52.   IRAQ  1990-1991 
                   Desert holocaust

     "This is the one part I didn't want to see," said a 20-year
-old private.  "All the homeless, all the hurting.  When we came
through the refugee camp, man, that's something I didn't need."
     "It's really sad," said the sergeant.  "We've got little
kids come up and see my gun, and they start crying.  That really
tears me up."
     "At night, you kill and you roll on by," said another GI. 
"You don't stop.  You don't have to see anything.  It wasn't
until the next morning the rear told us the devastation was
total.  We'd killed the entire division."{1}
     While many nations have a terrible record in modern times of
dealing out great suffering face-to-face with their victims,
Americans have made it a point to keep at a distance while
inflicting some of the greatest horrors of the age: atomic bombs
on the people of Japan; carpet-bombing Korea back to the stone
age; engulfing the Vietnamese in napalm and pesticides; providing
three decades of Latin Americans with the tools and methods of
torture, then turning their eyes away, closing their ears to the
screams, and denying everything ... and now, dropping 177 million
pounds of bombs on the people of Iraq in the most concentrated
aerial onslaught in the history of the world.
     What possessed the United States to carry out this
relentless devastation for more than 40 days and nights against
one of the most advanced and enlightened nations in the Middle
East and its ancient and modern capital city?

It's the first half of 1990.  The dismantling of the Berlin wall
is being carried out on a daily basis.  Euphoria about the end of
the cold war and optimism about the beginning of a new era of
peace and prosperity are hard to contain.  The Bush
administration is under pressure to cut the monster military
budget and institute a "peace dividend".  But George Bush,
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, former Texas oil man, and
former Director of the CIA, is not about to turn his back on his
many cronies in the military-industrial-intelligence complex.  He
rails against those who would "naively cut the muscle out of our
defense posture", and insists that we must take a cautious
attitude towards reform in the USSR.{2}  In February, it's
reported that "the administration and Congress are expecting the
most acrimonious hard-fought defense budget battle in recent
history"; and in June that "tensions have escalated" between
Congress and the Pentagon "as Congress prepares to draft one of
the most pivotal defense budgets in the past two decades".{3}  A
month later, a Senate Armed Services subcommittee votes to cut
military manpower by nearly three times more than recommended by
the Bush administration ... "The size and direction of the cuts
indicate that President Bush is losing his battle on how to
manage reductions in military spending."{4}
     During this same period Bush's popularity was plummeting:
from an approval rating of 80 percent in January -- as he rode
the wave of public support for his invasion of Panama the
previous month -- to 73 in February, down to the mid-60s in May
and June, 63 on 11 July, 60 two weeks later.{5}
     George Herbert Walker Bush needed something dramatic to
capture the headlines and the public, and to convince Congress
that a powerful military was needed as much as ever because it
was still a scary and dangerous world out there.

Although the official Washington version of events presented
Iraq's occupation of neighboring Kuwait as an arbitrary and
unwarranted aggression, Kuwait had actually been a district of
Iraq, under Ottoman rule, up to the First World War.  After the
war, to exert leverage against the abundantly oil-rich Iraq, the
British Colonial Office established tiny Kuwait as a separate
territorial entity, in the process cutting off most of Iraq's
access to the Persian Gulf.  In 1961, Kuwait became
"independent", again because Britain declared it to be so, and
Iraq massed troops at the border, backing down when the British
dispatched their own forces.  Subsequent Iraqi regimes never
accepted the legitimacy of this state of affairs, making similar
threats in the 1970s, even crossing a half-mile into Kuwait in
1976, but Baghdad was also open to a compromise with Kuwait under
which Iraq would gain access to its former islands in the
     The current conflict had its origins in the brutal 1980-88
war between Iraq and Iran.  Iraq charged that while it was locked
in battle, Kuwait was engaged in stealing $2.4 billion of oil
from the Rumaila oil field that ran beneath the vaguely-defined
Iraq-Kuwait border and was claimed in its entirety by Iraq; that
Kuwait had built military and other structures on Iraqi
territory; and worst of all, that immediately after the war
ended, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates began to exceed the
production quotas established by the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC), flooding the oil market, and driving
prices down.  Iraq was heavily strapped and deeply in debt
because of the long war, and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
declared this policy was an increasing threat to his country --
"economic war", he called it, pointing out that Iraq lost a
billion dollars a year for each drop of one dollar in the oil
price.{7}  Besides compensation for these losses, Hussein
insisted on possession of the two Gulf islands which blocked
Iraq's access to the Gulf as well as undisputed ownership of the
Rumaila oilfield.
     In the latter part of July 1990, after Kuwait had continued
to scorn Iraq's financial and territorial demands, and to ignore
OPEC's request to stick to its assigned quota, Iraq began to mass
large numbers of troops along the Kuwaiti border.
     The reaction to all this by the world's only remaining
superpower and self-appointed global policeman became the subject
of intense analysis and controversy after Iraq actually invaded. 
Had Washington given Iraq a green light to invade?  Was there, at
a minimum, the absence of a flashing red light?  The controversy
was fueled by incidents such as the following:
     19 July: Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney stated that the
American commitment made during the Iran-Iraq war to come to
Kuwait's defense if it were attacked was still valid.  The same
point was made by Paul Wolfowitz, Undersecretary of Defense for
Policy, at a private luncheon with Arab ambassadors. 
(Ironically, Kuwait had been allied with Iraq and feared an
attack from Iran.)  Later, Cheney's remark was downplayed by his
own spokesman, Pete Williams, who explained that the secretary
had spoken with "some degree of liberty".  Cheney was then told
by the White House: "You're committing us to war we might not
want to fight", and advised pointedly that from then on,
statements on Iraq would be made by the White House and State
     24 July: State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutweiler, in
response to a question, responded: "We do not have any defense
treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defense or
security commitments to Kuwait."  Asked whether the United States
would help Kuwait if it were attacked, she said: "We also remain
strongly committed to supporting the individual and collective
self-defense of our friends in the gulf with whom we have deep
and longstanding ties" -- a statement that some Kuwaiti officials
said privately was too weak.{9}
     24 July: The US staged an unscheduled and rare military
exercise with the United Arab Emirates, and the same Pete
Williams then announced: "We remain strongly committed to
supporting the individual and collective self-defense of our
friends in the gulf with whom we have deep and longstanding
ties."  And the White House declared: "We're concerned about the
troop buildup by the Iraqis.  We ask that all parties strive to
avoid violence."{10}
     25 July: Saddam Hussein was personally told by the US
ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, in a now-famous remark, that
"We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border
disagreement with Kuwait."  But she then went on to tell the
Iraqi leader that she was concerned about his massive troop
deployment on the Kuwaiti border in the context of his
government's having branded Kuwait's actions as "parallel to
military aggression".{11}
     25 July: John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near
Eastern and South Asian Affairs, killed a planned Voice of
America broadcast that would have warned Iraq with the identical
party-line words used by Tutweiler and Williams.{12}  Hussein may
not have known of this incident, although in April he had been
personally assured by visiting Senate Minority Leader Robert
Dole, speaking in behalf of the president, that the Bush
administration dissociated itself from a Voice of America
broadcast critical of Iraq's human-rights abuses and also opposed
a congressional move for economic sanctions against Iraq.{13}
     27 July: The House and Senate each voted to impose economic
sanctions against Iraq because of its human-rights violations. 
However, the Bush administration immediately reiterated its
opposition to the measure.{14}
     28 July: Bush sent a personal message to Hussein (apparently
after receiving Glaspie's report of her meeting with the Iraqi
leader) cautioning him against the use of force, without
referring directly to Kuwait.{15}
     31 July: Kelly told Congress: "We have no defense treaty
relationship with any Gulf country.  That is clear. ... We have
historically avoided taking a position on border disputes or on
internal OPEC deliberations."
     Rep. Lee Hamilton asked if it would be correct to say that
if Iraq "charged across the border into Kuwait" the United States
did "not have a treaty commitment which would obligate us to
engage U.S. forces" there.
     "That is correct," Kelly responded.{16}
     The next day (Washington time), Iraqi troops led by tanks
charged across the Kuwaiti border, and the United States
instantly threw itself into unmitigated opposition.
     Official statements notwithstanding, it appears that the
United States did indeed have an official position on the Iraq-Kuwait 
border dispute.  After the invasion, one of the documents the Iraqis 
found in a Kuwaiti intelligence file was a memorandum concerning a 
November 1989 meeting between the head of Kuwaiti state security and 
CIA Director William Webster, which included the following:

     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 be coordinated at a high level.

