoln, for secession preceded his inauguration.

Secession wasn't the official start of the war, I would say it was Sumter, which happened shortly after Lincoln took office.

I was going to mention Lincoln, but he was in office during Sumter and when he died, Lee had already surrendered the confederate army. It's fairly fuzzy too because there were battles after the surrender.

For some reasonable values of "at war", the US has inhabited it for nearly its entire history - making this sort of distinction moot.

> "Lest we forget that Obama gave America over to the health care industry, killed thousands with predator drones and was the first president to spend every day in office at war."

He also, for all intents and purposes, pardoned Wall Street (for crashing the world economy, and - per estimates by economists - killing thousands).

But he, we are told, was a great president. Mainly based on words (e.g., "That's not who we are...") and complete disregard for his actions.

Five of my uncles fought in that war.

They've told us many stories from that time. Somehow they manage to make most of it sound funny. Like the time they had to eat hot water with stale bread and pretend it was noodle soup!

- Here is your soup. Eat fast. - Sir, this is water. - Eat your soup! - But,.. - Are you disobeying your superior? Eat your soup and go easy on the noodles! Don't want any bloated soldiers in my squad!

They're both smiling kindly to each other, knowing there isn't any food tonight for anyone, but they can at least pretend to enjoy a soup together.


There was one story though that turned into a nightmare for me as a child. About the time my youngest uncle was exposed to a nerve agent.

They were stationed in a temporary base far behind the frontline, when an Iraqi attack craft cuts through and drops a series of bombs.

The bombs don't destroy any valuable assets in the base. The soldiers were relieved about that. They were mostly volunteers with little to no military experience. They didn't know any better.

The bombs turn out to carry a nerve agent and possibly something else, the smoke of which was beginning to spread through the base.

At that point in time, many people didn't even know much about chemical weapons. Perhaps because the government kept the information to keep the morale. But the news eventually spread, as Iran was crying foul to the UN, pleading the powers to stop enabling Saddam to make the chemical weapons. (European friends look very surprised and unconvinced now when they hear their governments turned a blind eye to large European corporations selling chemical technology to Saddam, knowing full well what the tech was going to be used for).

The fear of chemical weapons got so widespread at some point, with pictures of victims appearing everywhere, that there are reports of people dying of heart attacks, after hearing that an explosion nearby was "chemical," even if it turns out not to be.

Anyway, back to my uncle: He remembers flashes of what happened next in the base. There was chaos and confusion and crying. He remembers being ordered to lie flat on the ground and remove his clothing from the waist down. Then medics come and inject shots of Atropine to every soldier on the ground.

He doesn't remember anything after that until next morning, when he wakes up, barely able to see or breathe, but being told that they've survived death.

He eventually survives the whole war, comes back home, gets a job, and starts a family. In his own words, he has made a full recovery. But every few weeks, it happens that as he is leaving the house in the morning to go to work, he makes a small sneeze, after which his body "locks." Family or neighbours would carry him back home. He would be unable to move that whole day.

My uncle was certainly among the lucky ones. Most who were exposed didn't have the luxury of Atropine shots or full body masks. Four years ago, I held two friends in tears when they lost their father after two decades of agonising pain. (Imagine not being able to take a fresh breath, for twenty years).


The people that I know who fought in the war, now identify with different political factions. Some are more conservative. Some much more liberal. But one thing that unites them all, is that they're against war. Any war. Of any kind.

And they share that opinion with pretty much anyone else I've ever met in my country.

I know it doesn't seem that way when you watch the news, but if you made a visit and saw for yourself, you'd be surprised to learn just how anti-war this country really is.

I had never heard of the substance Atropine before I read this post, so I looked it up and found this chilling bit from the Wikipedia entry:

"Both atropine and the genus name for deadly nightshade derive from Atropos, one of the three Fates who, according to Greek mythology, chose how a person was to die."

Wow, amazing stories. Thanks for sharing

I thought that was common knowledge

It's certainly been in a few books I've ready which weren't published recently. I think this was just dug up (for clicks) because of the Syria situation.

Basically our intelligence agencies were starting to receive evidence that suggest they were using gas around the same time that we had pre-existing deals in place to support them?

Before you go full tin-foil-hat with this, realize that decision makers don't always trust the intelligence being given to them and changes to policy and existing agreements take time.

Did we continue to stay in support of them knowing this or did we later condemn them for their use of chemical weapons?

> Did we continue to stay in support of them knowing this or did we later condemn them for their use of chemical weapons?

The US fought its own war against Iraq just three years after the time period this article focuses on. I'm pretty sure they were pretty roundly condemned by that point.

And yet we invaded the same country. Heck of allies we are.

So we gave Iraq military intel, but no weapons of any sort? Iran, on the other hand, was using almost 100% American weaponry.

Some other interesting facts from the article:

> Also, the [CIA] noted that the Soviet Union had previously used chemical agents in Afghanistan and suffered few repercussions.

> Top CIA officials ... were told ... that Iraq was about to buy equipment from Italy to help speed up production of chemical-packed artillery rounds and bombs...

Tangential: with 107 blocked scripts this site sets a privacy intrusion record; and a nice collection of sites to set to "untrusted"

what kind of blocker do you use? ABP is showing me 0...

ABP is pretty widely considered compromised, i.e., sold out. Switch to uBlock Matrix (or uBlock Origin for a drop-in replacement for ABP).

What is the difference between Matrix and Origin?

Matrix lets you pick which sites can load which resources. It's a lot more fine-grained than I need for basic ad blocking. https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/umatrix/ "For advanced users"

uBlock lets you do that too, if you check "I am an advanced user" in the settings: https://github.com/gorhill/uBlock/wiki/Dynamic-filtering:-qu...

thank you all for piercing my bubble!

getting really tired of all the false bottoms

Privacy Badger flagged 9. Bing, Google, Facebook, bounceexchange, scorecardresearch.

uBlock: Origin's with default lists blocked 43 for me and allowed 9 domains out of 24.

So while Bush junior invaded Iraq and overturned Saddam Hussein because he wrongly thought they had weapons of mass destruction, his father, Bush senior, rightly thought so 13 years earlier but still decided to help Saddam Hussein.

You know Bush Sr. also invaded Iraq which very few people would consider to be "helping" Saddam Hussein, right?

Also Bush Sr. was smart enough to know that occupying Iraq would be an open-ended endeavor so got them out of Kuwait and then left with some UN sanctions in place -- one of which was the destruction of WMD's which everyone knew they had.

I'm of the personal opinion that Bush Jr & Co. were just looking for any flimsy excuse to dispose Saddam because he tried to assassinate his father after he was out of office. Oh, and the oil...

> he wrongly thought they had weapons of mass destruction

They _had_ WMDs, and quite a lot of them.

Not on the scale they've believed, though.

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