The Times: JFK Was Responsible for Saddam Hussein - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Times: JFK Was Responsible for Saddam Hussein

Knowing what we know now, who was responsible for Saddam Hussein in the first place?

Ivy Ziedrich, a 19-year-old University of Nevada student, is in the news for lecturing Jeb Bush on ISIS. As reported here in the Guardian,Ms. Ziedrich, a College Democrat, rejected Bush’s statement that the Obama withdrawal from Iraq had created ISIS. Not so, indignantly insisted Ziedrich. “Your brother created ISIS,” she snapped. How did that happen? Why, because George W. Bush invaded Iraq, defeated Saddam, and unemployed all those Saddam loyalists so they needed something to do. 

Said Ivy: “It was like somebody crashing their car and blaming the passenger.” The driver of the car, in her view, being George W. Bush and Obama — who failed miserably to stabilize Iraq and has now widened the war immeasurably — being the innocent passenger.

Well. Let’s stop right there. Let’s take Ivy Ziedrich’s statement about “It was like somebody crashing their car and blaming the passenger” and ask three other questions. Why did George W. Bush have to deal with Saddam Hussein in the first place? Why did George H.W. Bush have to deal with Saddam Hussein when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990? How in the world did Saddam ever wind up running Iraq in the first place?

Answer? Both Bushes — and for that matter Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon — all had to deal with Saddam Hussein because of — yes — John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Or to put it another way: blaming George W. Bush for Iraq is “like somebody crashing their car and blaming the passenger.”

Don’t believe me — believe that Bush-hating New York Times. It was the Times that published this story back on March 14, 2003 titled “A Tyrant 40 Years in the Making.”

In which the Times, in an article written by Roger Morris, who served on the National Security Council staff in the Johnson and Nixon administrations (he resigned in 1970 over Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam War), gave the history of how the man who became known as the Butcher of Baghdad got to where he was sitting when George W. Bush became president. Morris writes as follows: 

SEATTLE— On the brink of war, both supporters and critics of United States policy on Iraq agree on the origins, at least, of the haunted relations that have brought us to this pass: America’s dealings with Saddam Hussein, justifiable or not, began some two decades ago with its shadowy, expedient support of his regime in the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980’s.

Both sides are mistaken. Washington’s policy traces an even longer, more shrouded and fateful history. Forty years ago, the Central Intelligence Agency, under President John F. Kennedy, conducted its own regime change in Baghdad, carried out in collaboration with Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi leader seen as a grave threat in 1963 was Abdel Karim Kassem, a general who five years earlier had deposed the Western-allied Iraqi monarchy. Washington’s role in the coup went unreported at the time and has been little noted since. America’s anti-Kassem intrigue has been widely substantiated, however, in disclosures by the Senate Committee on Intelligence and in the work of journalists and historians like David Wise, an authority on the C.I.A.

… In 1963 Britain and Israel backed American intervention in Iraq, while other United States allies — chiefly France and Germany — resisted. But without significant opposition within the government, Kennedy, like President Bush today, pressed on. In Cairo, Damascus, Tehran and Baghdad, American agents marshaled opponents of the Iraqi regime. Washington set up a base of operations in Kuwait, intercepting Iraqi communications and radioing orders to rebels. The United States armed Kurdish insurgents. The C.I.A.’s “Health Alteration Committee,” as it was tactfully called, sent Kassem a monogrammed, poisoned handkerchief, though the potentially lethal gift either failed to work or never reached its victim.

Then, on Feb. 8, 1963, the conspirators staged a coup in Baghdad. For a time the government held out, but eventually Kassem gave up, and after a swift trial was shot; his body was later shown on Baghdad television. Washington immediately befriended the successor regime. “Almost certainly a gain for our side,” Robert Komer, a National Security Council aide, wrote to Kennedy the day of the takeover.

As its instrument the C.I.A. had chosen the authoritarian and anti-Communist Baath Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political faction influential in the Iraqi Army. According to the former Baathist leader Hani Fkaiki, among party members colluding with the C.I.A. in 1962 and 1963 was Saddam Hussein, then a 25-year-old who had fled to Cairo after taking part in a failed assassination of Kassem in 1958.

