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The Fire This Time

U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf

By Ramsey Clark

Copyright (c) 1992 by Ramsey Clark. Published by Thunder's Mouth Press

[Important note by Radio Islam: Unfortunately the numerical notes below (1 to 139) - in this scanned version could not be 100% reliably matched to the numbers in the note indexes. Thus we have published most of the indexes at the end of the chapters without numericals in order not to convey mismatched sources.]

Planning U.S. Dominion Over The Gulf

The U.S. government claimed Iraq caused the Gulf War by invading Kuwait. The Bush administration argued that the United States was only responding to the actions of Saddam Hussein who, Americans were told, had invaded his smaller neighbor without provocation or warning. But a careful look at American involvement in the region reveals that the U.S. government, not Iraq, bears prime responsibility of the war, which was planned in Washington long before the first Iraqi soldier entered Kuwait.

The U.S. government used the Kuwaiti royal family to provoke an Iraqi invasion that would justify a massive assault on Iraq to establish U.S. dominion in the Gulf. The Gulf War was fought not to restore Kuwait's sovereignty, as President Bush proclaimed, but to establish U.S. power over the region and its oil.

As Jordan's King Hussein accurately stated in a letter to Saddam Hussein in September 1990:

"The large industrial powers say in the Gulf crisis a golden opportunity to reorganize the area according to designs in harmony with their ambitions and interests, at the expense of the aspirations and the interests of the Arab peoples, and to put in place a new international order." (1)

The Pentagon has acknowledged this evaluation. A revealing draft of its plan to prevent the emergence of rival powers in the world, reported by the New York Times on March 8, 1992, contained the following paragraph about the Gulf War.

"In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil.... As demonstrated by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, it remains fundamentally important to prevent a hegemon or alignment of powers from dominating the region." (2)

After all of President Bush's impassioned speeches about Iraq's "naked aggression," the Pentagon posed the invasion of Kuwait as a threat to Western oil access -- not a violation of Kuwait's sovereignty.


1.) "Letter from His Majesty King Hussein to H.E. President Saddam Hussein of Iraq: Excerpts," in White Paper: Jordan and the Gulf Crisis, August 1990-March 1991, The Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Document VII.
2.) Patrick Tyler, "U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop," New York Times, March 8, 1992, A1.

U.S. Intervention In Gulf Politics

Iraq has been a target of covert activity by the United States since at least 1958, when British influence in the region began to wane. On July 14 of that year, a popular, nationalist revolution in Iraq led by Abdel Karim Kassem overthrew the Hashemite monarchy, which had been installed by the British in 1921. The new government helped foind the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which was formed in 1960 to resist the power of Western oil monopolies. Kassem said: "We are not combating the oil companies for another 7 million dinars a year. We are fighting for the industrialization of our republic and an end to our dependence on the sale of crude oil."

Kassem challenged the absolute stranglehold Western oil companies then held on the marketing of Arb oil. Washington had little tolerance for this challenge to its long-standing intention to succeed colonial Britain and France as the dominant power in the Middle East. Ever since, the United States has planned to weaken Iraq and control its oil.

Shortly after the 1958 revolution, the CIA formed a "health alterations committee" to plot Kassem's assassination. At the same time, U.S. generals in Turkey devised a military plan, code-named Canonbone, for invading northern Iraq and seizing the oil fields there (4). In 1963, Kassem and thousands of his supporters were massacred in a bloody CIA-backed coup.

Testifying to a Senate committee about the coup, a CIA member joked, "The target suffered a terminal illness before a firing squad in Baghdad."(5)

Ten years before, another CIA-backed operation had overthrown the democratically elected Mossadegh government of neighboring Iran. As in Iraq, the major stimulus for the Iranian coup was that country's attempt to control its own oil industry. Shah Reza Pahlevi was placed on the Peacock throne in Iran, and he then handed over 40 percent ownership of Iran's oil fields to U.S. companies. Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA agent who masterminded the Iran coup, was named vice president of Gulf Oil.(6)

IN 1968, the Baathist Party came to power in Iraq, and in 1972, it became the target of covert CIA operations after it nationalized the U.S./British-owned Iraqi Petroleum Company under the slogan "Arab oil fo the Arabs." After a May 1972 meeting between President Nixon, National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, and the Shah of Iran, Washington began to urge Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to rebel against the Iraqi government. The Kurds were promised that the United States would back them all the way.

The Pike Report, issued later by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, described what followed as a "cynical enterprise, even in the context of clandestine operations." (7) The Shah funneled U.S.-supplied arms to the Kurds, and Kissinger encouraged the Kurdish leadership to reject a Soviet offer to mediate between them and Baghdad.(8)

According to the Pike Report, "neither foreign head of state (the Shah) nor the President and Dr. Kissinger desired a victory for our clients (the Kurds). They merely hoped to insure that the insurgents would be capable of maintaining a level of hostilities high enough to sap the resources of the neighboring state (Iraq)."(9)

In 1975, Iraq agreed to share control of the disputed Shatt-al-Arab waterway with Iran in an agreement reached in Algiers. The United States and the Shah abruptly terminated their support for the Kurdish insurgents, whose leadership abandoned the struggle and fled the country. But the fate of the Kurds left behind did not concern the U.S. government: as Henry Kissinger explained to an aide, "Covert operations should not be confused with missionary work."(10)


3.) Middle East Economic Survey, May 12, 1961.
4.) New Statesman, July 15, 1983.
5.) David Wise, "A People Betrayed," Los Angeles Times, April 14, 1991, M1.
6.) Kermit Roosevelt, Countercoup: The Struggle for Control of Iran (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979).
7.) Gerard Chaliand and Ismet Seriff Vanly, People Without A Country: The Kurds and Kurdistan (London: Zed Press, 1980), 184. See also Daniel Schorr, "1975: Background to Betrayal," Washington Post, April 7, 1991, D3; and Christopher Hitchens, "Minority Report," The Nation, May 6, 1991, 582. 8.) William Safire, New York Times, February 12, 1976.
9.) See Chaliand and Vanly.
10.) See Chaliand and Vanly

U.S. Policy Took Another Radical Turn

In early 1979 the long struggle of the Iranian people to overthrow the Shah succeeded. That despotic regime, the proudest achievement of the CIA, according to former director William Colby, had been Washington's main ally in the Gulf region. U.S. policy then took another radical turn. Adopting a supportive stance toward Iraq, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski publicly encouraged Iraq to attack Iran and take back the Shatt-al-Arab waterway -- control of which the U.S. had forced Iraq to share with Iran only four years earlier

In the fall of 1980, the United States, acting through Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other friendly Arab governments, provided Iraq with intelligence reports that Iranian forces would quickly collapse in the face of an Iraqi advance. At the urging of the Emir of Kuwait, Egypt's Anwar Sadat, and other U.S.-backed Arab rulers, Saddam Hussein followed Brzezinski's advice in the late 1980 and unleashed a war with Iran in which hundreds of thousands died (12).

In contrast to its reaction to Iraq's relatively bloodless entry into Kuwait ten years later, Washington expressed no moral outrage at the 1980 Iraqi attack on Iran. The attack served U.S. interests by weakening both Iran, where U.S. Embassy personnel were still kept hostage, and the anti-U.S. influence in the Muslim world of Iran's Islamic government.

Of course, war against the much larger Iran would weaken Iraq as well. Washington did not want either side to win. "We wanted to avoid victory by both sides," a Reagan administration official told the New York Times (13). Henry Kissinger was more blunt about it, being variously quoted as saying, "I hope they kill each other" and "too bad they both can't lose." (14)


11.) Christopher Hitchens, "Why We Are Stuck in the Sand-- Realpolitik in the Gulf: A Game Gone Tilt," Harper's Magazine, January 1991, 70.
12.) Dilip Hiro, The Longest War (New York: 1991).
13.) Seymour Hersh, "U.S. Secretly Gave Aid to Iraq Early in Its War Against Iran," New York Times, January 26, 1992, 1.
14.) Shahram Chubinl and Charles Trip, Iran and Iraq at War (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1988), 207.

Iraq's Destruction By U.S. Military Technology

Although the United States increased its aid and assistance to Iraq, especially when it appeared Iran might win the war, its overall goals remained the same. It wanted to weaken the Gulf states and eventually establish unchallengeable power in the region. This overriding purpose explains the various strategy shifts by the United States which would lead to Iraq's destruction by U.S. military technology in 1991.

Iraq could not have sustained eight years of war with its much larger neighbor without massive assistance, direct and indirect, from the U.S.S.R., Eastern bloc countries, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, the United States, Britain, France, and West Germany. Throughout the war the Pentagon and CIA provided Iraq with satellite and AWACS intelligence on Iranian forces (15). Well-informed sources have told Commission staffers that the U.S. sent CIA and Special Forces operatives to train Iraqi commandos. And Washington encouraged and helped funnel billions of dollars worth of arms to Iraq through pro-U.S. Middle Eastern regimes (16).

Egypt, a major recipient of U.S. military aid, sent troops, tanks, and heavy artillery to Iraq, and authorized Baghdad to draft Egyptians working in Iraq into the army (17). After U.S. Army Chief of Staff General David Jones visited Turkey in 1980, that military dictatorship -- a major recipient of U.S. military aid, sent troops to fight rebels in Iraqi Kurdistan, freeing Iraq's army to concentrate on the war with Iran.

The U.S.-supported regimes in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia provided tens of billions of dollars for Iraq's war effort. Kuwait's contribution alone was over $30 billion. The U.S. sold over $20 billion worth of arms to Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states during this period. The Reagan administration illegally allowed Saudi Arabia, a major U.S. arms customer, to transfer large quantities of U.S. arms to Iraq during the war.


15.) See Hersh
16.) The Christic Institute, "Covert Operations, the Persian Gulf War and the New World Order" (Washington, DC: The Christic Institute).
17.) Foreign Report (London: The Economist, May 6, 1982).

$5 Billion Of Credits To Iraq

When Iraq nationalized its oil industry in 1972, the United States placed it on a list of countries that allegedly supported terrorism. However, during the Iran-Iraq War, the Reagan administration removed Iraq from the list. This allowed U.S. companies to sell directly to Baghdad such "dual-use" equipment as jeeps, helicopters, and Lockheed L-100 transports
(18).The Agriculture Department extended $5 billion of credits to Iraq through a program meant for agricultural purchases only, that illegally funded many of these sales (19). Among the items sold to Iraq were 45 Bell helicopters originally built as troop carriers for the Shah's army. (20)

In 1984 the United States increased its support for Iraq, becoming its principal trading partner by increasing its purchases of Iraqi oil while encouraging Europe and Japan to do the same (21). The Reagan administration issued a top-secret finding authorizing increased intelligence-sharing with Iraq. The New York Times reported that the finding was interpreted as mandating that the United States "do anything and everything" to help Iraq prevail against Iran (22). That same year Vice President Bush, the State Department, and the CIA began lobbying the Export-Import Bank to begin large-scale financing of U.S. exports to Iraq (23). And in 1986 the United States dispatched a high-level CIA team to Baghdad to advise the Iraqi military (24).

