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Made in the USA
A guide to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
by Jim Crogan
LA Weekly
March 21-27, & April 25 - May 1, 2003


As U.S. and British fighter jets and bombers knife through Iraqi airspace to pound targets in and around Baghdad, attacking pilots will challenge an air-defense system updated with fiber-optic equipment installed by a Chinese corporation and supported by American high-end technology.

At every turn of the war against Iraq, U.S. and British forces will face weapons systems largely developed and supplied to Iraq by American, European, Russian and Chinese companies.

Airmen will seek to evade anti-aircraft missiles, designed by Russian, German, Chinese, Egyptian and Argentine engineers, and controlled by American, British and French supercomputers and navigational systems.

Ground forces will gird themselves against the risk of germs and viruses supplied by American companies, or chemical weapons manufactured with German, Swiss, American and British technology and supplies. So-called dirty bombs, which use conventional explosives to spread deadly radiation, would be the direct result of French- or Japanese-based engineering.

Call it globalization at its worst.

Most of the technology was sold to Iraq in the decade before the 1991 Gulf War, but not all.

A case in point is Huawei Technologies. Between 2000 and 2002, this leading Chinese communications company upgraded Saddam's air-defense system. Huawei's actions, which violated the international embargo against military sales to Iraq, used good old American know-how. AT&T helped "optimize" this Chinese company's products, and IBM supplied Huawei with switches, chips and processing technology. Texas Industries helped set up a lab in 1997 to train Huawei engineers and develop signal-processing systems, according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit foundation that monitors the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missile technology. Records indicate that Huawei built another joint lab with Motorola in 1997.

That same year the Chinese company received U.S. Department of Commerce approval to buy supercomputers from Digital Equipment Corporation, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems. Huawei also purchased large amounts of telecommunications equipment from Qualcomm, again approved by the Commerce Department.

Gary Pitts, a Houston attorney, has sued American and European companies for supplying Iraq's program to build weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations and the United States have so far refused to disclose publicly all the companies named by Iraq in U.N. documents as suppliers for its weapons programs. Pitts then sent his consultant, Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector, to Baghdad. Ritter returned with a copy of Iraq's 1997 weapons declaration to the U.N., which Pitts is now incorporating into his lawsuit.

Iraq's 1997 declaration was supplanted by its December 2002 declaration. Again, the suppliers' names were not revealed, but the information was leaked to Andreas Zumach, a Swiss-based reporter who published company names in the Berlin newspaper Die Tageszeitung. The Weekly was unable to verify the list, but Zumach, who spoke with the Weekly, identified 24 American-based corporations and 50 American subsidiaries of foreign corporations. The names include several California-based corporations: Rockwell, Hewlett-Packard, Bechtel, Axel Electronics Inc. and Spectra Physics. None of these companies other than Bechtel returned calls for comment to the Weekly. (Bechtel confirmed that it helped design a petrochemical plant outside Baghad, but a spokesperson added that the company's actions were legal at the time.) Zumach's list also identified three Chinese companies, including Huawei, and eight from France, 17 from Britain, six from Russia, five from Japan, three from Holland, seven from Belgium, three from Spain and two from Sweden.

In his speech before the United Nations, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that "To support its deadly biological and chemical weapons program, Iraq procures needed items from around the world, using an extensive clandestine network." But Powell has been notably silent on issues of U.S. culpability, corporate profiteering or violations of international chemical, nuclear and biological treaties. Powell, for instance, neglected to mention that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta sent Iraq three shipments of West Nile virus for medical research in 1985.

Powell also failed to acknowledge that Iraq obtained some of its initial anthrax bacilli from American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), a Maryland/Virginia-based nonprofit bio-resource center that supplies viruses and germs to governments, companies and academic institutions worldwide. Between 1985 and 1989, ATCC sent Iraq deadly shipments that included a variety of anthrax bacteria and germs that cause meningitis, influenza, botulism, lung failure and tetanus, according to media reports and U.N. records. ATCC did not respond to a request for an interview.

Thiodiglycol, a substance needed to manufacture deadly mustard gas, made its way to Iraq via Alcolac International, Inc., a Maryland company, since dissolved and reformed as Alcolac Inc., and Phillips, once a subsidiary of Phillips Petroleum and now part of ConocoPhillips, an American oil and energy company.