     The CIA called the document a "total fabrication".  However,
as the Los Angeles Times pointed out, "The memo is not an obvious
forgery, particularly since if Iraqi officials had written it
themselves, they almost certainly would have made it far more
damaging to U.S. and Kuwaiti credibility."{17}  It was apparently
real enough and damaging enough to the Kuwaiti foreign minister
-- he fainted when confronted with the document by his Iraqi
counterpart at an Arab summit meeting in mid-August.{18}
     When the Iraqi ambassador in Washington was asked why the
document seemed to contradict US Ambassador Glaspie's avowal of
neutrality on the issue, he replied that her remark was "part and
parcel of the setup".{19}
     Was Iraq set up by the United States and Kuwait?  Was Saddam
provoked into his invasion -- with the conspirators' expectation
perhaps that it would not extend beyond the border area -- so he
could be cut down to the size both countries wanted?
     In February 1990, Hussein made a speech before an Arab
summit which could certainly have incited, or added impetus to,
such a plot.  In it he condemned the continuous American military
presence in the Persian Gulf waters and warned that "If the Gulf
people and the rest of the Arabs along with them fail to take
heed, the Arab Gulf region will be ruled by American will." 
Further, that the US would dictate the production, distribution
and price of oil, "all on the basis of a special outlook which
has to do solely with U.S. interests and in which no
consideration is given to the interests of others."{20}
     In examining whether there was a conspiracy against Iraq and
Saddam Hussein, we must consider, in addition to the indications
mentioned above, the following:
     Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat has
asserted that Washington thwarted the chance for a peaceful
resolution of the differences between Kuwait and Iraq at an Arab
summit in May, after Saddam had offered to negotiate a mutually
acceptable border with Kuwait.  "The US was encouraging Kuwait
not to offer any compromise," said Arafat, "which meant there
could be no negotiated solution to avoid the Gulf crisis." 
Kuwait, he said, was led to believe it could rely on the force of
US arms instead.{21}
     Similarly, King Hussein of Jordan revealed that just before
the Iraqi invasion the Kuwaiti foreign minister stated: "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."  And that the Kuwaiti emir told his military officers
that in the event of an invasion, their duty was to hold off the
Iraqis for 24 hours; by then "American and foreign forces would
land in Kuwait and expel them."  King Hussein expressed the
opinion that Arab understanding was that Saddam had been goaded
into invading, thereby stepping into a noose prepared for
     The emir refused to accede to Iraq's financial demands,
instead offering an insulting half-million dollars to Baghdad.  A
note from him to his prime minister before the invasion speaks of
support of this policy from Egypt, Washington and London.  "Be
unwavering in your discussions," the emir writes.  "We are
stronger than they [the Iraqis] think."{23}
     After the war, the Kuwaiti Minister of Oil and Finance

     But we knew that the United States would not let us be overrun.  
     I spent too much time in Washington to make that mistake, and 
     received a constant stream of visitors here.  The American 
     policy was clear.  Only Saddam didn't understand it.{24}

     We have seen perhaps ample reason why Saddam would fail to
     Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz declared that a sharp drop
in the price of oil was something the Kuwaitis, with their vast
investment holdings in the West, could easily afford, but which
undercut the oil revenues essential to a cash-hungry Baghdad. 
"It was inconceivable," said Aziz, that Kuwait "could risk
engaging in a conspiracy of such magnitude against a large,
strong country such as Iraq, if it were not being supported and
protected by a great power; and that power was the United States
of America."{25}  There is, in fact, no public indication that
the United States, despite its very close financial ties, tried
to persuade Kuwait to cease any of its provocative actions
against Iraq.
     And neither Washington nor Kuwait seemed terribly concerned
about heading off an invasion.  In the week prior to the Iraqi
attack, intelligence experts were telling the Bush administration
with increasing urgency that an invasion of at least a part of
Kuwait was likely.  These forecasts "appear to have evoked little
response from Government agencies."{26}  During this period Bush
was personally briefed and told the same by CIA Director William
Webster, who showed the president satellite photos of the Iraqi
troops massed near the Kuwaiti border.  Bush, reportedly, showed
little interest.{27}  On 1 August, the CIA's National
Intelligence Officer for Warning (sic) walked into the offices of
the National Security Council's Middle East Staff and announced:
"This is your final warning."  Iraq, he said, would invade Kuwait
by day's end, which they did.  This, too, did not produce a rush
to action.{28}  Lastly, a Kuwaiti diplomat stationed in Iraq
before the invasion sent many reports back to his own government
warning of an Iraqi invasion; these were ignored as well.  His
last warning had specified the exact date (Kuwaiti time) of 2
August.  After the war, when the diplomat held a press conference
in Kuwait to discuss the government's ignoring of his warnings,
it was broken up by a government minister and several army
     In July, while all these warnings were ostensibly being
ignored, the Pentagon was busy running its computerized command
post exercise (CPX), initiated in late 1989 specifically to
explore possible responses to "the Iraqi threat" -- which, in the
new war plan 1002-90, had replaced "the Soviet threat" -- the
exercise dealing with an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia
or both.{30}  At a war-games exercise at the Naval War College in
Newport, R.I., participants were also being asked to determine
the most effective American response to a hypothetical invasion
of Kuwait by Iraq.{31}  While at Shaw Air Force Base in South
Carolina, another war "game" involved identifying bombing targets
in Iraq.{32}
     And during May and June, the Pentagon, Congress and defense
contractors had been extensively briefed by the Center for
Strategic and International Studies of Georgetown University on a
study of the future of conventional warfare, which concluded that
the most likely war to erupt requiring an American military
response was between Iraq and Kuwait or Saudi Arabia.{33}
     Another person who seems to have known something in advance
was George Shultz, who was Reagan's Secretary of State and then
returned to the Bechtel Corp., the multinational construction
giant.  In the spring of 1990, Shultz convinced the company to
withdraw from a petrochemicals project in Iraq.  "I said
something is going to go very wrong in Iraq and blow up and if
Bechtel were there it would get blown up too.  So I told them to
get out."{34}
     Finally, there was this disclosure in the Washington Post:

     Since the invasion, highly classified U.S. intelligence 
     assessments have determined that Saddam took U.S. statements 
     of neutrality ... as a green light from the Bush administration 
     for an invasion.  One senior Iraqi military official ... has 
     told the agency [CIA] that Saddam seemed to be sincerely 
     surprised by the subsequent bellicose reaction.{35}

     On the other hand we have the statement from Iraqi Foreign
Minister Aziz, who was present at the Glaspie-Hussein meeting.

     She didn't give a green light, and she didn't mention a red 
     light because the question of our presence in Kuwait was not 
     raised. ... And we didn't take it as a green light ... that 
     if we intervened militarily in Kuwait, the Americans would not 
     react.  That was not true.  We were expecting an American 
     attack on the morning of the second of August.{36}

     But one must be skeptical about so casual an attitude toward
an American attack.  And these remarks, in effect denying that
Iraq was played for a sucker, must be considered in light of the
Iraqi government's stubborn refusal for some time to admit the
harm done to the country by US bombing, and to downplay the
number of their casualties.
     The Bush administration's position was that Iraq's Arab
neighbors, particularly Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, had urged
the United States all along not to say or do anything that might
provoke Saddam.  Moreover, as Ambassador Glaspie emphasized, no
one expected Hussein to take "all" of Kuwait, at most the parts
he already claimed: the islands and the oilfield.
     But, of course, Iraq had claimed "all" of Kuwait for a

The invasion

When Iraq invaded, the time for mixed signals was over.  Whatever
devious plan, if any, George Bush may have been operating under,
he now took full advantage of this window of opportunity.  Within
hours, if not minutes, of the border crossing, the United States
began mobilizing, the White House condemned Iraq's action as a
"blatant use of military aggression", demanded "the immediate and
unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces", and announced that
it was "considering all options"; while George Bush was declaring
that the invasion "underscores the need to go slowly in
restructuring U.S. defense forces".{37}
     Before 24 hours had passed, an American naval task force
loaded with fighter planes and bombers was on its way to the
Persian Gulf, Bush was seeking to enlist world leaders for
collective action against Iraq, all trade with Iraq had been
embargoed, all Iraqi and Kuwaiti assets in the United States had
been frozen; and the Senate had "decisively defeated efforts to
end or freeze production of the B-2 Stealth bomber after
proponents seized on Iraq's invasion of Kuwait to bolster their
case for the radar-eluding weapon"; the attack, they said,
"demonstrates the continuing risk of war and the need for
advanced weapons" ... Said Senator Dole: "If we needed Saddam
Hussein to give us a wake-up call at least we can thank him for
     "One day after using Iraq's invasion of Kuwait to help save
the high-tech B-2 bomber, senators invoked the crisis again
Friday to stave off the mothballing of two World War II-vintage
     Within days, thousands of American troops and an armored
brigade were stationed in Saudi Arabia.  It was given the grand
name of Operation Desert Shield, and a heightened appreciation
for America's military needs was the prevailing order of the day ...

     Less than a year after political changes in Eastern Europe 
     and the Soviet Union sent the defense industry reeling under 
     the threat of dramatic cutbacks, executives and analysts say 
     the crisis in the Persian Gulf has provided military companies 
     with a tiny glimmer of hope.
          "If Iraq does not withdraw and things get messy, it will 
     be good for the industry.  You will hear less rhetoric from 
     Washington about the peace dividend," said Michael Lauer, an 
     analyst with Kidder, Peabody & Co. in New York.

