Can we back up
our claims?

by Jim Babka

Claim #4: One of our radio ads claims our government was told in advance by Hussein that he might invade Kuwait in 1990, but we did nothing to deter him. Can we support this claim?

This story is well established. It was widely reported by major newspapers, magazines, and TV networks at the time, but was rarely mentioned again after the first wave of publicity. Some of the details are also discussed in a number of books, including Iraq by Dilip Hiro and A World Transformed, by the former National Security Advisor under Bush, Sr., Brent Scowcroft.

Hussein had three problems with Kuwait:

  • A border dispute dating back to Great Britain's artificial drawing of the lines after World War I.

  • Kuwait was allegedly slant drilling into Iraq's oil fields and stealing its oil.

  • Kuwait was violating its OPEC production agreements in order to drive down the price of oil and bankrupt Iraq.

This last point is interesting because it was essentially a strong-arm tactic Kuwait was using to win concessions from Iraq. Iraq was vulnerable to this tactic because it had borrowed money from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to wage war against Iran in the 1980s. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia had loaned this money because they too were afraid of the revolutionary regime in Iran. The U.S., Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, were all complicit in the war against Iran, and all of them hoped to benefit from it. But now Kuwait was using the loans it had made to Iraq as leverage to win profitable concessions from Hussein with regard to the border dispute and their slant drilling. And Kuwait was turning up the heat by also violating its production agreement. This reduced oil prices generally, and Iraq's oil income in particular.

That summer, the State Department informed Hussein that his dispute with Kuwait was a local matter, and that the U.S. didn't have a diplomatic duty to protect Kuwait if Iraq used military force. This is verified by State Department testimony—during 1990—before congressional committees. But the U.S. tale doesn't end there.

Saddam Hussein told the United States Ambassador to Baghdad that he would not use force against Kuwait provided that the Emir of Kuwait—in a summit that was supposed to occur in July 1990—agreed to end his nation's "economic warfare."

The Ambassador, April Glaspie, told Hussein: "We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960's, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America." She added, "We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly." And Glaspie was confident that there was still time to solve the matter and so shortly thereafter went on vacation.

The Emir of Kuwait was no-show for the summit. Why?

He had assurances from the Pentagon (directed by Dick Cheney) that it would defend Kuwait—even though there was no formal agreement compelling the U.S. to protect them, and even though the U.S. State Department had given Hussein assurances they wouldn't get involved. Hussein, believing he had permission, attacked Kuwait.

Hussein's invasion of Kuwait was not the start of a campaign to conquer the whole region, as the first Bush administration claimed to the American public. It was, instead, a local dispute, primarily over broken business agreements, that was escalated into a major crisis by Bush administration confusion, incompetence and lies about the true cause of the conflict. And it's really not all that surprising. When you have a government as bloated in size as ours, snafu's and miscommunication become the rule. Put another way, it's impossible for the right hand to know what the left hand is doing, especially when there are dozens of left hands.

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