The Weekly contacted the Texas law firms representing Alcolac Inc. and ConocoPhillips for comment, but only Ronald Welsh, Alcolac's lawyer responded. "I have no personal knowledge that Alcolac supplied Iraq" with a component of mustard gas, said Welsh. Alcolac's attorney also claimed he didn't know that Gary Pitts had obtained Iraq's 1997 Weapons Declaration, but said he intends to challenge its authenticity in court.

Alcolac was one of a handful of corporations prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department for illegal exports. Although Alcolac allegedly supplied its mustard-gas ingredient to Iraq and Iran, the Justice Department indicted the company in 1988 only for its illegal exports to Iran, via a German company, Chemco. A Chemco executive, who arranged the sales, was convicted of violating export laws. Alcolac's chemicals allegedly made their way to Iraq through Nu Kraft Mercantile Corp., via Jordan. In 1989, Alcolac pleaded guilty to one count of violating U.S. export laws.

Hussein's troops used mustard gas against the Iranians in their war and also against Kurdish civilians at Halabjah in 1988. And during the first Gulf War, hundred of thousands of American soldiers might have been exposed to hazardous levels of poison gas released when coalition jets bombed Iraqi targets. At the time, Czech chemical-detection equipment, the most sophisticated in the world, registered mustard gas and sarin nerve-gas exposure. Gulf War vets were found to be two to three times more likely to have children born with birth defects, according to a study published by the Annals of Epidemiology. Likewise, vets may have higher-than- average rates of cancers, afflicting the brain, nervous and reproductive systems, pancreas, kidneys and lungs.

Of 567,000 American troops who saw duty in the Gulf during the 1991 war, 293,561 -- or nearly 52 percent -- have now filed medical claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs, said Steven Robinson, executive director of the National Gulf War Resource Center and a Gulf War vet. The VA has granted compensation to 163,000 Gulf War vets, at a cost of $1.8 billion per year. Robinson also says that at least 11,074 Gulf vets have died since the war.

"We want those companies, especially the American firms who may have broken the export laws, to be criminally prosecuted," said Robinson.


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Made in the USA - Part II
More on the connection between the United States,
American corporations and Iraq's weapons programs

Iraq would never have developed its chemical-, biological- and nuclear-weapons program -- or even its conventional missiles -- without technology and material support supplied by a phalanx of American and international corporations. It also helped mightily that officials in the first Bush presidency -- many of whom now work for George W. Bush -- were willing to look the other way or directly assist Saddam Hussein's regime.

Between 1985 and 1990, the U.S. government approved 771 licenses for exports of biological agents, high-tech equipment and military items to Iraq, reported Representative Sam Gejdenson (D-Connecticut) in 1991. Those exports were valued at $1.5 billion, said Gejdenson, who was the chairman of the House Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the time.

"The United States spent virtually an entire decade making sure that Saddam Hussein had almost whatever he wanted . . . We continued to approve this equipment until just weeks before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait," declared, according to a Congressional transcript.

Gejdenson also told his subcommittee that the State Department refused to impose controls on the export of biological toxins to Iraq until 1989, even though it knew Hussein used chemical weapons against Iranian troops during the Iran-Iraq war as well as Kurdish civilians.

And, he added, the administration of the elder George Bush had lobbied, right up to "July 27, 1990 -- six days before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait," against a proposed House amendment that would have restricted agricultural credits to Iraq.

In a 1991 speech on the House floor, Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Gonzalez denounced the billions in financial support given to Hussein with assistance from both the Reagan and Bush administrations. Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL), an Italian, multinational banking concern with American operations based in New York, delivered more than $4 billion in loans to Iraq, during the 1980s.

Those loans, unreported to U.S. banking officials, were funneled through BNL's Atlanta branch. The subsequent scandal eventually resulted in the conviction of several BNL employees for fraud.

And yet Gonzalez was able to cite a Federal Reserve document showing that the secretary of state for the first President Bush actually discussed these criminally suspect BNL loans with Saddam Hussein. Investigators also found BNL-related telexes between April Glaspie, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and the State Department in Washington.

Gonzalez also reported that U.S. officials under Reagan and Bush routinely ignored evidence that Iraq was using its weapons of mass destruction. He cited congressional testimony by Paul Freedenberg, the chief export-licensing official at the Department of Commerce during parts of both the Reagan and Bush administrations, to underscore that point.

