Tuesday, December 10, 2013

89-year-old George H. W. Bush marks another first, and it's not skydiving

89-year-old George H. W. Bush marks another first, and it's not skydiving
By Tim Sprinkle
4 hours ago
Warren Buffett does it.

The pope does it.

And now, even the 41st President of the United States is doing it.

On Tuesday, 89-year-old George H. W. Bush officially launched his personal Twitter account with his first tweet, a post in remembrance of former South African President Nelson Mandela.

The tweet followed a statement released by the former president's office on Nov. 6, in the wake of the news of Mandela's death.

"Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know," the statement read in part. "As President, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment - setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country. Barbara and I had great respect for President Mandela, and send our condolences to his family and countrymen."
Bush is already making a splash in the Twitter community. As of Tuesday afternoon, the former president's account had drawn more than 25,000 followers, and the number has continued to climb. It's early, but so far the senior Bush's account is garnering far more interest than that of his son, 43rd president George W. Bush, whose account remains inactive.

Still, both of the Bush presidents have a long way to go to catch up to former President Bill Clinton, whose Twitter account was launched with some fanfare in April. As of Tuesday, Clinton's account has more than 1.3 million followers.


Published on Tuesday, October 19, 2004 by the Inter Press Service
So, Did Saddam Hussein Try to Kill Bush's Dad?
by Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - Now that President George W. Bush's allegations about former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda and ambitious weapons programs have been thoroughly discredited, another outstanding charge remains to be resolved.

During a campaign speech in September 2002, Bush cited a number of reasons -- in addition to alleged terrorist links and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) about why Saddam was so dangerous to the U.S., noting, in particular that, ''After all, this is the guy who tired to kill my dad.''

He was referring, of course, to an alleged plot by Iraqi intelligence to assassinate Bush's father, former president George H.W. Bush, during his triumphal visit to Kuwait in April, 1993, 25 months after U.S.-led forces chased Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in the first Gulf War and three months after Bush Sr. surrendered the White House to Bill Clinton.

Although he did not name his father, Bush Jr. also cited the assassination attempt in his September 2002 address at the United Nations General Assembly where he called on the U.N. Security Council to approve a tough resolution demanding that Saddam fully give up his (non-existent) WMD weapons and programs

While the alleged plot was never cited officially as a cause for going to war, some pundits -- including Maureen Dowd of the 'New York Times'-- have speculated that revenge or some oedipal desire to show up his father may indeed have been one of the factors that drove him to Baghdad -- as the sign of one demonstrator suggested in a big anti-war march here just before the war: ''I love my dad, too, but come on!''

The circumstances of the alleged plot, which ended in a trial and conviction of 11 Iraqis and three Kuwaitis, have always evoked skepticism, although Clinton himself was apparently sufficiently convinced after receiving reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to order a missile strike on the Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad that killed six civilians in June, 1993.

But a closer look at the 11-year-old plot, particularly in light of the findings by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), the special team of experts that spent 15 months investigating Baghdad's WMD programs, that they were all dismantled in 1991, shortly after the end of the Gulf War, may now be warranted, especially if Bush is still laboring under the impression that Saddam ''tried to kill (his) dad''.

While the ISG's 960-page report, known as the Duelfer Report, does not address the assassination attempt, its chronology and depiction of Hussein's worldview -- adduced through lengthy interviews by one Arabic-speaking FBI investigator and other interviews of Saddam's closest advisers -- make the notion that the Iraqi dictator tried to kill Bush all the more implausible.

For one thing, Saddam, according to the report, was convinced that the CIA had thoroughly penetrated his regime and thus would know not only that he had dismantled his WMD (which the CIA apparently did not), but also would know about his plans for important intelligence operations. Under those circumstances, it is hard to understand why he would then order an assassination attempt on the former U.S. president.