     "The possible beneficiaries" of the crisis, added the
Washington Post, "cover the spectrum of companies in the defense
     By September, James Webb, former Assistant Secretary of
Defense and Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration,
felt moved to speak out:

     The President should be aware that, while most Americans are 
     laboring very hard to support him, a mood of cynicism is just 
     beneath their veneer of respect.  Many are claiming that the 
     buildup is little more than a "Pentagon budget drill," designed 
     to preclude cutbacks of an Army searching for a mission as bases 
     in NATO begin to disappear.{41}

     Remarkably, yet another cynical former Assistant Secretary
of Defense was heard from.  Lawrence Korb wrote that the
deployment of troops to Saudi Arabia "seems driven more by
upcoming budget battles on Capitol Hill than a potential battle
against Saddam Hussein."{42}
     But can anything be too cynical for a congressman stalking
re-election?  By the beginning of October we could read:

     The political backdrop of the U.S. military deployment in Saudi 
     Arabia played a significant role in limiting defense cuts in 
     Sunday's budget agreement, halting the military spending "free 
     fall" that some analysts had predicted two months ago, budget 
     aides said.  Capitol Hill strategists said that Operation Desert 
     Shield forged a major change in the political climate of the 
     negotiations, forcing lawmakers who had been advocating deep 
     cuts on the defensive.
          The defense budget compromise ... would leave not only 
     funding for Operation Desert Shield intact but would spare 
     much of the funding that has been spent each year to prepare 
     for a major Soviet onslaught on Western Europe.{43}

     Meanwhile, George Bush's approval rating had recovered.  The
first poll taken in August after the US engagement in the Gulf
showed a jump to 74 percent, up from 60 percent in late July. 
However, it seems that the American public needs the rush of a
regular patriotic-fix to maintain enthusiasm for the man
occupying the White House, for by mid-October, due to Bush's
extreme obfuscation of why the US was in the Persian Gulf, the
rating they granted him was down to 56 -- since Bush's first
month in office, it had never been lower; and it stayed close to
that level until the citizenry's next patriotic-invasion-fix in
January, as we shall see.{44}

Prelude to war

As Iraq went about plundering Kuwait and turning it into Iraqi
Province 19, the United States was building up its military
presence in Saudi Arabia and the surrounding waters, and --
employing a little coercion and history's most spectacular bribes
-- creating a "coalition" to support US-fostered United Nations
resolutions and the coming war effort in a multitude of ways: a
figleaf of "multinational" respectability, as Washington had
created in Korea, Grenada and Afghanistan, for what was
essentially an American mission, an American war.  Egypt was
forgiven many billions of dollars in debt, while Syria, China,
Turkey, the Soviet Union, and other countries received military
or economic aid and World Bank and IMF loans, had sanctions
lifted, or were given other perks, not only from the US but,
under Washington's pressure, from Germany, Japan and Saudi
Arabia.  As an added touch, the Bush administration stopped
criticizing the human rights record of any coalition member.{45}
     But Washington and the media were unhappy with Germany for
not enthusiastically jumping on the war bandwagon.  The Germans
who only yesterday were condemned as jackbooted fascists marching
through Poland, were now called "cowards" for marching for peace
in large demonstrations.
     Washington pushed a dozen resolutions through the Security
Council condemning Iraq, imposing severe economic sanctions, and 
getting "authorization" to wage war.  Only Cuba and Yemen voted
against any of them.  When Yemen's delegate received some
applause for his negative vote on the key use-of-force resolution
of 29 November, US Secretary of State Baker, who was presiding,
said to his delegation: " I hope he enjoyed that applause,
because this will turn out to be the most expensive vote he ever
cast."  The message was relayed to the Yemenis, and within days,
the tiny Middle-East nation suffered a sharp reduction in US
     UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar acknowledged
that "It was not a United Nations War.  General Schwarzkopf
[commander of the coalition forces] was not wearing a blue
helmet."{47}  The American control of the United Nations prompted
British political commentator Edward Pearce to write that the UN
"functions like an English medieval parliament: consulted, shown
ceremonial courtesy, but mindful of divine prerogative, it
mutters and gives assent."{48}
     The paramount issue in the United States soon became: how
long should we wait for the sanctions to work before resorting to
direct military force?  The administration and its supporters
insisted that they were giving Hussein every chance to find a
peaceful, face-saving way out of the hole he had dug himself
into.  But the fact remained that each time President Bush made
the Iraqi leader any kind of offer, it was laced with a deep
insult, and never offered the slightest recognition that there
might be any validity to Iraq's stated grievances.{49}  Indeed,
Bush had characterized the Iraqi invasion as being "without
provocation".{50}  The president's rhetoric became increasingly
caustic and exaggerated; he was putting it on a personal level,
demonizing Saddam, as he had done with Noriega, as Reagan had
done with Qaddafi, as if these foreigners did not have pride or
reason like Americans have.  Here's how the Los Angeles Times
viewed it:

     Shortly after Iraq's invasion ... Bush carefully compared 
     Iraq's aggression with the German aggression against Poland 
     that launched World War II.  But he stopped short of a 
     personal comparison of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with 
     Adolf Hitler.  That caution went out the window last month, 
     when Bush not only compared Hussein to Hitler but also 
     threatened Nuremberg-style war crime trials.  Then, last week, 
     Bush went further, briefly maintaining that the Iraqi leader 
     is worse than Hitler because the Germans never held U.S.
     citizens as "human shields" at military sites.

     After this trivializing of the Holocaust, Bush went on to
warn that any acceptance of uncontrolled aggression "could be
world war tomorrow".  Said one of his own officials: "Got to get
his rhetoric under control."{51}
     Saddam Hussein could not help but soon realize that by
seizing all of Kuwait -- not to mention sacking and pillaging it
-- he had bitten off substantially more than he could chew.  In
early August and again in October, he signaled his willingness to
pull Iraqi forces out of the country in return for sole control
of the Rumaila oil field, guaranteed access to the Persian Gulf,
the lifting of sanctions, and resolution of the oil
price/production problem.{52}  He also began to release some of
the many foreigners who had had the misfortune of being in Iraq
or Kuwait at the wrong time.  In mid-December the last of them
was freed.  Earlier that month, Iraq began laying out a new
Iraqi-Kuwait border, which might have meant a renunciation of its
claim of Kuwait being a part of Iraq, though its meaning was not
clear.{53}  And in early January, as we shall see, his strongest
peace signal was reported.
     The Bush administration chose to not respond in a positive
manner to any of these moves.  After Saddam's August offer, the
State Department "categorically" denied it had even been made;
then the White House confirmed it.{54}  A later congressional
summary of the matter 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.

     The Bush administration, said the congressional paper,
wanted to avoid seeming in any way to reward the invasion.  But a
retired Army officer, who was acting as a middle man in the
August discussions, concluded afterward that the peace offer "was
already moving against policy".{55}
     After a certain point in the American military buildup,
could the United States have given peace a chance even if it
wanted to?  Former Assistant Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb
observed in late November that all the components of the defense
establishment were pushing to get in on the action, to prove
their worth, to prove that there was still a need for them, to
assure their continued funding ...

     By mid-January ... the United States will have over 400,000 
     troops in the Gulf [it turned out to be over 500,000] from 
     all five armed services (yes, even the Coast Guard is there).  
     This is about 100,000 more troops than we had in Europe at any 
     time during the Cold War.  The Army will eventually have eight 
     divisions on the ground in Saudi Arabia, twice as many as it had
     in Europe. ... two-thirds of the entire Marine Corps' combat 
     power [will be there] ... The Navy will deploy six of its 14 
     aircraft carrier battle groups, two of its four battleships and 
     one of its two amphibious groups ... The Air Force already has 
     fighters from nine of its 24 active tactical wings ... as well as 
     bombers ... Even the combat reserves are scheduled to be sent ... 
     The reserve lobby recognized that their future funding may be
     jeopardized if their units do not get involved. ... Just as every 
     service wants to be involved in the deployment, will not each want 
     a piece of the real action?