Still, the United States was playing both sides against the middle to advance its own interests. In 1983 the New Statesman reported that U.S. and Turkish generals had revived Operation Cannonbone, the 1958 plan to invade northern Iraq and seize its oil fields, and were preparing to implement it in the event of an Iraqi defeat (25). As is now widely known, the United States was until late 1986 funneling large quantities of arms to Iran through Oliver North's activities and bigger covert operations involving Israel and Pakistan (26). And in 1985, according to testimony at the Iran-Contra hearings, Oliver North told Iranian officials that the United States would try to engineer the overthrow of Saddam Hussein (27).


18.) Francis A. Boyle, "International Crisis and Neutrality: U.S. Foreign Policy Toward the Iraq-Iran War," in Neutrality: Changing Concepts and Practices (New orleans: Institute for Comparative Study of Public Policy, Univeristy of New Orleans, 1986).
19.) See The Christic Institute
20.) See Boyle
21.) U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Reports, 1984, 1985. See also Stephen C. Pelletiere et al., Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle East (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College).
22.) Leslie Gelb, "Bush's Iraqi Blunder," New York Times, May 4, 1992, Op-Ed page.
23.) Douglas Frantz and Murray Waas. "Secret Effort by Bush Helped Iraq's War Machine," Los Angeles Times, February 24, 1992.
24.) "'Nightline' on the Bush-Iraq Connection," in Israel and Palestine Political Report, June 1991 (No. 164), 5.
25.) Toward 2000 (Istanbul: March 16, 1991).
26.) Far Eastern Economic Review, December 19, 1991.
27.) Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair, Appendix A: vol. 1, Source Documents, Frankfurt meeting, Tape 12, 1500.

A Major Military Presence In The Gulf

Finally, with its 1987 decision to protect Kuwaiti oil tankers in the Gulf, the United States became directly involved in the war on Iraq's side. By flying U.S. flags on Kuwaiti tankers to protect their passage through the Gulf, the United States not only aided Iraq's war effort, but found an excuse for a major military presence in the Gulf for itself. Some of the tankers escorted by U.S. ships carried Iraqi oil. Thus Iraq's oil was exported under U.S. protectin while Iraqi planes attacked Iranian tankers. The United States also sank Iran's patrol ships and destroyed their oil platforms.

The Iran-Iraq conflict itself didn't provide the United States with the pretext it needed to establish a permanent military presence in the Gulf. So, in August 1988, when Iraq and Iran agreed to a ceasefire, U.S. tactics changed again. With Iran substantially weakened and the Soviet Union unable to react, the United States looked to the Western-manufactured image of a militarily strong Iraq to provide the excuse for intervention in the Middle East.

U.S. Military Preparations

U.S. planning for military action in the Middle East goes back to the 1970s, when Washington reacted to the upsurge of nationalist feelings in and growing independence of oil producing countries. Before the formation of OPEC in 1960, Middle East oil was owned primarily by seven U.S. and British companies. These flrms determined the level of each country's oil production, for which they paid literally pennies a barrel, and reaped huge proflts from the sales. In addition to corporate proflts, the United States' increasing control among other Western countries over oil resources gave it greater geopolitical leverage.

By the 1970s, this situation was drastically changed as one oilproducing nation after another asserted authority over resources within its borders.

Following the 1969 Libyan revolution, the 1972 nationalization of the Iraq Petroleum Company, and the 1973 Arab oil embargo, oil producing states took a much greater share of oil revenues. By 1975, even pro Western regimes in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had nationalized their oil industries. In 1973 the Pentagon began an annual training exercise in the Mofave Desert called Alkali Canyon, in which Marines and Army Rangers were pitted against soldiers in Libyan and Iraqi uniforms.

Washington strategists openly discussed an invasion of the Gulf designed to seize its oil flelds. In early 1974, threatening statements by Secretary of Defense Schlesinger prompted Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to mine their oil flelds in preparation for a feared U.S. invasion. And in 1977, Senator Henry Jackson's Energy and Natural Resources Committee warned: "A U.S. commitment to the defense of oil resources of the Gulf and to political stability in the region constitutes one of the most vital and enduring interests of the United States."

The Nixon Doctrine

A number of factors kept the United States from direct intervention in the region. One was the high risk that it would lead to a military confrontation with the Soviet Union. Another was the still strong antiwar sentiment in the United States left over from the Vietnam War. Such obstacles necessitated a policy known as the Nixon Doctrine, which placed reliance upon regional powers like Israel and Iran to control nationalist challenges to U.S. interests in the area. The Pentagon built the Shah's Iran into the region's major power. In return, the Shah helped fund operations like harassment of Iraq through its Kurdish minority as well as helping to crush a popular uprising against the sultan of Oman.

But in 1979 the Shah fell. His military and intelligence services were wracked by mass desertions and civilian attacks. Planning for a U.S. military operation in the Middle East resumed in earnest at the Pentagon. By 1981, the second year of the Iran-Iraq War, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had drafted a plan for rapid deployment of U.S. troops to the Gulf, presented as a response to the new threat supposedly posed by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Though the Soviets were never actually a threat to the Gulf, their invasion was posed as such to sell Congress and the public on new intervention strategies. This sale was made easier by the powerful anti Iran feelings that were created in the United States after the supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini took American hostages in Teheran.

Access To Middle East Oil By Military Force

Central to the new U.S. intervention strategies was War Plan 1002. It was designed at the beginning of the Reagan administration to implement the earlier Carter Doctrine of meeting any challenge to U.S. access to Middle East oil by military force. In 1983, the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force became U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), and began secretly to extend the network of U.S. military and surveillance bases in Saudi Arabia. Though the United States had military installations in Saudi Arabia in the late 1970s, the new facilities were more sophisticated, and would provide essential support for the assault on Iraq.

They also provided the United States with a foot in the door of direct intervention in the Middle East. Prefiguring the scenario of the Persian Gulf War in 1990, President Carter's Secretary of Defense Harold Brown said in late 1979, "I don't believe that American bases as such in that area are the right way to go. A number of countries in the area can maintain bases which, in an emergency in which they asked our help, we could then come in and use." (29)

At the height of a major Iranian offensive againt Iraq in 1984, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy and National Security Council staff member John Poindexter visited ruling Gulf families to state that any military intervention on their behalf would require a public invitation and full U.S. access.(30)

By 1985, the United States had obtained an open-ended agreement from Saudi Arabia for such access. A classifled State Department study that appeared in the September 5, 1985 New York Times stated, "Although the Saudis have steadfastly resisted formal access agreements, they have stated that access will be forthcoming for United States forces as necessary to counter Soviet aggression or in regional crises they cannot manage on their own."

NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • Fred Halliday, Arabia Without Sultans: A Political Survey of Instability in the Arab World (New York: Vintage Books), 1975.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid

    General Schwarzkopf Had A Unique Background

    In 1987, Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. was named commander of CENTCOM. Originally the Marines Corps was slated to head CENTCOM, but General Schwarzkopf had a unique background for the assignment
    (31). He had known the Middle East since childhood. His father had assisted in the 1953 overthrow of Iran's Mossadegh government (32). As the United States began its detailed and extensive preparation for war against Iraq, Schwarzkopf was placed at the helm.

    The decline of the USSR gave the White House and the Pentagon the freedom to act on their plans. As the Soviet economy disintegrated, it withdrew its forces from Afghanistan and dismantled the Warsaw Pact. Thus, it was no longer a deterrent to U.S. intervention in the Gulf. An emboldened Pentagon now deflned a new mission.

    With the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988, contingency plans for war in the Gulf region posed Iraq as the enemy (33). In January 1990, CIA Director William Webster testifled before the Senate Armed Services Committee on the growing Western dependency on Middle East oil (34). In February, General Schwarzkopf told the same committee that the United States should increase its military presence in the region, and described new military plans to intervene in a conflict (35). With Japan and Europe's much greater dependency on Persian Gulf oil, the United States considered control over the region crucial to geopolitical power for decades to come.

    This new strategy was more than a bolder version of what the United States had always done in the Third World-waging overt and covert war to protect its "vital interests." It was based on the strategic permanent location of U.S. military forces capable of destroying any opposition with sophisticated weapons to secure dominion over a region and its resources. In Schwarzkopfs early 1990 testimony before the Senate, he said that CENTCOM should increase its military presence in the Gulf region through permanently assigned ground forces, combined exercises, and "security assistance," which is really a euphemism for arms sales (38). Even before this testimony, in 1989, CENTCOM's War Plan 1002 was revised and renamed War Plan 1002-90. In the new version, Iraq replaced the Soviet Union as the enemy (39). The last two digits of the war plan, of course, stood for 1990. At Schwarzkopfs direction, CENTCOM began devising war games targeting Iraq.

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • Fred Halliday, Arabia Without Sultans: A Political Survey of Instability in the Arab World (New York: Vintage Books), 1975.
  • See Roosevelt.
  • See Blackwell.
  • William Webster, "Threat Assessment; Military Strategy; and Operational Requirements," Testimony to Senate Committee on Armed Services, January 23, 1990, 60.
  • H. Norman Schwarzkopf, "Threat Assessment; Military Strategy; and Operational Requirement," Testimony to Senate Committee on Armed Services, February 8, 1990, 577-579.
  • United States Army, "A Strategic Force for the 1990s and Beyond," January 1990, by Gen. Carl E. Vuono, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, 1-17.
  • Patrick Tyler, "While Fear of Big War Fades, Military Plans for Little Ones," New York Times, February 3, 1992, A1.
  • See Schwarzkopf.
  • See Blackwell.

    A Computer Exercise Called Internal Look

    In 1990 at least four war games directed at Iraq, some premised on an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, were conducted before the invasion occurred. One of the flrst, a computer exercise called Internal Look, was held in January,
    (40) and by June, Schwarzkopf was conducting sophisticated war games pitting thousands of U.S. troops against armored divisions of the Republican Guard. (41)

    In May 1990 the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank, had completed a study begun two years earlier predicting the outcome of a war between the United States and Iraq. This study, according to the CSIS's Major James Blackwell (Retired), was widely circulated among Pentagon officials, members of Congress, and military contractors. Thus, far from being a surprise, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait had actually been the scenario for intense U.S. planning.