Even more interesting, according to the report, was Saddam's ''complicated'' view of the U.S. While he derived ''prestige'' from being an enemy of the U.S., he also considered it to be ''equally prestigious for him to be an ally of the United States -- and regular entreaties were made during the last decade to explore this alternative''.

Indeed, beginning already in 1991, according to the report, ''very senior Iraqis close to the President made proposals through intermediaries for dialogue with Washington.''

''Baghdad offered flexibility on many issues, including offers to assist in the Israel- Palestine conflict. Moreover, in informal discussions, senior officials allowed that, if Iraq had a security relationship with the United States, it might be inclined to dispense with WMD programs and/or ambitions,'' it added.

The report even concluded that Iraq was willing to be Washington's ''best friend in the region bar none''.

The fact that the U.S., under Bush Sr. and Clinton, did not show interest was apparently a source of bewilderment to the Iraqi leader, according to the Duelfer report.

If Saddam had tried to kill the ex-president, he probably would not have been bewildered by Washington's lack of interest, but, by all accounts, he was.

''From the report, Saddam seems to be not a madman, but someone who would understand very well the consequences of an assassination'', notes Gregory Thielmann, a former senior State Department analyst who specialized in Iraq's WMD programs

''If his top priority was getting the (UN economic) sanctions lifted (as indicated by the report), then it doesn't follow that he would try to kill the president of the United States,'' added Thielmann.

As portrayed by both the alleged assassins and the Kuwaitis who grabbed them, the plot was itself deeply amateurish, dependent on the leadership of Wali Abdelhadi Ghazali, a 36-year-old male nurse, Raad Abdel-Amir al-Assadi, from Najaf, and a dozen Iraqi whiskey smugglers led by a 33-year-old owner of a coffee shop in Basra that was meeting-place for cross-border smugglers. Despite his age, al-Assadi confessed to being a colonel in the Iraqi intelligence service, the Mukhabarat, according to the Kuwait authorities.

Ghazali, who initially said he was approached and supplied with explosives and cars by the Mukhabarat was the only person in the group who knew that Bush was the target. Other defendants confessed to transporting explosives across the border from Iraq but insisted they had no idea what they were for.

Both Ghazali and Assadi retracted their confessions during the trial, claiming that they were extracted by repeated beatings. At the time, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International expressed strong doubts that the trials could be fair, noting that it had received credible reports of severe beatings meted out to defendants accused of capital crimes in Kuwait. Assadi insisted that he was asked by the Mukhabarat to plant bombs around shopping centers in Kuwait City.

U.S. investigators, however, reported that they believed the confessions were not coerced and noted the similarity in the construction of the bombs found with the Iraqis with one known to have been built in Iraq in 1991.

In October, 1993, however, New Yorker investigative journalist Seymour Hersh assailed the government's case as ''seriously flawed'', noting among other problems that seven bomb experts had told him that the devices were mass-produced and probably not even manufactured in Iraq.

Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who met with Saddam when he served as U.S. charge d'affaires in Baghdad during the Gulf War, said he found the plot ''odd''.

''(Saddam) had to have had some idea that his ability to run operations outside Iraq was not very good, because we had foiled so many things before the war. So you have to ask why someone who was a risk-taker but clearly not suicidal would undertake to assassinate a former president of the United States,'' pointed out Wilson.

Larry Johnson, a top counter-terrorist official at the State Department, said he still has ''no doubts'' about the plot, recalling Saddam's ''gangster'' ethic. ''Personal honor was involved,'' he said.

© Copyright 2004 IPS - Inter Press Service


AlterNet /
By Barry Lando

How George H.W. Bush Helped Saddam Hussein Prevent an Iraqi Uprising
This devastating passage from Barry Lando's book on the history of American and British imperial lies about Iraq exposes the efforts that the first Bush president made to keep Hussein in power after the first Gulf War.
March 29, 2007 |
The following is an adapted excerpt from " Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush" (Other Press) by Barry Lando.