"In the summer of 1988, a number of licenses were pending with regard to technology transfers to Iraq," testified Freedenberg. "I asked for official guidance with regard to what the licensing policy would be toward Iraq, since by then there was credible evidence of the use of poison gas by the Iraqis against their own people and also against the Iranians."

Freedenberg told Congress that he suggested the "imposition of foreign controls" be used to justify the denial of these export licenses. But the National Security Council told him to treat these exports as "normal trade."

More would be known about corporate and governmental malfeasance except that this information is being kept under wraps. This secrecy even applies to the weapons declarations issued by Iran in 1997 and in December of 2002. Attorney Gary Pitts, who is suing corporations that allegedly helped to arm Iraq, found that there were only three places to get the information: the United Nations, the U.S. government and Iraq.

"The U.N. refused to disclose" either the 1997 or 2002 lists of Iraqi suppliers, said Pitts. And his request to U.S. officials has been stuck in bureaucratic limbo. Pitts finally made a direct appeal to Iraq: "I told them that they should release the list and let the companies share the heat."

To his surprise, Iraq agreed on the condition that Iraqi officials would hand over this information at a press conference. But the Iraqis postponed the meeting indefinitely in the face of increasing tensions. It was then that Pitts sent Scott Ritter, a former U.N. weapons inspector who was serving as a legal consultant, to Baghdad. Because Ritter returned with reams of documentation, Pitts was able to amend and update his lawsuit. Currently, his suit names 68 corporations and individuals, the majority of which are European.

Pitts also has coordinated with British and German law firms to sue some of the European companies named as defendants in his class-action suit, which he filed in the Texas state court system. Through the lawsuit or through an act of Congress, he hopes to tap into the more than $1 billion in frozen Iraqi assets in the U.S. on behalf of his clients, who are some 3,500 sick Gulf War veterans. Pitts originally filed his lawsuit in 1994.

Because the U.N. has guarded the names of Iraq's weapons suppliers, several countries, including Syria, have accused the U.S. of spearheading a cover-up to protect Iraq's corporate suppliers.

The Weekly contacted the Syrian and Iraqi missions for comment. The Syrian mission declined to elaborate. But an assistant to the Hussein government's U.N. ambassador, who identified himself as Osama, declined to release the names of the suppliers. "Those names are confidential," he said. "And we don't even have a copy of the declaration here in New York, so I couldn't give them to you anyway."

A representative of the U.N.'s weapons-inspection team, who spoke on condition of anonymity, denied the U.S. had pressured anyone. "The decision to `sanitize' the list of names was made by the permanent members in consultation with us. We felt it was necessary to protect their names, so UNMOVIC [the U.N. inspection agency] could go back and ask the companies follow-up questions. It's like journalists protecting their sources," the source added.

Also speaking on a not-for-attribution basis, a spokesperson for the U.S. United Nations delegation denied the U.S. had pressured anyone to withhold suppliers' names: "We wanted them released," the spokesperson said. "It was the Europeans who demanded they be kept secret."

The corporate entities were subsequently listed in a German newspaper, but the disclosure got little play in the United States, despite the presence of an impressive list of American corporate players.

It turns out that the Iraqi declaration also identified three American nuclear-weapons labs as assisting with Iraq's nuclear-weapons program: Los Alamos, Sandia National Laboratories, and Lawrence Livermore. A Los Alamos representative refused comment. And Sandia's spokesperson did not return calls. But a representative from Lawrence Livermore told the Weekly the reference was to a public conference that several Iraqi scientists attended. "There was no classified material discussed. It was only about conventional explosives and detonations," the spokesperson said. "These were public, scientific papers being discussed. And I think the conference was sometime during the late 1970s."

Former congressional investigator Jeff Hodges remembers it differently. "First, the conference wasn't held in the late 1970s," said Hodges. "It was September 1989. That's less than 14 months before the Gulf War started," he said.

Hodges also pointed out it was the elder Bush's State Department that arranged visas for three participating Iraqi nuclear scientists. "In addition to the information they received from the public papers, the scientists also profited from valuable contacts they made at the conference," he added.

Six months after the conference, American and British customs officers at London's Heathrow Airport arrested operatives working for Iraq's nuclear-weapons research lab.