… But it wasn’t long before there was infighting among Iraq’s new rulers. In 1968, after yet another coup, the Baathist general Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr seized control, bringing to the threshold of power his kinsman, Saddam Hussein. Again, this coup, amid more factional violence, came with C.I.A. backing. 

In other words? To use Ivy Ziedrich’s imagery? John F. Kennedy crashed the car and George W. Bush was the passenger. In fact, a whole succession of American presidents were forced to be passengers in the car that JFK was driving with the Ba’ath Party and Saddam Hussein. JFK began it all, and LBJ’s CIA installed Saddam’s “kinsman” in the top job in 1968 — putting Saddam himself “on the threshold of power.” In 1968 George W. Bush was 22 years old while LBJ was maneuvering his future antagonist onto that “threshold of power.” 

Megyn Kelly of Fox surely had no idea of the political phenomenon she was launching when she asked Jeb Bush: “On the subject of Iraq… obviously very controversial. Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”

“Knowing what we know now” is well on the way to being the gotcha question of the 2016 campaign.

Liz Cheney got the ball running with this question for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama:

When will the media ask @BarackObama & @HillaryClinton key question for 2016 — Knowing what we know now, would you still have abandoned Iraq?

Exactly. Not to put too fine a point on it, but here’s a short list of “Knowing what we know now” questions liberals will have call to regret.

  • Knowing what we know know, were John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson wrong to install the Baathist Party — and Saddam Hussein — in power in Iraq? Were they wrong to involve America in Vietnam? The Bay of Pigs? Allow the Berlin Wall? Ignore warnings that the Soviets were installing nuclear missiles in Cuba — warnings that proved to be true when what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis was finally revealed? A crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war? 
  • Knowing what we know now, was Jimmy Carter wrong to abandon the Shah of Iran and let the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his Islamic Revolution come to power in Iran? 
  • Knowing what we know now, should FDR have invaded Germany in 1938 when it was still possible to stop the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jews?
  • Knowing what we know now, was it wrong to spend $22 trillion on the Great Society to eradicate poverty? Knowing now, as those Baltimore liberals were telling us in the last few weeks, that after all the billions spent in Baltimore the city has a miserable education system, rampant poverty and no opportunity?
  • Knowing what we know now, was spending $1.3 billion of the 2009 stimulus on Amtrak with $850 billion going to infrastructure — a waste of money if it didn’t prevent the Philadelphia derailment?
  • Knowing what we know now, was supporting slavery, segregation, lynching, and the Ku Klux Klan a mistake for the Democrats?

And so it goes. On — and on. In fact, knowing what we know now — that when liberals are in charge of foreign policy they have produced one disaster after another from Vietnam to Cuba to Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Russia — why would anyone want to put them in charge yet again?

One suspects one will not hear any of this from Ivy Ziedrich or her liberal fans like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, he the ex-aide to Jimmy Carter who loves to ignore his old boss’s role in launching the modern Islamic revolution. 

But in fairness to Ms. Ziedrich, she may be a partisan in the making but in fact she’s only 19. 

It’s perhaps unfair to expect her to know what we know now about the Muslims at the gates of Vienna on September 11, 1683. September 11th — ring a bell? — when Mehmet IV, the Sultan of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, issued this warning to the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I: 

Primarily we order You to await Us in Your residence city of Vienna so that We can decapitate You.… We will exterminate You and all Your followers.… Children and grown-ups will be exposed to the most atrocious tortures before put to an end in the most ignominious way imaginable…

In other words? Some 263 years before George W. Bush was born in 1946, radical Islam — the driving force behind today’s ISIS — was already abroad in the world. 

Knowing what she knows now, maybe Ivy Ziedrich should get a do-over. Then again, she wouldn’t be alone in liberal land. Most of the people who should know better have no idea — or refuse to acknowledge — that the reason Saddam Hussein was running things in Iraq in the first place because Saddam was the was a creature of the Kennedy administration. Not George W. Bush. John F. Kennedy.


Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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