A score ago; a score of criminality unsettled
This past week, the team that put together the well-oiled war machine for Desert Storm – the military designation for the Gulf War – had a commemorative reunion marking the start of that “liberation” conflict against Saddam Hussein’s occupying forces in Kuwait 20 years before. A reunion which provided a recollection of many facts about that war, but which also left other facts of prewar and postwar Iraq unsaid… sordid in some cases, relevant in all.
In attendance, surrounding Bush-Father, Commander-In-Chief of the only superpower then left in the world, was his cadre of former top advisers: Dick Cheney, as Secretary of Defense; James Baker, as Secretary of State; Brent Scowcroft, as National Security Adviser; and Colin Powell, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dan Quayle, US Vice President in 1991, without a role then, or at the reunion, was politely allowed to be present and partake in the old boys’ camaraderie.
Representing Kuwait were H.E. Mohammad Abdullah Abulhasan, then Kuwait’s ambassador to the United Nations, and Sheikh Ahmad Humood Jaber Al-Sabah, in place of that nation’s emir who, one would suspect, was probably too busy last week counting his new batch of petro-dollars, as the price of crude keeps going up, to be bothered with a trip to Texas.
A clean-cut war by all accounts, or “textbook example” of how to go to battle, initiated with both international consensus and UN consent, had relatively few casualties and ended up being paid by those who benefited most from its victorious outcome: notably the petroleum interests in Kuwait, $15 billion; similar interests in Saudi Arabia, $15 billion; and the American war-machine, $10 billion… with the remaining $30 billion, of the total $70 billion war cost, collected from other nations that felt such contribution would prove to be a good investment to resume a smooth oil-flow from the Middle East.
Indeed, it was a “textbook example” of how to go to war. After all, the entire issue of both Saddam Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait, and the expulsion of his troops from that kingdom, had everything to do with oil, both its possession and its distribution. Oil was the causal variable and everything else, including the question of national sovereignty, amounted to no more than intervening, adorning details.
Saddam Hussein miscalculated both his standing with the Arab League and with the United States. He may have considered himself as champion of the Arab cause, the new Saladin, but many of his Arab brethren in power weren’t ready to concede their own wealth and power to him. And his good standing with the US for his warring effort against Iran had come to an end, just as the Iran-Iraq war did. Two years had elapsed since the US had blown up Iranian oil rigs, destroyed a couple of frigates and the USS Vincennes had shot down an Iranian Airbus killing its 290 passengers. A friend to the US in April 1988 did not make Saddam a friend in August 1990 when Iraq declared a “comprehensive and eternal merger” with Kuwait, annexing it as a province (19th).
Saddam Hussein’s approach, and his rationalization for the annexation of Kuwait, did not work for him – blame it on the world’s thirst for oil – but his argument was not so farfetched when you take into account the ethnic, cultural and even historical makeup of Kuwait’s population. Certainly one could agree that the Arab common denominator makes Kuwait more Iraqi than Northern Iraq, mostly populated by ethnic Kurds. But as it’s most often the case, regional wealth plays a key role in geopolitical affairs. And neither Kuwaitis nor their rulers were ready to share their wealth with their less affluent Arab cousins. And that makes for strange bedfellows; where today, outside of NATO, Kuwait is possibly the closest ally the US has, together with Israel, in the Near East and Middle East regions. Well, maybe not an ally but a sympathetic requester of protection, holding the fifth largest oil reserves in the world for a population of barely two and one-half million, excluding the 1 million foreigners in the serving-class. No class struggle in Kuwait, not when you enter the economic upper middle class simply by birthright on a desert land blessed with a prehistoric catagenesis process underground.
But, without a doubt, the most important fact of the Gulf War was missed; and that is, the policies inspired and instituted by the US against Iraq after the war… sanctions which not only caused hardship to the Iraqi people, but were responsible for the death of between 100,000 and 1,000,000 innocent children in the decade following the war (various sources and levels of reliability). Whatever the true figure, something that we’ll never know, it was a true modern day holocaust.
These days, after the killings that took place two weeks ago in Tucson, Arizona on an assassination attempt of a US congresswoman (Giffords), there has been a call for civility in the American political scene. But it isn’t civility that we are lacking in this nation, but something far worse: lack of scruples; something evident when we accept the criminality of our leaders when it comes to waging wars and the killing of innocent people – our infamous collateral damage tinted with human blood – wherever we see fit in the world.
Constitutionally, ours may be a republic, but every indication tends to point to a de facto monarchical plutocracy. That came into evidence during a press interview at this reunion when a news anchor for a major TV network, Brian Williams, addressed the elder Bush deferentially as being the head of the Bush family, in the same light and flattery terms as the Adams family of America’s infancy. Ah… this American nobility!
© 2011 Ben Tanosborn
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