Of course, history could have taken a completely different turn in 1990. A former U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells the Weekly that in July of 1990 his associate, an intelligence operative, was reviewing developments in Iraq with President Bush, Colin Powell (then chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), Dick Cheney (then the Secretary of Defense) and Secretary of State James Baker on the looming crisis in the Gulf.

"My friend was the individual used by our government to hand-carry secret intelligence information on Iran's military to Baghdad," recounted the source. "He told Bush and the others that Iraq was moving troops towards the Kuwaiti border. He also told the president he could stop them dead in their tracks by making a public announcement that any attack on Kuwait would be viewed as an attack on the U.S." But the source said that the advice was rejected.

Bush et al. "decided they didn't want to align the U.S. that closely with Kuwait," the former intelligence official said. "But I guess that plan didn't work out too well, did it?"

Companies Being Sued for Ties with Iraq

The following companies are named in the Gulf vets class-action suit, which claims the companies aided Iraq's weapons program. None of these companies has admitted any wrongdoing; some have yet to be served with the lawsuit alleging wrongdoing:

  • Preussag, a German company, allegedly built a chemical-weapons facility.
  • Schott Glaswerke, a German company, allegedly provided specialized equipment for chemical plants.
  • Klockner, a German company, allegedly sold Iraq spare machine parts for its chemical-weapons facilities.
  • Sigma Aldrich Corp., a German company, allegedly sold biological-weapons equipment.
  • Chemap A.G., a Swiss company, allegedly sold specialized equipment for Iraq's bioweapons program.
  • American Type Culture Collection, a U.S. company, supplied biological agents and pathogens to Iraq.
  • Phillips, now part of ConocoPhillips, an American oil and energy company, allegedly sold chemicals used in the production of mustard gas.
  • Alcolac International, a U.S. company, allegedly sold chemicals used in the production of mustard gas.
  • Alfa Laval, a Swedish company, allegedly sold specialized equipment for Iraq's bioweapons program.
  • Karl Kolb, a German company, allegedly built a chemical-agent factory.
  • WET, a German company, allegedly sold specialized equipment for Iraq's bioweapons program.
  • Herberger, a German company, allegedly built bio-weapons facilities.


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Made in the USA - Part III
The Dishonor Roll
America's corporate merchants of death in Iraq

April 25 - May 1, 2003

Saddam Hussein's regime was crushed by the combined military might of American and British forces in a lightning-quick, three-week war. But there's still more work to be done, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon this month.

"We still need to find and secure Iraq's weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities," said Rumsfeld. "We still must find out everything we can about how the Iraqi regime acquired its capabilities, and the proliferation that took place by countries in the industrialized world."

A glance at his datebook would provide some of the answers. In 1983, Rumsfeld, then a private citizen, traveled to Baghdad to meet with the Iraqi dictator. Rumsfeld delivered President Ronald Reagan's personal message of support to Hussein, who was already three years into his eventual eight-year war with Iran. The American envoy also discussed a proposed joint-venture oil pipeline with the Iraqi leader. That project, also championed by the San Francisco-based Bechtel Group, never materialized, but Rumsfeld's mission underscored the reality that for more than 30 years the economic interests of American industry were firmly embedded into the geopolitical goals of U.S. policymakers.

Throughout the 1980s, the U.S. Commerce Department approved at least $1.5 billion in exports with possible military applications from U.S. companies to Iraq, and the Agriculture Department administered a U.S.-goverment-guaranteed loan program that provided billions to Iraq. Thanks largely to the first George Bush, American taxpayers unwittingly co-signed for much of the loan money, and the government had to make good on these loans when Iraq later defaulted. Almost all of the transactions were legal under U.S. and international law at the time, even when the transactions either had direct military or dual-use (civilian and military) applications. Over and over again, the deals were encouraged and even abetted by the U.S. government, even after American officials had proof that Iraq was using chemical weapons to kill Iranian troops and subdue Kurdish uprisings. In fact, the Reagan administration and the first Bush administration even provided Hussein's regime with military intelligence during his bloody eight-year war with Iran.

American officials tolerated Hussein's despotism because they viewed his regime as a secular bulwark against the Islamic fundamentalist revolution spawned by the Iranian revolution. That is, until Iraq invaded oil-rich Kuwait in 1990. Most, though not all, of Iraq's commerce with American companies ended after the first Gulf War in 1991.

