The West firmly supported tyrants like Saddam Hussein, while elsewhere public figures such as Nelson Mandela were classed as a “terrorist”.
The mainstream press sounded the war drums on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the build up to the 2003 invasion, some undesirable facts were avoided. Two decades before (in 1982), the Reagan administration had taken Iraq off the list of states sponsoring terrorism. The reason being that they could provide the Iraqi dictator with military intelligence and aid, including the means to develop weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Ronald Reagan, with British backing, was supporting Iraq during its long war against Iran, whose citizens had in 1979 overthrown the Western-backed dictatorship of the Shah. The irony remains stark. America had provided Hussein with the technology to create WMDs and, twenty years later, attacked Iraq on the pretext of his possessing the long ago disarmed WMDs.
Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector for Iraq (1991-1998), said in September 2002 that Iraq was “fundamentally disarmed” in the 1990s. Ritter further added that Hussein “did not have the capability to reconstitute” deadly weapons, while “Iraq is a threat to no one”. All of which proved accurate, but opinions like this were discounted.
For over a decade preceding the 2003 invasion, Iraq had been subjected to “genocidal” sanctions, which devastated the civilian society. The sanctions, backed strongly by the US and Britain, were an initial response to Hussein’s August 1990 invasion of neighbouring Kuwait, and his refusal to withdraw – disobeying his paymasters’ orders.
The attack was bitterly condemned in the West, one can speculate because Kuwait has one of the largest oil reserves on earth. Kuwait also shares a border with Saudi Arabia, a notoriously repressive state and Western ally going back generations.
Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait saw America initiate the Gulf War, beginning in January 1991, supported by other imperial powers, France and Britain, with the Saudis tagging along. The conflict led to the expulsion of Hussein’s forces from Kuwait, along with the killing of tens of thousands of Iraqis.
Between January and March 1991, the West’s war planes dropped 88,500 tons of bombs on Iraqi military and civilian infrastructure – entering the annals as one of the most intense aerial assaults in history. During the Gulf War, US/Coalition forces also fired weapons comprised of depleted uranium, a dense radioactive substance that can result in various types of cancer.
This form of chemical warfare later affected Iraqi civilians, including children, along with Western soldiers themselves. The depleted uranium contaminates water and soil, and can be spread simply by a strong gale, or sandstorms.
However, these deprivations were not being highlighted by the corporate-controlled television networks and newspapers, as they beat the war drums on Iraq in late 2002/early 2003. The lack of historical memory regarding recent crimes, along with the reporting of unsubstantiated accounts, surely contributed to the Iraq invasion going ahead.
This time, US forces again utilised depleted uranium on Iraq, with its jets and tanks firing almost 10,000 rounds containing the chemicals upon civilian areas. Indeed, the US has a long history of chemical warfare. The superpower widely using napalm during the wars in Korea and Vietnam, along with dioxin also in the latter conflict. The result of these policies is that Vietnamese civilians continue to be affected today.
Due to this, and other incidences, one can take with a large grain of salt Western accusations of alleged chemical warfare by designated enemies (like Russia, North Korea or Syria). While Saddam himself finally fell foul of the West, he had previously been supported not just by Reagan, but by his predecessor Jimmy Carter, with later backing also coming from George Bush Senior in the 1990s.
Elsewhere, in South Africa, no such luxury was afforded to Nelson Mandela or his African National Congress party (ANC). Mandela was dispatched behind bars from the early 1960s, while the ANC was described by the Pentagon, as late as 1988, as “one of the more notorious terrorist groups”.
By the late 1980s, apartheid was in its death throes. This was largely due to a string of Cuban-led successes in southern Africa against the apartheid-sponsored terrorists, stretching back to the mid-1970s – victories Mandela said had “inspired the fighting masses of South Africa”.
Mandela continued to languish in prison throughout the Reagan years, while his administration violated US congressional sanctions to increase trade with the apartheid regime.
Mandela was officially classed as a “terrorist” by the US until 2008, when he was then aged almost 90, and 18 years after his release from jail. This despite South Africa’s future president having first visited the US in June 1990, four months after leaving prison following a 27-year incarceration.
Historical amnesia is evident elsewhere. In Europe, Russia has been strongly condemned for its takeover of the Crimea in March 2014. The peninsula comprised part of Russian or Soviet territory for over 200 years, dating to the late 18th century.
The Crimea is also home to the Black Sea fleet of the Russian Navy, which was involved in both world wars, and today includes dozens of warships and some submarines. The Crimea also contains Russia’s only warm water port, in Sevastopol, and is an area of significant strategic importance.
Previously, many thousands of Russian soldiers died defending the Crimea from Adolf Hitler’s invasion in 1941. The Red Army’s staunch resistance in the Crimea slowed Hitler’s advance by months, contributing to his disastrous defeat at Stalingrad.
In May 2014, less than two months after the Crimea’s reincorporation to Russia, Vladimir Putin travelled to the peninsula to commemorate the victory over Nazi Germany. The German leader, Angela Merkel, had warned it would be a “pity” if her Russian counterpart was to “use” the commemorations upon marking his visit to the Crimea.
Merkel was seemingly unaware of the murderous assaults meted outed in this region by the invading German Wehrmacht, against Russian forces, just over 70 years before. Germany has some history of its own regarding annexation, such as the incorporation of Austria to the Third Reich in March 1938.
As US institutions condemned Russia for its Crimea takeover, it may be worth recounting that, during the mid-1840s, America annexed half of Mexico’s land in a war of expansion. The outcome of this invasion lasts until present times, as Mexico was stripped of territories such as California, Texas, Nevada, Utah, etc.
The Mexican-American War is hardly well known – despite the assertions of America’s former president Ulysses S. Grant, who fought in the conflict, that “I do not think there was ever a more wicked war than that waged by the United States on Mexico”.