Now that Saddam has been captured, opponents of the war in Iraq are renewing their efforts to tar America as Saddam's sponsor. Under this view the US was complicit in the worst of Saddam's crimes and the use of his WMD, in particular. In short, the U.S. brought him to power, armed him; gave him his WMD and then looked the other way when he used them.
On the one hand my impulse would be to dismiss these allegations as water under the bridge. But the fact of the matter is that many of the accusations one hears are gross distortions of the historical fact and, thus, slanderous. For example, the anti-war critics frequently refer to the picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein back in 1983 to attest to America's closeness with Saddam. But as you can see in the commentary that accompanies the picture there's no indication that Rumsfeld gave overt or tacit approval for Saddam's use of WMD. On the contrary, contemporary documentation suggest that Rumsfeld delivered a protest to Tariq Aziz on the second of his two visits to Iraq.
But if you like pictures, here's one of France's current head of state in happier days:
As for the rest, here's my understanding:
SADDAM'S RISE TO POWER
Far from being an American stooge, Saddam usurped power from his boss, a bona fide CIA-backed Bathist, in a coup.
SADDAM'S ARSENAL - CONVENTIONAL
Russia and France were the two largest suppliers of Iraq's conventional weapons:
"Last winter, in Baghdad's annual Army Day parade, Hussein displayed some of Iraq's extraordinary arsenal, bought with billions of its oil revenues and with loans from its Arab neighbors. At least half of Iraq's conventional weapons were purchased from its ally, the Soviet Union, but France was also a major source, providing its sophisticated Mirage fighters and deadly Exocet missiles. And there were many others -- China, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Egypt and Brazil. At one point, in the 1980s, Iraq was the biggest importer of arms in the world."
The Long Road to War
This is, in large part, how these countries came to be such large creditors of Iraq.
SADDAM'S ARSENAL - WMD (Chem & Bio)
German and Franch companies were the largest suppliers of WMD material:
The World; The Means to Make the Poisons Came From the West
April 13, 2003, Sunday
By GARY MILHOLLIN and KELLY MOTZ (NYT) 664 words
Late Edition - Final , Section 4 , Page 5 , Column 1
ABSTRACT - Means for making any chemical weapons that might be found in Iraq came primarily from Western companies years ago; Germany and France outstripped all others in providing Iraq with specialized chemical-industry equipment that is particularly useful for producing poison gas; map shows origins of sensitive chemicals, equipment and other munitions acquired by Iraq.
SADDAM'S ARSENAL - WMD (Nuclear)
The Russians, French and Italians helped Iraq develop its nuclear capacity:
"The Tuwaitha Site, located about 30 kilometers south of Baghdad, became the Nuclear Research Center when it was chosen in the early 1960s as the location of the Soviet-supplied 2 MWth IRT reactor and its associated facilities. The reactor went critical in early 1968, which marks the beginning of nuclear research in Iraq, albeit limited. The reactor commissioning was followed by an order of magnitude increase in the number of nuclear personnel in Iraq, from a few dozen to a few hundred people"
"The French had agreed to supply a 40 MWth MTR reactor called Tammuz-1 or Osirak, a zero-power reactor called Tammuz-2, a materials testing hot laboratory (named LAMA), workshops, and a radioactive waste treatment station (named RWTS). The Italians supplied a research-scale radiochemistry laboratory capable of handling plutonium and an experimental fuel fabrication laboratory. Figure 6 shows a schematic of the site in about 1981 after these buildings were largely completed."
AMERICAN BACKING FOR SADDAM DURING THE IRAQ-IRAN WAR
The U.S. provided assistance to both Iraq and Iraq during this war (remember Iran-Contra?). The US played each country against the other and tried to ensure that neither got the upper hand. It hoped the war would leave both sides enervated.
AMERICAN COMPLICITY IN WMD ATTACKS ON KURDS
The U.S. opposed Saddam's use of chem WMD:
"As soon as that happened in Halabja, during the war, we took it up with the Iraqis -- a very strong disapproval of chemical weapons. And we got them -- Secretary Schultz got them to move, at that point, and articulate a position that they would forswear future use of chemical weapons. And that's a position that they took with them to Paris at the international conference in January of '89."
U.S. State Department's top Middle East diplomat for most of the 1980s.
The Long Road to War