     And would the military high-command be able to resist the
pressures from each service, Korb wondered.  The Navy, which had
moved some its carriers into the narrow and dangerous waters of
the Gulf just to be closer to the action?  The Marines, who might
want to demonstrate the continuing viability of amphibious
warfare by staging an assault on the coast?  And could the Army
lay back while air power carried the day?{56}  [They couldn't,
and it prolonged the war.]
     The US military and President Bush would have their massive
show of power, their super-hi-tech real war games, and no signals
from Iraq or any peacenik would be allowed to spoil it.  Fortune
magazine, in an ingenuous paean to Bush's fortitude, later summed
up the period before the war began thusly:

     The President and his men worked overtime to quash freelance 
     peacemakers in the Arab world, France, and the Soviet Union 
     who threatened to give Saddam a face-saving way out of the 
     box Bush was building.  Over and over, Bush repeated the mantra: 
     no negotiations, no deals, no face-saving, no rewards, and 
     specifically, no linkage to a Palestinian peace conference [a point
     raised by Iraq on several occasions].{57}

     On 29 November, the UN Security Council authorized the use
of "all necessary means" to compel Iraq to vacate Kuwait if it
didn't do so by 15 January.  Over Christmas, we have learned,
George Bush pored over every one of the 82 pages of Amnesty
International's agonizing report of Iraqi arrests, rape, and
torture in Kuwait.  After the holiday, he told his staff that his
conscience was clear: "It's black and white, good vs. evil.  The
man has to be stopped."{58}
     It's not reported whether Bush ever read any of Amnesty's
many reports of the period on the equally repulsive violations of
human rights and the human spirit perpetrated by Washington's
allies in Guatemala, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Angola and
Nicaragua.  If he did, the literature apparently had little
effect, for he continued to support these forces.  Amnesty had
also been reporting about Iraq's extreme brutality for more than
a decade, and only a few months before the August invasion had
testified about these abuses before the Senate, but none of this
had filled George Bush with righteous indignation.
     As the 15 January deadline neared, the world held its
breath.  Was it possible that in five and a half months no way
could have been found to avoid inflicting another ghastly war
upon this sad planet?  On the 11th, Arab diplomats at the UN said
that they had received reports from Algeria, Jordan and Yemen,
all on close terms with Iraq, that Saddam planned an initiative
soon after the 15th that would express his willingness "in
principle" to pull out of Kuwait in return for international
guarantees that Iraq would not be attacked, an international
conference to address Palestinian grievances, and negotiations on
disputes between Iraq and Kuwait.  The Iraqi leader, the
diplomats said, wanted to wait a day or two after the deadline
had passed to demonstrate that he had not been intimidated.
     For the United States, with half-a-million troops poised for
battle in Saudi Arabia, this was unacceptable.  Saddam Hussein
will "pass the brink at midnight, January 15", said Secretary of
State Baker, and could not expect to save himself by offering to
pull out of Kuwait after that time.{59}

The multiple explanations of George Bush      go to notes

     Our jobs, our way of life, our own freedom, and the freedom of 
     friendly countries around the world will suffer if control of 
     the world's great oil reserves fell in the hands of that one 
     man, Saddam Hussein.{60}

     Thus spaketh George Herbert Walker Bush to the people of
America.  As Theodore Draper observed:

     These reasons were both mundane and implausible.  That "jobs" 
     should have been mentioned first suggested that Bush, as in a 
     domestic political campaign, sought primarily to appeal to the 
     voters' pocketbook.  It was, however, a peculiarly crass reason 
     to go to war, if it came to that, halfway around the world.{61}

     During the entire lengthy buildup to the war, during the
war, after the war, no one was sure they understood why Bush had
intervened in the Persian Gulf, and then taken the United States
into war.  Congressmen, journalists, editors, plain citizens kept
asking, almost pleading at times, for the president to clearly
and unambiguously explain his motivations, and without
contradicting what he had said the previous week.  (Economists
and think-tank intellectuals found it professionally awkward to
admit their uncertainty, and thus wound up writing lots of
authoritative-sounding mumbo-jumbo.)
     The prevailing bewilderment prompted the Wall Street Journal
to assemble a group of "voters" to discuss the issues.  "They are
confused about what's happening and are crying out for more
information," reported the newspaper about the participants. 
"And they are unsettled by the perception that Mr. Bush seems to
be switching his reasoning day to day."  Said one participant:
"So far it's been like David Letterman's Top 10 Reasons for Being
There.  There's a different story every week or so."{62}
     Taking place in the Persian Gulf, as it all did, of course
lent itself to the belief that the liquid gold had a lot, if not
everything, to do with the conflict.  This, however, is a thesis
which can not be supported by the immediate circumstances. 
Supply was not a problem -- the Energy Department acknowledged
that there was not an oil shortage, and Saudi Arabia and other
countries increased their production to more than make up for the
oil lost from Iraq and Kuwait, which, in any event, together
accounted for only about five percent of American consumption. 
There was a whole world ready to supply more oil, from Mexico to
Russia, as well as large untapped American sources.  This
indicates the difficulties faced by any single producer --
Hussein or anyone else -- who might try to control or dominate
the market; which in turn raises the question: what would such a
country do with all the oil, drink it?  By December it was
reported that "OPEC is pumping oil at the highest levels since
early summer, and unless a war in the Middle East disrupts
supplies, there's a prospect again of an oil glut and sharply
lower prices."{63}
     As to the price of oil: did oilmen George Bush and James
Baker and the depressed American oil states want it to go up or
down?  A case could be made for either hypothesis.  (In January
1990 the US had secretly urged Saddam to try to raise the OPEC
oil price to $25 a barrel.){64}  And how easily could Washington
control it either way in a chaotic situation?  As it is, oil
prices fluctuate on a regular basis, often sharply -- between
1984 and 1986, for example, the price of a barrel of oil fell
from around $30 to less than $10, despite the ongoing Iraq-Iran
war which cut into the production of both countries.
     However, this analysis of the immediate circumstances does
not take into consideration the formidable and continual
influence of the "mystique of oil" upon the thinking of American
policy makers.  If Bush was looking for a "crisis" to impress
upon the congressional mind the enduring danger of the world we
live in, then getting involved in a conflict between two major
oil producing countries would certainly generate the desired
effect much more readily than if he had seized upon Bolivia
attacking Paraguay, or Ghana occupying Ivory Coast.
     The president's remark about the American way of life and
everyone's freedom reflects the life-and-death seriousness that
he and other policy makers publicly ascribe to oil.  (What these
men really believe and feel in each instance is something we are
not privy to.)  Earlier in the year, CIA Director William Webster
had told Congress that oil "will continue to have a major impact
on U.S. interests" because "Western dependence on Persian Gulf
oil will rise dramatically" in the next decade; while General
Schwarzkopf, who had lifelong ties to the Middle East, testified:

     Mideast oil is the West's lifeblood.  It fuels us today, and 
     being 77 percent of the Free World's proven oil reserves, is 
     going to fuel us when the rest of the world has run dry. ... 
     It is estimated that within 20 to 40 years the U.S. will have 
     virtually depleted its economically available oil reserves, 
     while the Persian Gulf region will still have at least 100 years
     of proven oil reserves.{65}

     It was actually 69 percent at the time, and since the Soviet
Union has joined the "Free World", it's even less.{66}  It should
also be noted that the good general's prediction for the US is
rather speculative, and that the term "economically available" is
a reference to the fact that US domestic oil reserves are more
costly to exploit than those in the Gulf.  But this only makes it
a profit problem, not an oil-supply problem.  Moreover, the vast
potential residing in alternative energy sources must be included
in the equation.
     At this time, the United States -- seemingly in a panic
about danger to the Gulf oil supply -- was receiving about 11
percent of its oil from the region, while Japan, which got 62
percent of its oil, and Europe which got 27 percent from there,
were hardly stirred up at all, except for Margaret Thatcher who
foamed at the mouth when it came to Saddam and former colony
Iraq.{67}  Germany's figure was about 35 percent, yet both Bonn
and Tokyo had to have their arms twisted by Washington to support
the war effort.  The two countries may, in fact, have been leery
about helping the United States acquire greater influence and
control over the region's oil.
     Official Washington's embrace of the oil mystique has given
rise to a long-standing policy, expressed as follows by political
analyst Noam Chomsky:

     It's been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign policy 
     since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources 
     of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the United 
     States and its clients, and, crucially, that no independent, 
     indigenous force will be permitted to have a substantial influence 
     on the administration of oil production and price.{68}

