As the US prepares to war on Iran, we must consider the costs Americans have paid for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lessons Iran must have learned, writes Lindauer.
By Susan Lindauer
Most Americans are astonished to discover that right up to 9/11, the CIA was developing a “Real Politik” vision of Iraq that recognized the fast approaching collapse of U.N. Sanctions. The CIA was preparing for Peace – with a ruthless determination that the United States would capture the lion’s share of spoils from Iraqi Reconstruction contracts in any post-sanctions period.
German pilots transporting medical supplies and doctors into Baghdad International Airport at the end of the Clinton Administration had blasted the myth of invincibility surrounding sanctions. To this day, those pilots are anonymous—but they changed the equation in total. Their courage honoring the Berlin Airlifts in the Cold War was quickly copied. Across Europe and the Arab world, activists began to organize humanitarian flights into Baghdad. On the Security Council, France and Russia argued strenuously that the ban on air travel had been self imposed, and the no-fly zone could not prohibit humanitarian flights.
By this time, UN sanctions had killed over 1.7 million Iraqis; wiped out literacy in a single generation; and created artificial starvation in the world’s second most oil-rich nation. Iraq’s world class hospitals that once rivaled London and New York had been ravaged. Sick of the misery, the global community refused to stay silent any longer.
The CIA saw the writing on the wall. International loathing for “genocide by sanctions” had reached such a peak of outrage that there was no possibility of re-crafting the hated policy. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s vision of “smart sanctions” had come too late.
The CIA was determined to control the agenda for the advantage of the United States, however. So, quietly, through my back channel, we undertook a proactive, covert dialogue over exactly what concessions Iraq would offer the United States, in exchange for lifting the sanctions. As a long-time opponent of sanctions myself, I was eager to get results.
That dialogue—even the existence of our back channel to Iraq’s Embassy at the United Nations from 1996 to 2003—was strictly covert, kept close and precious— away from Washington pundits and think tanks whose ignorance would have smashed all progress on the rocks. Our dialogue was no less vigorous for that secrecy.
This was the CIA at its best. Nobody got soft on Saddam’s government. By any measure, the CIA’s demands far exceeded the U.N. mandate to eliminate Iraq’s WMDs. If there was going to be peace, it would have to be rock solid, with zero chance that Baghdad would bite the United States in retaliation for those years of misery and death.
A Prosperous Peace for All
What emerged was a dynamic and comprehensive framework hammered out with Iraq’s Ambassador Dr. Saeed Hasan and senior diplomats in New York.
The agreement required weapons inspections “with no conditions.” But the deal accomplished much more. By February, 2001—nine months before 9/11—Baghdad authorized the FBI to send Terrorism Task Force into Iraq, with permission to conduct investigations and make arrests. After 9/11, Iraq sweetened its contribution with promises to hand over banking and financial documents on Al Qaeda figures. There’s no question but that Iraq’s cooperation qualified as the most substantial windfall in the War on Terrorism. Notably, it targeted actual terrorists— not Islamic charities or frightened taxi drivers and plumbers with the wrong accents and ethnic coloring.
Every time Senator John McCain or Dick Cheney pounded the lectern on CNN, and demanded an interview with Al Anai, or other cooperation— Iraq complied within hours.
The Peace Dividend
Most importantly, the CIA was determined that the U.S. would retain a strong footing inside Iraq in all major economic sectors, in any post sanctions period.
The CIA envisioned a great Peace Bonanza for U.S. corporations that would have gorged American workers and shareholders with billions of dollars in revenues. It was a vision of prosperity and wealth creation, which put the United States at the center of the banquet table. The CIA wanted jobs, more jobs and profits. The goal was to rival the economic impact of the reconstruction of Germany and Japan after World War II, driving as many of those economic benefits to U.S. coffers as possible.
Iraq was happy to oblige. Those were days when the United States commanded such power on the world stage that other nations recognized Washington would have to be gratified in order for a change of policy to move forward.
And so Baghdad agreed to every single demand put forth by the CIA – without complaint that U.S. conditions far exceeded the scope of the U.N. mandate for ending the sanctions.
- The CIA demanded and won Iraq’s agreement to allow all U.S. corporations to return to Baghdad, post-sanctions, at the same level of market share as before the first Gulf War in 1990.
- Iraq promised first tier oil concessions to U.S. Oil Corporations in all new exploration and development leases, with priority contracts for the purchase of American oil equipment. Baghdad also promised the U.S. could join existing oil leases held by other countries on a second and third tier basis.
- In January 2003, Iraq offered the LUKoil Contract held by Russia to U.S. oil companies instead, in a final, tragic bid to avert War.
- By December, 2001, Iraq agreed to give preferential contracts, post-sanctions, to U.S. Corporations in telecommunications
- In fact, the CIA demanded and won Iraq’s agreement to give the U.S. preferential contracts in health care, hospital equipment and pharmaceuticals.
- Iraq agreed to buy 1 million American-manufactured automobiles every year for 10 years. This would have required imports from the U.S., not licensing of technology. That would have created thousands of high-paying Union jobs in the Rust Belt of America.
