The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 9/6/13, 7:15 PM ET

Republican rewrites Reagan on chemical attacks

Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen today said that President Reagan would have never let chemical attacks occur during his administration. However, history tells a...

O’Donnell: Reagan let Saddam buy– and use–chemical weapons

Updated

Though Ronald Reagan is often touted as a conservative hero, many Republicans have a selective memory about his actual record. Reaganites who object to tax increases of any kind, for example, seem to forget that the man himself actually raised taxes 11 times while in office.

The latest politician to misremember Reagan’s record is Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, who invoked the former president Thursday on Fox News concerning the Syria debate.

“We have said as a responsible nation that the use of chemical weapons is prohibited,” Ros-Lehtinen said.  ”It is against the norms of international standards and to let something like this go unanswered, I think will weaken our resolve. I know that President Reagan would have never let this happen.”

Except that Ronald Reagan let exactly that happen, repeatedly, when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons in the 1980s. But there’s more.

“Ronald Reagan didn’t just look the other way when Saddam used chemical weapons–he sold the stuff to Saddam,” said MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell in his Rewrite segment on Thursday. “The President of the United States was Saddam Hussein’s drug dealer.”

O’Donnell cited a 2002 Washington Post article by Michael Dodd that found “the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush authorized the sale to Iraq of numerous items that had both military and civilian applications, including poisonous chemicals and deadly biological viruses, such as anthrax and bubonic plague.”

As is widely reported, Hussein used these chemical weapons against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war.

After the 1991 Gulf War, U.N. inspectors “compiled long lists of chemicals, missile components, and computers from American suppliers, including such household names as Union Carbide and Honeywell, which were being used for military purposes” in Iraq.

So it’s hard to understand where Rep. Ros-Lehtinen is coming from when she said, “We have to think like President Reagan would do and he would say chemical use is unacceptable.”

“That is what the mythical Ronald Reagan would say,” rebuked O’Donnell. “But the real Ronald Reagan said nothing when Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons, chemical weapons that the real Ronald Reagan actually helped him obtain.”

O'Donnell: Reagan let Saddam buy-- and use--chemical weapons

Updated