     This has not always meant the use of force.  In 1973, when
OPEC, led by Saudi Arabia, used substantial price increases and
an oil boycott in an attempt to force Washington to influence
Israel into withdrawing from its recently occupied territories,
the United States did not launch, or even threaten, an invasion. 
The matter was resolved through extensive diplomacy without a
shot being fired.  What saved the OPEC states from a violent fate
may have been the combination of the Vietnam war still hanging
heavy in the air in Washington, and the Nixon administration on
the verge of being swallowed up by Watergate.
     In addition to issuing several dire warnings early on about
the invasion's severe economic consequences for the United
States, which never came to pass, Bush warned of an even worse
fate if Iraq took over Saudi Arabia.  The danger-to-Saudi Arabia
explanation was a non-starter.  Iraq never had any designs on
Saudi Arabia, as a simple look at a map makes clear.  The Iraqis
have a long border with that country; they didn't have to go
through Kuwait to invade the Saudis; and even if they did, they
could have moved into Saudi Arabia virtually unopposed during the
three weeks following their takeover of Kuwait, as General Colin
Powell later conceded.{69}  Bush administration officials in fact
admitted that neither the CIA nor the Defense Intelligence Agency
thought it probable that Iraq would invade Saudi Arabia.{70}  The
Saudis didn't think so either, until Defense Secretary Cheney
flew to Riyadh on 5 August and personally told King Fahd that his
country stood in great potential danger and desperately needed a
very large infusion of American military forces to defend it.{71}
     Bush backed away from the oil rationale when critics charged
that he was only trying to protect the interests of the oil
industry.  In October, he was interrupted while making a speech
by some people calling out: "Mr. President, bring our troops home
from Saudi Arabia!  No blood for oil!"  To which George Bush
replied -- as the hecklers were hustled out -- "You know, some
people never get the word.  The fight isn't about oil.  The fight
is about naked aggression that [we] will not stand."  A month
later, if not sooner, the president again began to play the oil
card, tying America's economic security to that of Saudi Arabia. 
Shortly afterward, he returned to "the devastating damage being
done every day" to the US and international economies by the
disruption of oil markets.{72}
     As to Iraq's naked aggression -- a remark requiring
selective-memory skills of a high order coming from a government
that held all modern records for international aggression, naked
or otherwise, and from a man who, less than a year before, had
nakedly invaded Panama -- both Syria and Israel had invaded
Lebanon and still occupied large portions of that country, Israel
bombarding Beirut mercilessly in the process, without a threat of
war emanating from Washington.  Saddam Hussein, perhaps wondering
when they had changed the rules, said to the United States: "You
are talking about an aggressive Iraq ... if Iraq was aggressive
during the Iran war, why then did you speak with [us] then?"{73}
     During Iraq's epic struggle against the Ayatollah Khomeini,
the United States of course had more than spoken to Baghdad. 
Washington -- choosing Iraq as the lesser evil against Shiite
extremism -- was responsible for huge amounts of weaponry,
military training, sophisticated technology, satellite-photo
intelligence, and billions of dollars reaching a needy Hussein,
who was also lavishly supported by Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, they
being concerned that Iran's anti-monarchist sentiments might
spread to their own realms.  Indeed, there is evidence that
Washington encouraged Iraq to attack Iran and ignite the war in
the first place.{74}  And during this period of American support
of Hussein, he was certainly the same odious, repressive, beastly
thug as when he later came under American moralistic rhetorical
fire.  Similarly, absent Washington's prodding, the UN did not
condemn Iraq's invasion, nor did it impose any sanctions or lay
down any demands.
     Even as it officially banned arms sales to either combatant,
the US secretly provided weapons to both.  The other bête noire
of the region, the Ayatollah, received American arms and military
intelligence on Iraq during the war, so as to enhance the ability
of the two countries to inflict maximum devastation upon each
other and stunt their growth as strong Middle-East nations.
     In contrast to Iraq-the-enemy now were the two "allies" most
involved, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.  Although Washington did not
make a big thing about the "virtue" of either country, official
policy was always that the United States had a principled
commitment to defending the former and liberating the latter. 
And they were not a pretty pair.  Saudi Arabia regularly featured
extreme religious intolerance, extrajudicial arrest, torture, and
flogging.{75}  It also practiced gender apartheid and systematic
repression of women, virtual slavery for its foreign workers,
stoning of adulterers, and amputation of the hands of thieves. 
US chaplains stationed in the country were asked to remove
crosses and Stars of David from their uniforms and call
themselves "morale officers".{76}
     Kuwait, oddly enough, was virulently anti-American in its
foreign policy.{77}  Though more socially enlightened than Saudi
Arabia (but less than Iraq), it was nonetheless run by one family
as an elitist oligarchy, which closed down the parliament in
1986, had no political parties, and forbade criticism of the
ruling emir; no more than 20 percent of the population possessed
any political rights at all.  After the country had been returned
to its rightful dictators, it behaved very brutally toward its
large foreign-worker population, holding them without charge or
trial for several months; death squads executed scores of people. 
"Torture of political detainees was routine and widespread," said
Amnesty International, and at least 80 "disappeared" in custody. 
The targets of the campaign, which took place in the presence of
thousands of US troops, were primarily those who were accused of
collaboration with the Iraqis, although this was something most
of them had no choice in, and those who were involved in a
nascent pro-democracy movement.  Additionally, some 400 Iraqis
were forced to return to Iraq despite fears that they would be
harmed or executed there.{78}
     The elite of the region did not display much gratitude for
all that George Bush said America was doing for them.  Said one
Gulf official: "You think I want to send my teen-aged son to die
for Kuwait?"  He chuckled and added, "We have our white slaves
from America to do that."  A Saudi teacher saw it this way: "The
American soldiers are a new kind of foreign worker here.  We have
Pakistanis driving taxis and now we have Americans defending us." 
Explaining the absence of expressed gratitude on the part of Gulf
leaders, a Yemeni diplomat said: "A lot of the Gulf rulers simply
do not feel that they have to thank the people they've hired to
do their fighting for them."{79}  Apart from anything else,
people in the Arab world were very sensitive about the killing of
Muslims and Arabs by foreigners, as well as foreign military
presence on Arab soil, a reminder of a century of Western, white
     Bush also warned that Iraq posed a nuclear threat.  True
enough.  But so did the United States, France, Israel, and every
other country that already had nuclear weapons.  Iraq, on the
other hand, according to American, British and Israeli experts,
was five to ten years away from being able to build and use
nuclear weapons.{80}  It's unlikely that the president himself
believed there was any such danger.  His warning came only after
a poll showed that a plurality of Americans felt that preventing
Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons was the most persuasive
argument for going to war.{81}
     One factor not mentioned by Bush as a reason for the
intervention, but which, in fact, probably played an important
role, was the Pentagon's desire to make or strengthen agreements
with Gulf-region countries for an ongoing US military presence;
and considerable progress along these lines appears to have been
made.{82}  General Schwarzkopf had earlier told Congress that
"U.S. presence" in the Gulf is one of the three pillars of
overall military strategy, along with security assistance and
combined exercises, all of which lead to all-important "access",
which one can take as a euphemism for influence and control.{83} 
After the war, the existence of a network of military-communication
-systems "superbases" in Saudi Arabia was revealed. Ten years in the 
building by the United States, in maximum secrecy, its cost of almost 
$200 billion paid for by the Saudis, its use during the Gulf War 
indispensable, it may explain why Bush moved so quickly to defend 
Saudi Arabia, albeit against a non-existent threat.{84}

"Stop me before I kill again!"

Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood ... Adolf Hitler was a
vegetarian and anti-smoking ... Herman Goering, while his
Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office
that read: "He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the
German people." ... this fact Elie Wiesel called the greatest
discovery of the war: that Adolf Eichmann was cultured, read
deeply, played the violin ... Charles Manson was a staunch 
anti-vivisectionist ...
     About Panama, as we have seen, after he ordered the bombing,
George Bush said that his "heart goes out to the families who
have died in Panama."  And when he was asked, "Was it really
worth it to send people to their death for this?  To get
Noriega?", he replied, "... every human life is precious, and yet
I have to answer, yes, it has been worth it."
     About Iraq, Bush said: "People say to me: `How many lives? 
How many lives can you expend?'  Each one is precious."{85}
     Just before ordering the start of the war against Iraq in
January, Bush prayed, as tears ran down his cheeks.  "I think,"
he later said, "that, like a lot of others who had positions of
responsibility in sending someone else's kids to war, we realize
that in prayer what mattered is how it might have seemed to
     God, one surmises, might have asked George Bush about the
kids of Iraq.  And the adults.  And, in a testy, rather 
un-godlike manner, might have cracked: "So stop wasting all the
precious lives already!"

Tanks pulling plows moved alongside trenches, firing into the
Iraqi soldiers inside the trenches as the plows covered them with
great mounds of sand.  Thousands were buried, dead, wounded, or
     US forces fired on Iraqi soldiers after the Iraqis had
raised white flags of surrender.  The navy commander who gave the
order to fire was not punished.{88}
     The bombing destroyed two operational nuclear reactors in
Iraq.  It was the first time ever that live reactors had been
bombed, and may well have set a dangerous precedent.  Hardly more
than a month had passed since the United Nations, under whose
mandate the United States was supposedly operating, had passed a
resolution reaffirming its "prohibition of military attacks on
nuclear facilities" in the Middle East.{89}  Sundry chemical,
including chemical-warfare, facilities and alleged biological-
warfare plants, were also targets of American bombs.  General
Schwarzkopf then announced that they had been very careful in
selecting the means of destruction of these as well as the
nuclear facilities, and only "after a lot of advice from a lot of
very, very prominent scientists," and were "99.9 percent" certain
that there was "no contamination".{90}  However, European
scientists and environmentalists detected traces of chemical-
weapons agents that the bombings had released; as well as
chemical fallout and toxic vapors, also released by the air
attacks, that were killing scores of civilians.{91}
     The American government and media had a lot of fun with an
obvious piece of Iraqi propaganda -- the claim that a bombed
biological warfare facility had actually been a baby food
factory.  But it turned out that the government of New Zealand
and various business people from there had had intimate contact
with the factory and categorically confirmed that it had indeed
been a baby food factory.{92}
     The United States also made wide use of advanced depleted
uranium (DU) shells, rockets and missiles, leaving tons of
radioactive and toxic rubble in Kuwait and Iraq.  The United
Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, in an April 1991 secret report,
warned that "if DU gets in the food chain or water this will
create potential health problems."  The uranium-238 used to make
the weapons can cause cancer and genetic defects if inhaled. 
Uranium is also chemically toxic, like lead.  Inhalation causes
heavy metal poisoning or kidney or lung damage.  Iraqi soldiers,
pinned down in their bunkers during assaults, were almost
certainly poisoned by radioactive dust clouds.{93}
     The civilian population suffered in the extreme from the
relentless bombing.  Middle East Watch, the human-rights
organization, has documented numerous instances of the bombing of
apartment houses, crowded markets, bridges filled with
pedestrians and civilian vehicles, and a busy central bus
station, usually in broad daylight, without a government building
or military target of any kind in sight, not even an anti-
aircraft gun.{94}
     On 12 February, the Pentagon announced that "Virtually
everything militarily ... is either destroyed or combat
ineffective."{95}  Yet the next day there was a deliberate
bombardment of a civilian air raid shelter that took the lives of
as many as 1,500 civilians, a great number of them women and
children; this was followed by significant bombardment of various
parts of Iraq on a daily basis for the remaining two weeks of the
war, including what was reported for the 18th in The Guardian of
London as "one of [the coalition's] most ferocious attacks on the
centre of Baghdad."{96}  What was the purpose of the bombing
campaign after the 12th?
     The United States said it thought that the shelter was for
VIPs, which it had been at one time, and claimed that it was also
being used as a military communications center, but neighborhood
residents insisted that the constant aerial surveillance overhead
had to observe the daily flow of women and children into the
shelter.{97}  Western reporters said they could find no signs of
military use.{98}
     An American journalist in Jordan who viewed unedited
videotape footage of the disaster, which the American public
never saw, wrote:

