Saturday, March 29, 2003

From today's online WSJ

(but I've linked from the original site to save you the trouble of registration)

How the West armed Hussein

In all, the rush to outfit Saddam with mass destruction weapons reveals a lot about national morals. Our organization did a study of Saddam's pre-Gulf War suppliers a few year back. We discovered that Germany garnered fully half the total sales. In fact, just before the Gulf War, Germany was selling complete, ready-to-operate poison gas plants to Iraq and Libya at the same time. The rest of the world divided the remaining half of Iraq's purchases. The Swiss, who have an unreasonably good reputation in the world, placed second in the sweepstakes with about 8% of sales (specialized presses, milling machines, grinding machines and electrical discharge machines found at nuclear weapon sites; procurement of missile parts and supervision of missile plant construction; equipment for processing uranium to nuclear weapon grade). In third place, with 4% each, Italy and France scored a tie.

The U.S. was far from innocent. In 1988, the Unisys Corporation sold Saddam a giant, $8.7 million dollar computer system configured as a "personnel database" - in other words, set up to track Iraqi citizens. Unisys sold it directly to Saddam's Ministry of the Interior, home to his secret police. Unisys also sold high-speed computers to the Ministry of Defense and to the Saddam State Establishment, that cranked out components for missiles and nuclear weapons. Our electronics went to every known nuclear and missile site in Iraq. These included the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission, Iraqi sites that made A-bomb fuel and nuclear weapon detonators, as well as Iraq's main missile research complex. Companies like Tektronix (high-speed diagnostic equipment), Perkin-Elmer (computers and instruments for quality control), Finnigan MAT (computers useful for monitoring uranium enrichment), and the U.S. subsidiary of Siemens (instruments for analyzing powders useful for A-bomb and missile manufacture) had sales recorded in government export logs.

If some of this stuff turns up in Iraq after the war, a lot of faces will have egg on them. Some will probably be at the U.S. Commerce Department. It approved virtually all the American exports. The policy at Commerce then, as now, is to put trade interests above everything else, including national security.