    One would think from all this planning that Iraq posed a grave threat. But Iraq was struggling to recover from eight years of war. Following the ceaseflre with Iran, Saddam Hussein announced a $40 billion plan to peacefully rebuild his country. According to "Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle East," a study issued in early 1990 by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College:

    "Baghdad should not be expected to deliberately provoke military confrontations with anyone. Its interests are best served now and in the immediate future by peace.... Revenues from oil sales could put it in the front ranks of nations economically. A stable Middle East is conducive to selling oil disruption has a long-range adverse effect on the oil market which would hurt Iraq.... Force is only likely if the Iraqis feel seriously threatened. It is our belief that Iraq is basically committed to a nonaggressive strategy, and that it will, over the course of the next few years, considerably reduce the size of its military. Economic conditions practically mandate such action.... There seems no doubt that Iraq would like to demobilize now that the war has ended." (43)

    It was not Iraq but powerful forces in the United States that wanted a new war in the Middle East: the Pentagon, to maintain its tremendous budget; the military-industrial complex, with its dependence on Middle East arms sales and domestic military contracts; the oil companies, which wanted more control over the price of crude oil and greater profits; and the Bush administration, which saw in the Soviet Union's disintegration its chance to establish a permanent military presence in the Middle East, securing the region and achieving vast geopolitical power into the next century through control of its oil resources. The Pentagon's challenge was to figure out what would force Iraq, a country more interested in rebuilding than expansion, to take some action that would justify U.S. military intervention. In order to create such a crisis, the Pentagon invoked its special relationship with the Kuwaiti royal family.

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • Tom Mathews, et al., "The Road to War," Newsweek, January 28, 1991, 54, 57, 58, 60, 61.
  • See Blackwell
  • See Pelleteire et al.

    Kuwait And The Road To War

    The New York Times has described the emirate of Kuwait as "less a country than a family owned oil company with a flag."
    (44) Kuwait was arbitrarily created as a national entity by the British Colonial Office after World War I to exert leverage against Iraq, which was abundantly rich in oil.

    In 1918, a tidal wave of nationalist resistance to Great Britain's wartime seizure of Iraq erupted. Britain crushed the rebellions with the first systematic use of aerial bombardment in history. In 1932, facing constant rebellions, Britain gave Iraq nominal independence. But a British appointed monarch sat on the Iraqi throne, and Iraq's oil flelds were owned by the Iraq Petroleum Company, a consortium of British, U.S., and French companies. Furthermore, with a permanent British naval base and a British selected royal family, Kuwait remained a British protectorate as insurance against Iraq challenging Western ownership of its oil reserves.

    To create the country of Kuwait, Britain had separated out a desert area of Iraq around and including the town of Kuwait and the islands of Bubiyan and Warba, which dominated Iraq's access to the Persian Gulf. The borders between Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia were drawn by Sir Percy Cox of the British Colonial Offlce in 1921 and 1923. This flew in the face of the fact that Iraq had historically controlled this coastal territory.

    Kuwaitis who wanted to remain part of Iraq were suppressed by British forces. British diplomat Sir Anthony Parsons later acknowledged, "In the Iraqi subconscious, Kuwait is part of Basra province, and the bloody British took it away from them. We protected our strategic interests rather successfully, but in doing so we didn't worry too much about the people living there. We created a situation in which people felt they had been wronged."(45)

    When huge oil fields were discovered in Kuwait in 1936, it was to mean big proflts for Gulf Oil, which held the Kuwaiti concession. Production from those fields in later years would give the Western oil companies a powerful weapon in their struggle with the oilproducing countries, and finally became a major factor in causing Iraq to invade.

    In the early 1950s, when the Mossadegh government in Iran nationalized the holdings of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now British Petroleum), the Big Seven oil companies simply boycotted Iranian oil and opened up unused wells in Kuwait to replace Iranian production. The CIA took advantage of the resulting economic crisis in Iran to engineer Mossadegh's overthrow, and Iran was reopened to Westem oil companies.

    In 1960, when the Kassem government in Iraq helped organize the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to resist unilateral price cuts by the oil cartels, the oil companies again increased Kuwaiti production and cut Iraq's oil exports. Iraq's economy was crippled and Kassem was overthrown three years later.

    Time and again, Kuwait's royal family has acted within OPEC to beneflt the oil companies, using their country's vast oil reserves to bludgeon poorer and more populous OPEC members into line when they tried to negotiate fairer prices from the oil companies. They have also recycled billions of dollars from oil sales into U.S. banks. In return, the al-Sabahs' throne is guaranteed by the U.S. military and the CIA.

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • "News of the Week in Review," New York Times, August 5, 1990.
  • Glenn Frankel, "Imperalist Legacy; Lines in the Sand," Washington Post, August 31, 1990, A1.

    "Economic Warfare" Against Iraq

    After the Iran-Iraq War ended, Kuwait was used once again by The United States to embark on a campaign of what CSIS director Henry M. Schuler described as "economic warfare" against Iraq.
    46) In his book Secret Dossier: The Hidden Agenda Behind the Gulf War, Pierre Salinger observed that Kuwait decided to drastically increase oil production on August 8,1988, one day after Iran agreed o a ceaseflre with Iraq.47) Both Iran and Iraq desperately needed stable oil prices to flnance postwar reconstruction. Kuwait's action, which violated OPEC agreements, sent oil prices ink a tailspm. Crude oil prices fell from $21 to $11 a barrel, costing Iraq $14 billion a year, according to the New York Times.48)

    The price cuts also wrought havoc on the economies of poorer oil-producing countries like Algeria and Nigeria. Then, in March 1989, Kuwait demanded a 50 percent increase in the OPEC quotas. This demand was rejected at the June 1989 OPEC meeting, but Kuwaiti oil minister Sheikh Ali al-Khalifa announced Kuwait would no longer be bound by any quota. Kuwait eventually doubled production to over a million barrels per day.49)

    "In particular," wrote Salinger, "[Kuwait] intended to extract more from the oil flelds at Rumaila."50) The Rumaila fleld, which lies on the disputed Iraq-Kuwait border, was a particular sore spot for Iraq. While Iraq was preoccupied with Iran, Kuwait had moved its border northward, seizing an additional 900 square miles of the Rumaila fleld. With the help of U.S.-supplied slant drilling technology, Kuwait was also stealing oil from the part of Rumaila that was indisputably inside Iraq. Thus, at the height of the Iran-Iraq War, when Iraq's ability to export oil was reduced, Kuwait had prospered by selling Iraqi oil to Iraq's customers. But that was not all. Iraq had incurred a tremendous debt during the Iran war. According to the U.S. Army War College report, "The Baathists argue that they should be allowed to invest again and pay off their debts. The banks want their money now."51)

    Kuwait was chief among Iraq's creditors, having provided Iraq $30 billion during the war, mostly after Iran directly threatened Kuwait itself. Kuwait's rulers now demanded that Iraq pay them back. But the war had cost Iraq over $80 billion, and the falling price of oil-a result of Kuwait's own actions-made it impossible for Iraq to pay Kuwait.

    From 1988 to 1990, Iraq tried to resolve its differences diplomatically-as the U.S. Army War College study had predicted it would. Time and again it was rebuffed. Kuwait maintained what all observers agreed was an attitude of arrogance and intransigence. The sheikdom's stance was well known in the Arab world. It didn't expect to be repaid, but refused to formally forgive the debt. A senior Bush administration official told New York Newsday, "Kuwait was overproducing, and when the Iraqis came and said, 'Can't you do something about it?' the Kuwaitis said, 'Sit on it.' And they didn't even say it nicely. They were nasty about it. They were stupid. They were arrogant. They were terrible."52) Kuwait's intransigence perplexed Jordan's King Hussein. The March 13, 1991, San Francisco Chronicle reported that he said:

    "Over a long period of time-before the end of the war between Iraq and Iran-I had tried my very best to see what could be done. He [Saddam Hussein] told me how anxious he was to ensure that the situation be resolved as soon as possible. So he initiated contact with the Kuwaitis... this didn't work from the beginning. There were meetings but nothing happened.... To my way of thinking, this was really puzzling. It was in the Kuwaitis' interest to solve the problem. I know how there wasn't a definite border, how there was a feeling that Kuwait was part of Iraq." 53)

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • Thomas Hayes, "Big Oilfield Is at the Heart of Iraq-Kuwait Dispute," New York Times, September 3, 1990, A7. See also G. Henry Schuler, "Congress Must Take a Hard Look at Iraq's Charges Against Kuwait," Los Angeles Times, December 2, 1990.

  • Pierre Salinger and Eric Laurent, Secret Dossier: The Hidden Agenda Behind the Gulf War, translated by Howard Curtis (New York: Penguin Books, 1991), 2, 46-63, 94-117, 112, 114.

  • See Hayes.
  • See Schuler.
  • See Salinger.
  • See Pelletiere et al.
  • Knut Royce, "A Trail of Distortion Against Iraq," Newsday, January 21, 1991.
  • Michael Emery, "Jordan's King Hussein on the Gulf War," San Francisco Chronicle, March 13, 1991, Z-3.

