For example, Donald Rumsfeld was famously employed as President Reagan's special envoy to Iraq in 1983. It was, of course, in this role that he shook hands with Saddam Hussein. This happened at a time when the US State Department (pdf) had "information confirming Iraqi use of chemical weapons (CW)". Rumsfeld, however, did not bring up the subject of weapons of mass destruction during his 90 minute discussion with Saddam. Perhaps that is why, according to official documents (pdf), the brutal dictator showed "obvious pleasure" during the meeting
He did raise the issue in a meeting with Tariq Aziz. In his own words (pdf), "I made clear that our efforts to assist [in the Iran-Iraq war] were inhibited by certain things, citing the use of chemical weapons, possible escalation in the Gulf, and Human Rights". This appears to be the only reference Rumseld made to CW or Saddam's brutal internal oppression methods during his two and a half hour meeting with Aziz.
In later years, of course, Rumsfeld was to show a great deal more concern over Saddam's WMD capabilities and his oppression of the Iraqi people. Back then, he opined that Saddam's continuing use of CW and his Human Rights abuses were inhibiting the US government's ability to provide assistance to the vicious dictator's oppressive regime. In those days, Rumfeld was mostly concerned with US foreign policy goals. He was specifically concerned with maintaining and expanding US influence in the Middle East and ensuring that the oil flowing out of Iraq was not disrupted. This can be clearly seen in Rumsfeld's own record of his conversation with Aziz (3rd pdf linked above).
Iraq was a country I wished to visit. It was clear from a geostrategic standpoint. We had interests that were similar and that it was worth talking about the similarities and differences in our views... We were ready if they [Saddam's government] felt that a higher profile in the relationship would be useful in indicating to the world that relations between our countries are important and that there are more similarities than differences.
I noted that Iraq's oil exports were important. We talked about the best ways to increase their output. Would be [sic] the possibility of their having a pipeline connected to Saudi Arabia. He said that even without pumping stations Iraq could increase from 500,000 bpd [probably, it's slightly smudged] to 1.2 million bpd; with pumping stations output could go up to an even higher number. I raised the question of a pipeline through Jordan. He was familiar with the proposal. It apparently was a US company proposal.
So it's actually sort of moving when you realise that Rumsfeld has become a compassionate humanitarian in the years since these meeting occurred. Why, it almost brings a tear to my eye.
Tags: US Foreign Policy, Donald Rumsfeld, Saddam Hussein , Iraq