Detective Team

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Cat Playing volleyball because murder is wrong poster

“Saddam put a lot of emphasis on nation-building and the Westernization of the economy, which was popular. Because he had everybody scared, one would have thought that there was no reason for excess brutality. Obviously, the gassing of the Kurds [in March of 1988] affected my view. We worked on intuition, with very few sources.”

“After the Kurds were gassed, why didn’t you just pull out–close the embassy?” I asked, alluding to a conversation I had had some years back with Robert Keeley, a former ambasssdor to Greece who now heads the Middle East Institute, in Washington. Keeley shut the U.S. Embassy in Uganda at the time of Idi Amin’s reign of terror. “You maintain a diplomatic presence as long as you’re effective,” Keeley told me. “But in Uganda there came a point when we really were no longer able to have an effect. To be true to our own values, the only thing we could do was to leave, and scream about Amin from the outside.”

Newton said, “That made sense for Uganda”–a landlocked country of no strategic or economic importance to the United States. “But it’s naive to think you can just pull out of a militarily powerful and oil-rich developing country on the Gulf with which American companies were doing hundreds of millions of dollars of trade.” What might have been accomplished in Iraq, according to Newton, was that over time, with U.S. Help, “Iraq’s level of repression could have been improved to that of Syria.”