    The Decisions Were Not Kuwait's Alone

    Was it mere coincidence that Kuwait's rulers suddenly adopted a belligerent stance toward their bigger neighbor at the same time Pentagon war plans began targeting Iraq? Few Kuwaitis think so. Writing in The New Yorker, Middle East expert Milton Viorst quoted Ali al-Bedah, a Kuwaiti business owner and pro-democracy activist, who said, "I think if the Americans had not pushed, the royal family would have never taken the steps that it did to provoke Saddam "
    54) Dr. Mussama al-Mubarak, a political science professor at Kuwait University, told Viorst: "I don't know what the government was thinking, but it adopted an extremely hard line, which makes me think that the decisions were not Kuwait's alone. It is my assumption that, as a matter of course, Kuwait would have consulted on such matters with Saudi Arabia and Britain, as well as the United States." 55)

    Viorst also interviewed both U.S. and Kuwaiti officials.. Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem al-Sabah told him General Schwarzkopf was a regular visitor to Kuwait after the Iran-Iraq War. Sheikh al-Sabah told Viorst: "Schwarzkopf came here a few times and met with the Crown Prince and Minister of Defense. These became routine visits to discuss military cooperation, and by the time the crisis with Iraq began last year, we knew we could rely on the Americans."56)

    A U.S. official in Kuwait corroborated Sheikh al-Sabah's account: "Schwarzkopf was here on visits before the war, maybe a few times a year. He was a political general, and that was unusual in itself . He kept a personally high proflle and was on a flrst- name basis with all the ministers in Kuwait."57)

    After Iraq occupied Kuwait in the summer of 1990, it submitted to UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar a copy of a memo it said its soldiers had captured. Dated November 2a, 1989, the memo recounted a meeting between Kuwaiti Brigadier Fahd Ahmed al-Fahd, the director general of Kuwait's Department of State Security, and Director William Webster of the CIA. The memo discussed CIA training 128 bodyguards for Kuwaiti royalty and intelligence exchanges about Iraq and Iran between the CIA and Kuwait. The memo also included the following point:

    "We agreed with the American side that it was important to take advantage of the deteriorating economic situation in Iraq in order to put pressure on that country's government to delineate our common border. The Central Intelligence Agency gave us its view of appropriate means of pressure, saying that broad cooperation should be initiated between us on condition that such activities are coordinated at a high level."58)

    The CIA has disputed the memo's authenticity, claiming Iraq was not discussed "at that meeting."59) But many experts affirm that it is genuine. It is telling evidence, documenting the economic warfare waged against Iraq by Kuwait and the United States-warfare that the United States continues through sanctions long after the Iraqi army has been driven from Kuwait.

    By 1990 the Iraqi economy was in worse condition than at the end of the war with Iran. Inflation was at 40 percent and the value of the dinar was plummeting. In a speech to an Arab League summit meeting in Amman in February, Saddam Hussein called for the U.S. fleet to withdraw from the Gulf. He said:

    "[I]f the Gulf people, along with all Arabs, are not careful, the Arab Gulf region will be governed by the United States' will. If the Arabs are not alerted and the weakness persists, the situation could develop to the extent desired by the United States; that is, it would flx the amount of oil and gas produced in each country and sold to this or that country in the world. Prices would also be fixed in line with a special perspective benefiting U.S. interests and ignoring the interests of others."60)

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • Milton Viorst, "A Reporter at Large: After the Liberation," The New Yorker, September 30, 1991, 37-72.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid.
  • Kuwaiti intelligence memorandum, labeled top secret, from Brigadier General Fahd Ahmad Al-Fahd, Director-General of the State Security Department, to Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah, Minister of the Interior; allegedly recovered from Kuwait's Internal Security Bureau by Iraqi forces. (Translation from Arabic supplied by Iraqi embassy.)
  • George Lardner, Jr., "Iraqi Charges Alleged Kuwaiti Memo Proves a CIA Plot Against Baghdad," Washington Post, November 1, 1990, A30.
  • Saddam Hussein, "Saddam Husayn on the Post-Cold War Middle East," Orbis, Winter 1991, 117-119.

    War Can Also Be Waged By Economic Means

    New production quotas were set at a March 1990 OPEC meeting, but Kuwait and the UAE refused to adhere to them and increased their production again.
    (61) At an Arab League summit in Baghdad in May, Saddam Hussein said that war is usually waged by "sending armies across frontiers, by acts of sabotage, by killing people and by supporting coups d'etat, but war can also be waged by economic means... and what is happening [Kuwait's oil policy] is war against Iraq (62).

    In June, Iraq sent envoys to several Arab states with appeals for new quotas that would allow a slight rise in the price of crude. Kuwait refused, and also rejected an Iraqi proposal for a summit of the leaders of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

    Finally, on July 10, a meeting of the oil ministers of these states was held, ar d quotas that would allow a gradual increase in prices were set. But the next day, after meeting with the Emir, Kuwait's oil minister announced that Kuwait would increase its production substantially by October.

    On July 17, Saddam Hussein publicly accused Kuwait and the United States of conspiring to destroy Iraq's economy. He said: "If words fail to protect Iraqis, something effective must be done to return things to their natural course and to return usurped rights to their owners.... O God Almighty, be witness that we have warned them."(63)

    The next day, Iraqi troops began massing on the Kuwaiti border. Thus, Iraq had made known the seriousness with which it viewed the economic warfare being waged against it. President Bush's August 8 statement that Iraq had invaded Kuwait with neither warning nor provocation was sheer deceit. Despite Saddam Hussein's warning, Kuwait seemed amazingly unconcerned. Finally, at the repeated urging of, King Hussein and Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, the Emir agreed to attend a mini-summit on July 31, in Jidda, Saudi Arabia.(64)

    Customarily, Arab nations work out agreements prior to such formal meetings. King Fahd privately assured Saddam Hussein that Kuwait had agreed to compromise in Jidda. Dr. Michael Emery, journalism professor at California State University at Northridge, obtained a copy of the official invitation to the Jidda meeting King Fahd sent to the Emir. Translated from Arabic, it reads in part:

    I would like to refer to the brotherly communications that took place with your Excellence and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq and what you agreed upon regarding the meeting of his excellency Sheikh Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah and Mr. Izzat Ibrahim in your second country the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I have full confldence in your judgment and wisdom in fulfilling all that we are looking for and what your Arab brothers are looking for in overcoming all of the obstacles and conflrming the love and friendship between the two brotherly countries.(65)

    The Emir wrote a note across the top of the invitation to his Prime Minister, whom he sent in his stead after initially agreeing to attend personally. It included the following:

    We will attend the meeting according to the conditions we agreed upon. What is important to us is our national interest. Do not listen to anything you hear from the Saudis and Iraqis on brotherhood and Arab solidarity. Each of them has his own interest. The Saudis want to weaken us and exploit our concessions to the Iraqis, so that we will concede to them [the Saudis] in the future the divided [Neutral] zone. The Iraqis want to compensate their war expenditures from our accounts. Neither this nor that should happen. This is also the opinion of our friends in Egypt, Washington, and London. Be unwavering in your discussions. We are stronger than they think.(66)

    Emery has conducted several signature and handwriting checks on the note and even showed it to King Hussein, who made inquiries about the note's origins. He believes it to be authentic.

    The Emir's note implies that foreign backing precluded any need to negotiate. This consistent attitude on the part of Kuwait's ruling al-Sabah family was made crystal clear to a Jordanian delegation headed by King Hussein, which went to Kuwait on July 30 to counsel compromise at Jidda. Although by that time Iraqi troops had massed on Kuwait's border, the Jordanians found the Kuwaitis unconcerned and arrogant.

    When Sheikh Sabah was urged to take Iraq more seriously, he told the Jordanian delegation:

    "We are not going to respond to [Iraq].... If they don't like it, let them occupy our territory... we are going to bring in the Americans." Observers at the meeting reported that Sheikh Sabah apparently realized he had let something slip. He hastily added, "Well, you know what is embarrassing about this . . . what is embarrassing is the Israeli-American dimension."(67)

    The Emir's note and his discussion with the Jordanians directly contradict stated U.S. policy at that time. John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs, testifled before Congress on July 31, 1990, proclaiming U.S. neutrality in "Arab-Arab" conflicts. The note and discussion also reveal United States obstruction of peaceful solutions to Iraq- Kuwait differences.

    Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) President Yasir Arafat told media representatives that at the Arab League summit held on August 9,10, 1990, Kuwait rejected his pleas for a negotiated solution to the Gulf crisis.

    "They said that, in a matter of days, 'the Americans will solve the problem,' " Arafat reportedly said. What was happening in July 1990 was quite clear to Arabs, though Americans remained uninformed. On July 20, in an editorial typical of many in the Arab media that month, columnist Mu'nis alRazzaz said on Radio Jordan:

    "From my position as an Arab citizen, and in the name of Arab dignity, I ask Kuwait to denounce the U.S. position supporting it against Iraq because Iraq is a fraternal Arab country.... We hope that Kuwait will take a decisive position on the U.S. administration's support for it against a fraternal Arab country.... [We] are certain that the brothers in Kuwait will reject the insulting U.S. statements that the United States will defend its friends in the region.... This U.S. logic, which Kuwait did not request, will reinforce the U.S. military presence in the Gulf-a presence that is rejected by all the Arab masses."(69)

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • Khalidi Walid, "Iraq Threatens Emirates and Kuwait on Oil Glut," New York Times, July 18, 1990.
  • Dr. Michael Emery, "How Mr. Bush Got His War: Deceptions, Double-Standards & Disinformation," Open Magazine Pamphlet Series No. 9, April 1991 (Westfield, NJ: Open Magazine). 7. See also "How the U.S. Avoided Peace" and "In the Middle of the Middle East; After 38 Years of Diplomatic Dexterity, King Hussein Keeps His Balance," Village Voice, March 5, 1991.
  • Dr. Michael Emery, invitation from Saudi Arabia's King Fahd to the Kuwaiti Emir to the July 31, 1990 summit in Jidda, Saudi Arabia.
  • Ibid.
  • See Emery, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series No. 9, 8.
  • George D. Moffet III, "PLO Chief Says US Thwarted Efforts to Resolve Gulf Conflict," Christian Science Monitor, February 5, 1990.
  • Foreign Broadcast Information Service, "Columnist Urges Kuwait to Reject U.S. Support," Jordan FBIS-NES-90-140, 20 July 1990, 27; Mu'nis al-Razzaz, Amman AL-DUSTUR (in Arabic); "Last Station: The Real Dispute: Between the Near and the Far," JN2007102590.

    Isolating Iraq

    Not only did the U.S. encourage Kuwait's economic war against Iraq; it engaged in efforts of its own to isolate and economically imperil Iraq. As soon as the Iran-Iraq War ended, the U.S. began a propaganda war against Saddam Hussein and, along with other Western countries, a de facto sanctions campaign. This was evident throughout the Arab world. On February 14, 1991, Algerian Foreign Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali observed over the radio that Iraq had been under escalating attack for two years.

    The ceasefire between Iraq and Iran officially took effect on August 20, 1988. Almost immediately, Iraq's standing in the Western world began to change. On September 8, Washington announced to the world that Iraq had used poison gas against the Kurds. Washington's outrage, however, was a bit delayed; the worst incident, alleged to have occurred six months earlier at Halabja in March 1988, received no U.S. condemnation at the time. Even the Iraqi Kurds' hunger strike held at the UN to protest the incident went unnoticed by Western governments and media.