Though Saddam Hussein has been dispatched, the trial of his confederates continues in Baghdad. In the next few months, the Special Iraqi Tribunal will be hearing evidence against almost a hundred of Saddam's former officials, charged with the slaughter of tens of thousands of Shiites following the abortive uprising or Intifada of 1991.

Because of the way the Tribunal has been run, it's highly unlikely there'll be any mention of U.S. complicity with that slaughter. In fact, President George H. W. Bush was very much involved.

It was he who in February 1991, as American forces were driving Saddam's troops out of Kuwait, called for the people of Iraq to rise up and overthrow the dictator. That message was repeatedly broadcast across Iraq. It was also contained in millions of leaflets dropped by the U.S. Air Force. Eager to end decades of repression, the Shiites arose. Their revolt spread like wildfire; in the north, the Kurds also rose up. Key Iraqi army units joined in. It looked as if Saddam's days were over.

But then George H. W. Bush blew the whistle. Things had got out of hand. What Bush had wanted was not a messy popular uprising but a neat military coup -- another strongman more amenable to Western interests. The White House feared that turmoil would give the Iranians increased influence, upset the Turks, wreak havoc throughout the region.

But the Bush administration didn't just turn its back; it actually aided Saddam to suppress the Intifada.

The Uprising Smashed

When Saddam's brutal counter-attack against the rebellions began, the order was given to American troops already deep inside Iraq and armed to the teeth not to assist the rebellion in any way -- though everyone knew that they were condemning the Intifada to an awful defeat. Thanks to their high-flying reconnaissance planes, U.S. commanders would observe the brutal process as it occurred.

At the time, Rocky Gonzalez was a Special Forces warrant officer serving with U.S. troops in southern Iraq. Because he spoke Arabic, he was detached to serve with the Third Brigade of the 101st Infantry when the ground war began. There were about 140 men in his unit, which was stationed at Al Khadir on the Euphrates, just a few kilometers from Kerbala and Najaf.

Rocky was one of the few Americans who could actually communicate with the Iraqis. When the Intifada erupted, the Americans prompted the rebels to raid the local prison in Kerbala and free the Kuwaitis who were being held there. "We didn't think there was going to be a lot of bloodshed," said Gonzalez, "but they executed the guards in the prison." Prior to the uprising, the rebels had also been feeding intelligence to the Americans on what Saddam's local supporters were up to.

From their base, Rocky and his units watched as Saddam's forces launched their counterattack against the rebel-held city. Thousands of people fled toward the American lines, said Gonzalez. "All of a sudden, as far as the eye could see on Highway Five, there was just a long line of vehicles, dump trucks, tractors -- any vehicle they could get -- coming to us in streams."

"The rebels wanted aid, they wanted medical treatment, and some of the individuals wanted us to give them weapons and ammunition so they could go and fight. One of the refugees was waving a leaflet that had been dropped by U.S. planes over Iraq. Those leaflets told them to rise up against the regime and free themselves."

"They weren't asking us to fight. They felt they could do that themselves. Basically they were just saying 'we rose up like you asked us, now give us some weapons and arms to fight.'"

The American forces had huge stocks of weapons they had captured from the Iraqis. But they were ordered to blow them up rather than turn them over to the rebels. "It was gut-wrenching to me," said Gonzalez. "Here we were sitting on the Euphrates River and we were ordered to stop. As a human being, I wanted to help, but as a solider I had my orders."

Ironically, according to a former U.S. diplomat, some of the arms that were not destroyed by American forces were collected by the CIA and shipped to anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan, who at the time were being clandestinely backed by the U.S.

A Shiite survivor of the uprising later said he had seen other American forces at the river town of Nassiriya destroy a huge cache of weapons that the rebels desperately needed. "They blew up an enormous stock of arms," he said. "If we had been able to get hold of them, the course of history would have been changed in favor of the uprising, because Saddam had nothing left at that moment."

