Even before the first day of the Persian Gulf crisis George Bush and the Pentagon wanted to wage war against Iraq.
What was the character of this war? Iraq neither attacked nor threatened the United States. We believe that this was a war to redivide and redistribute the fabulous markets and resources of the Middle East, in other words this was an imperialist war. The Bush administration, on behalf of the giant oil corporations and banks, sought to strengthen its domination of this strategic region. It did this in league with the former colonial powers of the region, namely Britain and France, and in opposition to the Iraqi people’s claim on their own land and especially their natural resources.
As is customary in such wars, the government is compelled to mask the truth about the war – both its origin and goals and the nature of the “enemy” – in order to win over the people of this country. That’s why it is important to get the facts. There is ample evidence that the U.S. was eagerly planning to fight the war even before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. With its plans in tact, we must detemmine if it is possible that the U.S. government actually sought a pretext for a military intervention in the Middle East.
Information that has come to light suggests that the United States interfered in and aggravated the Iraq-Kuwait dispute, knew that an Iraqi military response against Kuwait was likely, and then took advantage of the Iraqi move to carry out a long-planned U.S. military intervention in the Middle East. This evidence includes:
- The tiny, but oil-rich sheikdom of Kuwait became the tool of a U.S.inspired campaign of economic warfare designed to weaken Iraq as a regional power once the Iran-Iraq war ended. During 1989-1990, the Kuwaiti monarchy was overproducing and driving down the price of oil, a policy that cost Iraq $14 billion in lost revenue. Iraq also complained that the Kuwaitis were stealing Iraqi oil by using slant drilling technology into the gigantic Rumaila oil field, most of which is inside Iraq. Kuwait also refused to work out arrangements that would allow Iraq access to the Persian Gulf. In May of 1990 at an Arab League meeting, Saddam Hussein bitterly complained about Kuwait’s policy of “economic warfare” against Iraq and hinted that if Kuwait’s over-production didn’t change Iraq would take military action. Yet the Emir of Kuwait refused to budge. Why would an OPEC country want to drive down the price of oil? In retrospect, it is inconceivable that this tiny, undemocratic little sheikdom, whose ruling family is subject to so much hostility from the Arab masses, would have dared to remain so defiant against Iraq (a country ten times larger than Kuwait) unless Kuwait was assured in advance of protection from an even greater power – namely the United States. This is even more likely when one considers that the Kuwaiti ruling family had in the past tread lightly when it came to its relations with Iraq. Kuwait was traditionally part of Iraq’s Basra Province until 1899 when Britain divided it from Iraq and declared Kuwait its colony.
Coinciding with Kuwait’s overproduction of oil, Iraq was also subjected to the beginning of de facto sanctions, instituted incrementally by a number of western capitalist governments. Hundreds of major scientific, engineering, and food supply contracts between Iraq and western governments were canceled by 1990.
- The U.S. policy to increase economic pressure on Iraq was coupled with a dramatic change in U.S. military doctrine and strategy toward Iraq. Starting in the summer of 1989, the Joint Chiefs of Staff revamped U.S. military doctrine in the Middle East away from a U.S.-Soviet conflict to target regional powers instead. By June 1990 – two months before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait – General Norman Schwarzkopf was conducting sophisticated war games pitting hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops against Iraqi armored divisions.
- The Bush administration lied when it stated on August 8, 1990, that the purpose of the U.S. troop deployment was “strictly defensive” and necessary to protect Saudi Arabia from an imminent Iraqi invasion. King Hussein of Jordan reports that U.S. troops were actually being deployed to Saudi Arabia in the days before Saudi Arabia “invited” U.S. intervention. Hussein says that in the first days of the crisis Saudi King Fahd expressed Support for an Arab diplomatic solution. King Fahd also told King Hussein that there was no evidence of a hostile Iraqi build-up on the Saudi border, and that despite American assertions, there was no truth to reports that Iraq planned to invade Saudi Arabia. The Saudis only bowed to U.S. demands that the Saudis “invite” U.S. troops to defend them following a long meeting between the king and Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney. The real substance of this discussion will probably remain classified for many, many years.