    But in September, the day Iraqi Foreign Minister Sa'dun Hammadi was scheduled to meet with Secretary of State George Schultz, State Department spokesperson Charles Redman called a press conference. Without providing evidence, Redman charged, "The U.S. government is convinced that Iraq has used chemical weapons in its military campaign against Kurdish guerrillas. We don't know the extent to which chemical weapons have been used, but any use in this context is abhorrent and unjustiflable."(71)

    This was a strange way to greet the foreign minister of a country the United States had just sided with in war. When Hammadi reached the State Department two hours later, he was met with a barrage of questions from reporters about the accusation. Clearly surprised, Hammadi was unable to respond. Within 24 hours of Redman's news conference, the Senate voted unanimously to impose economic sanctions that would cancel technology and food sales to Iraq. Though the bill never became law, it was both a threat and a humiliation that could only be seen in Iraq as hypocritical.

    The State Department's attack on Iraq was the befinning of nearly two years of anti-Iraq propaganda. The propaganda intensified in early 1990, concentrating on Iraqi production of illegal weapons. The Western media seized on Saddam Hussein's April 2 statement that Iraq's chemical weapons would "eat up half of Israel" if Israel attacked Iraq. The propaganda covered up two important facts about Hussein's speech. First, it was Israel, financed by the United States, that introduced chemical and nuclear weapons into the region. And second, Saddam Hussein's speech had included his proposal for a nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Iraq, of course, had some reason to feel threatened by Israel, since in 1981 Israel had bombed Iraq's nuclear power complex and in the spring of 1990 had threatened to attack again.

    On April 11, British agents heightened public concern by seizing eight steel tubes being exported to Iraq. Although they were listed as petroleum pipes, Britain charged they were actually parts to an Iraqi "supergun." The seized goods were "dual-use" items, of the kind Western governments had been knowingly and illegally shipping to Iraq for years. British officials acted as if export controls had broken down, and the media jumped at the chance to portray Iraq as a military menace. Later, when the BBC Panorama series was due to expose the British government's complicity in providing Iraq with the parts, the show was "postponed" indefinitely.(72)

    At the very same time propaganda about Iraq's military abuses was carried in the international media, the U.S. Department of Commerce was approving shipments of billions of dollars worth of similar dual-use equipment to Iraq. This must have suggested to Iraq that the U.S. government supported the development of its military. The Commerce Department altered its records to conceal its acts from Congress and the public.(73)

    Western propaganda in the period after the Iran-Iraq War was so obviously false and provocative that the Arab League Council issued a statement on April 5, 1990, saying that it "viewed with extreme concern the political statements and the unjust, hostile and tenden-tious media campaign against Iraq."(74)

    Along with propaganda, Western countries started to institute de facto sanctions against Iraq. Not UN approved, they nevertheless combined with Kuwait's economic warfare to worsen Iraq's economy. In his meeting with U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie on July 25, 1990, Saddam Hussein referred to these sanctions: "There is nothing left to buy from America except wheat. Every time we want to buy something, they say it is forbidden. I am afraid that one day you will say, You are going to make gunpowder out of wheat"(75)

    Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ramadan told the Muhammad Ali peace delegation in November 1990 that hundreds of scientific, engineering, and food supply contracts between Iraq and Western governments had been canceled in the preceding two years. Cuba's UN Ambassador Ricardo Alarcon referred to this isolation in his August 6, 1990 speech before the Security Council. Explaining why he opposed the resolution calling for worldwide sanctions against Iraq, he explained: "We are asked to approve specific sanctions that have already been imposed unilaterally by the principal developed powers of the world."(76)

    The United States sent confusing signals to Iraq in the flrst seven months of 1990. The United States gave private signals of a desire for better relations with Iraq despite the hostile propaganda and economic embargo, and even though War Plans still designated Iraq as the principal threat in the Persian Gulf. General Schwarzkopf told the Senate in February 1990 that "Iraq has the capability to militarily coerce its neighboring states.... We in Central Command consider our most dangerous scenario to be the spillover of some local conflict leading to a regional war."(77)

    Yet on February 13, Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly told Saddam Hussein in Baghdad that he was "a force for moderation" and that the United States wanted better relations with Iraq.(78)

    In early April, Kelly helped draft proposals for sanctions against Iraq for Congress. But on April 12, a delegation of U.S. Senators headed by minority leader Robert Dole, while visiting Iraq, sought to reassure Saddam Hussein about a Congressional sanctions bill. "I assume Bush will object to the sanctions. He may veto them unless something provocative occurs." When Hussein complained about virulent propaganda waged against him in the Western press, Senator Alan Simpson assured him Bush was not behind it, calling reporters "spoiled and conceited."(79)

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • Ellen Ray and William Schaap, "Disinformation and Covert Operations," Covert Action Information Bulletin, 9.
  • American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, Document 260 (Washington DC: Department of State), 458.
  • John Gittings, "Introduction," in Beyond the Gulf War (London: Catholic Institute for International Relations), 8.
  • See Hedges.
  • Keesing's Record of World Events, 1990, Ref. 37390 for Tunisia statement and Britain's interception of "supergun" parts.
  • Murray Waas, "Who Lost Kuwait?" Village Voice, January 22, 1991.
  • UN Security Council, Document S/PV .2933, Statement on Resolution 661 Authorizing Sanctions Against Iraq by Ricardo Alarcon, Cuba Ambassador to the UN, 41.
  • See Schwarzkopf, Armed Services Committee Testimony.
  • See Cooley, 184.
  • See Waas.

    Iraq Was Provoked Into Invading Kuwait

    After the Gulf War, when euphoria from the U.S. military victory subsided and the public slowly learned of the death and destruction rained on Iraq, it became more important than ever to explain away evidence that Iraq was provoked into invading Kuwait. Since that time, efforts have been made, including the selective release of documents, to explain these prewar incidents as Bush's misguided attempts to maintain a working relationship with Iraq after the Iran war. Typical of such explanations was New York Times columnist Leslie Gelb's opened piece of May 4, 1992. Titled "Bush's Iraqi Blunder," it stated that the "Bush team... believed they had to work with [Hussein] because Iraq had become the dominant power in the region. And they thought they could tame him with aid and diplomatic stroking- because he was a 'realist' with whom fellow realists could do business."

    This analysis ignores acts by the Bush administration that completely contradict the conclusion it draws. Gelb protrays the Bush administration as determined to sell weapons to Iraq-to the point of pressuring Export-Import Bank presidents for unwise loan approvals and consistently violating export controls-with no apparent motivation other than Bush "thought he could work with Saddam Hussein." Washington supposedly accepted assurances from Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, Jordan's King Hussein, and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak that Iraqi threats against Kuwait were bluster.

    These portrayals leave out crucial facts: that the entire military planning strategy beginning in 1988 had identified Iraq as the central threat to the Gulf region; that having done so, the United States assured Iraq it considered its disputes with Kuwait a regional matter; and that while overtly conciliatory, the United States was working with other Western countries and Kuwait to undermine Iraq through propaganda and economic pressure.

    While the idea that Bush blundered in his dealings with Iraq may create domestic political problems for him, it is better for him than that the truth about American dealings with Iraq come out, which is that the United States had sought a justification for intervention in the region to control its resources since the 1970s. The United States was manipulating Iraq into action that would enable the United States to intervene by simultaneously painting Saddam Hussein as a monster and subtly coaxing him into the invasion of Kuwait.

    This had to be the real purpose for the seemingly conciliatory tone and the remarkable assurances of Assistant Secretary Kelly and Amambassador Glaspie. If the United States was truly interested in "doing business" with Iraq, it would not have acted to economically weaken it. "Doing business" with Iraq was also not facilitated by portraying it as a menace after several years of cooperation.

    What was facilitated was military intervention, for which plans were well under way. British columnist John Pilger reported in the New Statesman that in May 1990 the National Security Council presented a white paper to President Bush describing Iraq and Saddam Hussein as "the optimum contenders to replace the Warsaw Pact" as the rationale for continued Cold War-level military spending. (81)

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • See Gelb, May 4, 1992.
  • John Pilger, "Sins of Omission," The British New Statesman, February 8, 1991, 8.

    Positioning For War

    On July 24, 1990, the Pentagon announced that six U.S. warships were beginning"short-notice" maneuvers-Schwarzkopf's "combined exercises"-with UAE forces in the southern Gulf. The July 25 Wall Street Journal reported that the move was directly related to the tensions between Iraq and Kuwait.

    The Journal article was one of the few reports in this country that contradicted Bush administration statements that it was not concerned about Iraq. Nothing more would be written until after August 2.

    On July 25-the day after the United States announced Gulf exercises with the UAE, while Iraqi troops were massing on the Kuwaiti border, and as General Schwarzkopf readied CENTCOM for war against Iraq-Saddam Hussein summoned Ambassador Glaspie to his office in what seems to have been a final attempt to clarify Washington's position on his dispute with Kuwait.

    Glaspie assured him: "We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.... [Secretary of State] James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction." 83)

    She was expressing official policy. On July 24, she had received a cable from the State Department explicitly directing her to reiterate that the United States had "no position" on "Arab-Arab" conflicts.84)

    After the war, on March 21, 1991, Glaspie denied this version of her meeting with Hussein. She testifled to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she had repeatedly warned Hussein that the United States would not tolerate Iraq's use of violence to settle the dispute with Kuwait. She said Hussein must have been too "stupid" to understand how the United States would react.85)

    But in July 1991, Glaspie's cables to the State Department describing the meeting were flnally released to the Senate. The cables showed that her Senate testimony was largely fabricated, and that the version released by Iraq was accurate.86) On July 12, 1991, Committee Chairman Senator Claiborne Pell wrote an angry letter to Secretary of State James Baker demanding an explanation for the in consistencies between Glaspie's testimony and the cable. Senator Alan Cranston charged that Glaspie had deliberately misled Congress about her role in the Gulf War.

    On July 31, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) detected Iraqi forces moving fuel, water, ammunition, and other logistical support from the rear to frontline Iraqi military units stationed on Kuwait's border.87)

    That same day, Assistant Secretary of State Kelly gave the last misleading signal in a House subcommittee hearing. He was questioned by Representative Lee Hamilton. The exchange went as follows:

    Hamilton: Do we have a commitment to our friends in the Gulf in the event that they are engaged in oil or territorial disputes with their neighbors?

    Kelly: As I said, Mr. Chairman, we have no defense treaty relation ships with any of the countries. We have historically avoided taking a position on border disputes or on internal OPEC deliberations, but we certainly, as have all administrations, resoundingly called for the peaceful settlement of disputes and differences in the area.

    Hamilton: If Iraq, for example, charged across the border into Kuwait, for whatever reason, what would be our position with regard to the use of U.S. forces?