     They showed scenes of incredible carnage.  Nearly all the 
     bodies were charred into blackness; in some cases the heat 
     had been so great that entire limbs were burned off. ... 
     Rescue workers collapsed in grief, dropping corpses; some 
     rescuers vomited from the stench of the still-smoldering 

     Said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater after the
bombing of the shelter: It was "a military target ... We don't
know why civilians were at this location, but we do know that
Saddam Hussein does not share our value in the sanctity of
life."{100}  Said George Bush, when criticized for the bombing
campaign: "I am concerned about the suffering of innocents."{101}
     The crippling of the electrical system multiplied
geometrically the daily living horror of the people of Iraq.  As
a modern country, Iraq was reliant on electrical power for
essential services such as water purification and distribution,
sewage treatment, the operation of hospitals and medical
laboratories, and agricultural production.  Bomb damage,
exacerbated by shortages attributable to the UN/US embargo,
dropped electricity to three or four percent of its pre-war
level; the water supply fell to five percent, oil production was
negligible, the food distribution system was devastated, the
sewage system collapsed, flooding houses with raw sewage, and
gastroenteritis and extreme malnutrition were prevalent.{102}
     Two months after the war ended, a public health team from
Harvard University visited health facilities in several Iraqi
cities.  Based on their research, the group projected,
conservatively, that "at least 170,000 children under five years
of age will die in the coming year from the delayed effects" of
the destruction of electrical power, fuel and transportation; "a
large increase in deaths among the rest of the population is also
likely.  The immediate cause of death in most cases will be
water-borne infectious disease in combination with severe
malnutrition."{103}  One member of both the Harvard group and a
later research group which visited Iraq testified before Congress
that "Children play in the raw sewage which is backed up in the
streets ... Two world renowned child psychologists stated that
the children in Iraq were `the most traumatized children of war
ever described'."{104}

Despite repeated statements by American authorities about taking
the greatest of care to hit only military targets, using "smart
bombs" and laser-guided bombs, and "surgical strikes", we now
know that this was little more than an exercise in propaganda,
just as referring to this suffering as "collateral damage" was.
After the war, the Pentagon admitted that non-military facilities
had been extensively targeted for political reasons.{105} 
Comprehensive post-World War II government studies had concluded
that "the dread of disease and the hardships imposed by the lack
of sanitary facilities were bound to have a demoralizing effect
upon the civilian population", and that there was a "reliable and
striking" correlation between the disruption of public utilities
and the willingness of the German population to accept
unconditional surrender.{106}
     In the Iraqi case there was a further motivation: to
encourage desperate citizens to rise up and overthrow Saddam
Hussein.  Said a US Air Force planner:

     Big picture, we wanted to let people know, "Get rid of this 
     guy and we'll be more than happy to assist in rebuilding.  
     We're not going to tolerate Saddam Hussein or his regime.  
     Fix that, and we'll fix your electricity."{107}

Those who tried to escape the bombing horror in Iraq by fleeing
to Jordan were subjected to air attacks on the highway between
Baghdad and the Jordanian border -- buses, taxis, and private
cars were repeatedly assaulted, literally without mercy, by
rockets, cluster bombs and machine guns; usually in broad
daylight, the targets clearly civilian, with luggage piled on
top, with no military vehicles or structures anywhere to be seen,
surrounded by open desert, the attacking planes flying extremely
close to the ground ... busloads of passengers incinerated, and
when people left the vehicles and fled for their lives, planes
often swooped down upon them firing away. ... "You're killing
us!" cried a Jordanian taxi driver to an American reporter. 
"You're shooting us everywhere we move!  Whenever they see a car
or truck, the planes dive out of the sky and chase us.  They
don't care who we are or what we are.  They just shoot."  His cry
was repeated by hundreds of others. ... The US military, it
appears, felt that any vehicle, including those filled with
families, might be a cover for carrying military fuel or other
war materiel, some perhaps related to Scud missiles; and even
carrying civilian fuel was a violation of the embargo.{108}
     At the very end, when the hungry, wounded, sick, exhausted,
disoriented, demoralized, ragged, sometimes barefoot Iraqi army,
which had scarcely shown any desire to fight, left Kuwait and
headed toward Basra in southern Iraq, Saddam tried to salvage a
pathetic scrap of dignity by announcing that his army was
withdrawing because of "special circumstances".  But even this
was too much for George Bush to grant.  "Saddam's most recent
speech is an outrage," declared the president, forcefully.  "He
is not withdrawing.  His defeated forces are retreating.  He is
trying to claim victory in the midst of a rout."
     This could not be permitted.  Thus it was that American air
power in all its majesty swept down upon the road to Basra,
bombing, rocketing, strafing everything that moved in the long
column of Iraqi military and civilian vehicles, troops and
refugees.  The nice, god-fearing, wholesome American GIs, soon to
be welcomed as heroes at home, had a ball ... "we toasted him"
... "we hit the jackpot" ... "a turkey shoot" ... "This morning
was bumper-to-bumper.  It was the road to Daytona Beach at spring
break ... and spring break's over."
     Again and again, as loudspeakers on the carrier Ranger
blared Rossini's "William Tell Overture", the rousing theme song
of the Lone Ranger, one strike force after another took off with
their load of missiles and anti-tank and anti-personnel Rockeye
cluster bombs, which explode into a deadly rain of armor-piercing
bomblets; land-based B-52s joined in with 1000-pound bombs. ...
"It's not going to take too many more days until there's nothing
left of them." ... "shooting fish in a barrel" ... "basically
just sitting ducks" ... "There's just nothing like it.  It's the
biggest Fourth of July show you've ever seen, and to see those
tanks just `boom,' and more stuff just keeps spewing out of them
... they just become white hot.  It's wonderful."
     The British daily, The Independent, although it supported
the war, denounced the glee with which the Americans carried out
the barrage, saying it "turned the stomachs" and was "sickening
to witness a routed army being shot in the back".{109}
     A BBC Radio reporter summed up the attack by asking:  "What
threat could these pathetic remnants of Saddam Hussein's beaten
army have posed?  Wasn't it obvious that the people of the convoy
would have given themselves up willingly without the application
of such ferocious weaponry?"{110}
     And all this against a foe that had for five days been
calling for a cease-fire.
     But heaven forbid that the Americans should offend any of
the people of the Gulf.  Thus it was that GIs were taught things
like never to use their left hand when offering food or drink,
for that hand is traditionally reserved for sanitary functions;
and the proper way to beckon an Arab with one's hand and fingers,
so as not to confuse it with beckoning a dog.{111}
     We also have the story of the American pilot who, during an
earlier bombing operation, stuffed into his identification packet
a $20 bill and a note written in Arabic, Farsi, Turkish and
English.  It said: "I am an American and do not speak your
language.  I bear no malice toward your people."  Then he was
off, roaring through the skies toward Iraq with his payload of
     Did the GIs bear any malice toward their female soldiers-
in-arms?  One post-war study found that more than half the women who
served in the Gulf War felt that they had been sexually harassed
verbally, while eight percent (almost 3,000) had been the objects
of attempted or completed sexual assaults.{113}
     And immediately after George Bush ordered the bombing to
begin, his rating with the American people jumped for joy: an 82
percent approval rating, the highest ever in his two years in
office, higher even than after his invasion of Panama.{114}  One
journalist later noted:

     One minute of nightly truth on this "popular" war would 
     have changed American public opinion. ... if for just 60 
     seconds the 6 o'clock Monday news had shown 5,000 Iraqi 
     soldiers with hideous phosphorous burns that alter human 
     anatomy followed by 60 seconds Tuesday night of the slaughter
     at the Baghdad bomb shelter ... What if on Wednesday Americans 
     had seen 10,000 Iraqi soldiers incinerated by American high-tech 

Ever since the Iraqi invasion in August, and despite the many
confusing soundbites and heavy rhetoric emanating from the White
House, one thing seemed clear enough: if Iraq agreed to withdraw
from Kuwait, military attacks against it would not take place, or
would cease, whatever other punishment or sanctions might
continue.  Thus, it seemed like a ray of hope, however late, when
the Soviet Union succeeded on 21-22 February 1991 in getting Iraq
to agree to withdraw completely the day after a cease-fire of all
military operations went into effect.  The agreement came with
specified timetables and monitoring.{116}
     George Bush refused to offer a cease-fire, per se.  He could
not even bring himself to mention the word in his replies.  All
he would say was that the retreating Iraqi forces would not be
attacked (which turned out to be untrue), and that the coalition
"will exercise restraint."  Saddam could have chosen to take this
as the cease-fire, but he was as proud and stubborn as George.
     The point Bush emphasized the most during these two crucial
days, as well as earlier, was that Iraq must comply with all 12
UN resolutions.  In evaluating Bush's legalistic demands, it
should be kept in mind that the policy and practice of the
American war had repeatedly violated the letter and the spirit of
the United Nations Charter, the Hague Conventions, the Geneva
Conventions, the Nuremberg Tribunal, the protocols of the
International Committee of the Red Cross, and the US
Constitution, amongst other cherished documents.{117}
     In the end, Bush gave Saddam 24 hours to begin withdrawing
from Kuwait, period.  When the time came and went, the United
States launched the long-expected ground war, while the aerial
attacks -- including the carnage on the road to Basra --
continued until the end of the month.
     Said Vitaly Ignatenko, a spokesman for Soviet President
Mikhail Gorbachev:  "It seems that President Gorbachev cares more
about saving the lives of American soldiers than George Bush