Imagine the modern day Global Economy if the CIA’s vision had prevailed. There would be no bankruptcy of the Middle Class. No housing foreclosure crisis. No government stimulus packages to bail out Banks or the U.S. automobile industry. There would be No Great Depression on All Points of the Global Horizon. This bounty would have extended to Britain and all of Europe and Asia. All countries would have joined the Feast of Reconstruction in Iraq. The prosperity flowing from this Peace Bonanza would have multiplied like loaves of bread throughout the world.
Imagine better schools. Universal health coverage. Substantial new investment in green energy, mass transit and infrastructure improvements. That’s what the Middle Class sacrificed in this Bonfire of the Vanities.
Republicans quickly recognized American voters would be irate over those costs. No longer fired with courage in the belly, and lacking the strength of conviction, Republicans shifted blame for their mediocre war policy onto the Intelligence Community—which had developed this peace framework— rather than take responsibility for their own decision making.
All three U.S. Assets covering the Iraqi Embassy in New York got thrown in prison as “Iraqi Agents,” citing the Patriot Act. All of us faced secret charges, secret evidence and secret grand jury testimony. Myself, I spent a year locked up on Carswell Air Force Base without a trial or hearing, threatened with indefinite detention.
In a violent effort to force to me to recant, I was threatened with forcible drugging with Haldol, Ativan and Prozac. Only thanks to blowback from the blogs and internet radio was the truth that I had lived saved from a chemical lobotomy.
There’s a reason why, and it bodes very badly for America.
The Cost of War
The tragic truth is that pulling U.S. soldiers out from Iraq will not reverse those negative consequences for the U.S. economy or taxpayers. The Middle Class is down for the count and not getting up. Our grandchildren will be financing this failed War in Baghdad with hefty income taxes to pay America’s creditors in China for decades to come. There’s serious question as to whether the War in Iraq has ended the “American Century.”
The United States has hemorrhaged $4 TRILLION on the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and deficits continue to escalate in Kabul. Military spending for defense contractors has increased 81 percent since the 9/11 attack, while disability and health benefits for U.S. Veterans have stagnated.
- Over 4,000 U.S. Soldiers died in Iraq— while another 30,000 suffered serious traumatic injuries, paralysis, amputations and head injuries.
- An American soldier attempts suicide every 80 minutes, according to Veterans for Peace, which has demanded more community outreach to save their lives
- Post traumatic stress cripples tens of thousands of young American soldiers who face great difficulty returning to work and family life.
For all of the glory of U.S. military budgets, we have nothing to give our young people in uniform.
And that’s not all. What of that grand vision called the War on Terrorism?
Cunning like a fox, Saddam Hussein tried to give the United States banking and financial documents that would have closed down the financial pipeline feeding terrorism. Mostly that financing derives from heroin profits, which would have resulted in substantial seizures, and killed two birds with one powerful stone.
Yet for all the rhetoric, Republican leaders so desired to attack Saddam that they left all terrorism financing in circulation. There’s no question but those monies have financed attacks on U.S. and allied partners in Pakistan, India, Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia, the Philippines—wherever radical Islam is engaged in violent retaliation against U.S. military operations.
And so the greatest irony is that the U.S. has financed our Enemies’ War on Terrorism against our own people. That’s just plain stupid. And dangerous.
The damage goes farther. Former CIA Director of Operations and head of the Bin Laden Unit, Michael Scheuer argues that U.S. interventions are in danger of igniting another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Guaranteed to outscore 9/11, the next attack will most likely involve a dirty nuclear attack on the financial district of New York City, which would push the global economy over the edge, into the abyss.
Pulling out of Iraq creates an opportunity to reduce that risk—but only if Washington learns the lessons of its past mistakes and resists the temptation to engage in new military mis-adventures.
The Weapons Trap in Iran
Indeed, as the world weighs another War against Iran, we must engage in a serious conversation as to whether any nation is worth the risk of destruction to our own?
Veterans and anti-war activists alike must force a consideration of what our economy has suffered already—since the value of human life has become so cheap. We must examine the costs of War to our economy, our taxpayers and our soldiers, with much greater clarity and honesty than Republicans in Congress applied to the War in Iraq.
Tragically, the War in Iraq has had an unexpected consequence. It has persuaded Iran of the dangers of nuclear disarmament. Baghdad would have been much less vulnerable to U.S. military adventurism, if only Saddam’s government had possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction, per U.N. accusations. Baghdad’s inability to mount an effective defense created an irresistible provocation for War Hawks in Washington and London.
That lesson of the Iraq War is not lost on Teheran. On that contrary, it has proved to Iranian leaders that WMDs are vital to their future independence. Only a guarantee of “mutual assured destruction” will preserve the freedom of their country.
Unquestionably, that is the greatest tragedy of all, with more dangerous consequences to come.
One must ask: Would the CIA’s vision of peace been so terrible after all?
Susan Lindauer served as a CIA back channel to Iraq at the United Nations and is the author of Extreme Prejudice: The Terrifying Story of the Patriot Act and the Cover Ups of 9/11 and Iraq.