    Kelly: That, Mr. Chairman, is a hypothetical or a contingency, the kind of which I can't get into. Suffice it to say, we would be extremely concerned, but I cannot get into the realm of "what if' answers.

    Hamilton: In that circumstance, is it correct to say, however, that we do not have a treaty commitment which would obligate us to engage U.S. forces? Kelly: That is correct.88)

    On August 2, 1990, Iraq, apparently believing it had U.S. assurances it would not intervene, invaded Kuwait. The United States moved immediately to condemn Iraq at the UN. One of Washington's flrst steps in the region after the Iraqi invasion was to pressure Egypt into introducing a resolution condemning Iraq at the Arab League summit in Cairo on August 2-3 - an act U.S. officials knew would make an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait more difficult.

    The day of the invasion, Jordan's King Hussein, hoping to forge an Arab solution to the crisis, spoke to Saddam Hussein, who said he was willing to withdraw. However, he said he would be less willing if Iraq were condemned by the Arab League.

    The king flew to Alexandria, where he obtained a promise from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that his foreign ministers in Cairo would not condemn Iraq. While King Hussein was with Mubarak, President Bush by telephone gave him 48 hours to reach a negotiated solution. The king left Egypt carrying with him an invitation to another Jidda conference, a last-ditch negotiation effort with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, set for August 5. He presented it to Saddam Hussein at a meeting in Baghdad on August 3.

    Saddam Hussein told King Hussein he would attend the Jidda conference. More signiflcant, he also said he would begin withdrawing troops on August 5 if negotiations that day proved fruitful-unless, he cautioned, any of the Arab states issued a condemnation of Iraq. Journalist Pierre Salinger reports that he warned, "If things move in that direction, I'll just say that Kuwait is a part of Iraq and annex it." 89) Apparently, on August 3 Saddam Hussein was willing to pull out of Kuwait if no condemnation occurred. At the very least, his own words provided a high opportunity for an Arab solution to the crisis.

    King Hussein flew back to Amman confident a solution could be arranged, since Mubarak had promised Egypt would not condemn Iraq. That day, Saddam Hussein sent a communique stating he would begin withdrawing Iraqi troops from Kuwait on August 5, two days later. Bush's response to the communique was, "Let's see him haul them out right now, then." 90) But upon arriving in Jordan, King Hussein learned that Egypt had introduced a resolution, adopted by the Arab League, to condemn the invasion of Kuwait.91)

    Evypt, it turned out, was under immense pressure from the United States. According to Salinger, on August 3 Assistant Secretary of State Kelly sent a message to the Egyptian Foreign Ministry:

    "The West has done its duty, but the Arab nations are doing nothing. The United States has sold a lot of arms to Arab countries, especially Egypt. If they do not act, if they do not take a firm stand on the Kuwait affair, they can be sure that in the future they will no longer be able to count on America."92)

    Because Bush had given King Hussein two days to achieve a settlement, the Kelly message reveals that President Bush never intended to let him succeed. King Hussein told Dr. Emery he later learned Mubarak had been pressured to pass the condemnation by 5:00 P.M. New York time on August 3 to coincide with the second U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution, this one calling for an economic boycott of Iraq.93) The Security Council received the text for this resolution, Number 661, at 5:48 P.M. by fax from the U.S. mission. 94) It was only one day after Iraq's occupation of Kuwait. Cuban UN Ambassador Alarcon, who voted for the first Security Council Resolution condemning Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, told the Security Council on August 6 how the United States used Hussein's decision not to withdraw on August 5 as he had originally planned:

    An attempt is now being made to justify the actions [the sanctions resolution] proposed on the grounds that Iraq has failed to carry out the withdrawal of its forces from Kuwaiti territory or by interpreting various statements made in Baghdad on Sunday [August 5] or what has been said here by the permanent representative of Iraq. But that is not the truth. The plan to impose sanctions on Iraq actually existed before we entered this new phase of Security Council deliberations, at a time when no one even knew about the statement made by the Iraqi government, also on August 3, to the effect that it was going to withdraw its troops from Kuwait. 95)

    Thus, the United States manipulated Egypt to get the Arab League to condemn the Iraqi invasion, which resulted in Iraq reversing its willingness to withdraw. Then, Washington used Iraq's refusal to withdraw as a justiflcation to impose sanctions. The government of Jordan later received a threatening letter similar to the one Egypt received. Signed by President Bush, it read, "It is in Jordan's essential interests that it not be neutral in the struggle between Iraq and the great majority of the Arab states." Asked by Emery how he interpreted this letter, an aide to King Hussein said, "Bullying, intimidating, chauvinistic, and completely unacceptable." 96)

    At the August 9-10 Cairo summit, Egypt led the effort for another condemnation of the invasion, and invited Western forces to the Gulf. Many Arab observers, as well as Western journalists who read Arabic, reported that the text of the final communique read awkwardly, as if it had been translated into Arabic from English.97) A regional agreement among Arab nations was the greatest initial threat to U.S. war plans. By pressuring Egypt and others, and with the vigorous support of the Kuwaiti royal family, the United States successfully frustrated early chances for peace.

    The United States moved immediately on the military front, as well. Its first need was to persuade Saudi Arabia to accept troops on its soil. Washington claimed Saddam Hussein was massing thousands of troops on the Saudi border, and that Saudi Arabia had requested a U.S. military presence. But the truth is that Saudi Arabia acceded to U.S. demands to deploy troops there, which it had at first opposed, only after intense U.S. pressure. On August 3, four days before the first U.S. troop deployment was announced, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Joint Chiefs Chairman General Colin Powell met with the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Bandar was more pro-Western than most in the Saud family, and had been involved in various covert U.S. schemes, including the Iran-Contra scandal.

    In making their case to the prince, Cheney and Powell relied heavily on satellite photos they claimed showed Iraqi troops massing on the Saudi border. Bandar then used the photos to win the Saud family's agreement to meet with a U.S. delegation.98) On January 28, 1991, Newsweek reported what happened on August 4, the day after Cheney and Powell met with Bandar:

    "In the middle of the session, the war council got a jolt: "a very authoritative report" from a friendly head of state that the Saudis had decided to reject American troops. The signal contradicted those that Bandar had sent the day before. The president rose, left the room and placed a call to King Fahd. He didn't mention [to Fahd] the tip he had just received. Instead, he told the king he was firmly committed to defending Saudi Arabia, that he didn't want any permanent military bases, that he would withdraw all American troops whenever the king thought the right time had come.... He advised the king not even to ask for troops if all he wanted was a token force. The call seemed to help, though the king remained shaky. Bush returned to the meeting and said that the Saudis still seemed willing to accept troops.99)

    On August 5, Cheney, Powell, then National Security Agency Deputy Director Robert Gates, Defense Department aide Paul Wolfowitz, and General Schwarzkopf flew to Saudi Arabia to intensify the pressure.

    Until then, Saudi diplomats did not believe there was any evidence of an imminent Iraqi invasion. Bob Woodward wrote in his book The Commanders that before the Cheney delegation arrived, King Fahd sent a team across the Kuwaiti border to look for the Iraqi troops. The team came back empty-handed. "There was no trace of Iraqi troops heading toward the kingdom," Woodward wrote. Fahd was therefore skeptical about the need for a U.S. deployment.

    Saudi Arabia initially wanted only air defense and a verbal commitment from the United States that it would defend Saudi Arabia if necessary - not the 100,000 troops the United States wanted to land. But the August 5 Cheney mission proved successful. On August 6, worn down after four days of intense pressure from Washington, King Fahd agreed, in essence, to let the United States use Saudi Arabia as a staging ground for an assault against Iraq. But he asked President Bush to declare in any public announcement that the Saudis had requested U.S. troops to defend their borders. 101)

    On August 7, White House Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater said, "We believe that there is a very imminent threat to Saudi Arabia from the way that they [Iraqi troops] are positioned and located in Kuwait."102) In a nationally televised speech on August 8, Bush said, "After consulting with King Fahd, I sent Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to discuss cooperative measures we could take. Following those meetings, the Saudi government requested our help." 103)

    A little over a month later, on September 11, Bush would tell Congress 120,000 Iraqi troops with 850 tanks had "poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia" by August 5.104) But according to the January 20, 1992 U.S. News b World Report, the same week Cheney was steam rolling the Saudis into letting U.S. troops land, a U.S. intelligence officer reported from Kuwait that Republican Guard troops were actually withdrawing from southern Kuwait back into Iraq. U. S . Netvs' book on the war, Triumph Without Victory, quoted a CENTCOM commander who said, "We still have no hard evidence that [Hussein] ever intended to invade Saudi Arabia." 105)

    Florida's St. Petersburg Times reported on January 6, 1991 that Soviet commercial satellite photos showed there were no Iraqi troops on the Saudi border by August 8, when Bush announced the U.S. deployment. The Times employed two defense intelligence experts to review the satellite shots, which included photos taken on September 11 and September 13, when the Defense Department was estimating 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks in Kuwait. One expert was Peter Zimmerman, a George Washington University professor who served at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency under Reagan. The other was a former satellite photo specialist for the DIA. The analysts said the photographic evidence did not support U.S. statements.