In a postwar survey, a United Nations inspection team declared
that the allied bombardment had had a "near apocalyptic impact"
on Iraq and had transformed the country into a "pre-industrial
age nation" which "had been until January a rather highly
urbanized and mechanized society."{119}
     It will never be known how many hundreds of thousands of
Iraqis died from the direct and indirect effects of the war; the
count is added to every day.  With the United States refusing to
end the embargo against Iraq, everything has continued:
malnutrition, starvation, lack of medicines and vaccines,
contaminated drinking water, human excrement piling up, typhoid,
a near-epidemic of measles, several other diseases ... Iraq's
food supply had been 70 percent dependent on imports, now
billions of dollars were frozen in overseas accounts, and with
prohibitive restrictions on selling its oil ... an inability to
rebuild because vital parts could not be imported, industry
closing its doors, mass unemployment, transportation and
communications broken down{120} ... By September 1994, with 
Washington still refusing to release its death grip on the
embargo, the Iraqi government announced that since the sanctions
had begun in August 1990 about 400,000 children had died of
malnutrition and disease.{121}
After the war, when the Iraqi government was repressing a Kurdish revolt -- which the US had encouraged, then failed to support -- Bush said: "I feel frustrated any time innocent civilians are being slaughtered."{122} This was the second time the United States had led the Kurdish lambs to slaughter with a broken commitment. (See Iraq 1972-75 chapter.) The United States had also encouraged the Shiite muslims in Iraq to rebel, then did not back them, presumably because Washington only wanted to drive Saddam up the wall some more, make him irrational enough to incite a coup against him; but Washington was not looking to foster a pro-Iranian regime and inspire muslim fundamentalists elsewhere in the Middle East. American mental hospitals and prisons are home to many people who claim to have heard a voice telling them to kill certain people, people they'd never met before, people who'd never done them any harm, or threatened any harm. American soldiers went to the Persian Gulf to kill the same kind of people after hearing a voice command them: the voice of George Herbert Walker Bush. NOTES return to mid-text 1. Los Angeles Times, 17 March 1991, p. 8. 2. Washington Post, 13 January 1990, p. 11; 8 February 1990. 3. Ibid., 12 February 1990, 16 June 1990, p. 6. 4. Los Angeles Times, 11 July 1990, p. 1. 5. The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 1990 (Wilmington, Del. 1991) 6. a) Ramsey Clark, The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf (Thunder's Mouth Press, NY, 1992), pp. 12-13; this book is based largely on the findings of the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal, which gathered testimony from survivors and eyewitnesses. b) Ralph Schoenman, Iraq and Kuwait: A History Suppressed, pp. 1-11, a 21-page monograph published by Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, CA. c) New York Times, 15 September 1976, p. 17; the incursion was resolved without war. 7. a) "Note from the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tariq Aziz, to the Secretary-General of the Arab League, July 15, 1990", Appendix 1 of Pierre Salinger and Eric Laurent, Secret Dossier: The Hidden Agenda Behind the Gulf War (Penguin Books, New York 1991), pp. 223-234. b) New York Times, 3 September 1990, p. 7. c) Los Angeles Times, 2 December 1990, p. M4 (article by Henry Schuler, director of energy security programs for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington). d) John K. Cooley, Payback: America's Long War in the Middle East (Brassey's [US], McLean, Va., 1991) pp. 183-6. 8. Murray Waas, "Who Lost Kuwait? How the Bush Administration Bungled its Way to War in the Gulf", The Village Voice (New York), 22 January 1991, p. 35; New York Times, 23 September 1990. 9. New York Times, 23 September 1990. 10. Ibid., 25 July 1990, pp. 1, 8. 11. Ibid., 23 September 1990. 12. Ibid., 17 September 1990, p. 23, column by William Safire. 13. Waas, p. 31. 14. New York Times, 28 July 1990, p. 5. 15. Los Angeles Times, 21 October 1992, p. 8. 16. "Developments in the Middle East", p. 14, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 31 July 1990. 17. Kuwaiti document: Los Angeles Times, 1 November 1990, p. 14. 18. Washington Post, 19 August 1990, p. 29. 19. Los Angeles Times, 1 November 1990, p. 14. 20. Schoenman, pp. 11-12; New York Review of Books, 16 January 1992, p. 51. 21. Christian Science Monitor, 5 February 1991, p. 1. 22. Michael Emery, "How Mr. Bush Got His War" in Greg Ruggiero and Stuart Sahulka, eds., Open Fire (The New Press, New York, 1993), pp. 39, 40, 52, based on Emery's interview of King Hussein, 19 February 1991 in Jordan. (Revised version of article in the Village Voice, 5 March 1991). 23. Ibid., p. 42; "they" also referred to the Saudis, for reasons not pertinent to this discussion. 24. Milton Viorst, "A Reporter At Large: After the Liberation", The New Yorker, 30 September 1991, p. 66. 25. Schoenman, pp. 12-13, from a letter sent by the Iraqi Foreign Minister to the Secretary-General of the UN, 4 September 1990; Emery, pp. 32-3. 26. New York Times, 5 August 1990, p. 12. 27. Waas, pp. 30 and 38. 28. New York Times, 24 January 1991, p. D22. 29. Washington Post, 8 March 1991, p. A26. 30. a) Major James Blackwell, US Army Ret., Thunder in the Desert: The Strategy and Tactics of the Persian Gulf War (Bantam Books, New York, 1991), pp. 85-6. b) Triumph Without Victory: The Unreported History of the Persian Gulf War (U.S. News and World Report/Times Books, 1992) pp. 29-30. c) AIR FORCE Magazine (Arlington, Va.), March 1991, p. 82. d) Newsweek, 28 January 1991, p. 61. 31. Los Angeles Times, 5 August 1990, p. 1. 32. Washington Post, 23 June 1991, p. A16. 33. Blackwell, pp. 86-7. 34. Financial Times (London), 21 February 1991, p. 3. 35. Waas, p. 30. 36. New York Times, 31 May 1991. 37. Ibid., 2 August 1990, p. 1; Washington Post, 3 August 1990, p. 7; the Bush quotation is the Post summary of his remarks. 38. New York Times, 3 August 1990; Los Angeles Times, 3 August 1990, p. 1; Washington Post, 3 August 1990, p. 7. 39. Los Angeles Times, 4 August 1990, p. 20. 40. Washington Post, 10 August 1990, p. F1. 41. New York Times, 23 September 1990, IV, p. 21. 42. Washington Post, 25 November 1990, p. C4. 43. Los Angeles Times, 2 October 1990, p. 18. See Washington Post, 10 October 1990, p. 5, and 18 October, p. 1, for some of the actual numbers and programs testifying to how Congress went out of its way not to rock the new war boat. 44. The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 1989 (Wilmington, Del. 1990); ditto for 1990, published in 1991. 45. Reported in many places; see, e.g., Wall Street Journal, 14 January 1991, p. 14; Fortune magazine (New York), 11 February 1991, p. 46; Clark, pp. 153-6; Washington Post, 30 January 1991, p. A30 (IMF and World Bank); Daniel Pipes, "Is Damascus Ready for Peace?", Foreign Affairs magazine (New York), Fall 1991, pp. 41-2 (Syria); Los Angeles Times, 18 June 1992, p. 1 (Turkey); Elaine Sciolino, The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein's Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis (John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1991), pp. 237-9 (China, Russia). 46. Sciolino, pp. 237-8. Baker's exact words differ slightly in several of the sources reporting this incident; also, whether he said it out loud or not; the amount of aid lost by the Yemenis differs widely as well. 47. Los Angeles Times, 4 May 1991, p. 8. 48. The Guardian (London), 9 January 1991. 49. For an analysis of the Bush administration's method of negotiating, see John E. Mack and Jeffrey Z. Rubin, "Is This Any Way to Wage Peace?", Los Angeles Times, 31 January 1991, op. ed.; also see ibid., 1 October 1990, p. 1, and 2 November 1990, p. 18. 50. New York Times, 9 August 1990, p. 15. 51. Los Angeles Times, 6 November 1990, p. 4. 52. August: Robert Parry, "The Peace Feeler That Was", The Nation, 15 April 1991, pp. 480-2; Newsweek, 10 September 1990, p. 17; October: Los Angeles Times, 20 October 1990, p. 6. 53. New border: Wall Street Journal, 11 December 1990, p. 3. 54. Newsweek, 10 September 1990, p. 17 55. Parry, op. cit. 56. Washington Post, 25 November 1990, p. C4. 57. Fortune, op. cit. 58. Ibid. 59. The Guardian (London), 12 January 1991, p. 2. 60. Theodore Draper, "The True History of the Gulf War", The New York Review of Books, 30 January 1992, p. 41. 61. Ibid. 62. Wall Street Journal, 21 November 1990, p. 16. 63. New York Times, 3 August 1990, p. 9; 12 August, p. 1; Los Angeles Times, 17 November 1990, p. 14; Wall Street Journal, 3 December 1990, p. 3. 64. The Observer (London), 21 October 1990. 65. Webster, 23 January 1990, p. 60, and Schwarzkopf, 8 February 1990, pp. 586, 594 of "Threat Assessment; Military Strategy; and Operational Requirements", testimony before Senate Armed Services Committee. 66. Basic Petroleum Data Book (American Petroleum Institute, Washington), September 1990, Section II, Table 1a, 1989 figures: Middle East - 572 billion barrels of reserves, "Free World" - 824 billion, USSR - 84 billion. 67. "Threat Assessment; Military Strategy; and Operational Requirements", op. cit., p. 600, for 1989 figures. 68. Speaking on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, 11 September 1990. 69. Draper, op. cit., p. 41. 70. Judith Miller and Laurie Mylroie, Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf (Times Books, New York, 1990), p. 192. 71. Bob Woodward, The Commanders (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1991), pp. 263-73. 72. Los Angeles Times, 17 October 1990 (hecklers); 17 November, p. 14; 1 December, p. 5. 73. The Guardian (London), 12 September 1990, p. 7. 74. See, e.g., Christopher Hitchens, Harper's Magazine, January 1991, p. 72; Dilip Hiro, The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq Military Conflict (London, 1989), p. 71. US policy had to do with the hostages held in the US embassy in Teheran. 75. Saudi Arabia: Religious intolerance: The arrest, detention and torture of Christian worshippers and Shi'a Muslims (Amnesty International report, New York, 14 September 1993). 76. Miller and Mylroie, pp. 220, 225; Denis MacShane, "Working in Virtual Slavery", The Nation, 18 March 1991. 77. Draper, op. cit., p. 38, provides details. 78. See, as a small sample, Los Angeles Times, 7, 13, and 17 March 1991, 12 June 1991, and 10 July 1992 (Amnesty). 79. All three quotations: Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "White Slaves in the Persian Gulf", Wall Street Journal, 7 January 1991, p. 14. 80. New York Times, 18 November 1990, p. 1. 81. Sciolino, pp. 139-40. 82. Los Angeles Times, 7 May 1991, p. 16; 6 September 1991, p. 17; Clark, p. 92, lists eight countries with whom Washington made such arrangements. 83. "Threat Assessment; Military Strategy; and Operational Requirements", op. cit., pp. 589-90. 84. Scott Armstrong, "Eye of the Storm", Mother Jones magazine, November/December 1991, pp. 30-35, 75-6. 85. Los Angeles Times, 1 December 1990, p. 1. 86. Ibid., 7 June 1991, pp. 1, 30. 87. Los Angeles Times, 12 September 1991, p. 1; Washington Post, 13 September 1991, p. 21; this occurred on 24-25 February 1991. 88. Los Angeles Times, 12 June 1991, p. 1; 26 September, p. 16; occurred on 18 January 1991. 89. United Nations General Assembly Resolution: "Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region of the Middle East", 4 December 1990, Item No. 45/52. 90. New York Times, 24 January 1991, p. 11; 31 January, p. 12; Los Angeles Times, 26 January 1991, p. 6. 91. Clark, pp. 97-8; Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, "Is Military Research Hazardous to Veterans' Health? Lessons from the Persian Gulf", 6 May 1994, pp. 5-6. 92. Peacelink magazine (Hamilton, New Zealand), March 1991, p. 19; Washington Post, 8 February 1991, p. 1. 93. Clark, pp. 98-9. The UKAEA report was obtained and published by The Independent newspaper of London. 94. Needless Deaths in the Gulf War: Civilian Casualties During the Air Campaign and Violations of the Laws of War, a report of Middle East Watch/Human Rights Watch (US and London), November 1991, pp. 95-111, 248-272. 95. Washington Post, 13 February 1991, p. 22, citing Rear Admiral Mike McConnell, intelligence director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 96. The Guardian (London), 20 February 1991, p. 1, entitled: "Bombs rock capital as allies deliver terrible warning". 97. Needless Deaths ... op. cit., pp. 128-47; Clark, pp. 70-72, for an explanation of the 1,500 number and for a particularly gruesome description of the carnage and the horror. 98. "The Gulf War and Its Aftermath", The 1992 Information Please Almanac (Boston 1992), p. 974. 99. Laurie Garrett (medical writer for Newsday), "The Dead", Columbia Journalism Review (New York), May/June 1991, p. 32. 100. Needless Deaths ... op. cit., p. 135. 101. Los Angeles Times, 18 February 1991, p. 11. 102. Effects of the destruction of the electrical system: Needless Deaths ... op. cit., pp. 171-93. Also see Clark, pp. 59-72, for a discussion of the destruction of the infrastructure. 103. Washington Post, 23 June 1991, p. 16; Los Angeles Times, 21 May 1991, p. 1; Needless Deaths ... op. cit., pp. 184-5 (The Harvard Study Team Report discusses the methodology used to derive the figure of 170,000.) 104. Julia Devin, Member of the Coordinating Committee for the International Study Team (87 health and environment researchers who visited Iraq in August 1991), testimony before the International Task Force of the House Select Committee on Hunger, 13 November 1991, p. 40. 105. Washington Post, 23 June 1991, pp. 1 and 16. 106. Needless Deaths ... op. cit., pp. 177-80. 107. Washington Post, 23 June 1991, p. 16. 108. Needless Deaths ... op. cit., pp. 201-24; Clark, pp. 72-4; Los Angeles Times, 31 January 1991, p. 9; 3 February, p. 8; apparently these attacks took place mainly during late January and early February 1991. 109. Road to Basra: Washington Post, 27 February 1991, p. 1; Los Angeles Times, 27 February 1991, p. 1; Ellen Ray, "The Killing Deserts", Lies Of Our Times (New York), April 1991, pp. 3-4 (cites The Independent). 110. Stephen Sackur, On the Basra Road (London Review of Books, 1991), pp. 25-6, cited in Draper, op. cit., p. 42. 111. Los Angeles Times, 24 August 1990. 112. Ibid., 21 January 1991. 113. Ibid., 30 September 1994, p. 26. 114. The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 1991 (Wilmington, Del. 1992). 115. Dennis Bernstein, quoted in the Newsletter of the National Association of Arab Americans (Greater Los Angeles Chapter), July 1991, p. 2. For an excellent description of the media as government handmaiden during the war, see Extra! (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, New York), May 1991, Special issue on the Gulf War. 116. Micah L. Sifry & Christopher Cerf, eds., The Gulf War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (Times Books, New York, 1991), p. 345, for the main provisions of the agreement arrived at between the Soviet and Iraqi foreign ministers. 117. Clark, chapters 8 and 9 and appendices, plus elsewhere, explores all this in detail. 118. Interview with Ignatenko on CBS-TV, aired in Los Angeles during the evening of 22 February 1991. 119. "The Gulf War and Its Aftermath", The 1992 Information Please Almanac (Boston 1992), p. 974. 120. Clark, pp. 75-84. 121. Los Angeles Times, 7 September 1994, p. 6. 122. International Herald Tribune, 5 April 1991.

This is a chapter from

Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II
by William Blum

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