Everyday, the fringe elements of the antiwar movement are coming up with new theories about why the Iraq War was started. Some say that Bush started the war to exact "revenge" on Saddam for trying to assassinate his father. Others say its all about oil. Then there's the argument that Bush and Cheney are trying to take over the world. Still, others insist that the Jews are really running things in the White House. But one of the antiwar movement's favorite talking points is the infamous handshake between former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
It's rather damning at first, and the antiwar/anti-Bush elements just love it. But if one actually knows any history whatsoever, we were facing a threat even more dangerous than Saddam during that time: the Islamic Republic of Iran. Throughout the 80's, Iran was building up its presence in the Middle East, interfering in Lebanon's civil war and creating Hezbollah. Not to mention, this was only a few years after Iran had been holding Americans as hostages. Allying with a tyrant like Saddam appeared to be the best strategy at the time to confront the Iranian threat. Still, it seems pretty bad we were supporting such a terrible dictator...or was it?
The photo above shows then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt sitting side by side with Joseph Stalin, the dictator of the Soviet Union. During WWII, the United States allied itself with Stalin in order to defeat Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. As battles raged on the front lines of the war and Nazi Germany continued its stranglehold on Europe, the allied powers welcomed Stalin onto their side to defeat the German Empire. The reality, however, was that Stalin was just as, if not more evil than Hitler. While the Nazis carried out daily killings of Europe's Jews in death camps, Stalin's brutal regime was sweeping across the USSR, killing millions of political opponents and tossing many more into gulags. Tens of thousands of priests, nuns, and ministers were rounded up and executed during the purges, when Stalin tried to cleanse his country of all those who looked to a power higher than him...and this was all happening as FDR was shaking hands and sipping tea with old Joe. So which is worse, teaming up with Saddam Hussein or Joseph Stalin?
Looking back at both time periods, we did what we thought was the right thing. While working with Saddam seems awful, it did help prevent Iran from dominating the Persian Gulf. Five years after Rumsfeld and Saddam shook hands, Saddam gassed the Kurds and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people. After that, as well as the subsequent invasion of Kuwait by Iraqi forces, the world saw Saddam for who he really was: an evil dictator. After WWII ended, the Soviets became public enemy number one. While Stalin continued his murderous rampage, his regime acquired nuclear weapons, and thus began the Cold War, which would eventually drag us into Korea and Vietnam to fight communism.
Yep, history is full of similarities like this. It's never a bad idea to do a little research.