Scandals / Iraqgate

Friedman, Alan. Spider's Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq. New York: Bantam Books, 1993. 455 pages.

This is the story that Bill Clinton promised to investigate if he got elected, but now (January 1994) it appears that his handlers have other plans. It's about how the White House, with assistance from allies in London and Rome, violated the law in order to support Saddam Hussein. Then, following the invasion of Kuwait, George Bush compared him to Hitler, set up the American response, and he and Margaret Thatcher began covering up their past dealings. The story involves the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), the Department of Agriculture's Commodity Credit Corporation, Iraq's nuclear procurement program, and the CIA and Carlos Cardoen (a Chilean arms dealer). Given this ten-year history, it was not unreasonable for Saddam Hussein to assume that U.S. ambassador April Glaspie was giving him the green light to invade Kuwait. And maybe she was; perhaps Bush thought he needed a quick-fix war to try out the Pentagon's new toys and crank up his popularity.

Alan Friedman is an American citizen who began covering Iraqgate while serving as the Milan correspondent for the Financial Times of London. His book includes 74 pages of reproduced bank and government documents, as well as extensive end notes.

Mantius, Peter. Shell Game: A Story of Banking, Spies, Lies, Politics, and the Arming of Saddam Hussein. New York: St.Martin's Press, 1995. 288 pages.

When the feds arrested Christopher Drogoul in 1991, the manager of the Atlanta branch of the Italy's Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), they charged him with 347 felony counts. The story was that Drogoul had hoodwinked his Italian bosses and funneled billions to Saddam Hussein. The prosecutor, Gale McKenzie, was given her lines by U.S. intelligence insiders, and tried to place all of the blame on Drogoul. The bosses at BNL were only too happy to go along, and hired lawyers with close connections to the prosecution. But judge Marvin Shoob saw that the government was pulling a fast one. It was attempting to blame Drogoul for what amounted to an off-the-books effort by Fortune 500 corporations and U.S. policymakers to recruit Iraq as an ally, by giving them credits that were used to purchase arms.

Congressman Henry Gonzalez, who is a tenacious muckraker when his targets are Republicans, tried to make hay out of Iraqgate in 1992. But Shoob was sufficiently outspoken that he had to give the Drogoul case to another judge, whereupon Drogoul cut a deal and ended up serving 33 months. There was a bit of BNL fallout back in Italy, and an Iraqgate scandal in Britain, while in the U.S. the story was already dead. The fact that our media had been so unabashedly enthusiastic over the high-tech death and destruction of the Gulf War may have had something to do with it.

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