The Long Political Tradition of Chilling with People You Later Want to Attack

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John Kerry's stern denunciation of Syria's use of chemical weapons on Monday put the Secretary of State in an exclusive club: members of the United States government who met with world leaders they later wanted to attack.

Kerry and Syria's Bashar al-Assad have met on multiple occasions, when Kerry was a senator from Massachussets. In January 2005, the two met in Syria, as pictured in the image at the top of this article. As BuzzFeed noted last September, the two also had dinner in 2009 at a restaurant in Damascus.

Other examples:

Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein, December 1983

Perhaps the most famous example of the genre was the meeting between Rumsfeld, then a special envoy for President Reagan, meeting with Saddam Hussein at the height of the Iran-Iraq War. The conditions of that meeting were distinctly different than Kerry's with Assad. For example, Rumsfeld and the Reagan administration knew that Hussein had and was using chemical weapons in that conflict.

George H. W. Bush and Manuel Noriega, December 1983

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Image via the Associated Press.

At the same time that Rumsfeld was traveling to Iraq, the then-vice president met with Panama's Manuel Noriega at the airport in Panama City. Noriega was then the new leader of the traditional ally of the United States.

Six years later, Bush was president and ordered an invasion of Panama to seize Noriega, ostensibly for his involvement in drug crimes. Noriega was captured and served a term in prison in the United States.

John McCain and Muammar Gaddafi, 2009

While the senator from Arizona was never in a position to actually order an attack on Hussein, he was a staunch advocate for the use of force against the Libyan leader during that country's civil war in 2011. At Salon, Justin Elliott pointed out the hypocrisy:

He’s been calling for the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi not only on humanitarian grounds, but also because Gadhafi has “American blood on his hands” from the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. However, just 18 months ago, McCain himself traveled to Tripoli to talk to Gadhafi about a transfer of American military equipment.

McCain enjoyed that trip, praising Gaddafi's ranch.

Richard Nixon and Fidel Castro, April 1959

Image via the Associated Press.

In 1959, Nixon, vice president to Dwight Eisenhower, met with Castro in Washington. (Eisenhower preferred golf over welcoming the newly-minted Cuban leader.) According to author Lamar Waldron, only months later, Nixon played an instrumental role in the government's turn against Castro. "In 1960, V-P Nixon helped to forge perhaps the darkest connection in American politics," Waldron writes, "bringing together the CIA and the Mafia in plots to assassinate Fidel Castro." This has been reported elsewhere, for what it's worth.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.