Could the farm lobby have prevented mass murder in Iraq?
Unwittingly, they could have probably even prevented a war or two.
In 1988, the U.S. Congress was considering a sanctions bill against Saddam Hussein's regime pursuant to reports of the mass murder of thousands of Iraqi Kurds.
Unfortunately, the bill was defeated due to the strong opposition of the farm lobby, in particular rice farmers, who were selling over $1 billion in agricultural products to Hussein's regime at the time. Sound familiar?
These lobbyists and their Congressional allies argued that commercial ties would keep Hussein "in check" and help feed the Iraqi people. Sound familiar again?
Tragically, within the Reagan Administration, those concerned that such appeasement would only embolden Hussein were also overruled by those who agreed with the farm lobby, as this State Department memo shows.
(On a side note, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Reagan's former Secretary of Agriculture, John Block, has become a leading advocate of doing business with the Castro regime).
Two years later, Saddam Hussein would invade Kuwait and murder hundreds of thousands more.
Lesson to be learned: Brutal dictators are not rational business (or political) partners.
Please read the following article carefully:
'Idealist' tried to halt Saddam's Kurdish slaughter
(CNN) - Years before the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was slaughtering Iraq's Kurds with bombs, bullets and gas.
The Reagan White House saw it as a ruthless attempt to put down a rebellion by a minority ethnic group fighting for independence and allied with Iraq's enemy, Iran. But Peter Galbraith thought it was something worse. "A light went off in my head, and I said, 'Saddam Hussein is committing genocide,'" said Galbraith, who was on the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the time [...]
"We could not stand aside and allow Saddam Hussein to commit genocide against the Kurds of Iraq." With the support of his boss, Democratic Sen. Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, Galbraith drafted a bill -- the Prevention of Genocide Act -- that would cut off U.S. foreign aid to Iraq and impose a trade embargo.
"That would have been an appropriate response to a dictator who is gassing his own people," Galbraith said.
"I thought with a name like that it would garner a lot of support." But the compelling name was not enough [...]
The Reagan administration had invested several years cultivating Iraq as an ally against Iran, their mutual enemy, and as a market for U.S. products, including more than $1 billion a year in farm exports. The Prevention of Genocide Act would end the diplomatic courtship and hurt U.S businesses.
"I had a fellow who worked for one of the Louisiana senators call me up really in tears," Galbraith said." And when I talked about genocide against the Kurds, he talked about the genocide that I was committing against the rice farmers of Louisiana."
Although then-Secretary of State George Schultz warned Iraq that use of outlawed chemical weapons jeopardized the two countries' budding relationship, Schultz's spokesman said imposing economic sanctions would be premature.
To Galbraith, "that was a morally repugnant statement." The Reagan administration also claimed Galbraith's bill used "inaccurate terms like genocide." But for Galbraith, this was no time for semantics. "Should we have waited until he used chemical weapons again? Should we have waited until instead of 5 percent of the Kurdish population was murdered -- 10? 15?"
In the end, the House of Representatives killed Galbraith's sanctions bill with backing from the Reagan administration. Politics had trumped principle. Galbraith calls the U.S. policy "appeasement."
"We were not able to modify Iraq's behavior," Galbraith said. "And guess what?"
Two years later, in August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, its oil-rich neighbor to the south. This time, the U.S. compared Saddam to Hitler. And with Kuwait's oil at stake, the U.S finally screamed bloody murder.
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