On September 11, 1990, Bush also told a joint session of Congress that “following negotiations and promises by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein not to use force, a powerful army invaded its trusting and much weaker neighbor, Kuwait. Within three days, 120,000 troops with 850 tanks had poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia. It was then I decided to act to check that aggression.” However, according to Jean Heller of the St. Petersburg Times (of Florida), the facts just weren’t as Bush claimed. Satellite photographs taken by the Soviet Union on the precise day Bush addressed Congress failed to show any evidence of Iraqi troops in Kuwait or massing along the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border. While the Pentagon was claiming as many as 250,000 Iraqi troops in Kuwait, it refused to provide evidence that would contradict the Soviet satellite photos. U.S. forces, encampments, aircraft, camouflaged equipment dumps, staging areas and tracks across the desert can easily be seen. But as Peter Zimmerman, formerly of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in the Reagan Administration, and a former image specialist for the Defense Intelligence Agency, who analyzed the photographs for the St. Petersburg Times said:
We didn’t find anything of that sort [i.e. comparable to the U.S. buildup] anywhere in Kuwait. We don’t see any tent cities, we don’t see congregations of tanks, we can’t see troop concentrations, and the main Kuwaiti air base appears deserted. It’s five weeks after the invasion, and from what we can see, the Iraqi air force hasn’t flown a single fighter to the most strategic air base in Kuwait. There is no infrastructure to support large numbers of people. They have to use toilets, or the functional equivalent. They have to have food…. But where is it?
On September 18, 1991, only a week after the Soviet photos were taken, the Pentagon was telling the American public that Iraqi forces in Kuwait had grown to 360,000 men and 2,800 tanks. But the photos of Kuwait do not show any tank tracks in southern Kuwait. They clearly do show tracks left by vehicles which serviced a large oil field, but no tank tracks. Heller concludes that as of January 6, 1991, the Pentagon had not provided the press or Congress with any proof at all for an early buildup of Iraqi troops in southern Kuwait that would suggest an imminent invasion of Saudi Arabia. The usual Pentagon evidence was little more than “trust me.” But photos from Soviet commercial satellites tell quite a convincing story. Photos taken on August 8, 1990, of southern Kuwait – six days after the initial invasion and right at the moment Bush was telling the world of an impending invasion of Saudi Arabia – show light sand drifts over patches of roads leading from Kuwait City to the Saudi border. The photos taken on September 11, 1990, show exactly the same sand drifts but now larger and deeper, suggesting that they had built up naturally without the disturbance of traffic for a month. Roads in northern Saudi Arabia during this same period, in contrast, show no sand drifts at all, having been swept clean by heavy traffic of supply convoys. The former DIA analyst puts it this way: “In many places the sand goes on for 30 meters and more.” Zirnmerman’s analysis is that “They [roads] could be passable by tank but not by personnel or supply vehicles. Yet there is no sign that tanks have used those roads. And there’s no evidence of new roads being cut. By contrast, none of the roads in Saudi Arabia has any sand cover at all. They’ve all been swept clear.”
It would have taken no more than a few thousand soldiers to hold Kuwait City, and that is all satellite evidence can support. The implication is obvious: Iraqi troops who were eventually deployed along the Kuwait-Saudi Arabian border were sent there as a response to U.S. build up and were not a provocation for Bush’s military action. Moreover, the manner in which they were finally deployed was purely defensive – a sort of Maginot Line against the massive and offensive mobilization of U.S. and Coalition forces just over the border with Saudi Arabia.
That the Bush administration wanted the war is obvious by its steadfast refusal to enter into any genuine negotiations with Iraq that could have achieved a diplomatic solution. Iraq’s August 12, 1990, negotiation proposal, which indicated that Iraq was willing to make significant concessions in return for a comprehensive discussion of other unresolved Middle East conflicts, was rejected out of hand by the Bush administration. So was another Iraqi offer made in December that was reported by Knut Royce in Newsday.