Indeed, Saddam's former intelligence chief, General Wafiq al-Samarrai, later recounted that the government forces had almost no ammunition left when they finally squelched the revolt. "By the last week of the intifada," he said, "the army was down to two hundred and seventy thousand Kalashnikov bullets." That would have lasted for just two more days of fighting.

In his autobiography, General Schwarzkopf, without giving details, alludes to the fact that the American-led coalition aided Saddam to crush the uprising. According to his curious reasoning, expressed in another interview, the Iraqi people were not innocent in the whole affair because "they supported the invasion of Kuwait and accepted Saddam Hussein."

Iraqi survivors of the Intifada also claimed that U.S. forces actually prevented them from marching on Baghdad. "American helicopters landed on the road to block our way and stopped us from continuing," they said. "One of the American soldiers threatened to kill us if we didn't turn back." Another Shiite leader, Dr. Hamid al-Bayatti, claimed that the U.S. even provided Saddam's Republican Guards with fuel. The Americans, he charged, disarmed some resistance units and allowed Republican Guard tanks to go through their checkpoints to crush the uprising. "We let one Iraqi division go through our lines to get to Basra because the United States did not want the regime to collapse," said Middle East expert Wiliam Quandt.

The U.S. officials declined even to meet with the Shiites to hear their case. As Peter Galbraith said, "These were desperate people, desperate for U.S. help. But the U.S. refused to talk to any of the Shiite leaders: the U.S. Embassy, Schwarzkopf, nobody would see them, nor even give them an explanation."

The stonewalling continued even when evidence that Saddam was using chemical weapons against the rebels emerged. "You could see there were helicopters crisscrossing the skies, going back and forth," Rocky Gonzalez said. "Within a few hours people started showing up at our perimeter with chemical burns. They were saying, 'We are fighting the Iraqi military and the Baath Party and they sprayed us with chemicals.' We were guessing mustard gas. They had blisters and burns on their face and on their hands, on places where the skin was exposed," he said. "As the hours passed, more and more people were coming. And I asked them, 'Why don't you go to the hospital in Kerbala,' and the response was that all the doctors and nurses had been executed by the Iraqi soldiers, 'so we come to you for aid.'"

One of the greatest concerns of coalition forces during Desert Storm had been that Saddam would unleash his WMD. U.S. officials repeatedly warned Iraq that America's response would be immediate and devastating. Facing such threats, Saddam kept his weapons holstered -- or so the Bush administration led the world to believe.

Rocky's suspicion that Saddam did resort to them in 1991 was later confirmed by the report of the U.S. Government's Iraq Survey Group, which investigated Saddam's WMD after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 and concluded that Saddam no longer had any WMD. Almost universally ignored by the media, however, was the finding that Saddam had resorted to his WMD during the 1991 uprising. The "regime was shaking and wanted something 'very quick and effective' to put down the revolt." They considered then rejected using mustard gas, as it would be too perceptible with U.S. troops close by. Instead, on March 7th, 1991 the Iraqi military filled R-400 aerial bombs with sarin, a binary nerve agent. "Dozens of sorties were flown against Shiite rebels in Kerbala and the surrounding areas," the ISG report said. But apparently the R-400 bombs were not very effective, having been designed for high-speed delivery from planes, not slow-moving helicopters. So the Iraqi military switched to dropping CS, a very potent tear gas, in large aerial bombs.

Because of previous U.S. warnings against resorting to chemical weapons, Saddam and his generals knew they were taking a serious risk, but the Coalition never reacted. The lingering question is why. It's impossible to believe they didn't know about it at the time. There were repeated charges from Shiite survivors that the Iraqi dictator had used chemical weapons. Rocky Gonzalez said he heard from refugees that nerve gas was being used. He had also observed French-made Iraqi helicopters -- one of which was outfitted as a crop sprayer -- making repeated bomb runs over Najaf.Gonzalez maintained that, contrary to what the ISG report said, many of the refugees who fled to U.S. lines were indeed victims of mustard gas. "Their tongues were swollen," he said, "and they had severe burns on the mucous tissue on the inside of their mouths and nasal passages. Our chemical officer also said it looked like mustard gas." Gonzalez suggested that local Iraqi officials, desperate to put down the uprising, may have used mustard gas without permission from on high. "A lot of that was kept quiet," he said, "because we didn't want to panic the troops. We stepped up our training with gas masks, because we were naturally concerned."