    The August 8 photos show light sand drifts over roads leading from Kuwait City to the Saudi border. Zimmerman said, "It certainly indicates that nobody's been driving over them and that the [Iraqi] military hasn't bothered to clear them for traffic."." The drifts on the September photos were larger and deeper, having built up naturally without the disturbance of traffic for a month. While at that point the presence of the 100,000 U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia was obvious, Zimmerman said:

    "We don't see anything to indicate an Iraqi force in Kuwait of even 20 percent the size the administration claimed.... We didn't flnd anything of that sort. We don't see any tent cities, we don't see congregations of tanks, we can't see troop concentrations, and the main Kuwaiti airbase appears deserted. It's flve weeks after the invasion, and from what we can see, the Iraqi air force hasn't flown a single flighter to the most strategic air base in Kuwait. There is no infrastructure to support large numbers of people. They have to use toilets... they have to have food... but where is it?" 106)

    Similarly, the former DIA specialist said: "I simply didn't see what I expected to see. There should be revetments-three sided berms with vehicles inside, facing the anticipated direction of attack. But they aren't there."107)

    The satellite photos were a very big news story. They showed that the U.S. government lied to justify placing 540,000 troops in Saudi Arabia to attack Iraq, However, the major media almost unanimously refused to cover the story. The only national press mention was a small piece on December 3 in Newsweek, noting that ABC had originally shown the satellite photos to the same experts in November, but found them "so bewildering it won't air them."108) The editors of the St. Petersburg Times approached the Scripps-Howard news service and the Associated Press-twice-with the story. Neither was interested.109)

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • James Tanner, "Iraq-Kuwait Strains May Disrupt OPEC Bid for Pact to Prop Up World Oil Prices," Wall Street Journal, July 25, 1990, A2.
  • "The Glaspie Transcript: Saddam Meets the U.S. Ambassador," in the Gulf War Reader, Micah Sifry and Christopher Cerf, eds., (New York: Times Books, 1991), 130.
  • Leslie H. Gelb, "Mr. Bush's Fateful Blunder," New York Times, July 17, 1991, A21.
  • Thomas Friedman, "Envoy to Iraq, Faulted in Crisis, Says She Warned Hussein Sternly," New York Times, March 21, 1991.
  • U.S. Messages on the July Meeting of Saddam Hussein and American Envoy," New York Times, July 13, 1991. See Also Sydney Blumenthal, "April's Bluff: The Secrets of Ms. Glaspie's Cable," The New Republic, August 5, 1991.
  • Stewart M. Powell, "Critics Ask if U.S. Sent Iraq Wrong Signals," San Fransisco Examiner, September 24, 1990, A12.
  • Developments in the Middle East, July 1990. Report of the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990), 14.
  • See Salinger.
  • James Ridgeway, The March to War (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows Press, 1991), 60.
  • See Emery, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series No. 9.
  • See Salinger, 112.
  • Ibid.
  • See UN Security Council.
  • Ibid.
  • Michael Emery, interview, January 14, 1992.
  • See Cooley, 201.
  • See Woodward.
  • See Mathews, 59.
  • See Woodward, 258-259.
  • See Woodward, 276.
  • Andrew Rosenthal, "Bush Sends U.S. Forces to Saudi Arabia as Kingdom Agrees to Confront Iraq," New York Times, August 8, 1990, A8.
  • See Sifry and Cerf, 197.
  • "Transcript of President's Address to Joint Session of Congress," New York Times, September 12, 1990, A20.
  • See U.S. News & World Report, Triumph Without Victory, 97-98.
  • Jean Heller, "Public Doesn't Get the Picture with Gulf Satellite Photos," St. Petersburg Times, January 6, 1991. Reprinted in In These Times, February 27 - March 19, 1991, 7.
  • Ibid.
  • "Where Are the Troops?" Newsweek, December 3, 1990.
  • In These Times, February 27 - March 19, 1991, 7.

    The Demonization Of Saddam Hussein

    Aided by the press, the United States sought to demonize Saddam Hussein in order to sell the war to the U.S. public. After several years of close diplomatic, economic, and military cooperation between Baghdad and Washington during the Iran-Iraq War, Saddam Hussein was suddenly a tyrant "worse than Hitler."

    Along with personal abuse emerged other public relations hooks. Oil was an early one. Bush said on September 11: "[W]e cannot permit a resource so vital to be dominated by one so ruthless. And we won't."110) Still, a significant segment of the United States remained unconvinced. The New York Times reported a new approach on November 14, 1990:

    Mr. Baker . . . is said to have grown exasperated with White House speech writers' inability to present the President's Gulf policy in a simple, coherent and compelling fashion so that it will have the sustained support of the American public. Since the start of the Gulf crisis in August, the President's justiflcations for sending troops have included everything from "vital interests" being at stake, to the principle that aggression should not be allowed to pay, to President Saddam Hussein of Iraq being worse than Hitler. Beginning last Friday in Moscow, Mr. Baker flrst began to say that what was at stake in the Gulf was the "pocketbook" and "standard of living" of every American. It has become apparent to Administration officials that the eroding support for the administration's Gulf policy, if not stemmed, is going to nullify its entire Gulf strategy. 111)

    Thus, Baker introduced a new fear: the loss of jobs. "To bring it down to the level of the average American citizen," Baker said, "let me say that means jobs. Because an economic recession worldwide, caused by the control of one nation-one dictator,0r you will-of the West's economic lifeline (oil), will result in the loss of jobs for American citizens. 112) In one stroke, Baker had blamed Saddam Hussein not only for the U.S. buildup in the Gulf, but also for the worsening American recession, which only deepened after the war.

    When in the fall of 1990 a New York Times/CBS opinion poll showed that 54 percent of respondents believed preventing Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons would justify military action, Bush found his most effective, if most spurious, argument. It was now incumbent upon the United States to destroy Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. "Every day that passes," he told troops at Thanks-giving, "brings Saddam one step closer to realizing his goal of a nuclear weapons arsenal. And that's why, more and more, your mission is marked by a real sense of urgency.... He has never possessed a weapon he didn't use."113)

    Bush exaggerated both Iraq's nuclear capability and its military prowess. It was widely reported that Iraq was close to producing nuclear weapons, but the country lacked-among other things-the essential supply of plutonium. In April 1992, nuclear weapons experts reviewing a years' worth of inspection and analyses by the International Atomic Energy Agency decided Iraq had been at least three years away from developing a single atomic bomb. In any case, the claim was a hypocritical ruse.

    Seymour Hersh reports in his book The Samson Option that Israel had hundreds of nuclear warheads, and sophisticated rocketry for their delivery. 114) The danger of Israel using nuclear weapons against its neighbors is a great concern in the Arab world, much as Pakistan worries about India's nuclear arms. Israel works vigorously to prevent the Arabs from developing such weapons. But the UN has never felt compelled to send nuclear inspection teams to Israel, India, Pakistan, or other countries believed to have violated the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.

    And what of Iraq's "million-man army"? Of course, Iraq's army had grown during the Iran-Iraq War. The Baathists pressed hard for recruits and conducted a massive conscription program in 1986. The Republican Guard, formerly restricted to residents of Tikrit, Hussein's hometown, was opened to conscripts from anywhere in Iraq. Men were literally drafted off the street.

    However, the image of a battle-tested force dedicated to overrunning the Gulf region was illusory. The bulk of the Iraqi troops were draftees, ranging in age from 16 to 42, and with no deep felt loyalty to the military. The percentage of its armed forces that were well trained and equipped was very low. 115) Despite the hype about Iraq's army, military and intelligence experts put Iraq's real troop strength at only 300,000. 116) No military experts in the West believed it was a first rate military force.

    The most emotionally explosive lie told during this time was the "incubator story." Testifying to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990, a 15 year old girl introduced only as "Nayirah" claimed that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers taking babies from incubators and "leaving them on the cold floor to die."117) This story was quickly used by the Bush administration for its push toward war. Bush repeated it in numerous speeches, claiming 312 babies had died this way. Amnesty International reported the story as truth in a December 19, 1990 report.

    The story has been thoroughly discredited since the end of the conflict. It was later revealed that witnesses who spoke before the Security Council and the Congress did so under false names and identities A "Mr. Issah Ibrahim, the surgeon," was really Ibraheem Behbehani, an orthodontists Nayirah, the 15 year old who testified that she was volunteering at the hospital when the atrocities allegedly occurred, turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, a fact known by organizers of the October 10 hearings. 119)

    Amnesty International retracted its support for the story in April 1991. In February 1992, Middle East Watch issued a report stating that the story was "clearly wartime propaganda," as were other stories of mass rape and torture by Iraqis. 120)

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • See Ridgeway, 84.
  • Thomas Friedman, "U.S. Jobs at Stake in Gulf, Baker Says," New York Times, November 14, 1990.
  • Ibid.
  • See Ridgeway, 84.
  • Seymour Hersh, The Samson Option: Israel's Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy (New York: Random House,1991).
  • See Pelletiere, et al., 14-15.
  • John Broder and Douglas Jehl, "Experts Say Iraq's Military Is Formidable, But Flawed," Philadelphia Inquirer, August 19, 1990, A13 (reprinted from the Los Angeles Times).
  • Middle East Watch, "Kuwait's 'Stolen' Incubators: The Widespread Repercussions of a Murky Incident," White Paper, Vol. 4, Issue 1 (February 6, 1992), 5.
  • Ibid.
  • John R. MacArthur, "Remember Nayirah, Witness for Kuwait?" New York Times, January 6, 1992, A17.
  • See Middle East Watch.

    Washington's "No Negotiations" Stance

    From the beginning of the crisis, President Bush argued that any negotiation with Saddam Hussein would be a "reward for aggression." This posture was more than ironic, taken as it was less than a year after the U.S. invasion of Panama, where thousands of civilians had been killed.

    The United States torpedoed early Arab efforts to negotiate a settlement among Arab nations. Yet Iraq continued to seek a negotiated solution. On August 12, 1990, Iraq proposed talks linking withdrawal from Kuwait to comprehensive discussions of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and other problems in the region. The proposal included canceling the sanctions and replacing U.S. forces in the Gulf with Arab forces under UN direction. It was ridiculed and loudly denounced by the Bush administration.

    When Iraq made another modifled proposal to Washington in midAugust, it barely received media notice. This new plan, which did not mention linkage, proposed an Iraqi pullout from Kuwait and release of all Americans and Europeans who were not permitted to leave Iraq. In return, Iraq wanted the lifting of UN sanctions, guaranteed access to the Persian Gulf, and control of the Rumaila oil fleld.

    The State Department denied the proposal was made-an embarrassing lie since the White House simultaneously acknowledged the proposal. The September 10, 1990 issue of Newsweek reported that Newsday... said "a former high-ranking U.S. official" had delivered an Iraqi peace plan to Brent Scoweroft, Bush's nationalsecurity adviser.... The State Department "categorically" denied the story, which made the vacationing Secretary of State James Baker look out of touch when White House officials confirmed that the offer had indeed been brought to Scoweroft by an old friend.