President Bush avoided diplomacy and negotiations, even refusing to send Secretary of State Baker to meet Saddam Hussein before the January 15, 1991 deadline as he had promised on November 30, 1990. Bush also rejected Iraq’s withdrawal offer of February 15, 1991, two days aver U.S. planes incinerated hundreds of women and children sleeping in the al-Arneriyah bomb shelter. The Iraqis immediately agreed to the Soviet proposal of February 18, 1991 – that is four days before the so-called ground war was launched – which required Iraq to abide by all UN resolutions.
The U.S. ground war against Iraqi positions resulted in the greatest number of casualties in the conflict. As many as 50,000 to 100,000 Iraqi soldiers may have died after the Iraqi government had fully capitulated to all U.S. and UN demands. It is thus obvious that the U.S. government did not fight the war to secure Iraq’s eviction from Kuwait but rather proceeded with this unparalleled massacre for other foreign policy objectives. These objectives have never been defined for the broader public but only referred to euphemistically under the rubric of the New World Order.
What is the New World Order, what does the U.S. expect to get out of it and what is the “new thing” in the world that makes a new order possible? It is Bush’s assumption that the Soviet Union is willing, under the Gorbachev leadership, to support U.S. foreign policy in the Third World. The U.S. figures that if the Soviets are willing to abandon Iraq and their other traditional allies in the Third World then the U.S. and other western at capitalist countries can return to their former dominant position in various areas of the world. How the U.S. conducted the war shows that the permanent weakening of Iraq is a key part in the New World Order.
Although the Soviet role has changed dramatically, the goals of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East have remained basically the same, with some shifts in tactics based on varied conditions. The basic premise of U.S. policy has been to eliminate or severely weaken any nationalist regime that challenges U.S. dominance and control over the oil-rich region. The military strategy employed against Iraq not only aimed at military targets, but the “bombing raids have destroyed residential areas, refineries, and power and water facilities, which will affect the population for years.” As early as September 1990, the administration, according to a speech by Secretary of State James Baker, changed the strategic goals of the U.S. military intervention to include not only the “liberation of Kuwait” but the destruction of Iraq’s military infrastructure.
That the U.S. sought to permanently weaken or crush Iraq, as a regional power capable of asserting even a nominal challenge to U.S. dominance over this strategic oil-rich region, fits in with a longer historical pattern. Since the discovery of vast oil deposits in the Middle East, and even earlier, the strategy of the U.S. and other European colonial powers was to prevent the emergence of any strong nationalist regime in the region. The U.S. has relied on corrupted and despised hereditary monarchies and dictatorships in the Middle East. Such regimes have served as puppets for U.S. interests in exchange for U.S. protection. When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979 by a massive popular revolution, it came as a complete shock to U.S. oil companies, the CIA, and the Pentagon, which used the hated Shah as a pro-U.S. policeman of the Gulf region.
The Iran-Iraq war was seen as a new opportunity to recoup U.S. losses from the Iranian revolution. Starting in 1982 the U.S. encouraged and provided arms and satellite information to the Iraqi government in its fight against Iran – the Reagan/Bush administration’s principal goal was to weaken and contain Iran in order to limit its regional influence. The Iran-Iraq war did indeed weaken Iran, squandering much of the human and material resources of the revolution.
Having weakened Iran, the goal was then to weaken Iraq and make sure that it could not develop as a regional power capable of challenging U.S. domination. After the war ended, U.S. policy toward Iraq shifted, becoming increasingly hostile. The way U.S. policy shifted is quite revealing; it bears all the signs of a well-planned conspiracy. The cease-fire between Iran and Iraq officially began on August 20, 1988. On September 8, 1988, Iraqi Foreign Minister Sa’dun Hammadi was to meet with U.S. Secretary of State George Schulz. The Iraqis had every reason to expect a warm welcome in Washington and to begin an era of closer cooperation on trade and industrial development. Instead, at 12:30 p.m., just two hours before the meeting and with no warning to Hammadi whatsoever, State Department spokesman Charles Redman called a press conference and charged that “The U.S. Government is convinced that Iraq has used chemical weapons in its military campaign against Kurdish guerillas. We don’t know the extent to which chemical weapons have been used but any use in this context is abhorrent and unjustifiable…. We expressed our strong concern to the Iraqi Government which is well aware of our position that the use of chemical weapons is totally unjustifiable and unacceptable.”
