20 December 2003

Rumsfeld Visited Baghdad in 1984 to Reassure Iraqis, Documents Show

Donald H. Rumsfeld went to Baghdad in March 1984 with instructions to deliver a private message about weapons of mass destruction: that the United States' public criticism of Iraq for using chemical weapons would not derail Washington's attempts to forge a better relationship, according to newly declassified documents.

Rumsfeld, then President Ronald Reagan's special Middle East envoy, was urged to tell Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz that the U.S. statement on chemical weapons, or CW, 'was made strictly out of our strong opposition to the use of lethal and incapacitating CW, wherever it occurs,' according to a cable to Rumsfeld from then-Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

The statement, the cable said, was not intended to imply a shift in policy, and the U.S. desire 'to improve bilateral relations, at a pace of Iraq's choosing,' remained 'undiminished.' 'This message bears reinforcing during your discussions.'

The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the nonprofit National Security Archive, provide new, behind-the-scenes details of U.S. efforts to court Iraq as an ally even as it used chemical weapons in its war with Iran.

The press really shoud start hotlinking items they take from the blogosphere. And Rumsfeld really should explain why he's never mentioned the 1984 visit before now.

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