In his April 14 paean to Baroness Thatcher, “‘Iron Lady’ is worth emulating,” Paul Gaysford advises Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to read her memoirs, “The Downing Street Years,” to fully grasp her own brand of conservatism.
In this 915-page volume covering her time as British prime minister, Thatcher does not once mention her government’s sales of arms and military equipment to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
As the 1992-93 Scott Inquiry into arms-to-Iraq uncovered, until the time Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Baghdad had been a profitable recipient of U.K. arms for over a decade.
From 1980 to 1990 under Thatcher’s Cabinet, the United Kingdom provided £3.5 billion in trade credits to Iraq. This support continued on either side of Saddam’s ordering the poison gassing of Iranian conscript troops in 1983-84, and of his own people in Halabja, Kurdistan, in 1988, killing 5,000 innocent civilians.
Trade export credits to Iraq rose from £175 million in 1987 (before Halabja) to £340 million after Halabja, according to a press release from the then Department for Trade and Industry. Five months after the Halabja massacre, Thatcher’s foreign secretary, Sir Geoffrey (now Lord) Howe, noted in a report to Thatcher that with the August 1988 Iran-Iraq peace deal agreed, “opportunities for sales of defense equipment to Iran and Iraq will be considerable.”
In the months running up to Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, and with his record of poison gas use publicly known, Thatcher’s government sold Iraq three tons of sodium cyanide and sodium sulphide (used as nerve-gas antidotes), dual-use civilian-military equipment including Matrix Churchill machine tools, and plutonium, the key component explosive for nuclear warheads.
[As the former director of the European Proliferation Information Center (EPIC), London,] I find this unconscionable.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.