Now the business cycle is starting all over again. Last week, the Bechtel corporation received a U.S. Agency for International Development contract to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. The contract, initially worth $34.6 million, could eventually total nearly $700 million over the next 18 months. Perhaps Bechtel's institutional knowledge was a plus, given its status as a major player in Hussein's Iraq -- during the time when doing business with Hussein was endorsed by U.S. policy. At the very least, Bechtel's ties to the old regime are not being held against it.


Click on a company name or U.S. government agency from the list below to go directly to a description of their acknowledged or documented involvement with Iraq. Some of these businesses are no longer operating. A number of these companies did not respond to the Weekly's calls for comment. All who did denied wrongdoing, even when they confirmed their exports to Iraq. Some companies have since changed hands, and representatives of the new businesses said they had no information on exports by the old firms. Nearly all of the documentation for this list comes from official sources, investigations and multiple interviews with authoritative sources. Some of the source material is presented at the end of the entire list.

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Index of American Companies (and international companies with U.S. affiliates):

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Index of U.S. Government Agencies:

Foreign Companies:

(Number of foreign firms by country -- note: Some of these firms receive substantial financial support from their governments):

  • AUSTRIA: 3
  • BELGIUM: 7
  • CHINA: 3
  • EGYPT: 1
  • FRANCE: 9
  • GERMANY: 18
  • INDIA: 1
  • JAPAN: 5
  • SINGAPORE: 1 (Note: This company, KIM AL-KHALEEJ, also has links to Dubai.)
  • SPAIN: 3
  • SWEDEN: 2

Partial Source List:

  • 1992 hearing report and transcripts from the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs: United States Export Policy Toward Iraq Prior to Iraq's Invasion of Kuwait.

  • Banca Nazionale del Lavoro records of letters of credit and loans issued to Iraq and its corporate exporters.

  • Reports of United Nations weapons inspectors (UNSCOM) provided to the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

  • Information from databases compiled by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit foundation that monitors the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and missile technology.

  • News articles and op-eds written by Gary Milhollin, director of the Wisconsin Project.

  • Information from Iraq's 1997 Full, Final and Complete Weapons Declaration to the U.N.-UNSCOM, provided by Gary Pitts, a Texas-based attorney suing a number of American and international companies who allegedly supplied Iraq with technology, materials and equipment for its chemical and biological weapons program. Pitts is representing approximately 3,500 Gulf War veterans allegedly suffering from Gulf War syndrome.

  • Research material and government documents compiled by Washington, D.C.-based National Security Archives, a nonprofit research group.

  • 1995 letter from Dr. David Satcher, then the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to U.S. Senator Donald Riegle (D-Michigan), chair of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Letter detailed shipments of "viruses, retroviruses, bacteria and fungi" to Iraq by the CDC.

  • 1994 United States General Accounting Office report to the Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives -- Iraq: U.S. Military Items Exported or Transferred to Iraq in the 1980s.

  • Information compiled by the Washington D.C.-based Institute for Science and International Security, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public education and policy group.

  • Information from Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War (2001), by Judith Miller, Stephen Engleberg and William Broad.

  • Congressional testimony of Kenneth Timmerman, author of The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Saddam (1991).

  • Information from The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Saddam (1991), by Kenneth Timmerman.

  • Congressional statements by Representative Sam Gejdenson (D-Connecticut), Chair of the House Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee, 1991.

  • Congressional statements by Representative Henry Gonzalez (D-Texas), 1991, 1992.

  • Interviews with Gary Pitts.

  • Interviews with Andreas Zumach, a Swiss-based reporter for the Berlin newspaper Die Tageszeitung. Zumach was leaked portions of the 2002 Full, Final and Complete Weapons Declaration (UNMOVIC). Zumach published the list of weapons suppliers in a December 2002 series of articles.

  • Interviews with Jeff Hodges, a former investigator for the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, chaired in 1991 by Representative John Dingell (D-Michigan).

  • Interview with Jim Tuite, a former investigator for the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, chaired by U.S. Senator Donald Riegle (D-Michigan).

  • Interviews with government-based and other sources, who requested anonymity.

  • Web sites and corporate filings for listed companies.

  • Various other U.S. congressional hearing reports; congressional testimony; government reports; Department of Commerce records; Department of Agriculture records.

  • Various state-records databases, including information from various Secretary of State offices and Departments of Corporations.

Copyright © 2003 Jim Crogan
Copyright © 2003 The L.A. Weekly
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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