    "The proposal," the article continued, "was quickly rejected as a complete nonstarter."121)

    Not everyone thought so. A Congressional summary of Iraq's proposal, prepared in January 1991 by a Democratic staff member for intelligence oversight, argued that serious U.S. consideration of the proposal could have avoided war. The summary stated: "The Iraqis apparently believed that having invaded Kuwait, they would get everyone's attention, negotiate improvements to their economic situation, and pull out.... [A] diplomatic solution satisfactory to the interests of the United States may well have been possible since the earliest days of the invasion."122)

    But the Bush administration did not want a negotiated solution. It was preparing for war. Washington quickly moved to quash any signs that agreement could be reached. On August 22, the day after Tariq Aziz again said Iraq was willing to negotiate, Saudi Arabia strongly implied interest in a territorial compromise. Saudi Defense Minister Prince Sultan said the disputed Warba and Bubiyan islands could be part of a negotiated pullout from Kuwait: "Saudi Arabia has said, and says now, that giving rights, including territorial brotherly concessions-given willingly-is a matter of pride for the Arab nation."123)

    The United States responded by getting Saudi Ambassador Bandar to pressure his government to retract the statement. "Bandar reported back to us that the Prince claims he was misquoted," a White House official said after the call. Kuwait and the U.S. then reaffirmed their demand for unconditional Iraqi withdrawal. 124)

    After this further rebuff, Iraq continued to try to negotiate. On November 14, Saddam Hussein said in an interview with ABC News in Baghdad that he wanted talks, even hinting that Iraq might eventually leave Kuwait. Two weeks earlier, Soviet envoy Yevgeny Primakov had also reported Iraq wanted talks, noting after his second meeting with Hussein that the Iraqi leader was no longer discussing Kuwait as part of Iraq. "We are ready to talk to the parties concerned," Hussein had told ABC.125)

    He repeatedly emphasized his desire to resolve differences with the Urited States and Arab countries. His appeals went unanswered. Instead, many of his efforts were ridiculed. On August 28, Saddam Hussein suggested televised debates between President Bush; U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a chief protagonist; and himself. The state department called the proposal "sick." The United Kingdom called it "pure gimmickry." 126)

    On November 18, after I had urged him to permit and assist all foreigners who wanted to leave to do so, Saddam Hussein said he was willing to let all the remaining European and U.S. citizens depart over a three month period, as long as the United States did not start a war. Washington rejected this as "further cynical manipulation."127) When Hussein did authorize 14 U.S. and 32 British hostages to leave and announced he would release 330 French nationals, he saw it as a humanitarian gesture. The United States called it "barbaric," accusing Hussein of running a "hostage bazaar." While some hundreds of Westerners were denied the right to leave for a period of months, they were not confined. I spent several hours late one November evening with about 15 U.S. nationals, all men, who were living comfortably in the U.S. Ambassadors' residence. They were free to move around Baghdad, and two drove me back to the Al-Rashid Hotel after midnight. We were not even followed. While all said they wanted to leave, most deferred to others when I said I was sure several would be permitted to leave immediately, perhaps the next day. The two they chose were able to leave two days later. Their common, overriding fear was not of the Iraqis, but what might happen to them if a shooting war broke out.

    The one time the United States proposed talks, it was an empty gesture that became a threat. On November 30, the day after the UN authorized the use of force, Bush proposed to send Baker to Baghdad and invite Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz to Washington. Iraq immediately accepted the offer, stating the next day that its government welcomed the chance to talk. The United States then began to back away from the proposal. For over a month, the two countries could not agree on a date for the meetings. Finally, January 9 was chosen, but by then the United States had pulled back on its proposal for dual high-level talks in Washington and Baghdad, and insisted that only one meeting would take place in Switzerland.

    Bush set the purpose for the meeting saying there would be "no negotiations, no compromises, no attempts at face-saving, and no rewards for aggression."129) And indeed, Baker did not negotiate. He handed Aziz a letter from George Bush to Saddam Hussein promising Iraq's destruction if it stayed in Kuwait. The letter did not discuss Palestine or other issues; instead, it warned, "[W]hat is at stake demands that no opportunity be lost to avoid what would be a certain calamity for the people of Iraq."130) He had proclaimed in November, "We have only friendship for the people [in Iraq]."131) But his letter was a direct threat against the Iraqi people:

    " It is said by some that you do not understand just how isolated Iraq is and what Iraq faces as a result.... But unless you withdraw from Kuwait completely and without condition, you will lose more than Kuwait.... This choice is yours to make.... Iraq is already feeling the sanctions mandated by the United Nations. Should war come, it will be a far greater tragedy for you and your country.... I write this letter not to threaten, but to inform." 132) As President Bush intended, the meeting came to naught.

    NOTES [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • Newsweek, September 10, 1990, 17.
  • Robert Parry, "The Peace Feeler That Was," The Nation, 480
  • Youssef M. Ibrahim, "Saudi Prince Hints at Deal with Iraq for Kuwaiti Port," New York Times, October 23, 1990, 1.
  • Ibid.
  • Philip Shenon, "Hussein Offers to Talk with U.S.," New York Times, November 16, 1990, A14.
  • See Ridgeway, 63.
  • See Ridgeway, 135.
  • Fred Bruning, "Hussein Accused of Running a 'Hostage Bazaar,' " New York Newsday, October 25, 1990, 13.
  • See Ridgeway, 172.
  • George Bush, "The Letter to Saddam-January 9, 1991," in The Gulf War Reader, Micah Sifry and Christopher Cerf, eds. (New York: Times Books, 1991).
  • Bill Moyers, PBS Special Report: After the War, Spring 1991.
  • See Bush, "The Letter to Saddam," in Sifry and Cerf.

    Washington's Rush To War

    Rather than send negotiators to Baghdad and elsewhere to find a way to settle the crisis, Washington pursued a war course from the moment it received word of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The military moved with remarkable speed.

    At 5:00 A.M. on August 2, President Bush prepared two executive orders that prohibited U.S. trade with Iraq and froze Iraqi assets worth $30 billion.133)

    The orders were filed with the Office of the Federal Registrar by 10:00 A.M. that day. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was only hours old. At 5:30 A.M., Bush and Brent Scoweroft met to discuss how to persuade allies to join the United States on sanctions. Later that day, the UN Security Council passed a U.S initiated resolution condemning Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and calling for withdrawal. On August 2, the United States dispatched a battle group of seven warships, led by the USS Independence, to the region. By August 5, the United States had arranged to add another aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea and send another assault ship to the Gulf region. France added a warship.

    U.S. and allied naval carriers headed toward the Gulf well before Bush's August 7 announcement that Saudi Arabia had agreed to allow 90,000 U.S. troops to land. Afterward, King Hussein would say that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told him that "troops were halfway to their destination before the request for them to come."134) Without consulting Congress, 40,000 troops were deployed immediately.

    On August 7-one day after the Saudis agreed to let in American troops-additional warplanes and ships from bases all over the United States headed to Saudi Arabia. The deployment would become the biggest U.S. mobilization since the Vietnam War and the biggest airlift since World War II.

    When the United States began its massive buildup in the Saudi desert, it took most Americans by surprise. The forces were far larger from the beginning than the public was told. The United States was able to fly warplanes from all over the world to more than 20 fully operative, hardened military air bases in Saudi Arabia-the bases that had been begun ten years before to facilitate the Rapid Deployment Force. Nine readied ports awaited U.S. warships. Their sophistication, including the most advanced surveillance equipment, allowed the United States to wage the kind of war that it could not have waged elsewhere. Journalist Scott Armstrong in the November/December 1991 issue of Mother Cones quoted a military planner who said of the bases, "Nowhere else in the world-not even in the United States-could we fight as successfully as we did in the Gulf."135)

    Bush declared that the buildup was wholly defensive. Yet, from the beginning, news reports showed extensive planning by the United States for offensive military action. On August 11, when 40,000 troops were in the Gulf, the Los Angeles Times stated in an editorial, "An anonymous Defense Department source is widely quoted as saying that contingency plans for the Persian Gulf could result in the insertion of up to 200,000 to 250,000 [U.S.] ground forces before it's all done. These are sobering, not to say mind boggling thoughts" 136)

    On August 24, the Los Angeles Times ran a story headlined "If Pentagon Gets a 'Go,' It'll Be a Massive Strike." The article quoted Air Force Chief of Staff Michael Dugan as saying, "We're postured for a joint attack."

    Later, when the United States was using every form of pressure available to build a coalition of countries supporting Desert Shield-relying on the claim that its posture in the Gulf was defensive-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney removed Dugan from his post after he made similar statements. On September 15, Dugan told reporters that traditional military targets in Iraq were "not enough" to win a war with Iraq. He suggested that Iraqi cities, electrical systems, roads, railroads, and oil production facilities were better targets.137)

    From the first, the buildup was intended to be offensive. The Bush administration barely tried to hide it, though no Congressional authorization was ever obtained and no debate was heard on the matter. By September 4, 100,000 troops were in the Gulf, and that number doubled by mid-October. Then, with no material change in the crisis, on October 30 Bush again doubled U.S. troop levels to 400,000. He waited until immediately after the Congressional elections, however, to make this decision public.138)

    On December 29, President Bush directed General Schwarzkopf to begin his attack on Iraq on January 16 at 7:00 P.M. EST, the day after the UN deadline for withdrawal. And still the public was told that peace was possible.139)

    The buildup continued until by mid-January the United States had 540,000 troops in the Gulf, supported by air or ground forces from the United Kingdom, France, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other countries. As late as January 9, with Congress moving toward a vote on whether to support UN Resolution 678 authorizing removal of Iraq from Kuwait by any means necessary, President Bush again insisted he had the authority to attack without either UN or Congressional approval. When midnight January 15 passed at the UN in New York, it was already dawn January 16 in Iraq. While B52s departed many hours earlier from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana and elsewhere for nonstop flights toward their targets, and cruise missiles were launched from vessels on the Indian Ocean and the eastern Mediterranean hours before, the attack was timed to begin as people living on the east coast of the United States watched prime time evening news on January 16. Nineteen hours after the deadline, Iraq was hit almost simultaneously with hundreds of missiles and bombs. Within an hour, 85 percent of all electric power generation throughout Iraq was destroyed. Several thousand bombing sorties cut the major arteries of the nation's vital services within 48 hours.

    The evidence that this assault was planned for years before Iraq invaded Kuwait cannot be doubted. That a decision to provoke Iraq into an act that would justify the execution of those plans is clear beyond a reasonable doubt. The ease with which the Bush administration frustrated all efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the dispute it had created reveals the tragic failure of international peace keeping mechanisms, the UN, the U.S. Constitution, the media that failed to inform the public, and finally the people themselves, who watched war coming for nearly six months, but did not act to prevent the slaughter.

    [for lack of numbers in the index see our special note]:

  • See Mathews.
  • See Emery, Open Magazine Pamphlet Series No. 9, 15.
  • Scott Armstrong, "Eye of the Storm," Mother Jones, November/December 1991, 75.
  • Editorial, Los Angeles Times, August 11, 1990.
  • Rick Atkinson, "U.S. to Rely on Air Strikes if War Erupts," Washington Post, September 1B, 1990, Al .
  • Editorial-"Lunfing for War?" New York Times, May 5, 1991, E16.
  • See Woodward, 353.

  • From the book The Fire this Time by Ramsey Clark. Copyright (c) 1992 by Ramsey Clark.

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