Gonzalez's unit also passed their information on to their superiors. "There was no way that officers higher didn't know what was happening," Gonzalez said. "Whether those reports went above our division, I have no idea." Gonzalez's former commander turned down my request for an interview. At the time, few subjects were more sensitive than Saddam's potential use of WMD. It's difficult to believe that reports from Gonzalez's unit weren't flashed immediately up the chain of command in the Gulf and Washington.

There were other American witnesses to what happened. U.S. helicopters and planes flew overhead, patrolling as Saddam's helicopters decimated the rebels. Some of those aircraft provided real-time video of the occurrences below. A reliable U.S. intelligence source confirmed that such evidence does indeed exist.

On March 7th, Secretary of State James Baker warned Saddam not to resort to chemical weapons to repress the uprising. But why, when the U.S. was notified that the Iraqi dictator actually had resorted to chemical weapons, was there no forceful reaction from the administration of the elder Bush?One plausible explanation--denouncing Saddam for using chemical weapons would have greatly increased pressure on the U.S. President to come to the aid of the Shiites.

Instead, the American decision to turn their backs on the Intifada gave a green light to Saddam Hussein's ruthless counterattack. General Wafiq al-Samarrai learned of the decision after Iraqi units intercepted frantic conversations between two Islamic rebels near Nassariya. One told the other that he had gone to the Americans to ask for support, and twice was rebuffed. "They say, 'We are not going to support you because you are Shiites and are collaborating with Iran.'" After hearing that message, al-Samarrai recalled, "The position of the regime immediately became more confident. Now [Saddam] began to attack the Intifada."

The repression when it came was as horrendous as everyone knew it would be.

"Women were being raped. People were being shot in the streets and just left to rot there." Zainab al-Suwaij recounted. "The citizens were forbidden to bury the bodies. Many of them were eaten by the dogs. The government ordered people out of Kerbala to take the road to Najaf. They were slaughtered and executed along the roadway. Many of those killed were teenagers."

As an object lesson to his people, Saddam Hussein himself ordered Iraqi television to record and broadcast scenes of the repression: appalling scenes of captured Shiites, some with ropes around their necks, being kicked and beaten and insulted, threatened with pistols and machine guns, a few pleading for mercy. Most of them, eyes downcast, are eventually dragged away to execution.

The Bush administration attempted to disengage itself from any responsibility. They were helped by the fact that there were no graphic news reports in the West of the slaughter that was taking place. U.S. intelligence agencies had their own accounts and explicit images, but they weren't sharing them with the press or the public. Anonymous government figures, wise in the ways of Realpolitik, were making statements such as, "It is far easier to deal with a tame Saddam Hussein than with an unknown quantity."

Because of Saddam's savage repression of the uprising, the ensuing U.N. sanctions, and the carnage unleashed by the 2003 invasion, at least one million Iraqis have probably lost their lives since 1991.

Imagine if, instead of blocking the Intifada, George H.W. Bush had given a green light -- without even sending American troops to Baghdad -- just sent the needed signals: met with rebel leaders, ordered Saddam to stop flying his helicopter gunships.

Granted there would have been a period of tumult. The Kurds might have achieved an autonomous or semi autonomous state, which is probably what they will wind up with. The Iranians would have certainly increased their influence through their Shiite allies, but probably no more than they have today.

Indeed, some in the Bush I administration were recommending that he do just that: support the revolt he had called for. They were overruled.

Barry Lando is the author of " Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush " (Other Press).

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