I watched a fascinating documentary regarding Iraqi History which can be viewed starting here. For my own reference I want to preserve some key revelations.
1-According to Alexander Haige, Reagan's Secretary of State, Carter via the Saudi's, gave Saddam the green light to invade Iran. Carter denies the charge. Regardless, American planning, weaponry, and logistics support was key for Saddam's war. Saddam was fed lies by the U.S. that the war would be a breeze to encourage him in his attacks. It lasted 8 years and left a million people dead.
2-The US was well aware that Saddam was creating chemical weaponry through the 80's. The US was informed that he was using nerve gas against the Iranians. The US considered whether they should modify the relationship with Baghdad in light of this but decided not to. Aid to Saddam was increased.
3-Saddam killed 5000 civilians in the Kurdish regions in Halabja. Congressional efforts to condemn Saddam's actions were blocked by the Reagan administration (see article here). Kurdish leaders with evidence of Saddam's chemical attack tried to get in contact Washington, but the Reagan and Bush administrations banned any contact. This massacre was cited by George W Bush as a justification for his war. See 1:20 of video 2 for justification by the French Minister of Defense. Oil is simply too important.
4-Saddam's largest single atrocity was the slaughter of 300,000 Shiites. They were encouraged to rise up against Saddam during his expulsion from Kuwait. But after he was expelled he started slaughtering them, and the US not only wouldn't help them, but actively supported Saddam's slaughter by destroying weapons that they might manage to find and preventing them from marching on Baghdad. So after calling for an uprising, the US didn't want that uprising to succeed. Read how the punditry at the time talked about how the establishment was fine with Saddam's slaughters because they preferred his iron fist to a democratic Iraq. You can see this view reflected in the writings of Thomas Friedman and Alan Cowell. These are the same people wringing their hands at the discover of these same mass graves after the 2003 invasion of Iraq as if this was justification for that invasion. These mass graves were being filled with the knowledge and acceptance of Thomas Friedman and others like him at the time.
Apparently encouraging them to rise up was just a means of accelerating Saddam's withdrawal from Kuwait. It was a strategic war move.
So now that these Shiites, and also Kurds, had served their purpose they were left in a lurch to die. Saddam had his henchmen rape the women, and kill and torture them and had it all broadcast on state television. This became embarrassing for Bush, so he asked Saddam to stop, which he did. But only in the regions where cameras were rolling. The slaughters to the south continued because there was no associated embarrassment. During Saddam's trial he was not charged with these crimes because it was forbidden to charge him with crimes that involved non-Iraqis. This requirement of course was dictated by the US. In this way the truth remains obscured. A trial would have revealed western complicity in these and other crimes.
5-The sanctions regime in Iraq killed perhaps between half a million and a million people. A leaked DoD memo entitled "Iraq Water Treatment Vulnerabilities" showed how targeting Iraq's water supplies could result in significant water born illness among the population. During the 12 year embargo the US used the sanctions to block key items required to rebuild the water system as if they were following the DoD memo script. The very components blocked were highlighted in the memo as key to crippling the water supplies. The logic is that if you force the people to suffer they'll rise up and overthrow the tyrant. But they didn't blame Saddam. They blamed the sanctions and the US.
I've written before about how Secretary of State Madeleine Albright thought half a million dead children was worth it in her eyes. It's worth watching her say this, and I have the youtube clip with the time stamp at this location here.