Redman did not allude to any evidence at all nor was the Iraqi government warned of the charges by the State Department. Rather, when Hammadi arrived at the State Department two hours later for his meeting with Schulz, he was besieged by members of the press asking him questions about the massacre. Hammadi was completely unable to give coherent answers. He kept asking the reporters why they were asking him about this. Needless to say the meeting with Schulz was a dismal failure for Iraq’s expectations of U.S. assistance in rebuilding after the Iran-Iraq war. Within twenty-four hours of Redman’s press release, the Senate voted unanimously to impose economic sanctions on Iraq which would cancel sales of food and technology. Following September 8, 1988 is a two year record that amounts to economic harassment of Iraq by the American State Department, press, and Congress. Saddam Hussein alluded to this period many times during the lead-up to the war and the war itself. On February 15, 1991, in the preamble to his cease-fire proposal, he said “The years 1988 and 1989 saw sustained campaigns in the press and other media and by other officials in the United States and other imperialist nations to pave the way for the fulfillment of vicious aims [i.e., the present war]. The Washington Post‘s story on the cease-fire proposal of February 15, 1991 was titled simply: ‘Baghdad’s Conspiracy Theory of Recent History.”[l3] Some conspiracies theories just happen to be true!
The Bush administration has never presented any evidence whatsoever for its charges that Iraq used poison gas on its own citizens. Rather it has simply repeated the charges over and over in the press. This event is analyzed in considerable detail in a study published by the Army War College called, Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle East. The authors of that study conclude that the charges were false but used by the U.S. government to change public opinion toward Iraq. They even go so far as to suggest a conspiracy against Iraq: “The whole episode of seeking to impose sanctions on Iraq for something that it may not have done would be regrettable but not of great concern were this an isolated event. Unfortunately, there are other areas of friction developing between our two countries.”[l4]
If the first part of the strategy was to create hostility and economic hardships, then the war was the second phase. The massive bombardment of Iraq coupled with the continued economic sanctions after the war completes a two-part strategy designed to leave Iraq both in a weakened state and dependent on western aid and bank loans for any reconstruction effort. The U.S. will want to have a puppet government in Baghdad, and even if it is impossible to impose a Shah-type government on the Iraqi people, the Bush administration assumes that a war-ravaged country that is economically dependent on the U.S. and European capitalist powers or on UN humanitarian aid will be forced into a subservient position.
We believe that the real goal of the United States war against Iraq is to return to the “good old days” when the U.S. and some European countries totally plundered the resources of the Middle East. Five of the twelve largest corporations in the United States are oil monopolies. Before the rise of Arab nationalism and the anti-feudal revolutions that swept out colonialist regimes in Iraq and other Middle Eastem countries in the 1950s and 1960s, U.S., British, and Dutch oil companies owned Arab and Iranian oil fields outright. Between 1948 and 1960 U.S. oil companies received $13 billion in profit from their Persian Gulf holdings. That was half the return on all overseas investment by all U.S. companies in those years.
In recent decades U.S. companies no longer directly own the oil fields of the Middle East, but they still get rich from them. That is because the royal families of the oil-rich Arabian peninsula, who were put on their thrones by the British empire and are kept there by the U.S. military and the CIA, have loyally turned their kingdoms into cash cows for Wall Street banks and corporations.
This is one way it works. Money spent on Saudi Arabian oil, for example, once went into the accounts of Rockefeller-controlled oil corporations at the Rockefeller-controlled Chase Manhattan Bank. Now it is deposited in the Saudi king’s huge account at Chase Manhattan which reinvests it at a hefty profit to the Rockefellers. Chase Manhattan also manages the Saudi Industrial Development Fund and the Saudi Investment Bank. Morgan Guaranty Trust Company, which is linked to Mobil and Texaco, has a representative on the Board of the Saudi Monetary Authority and controls another big chunk of the kingdom’s income. Citicorp handles much of the Emir of Kuwait’s $120 billion investment portfolio.[l5] The total amount that the Gulf’s feudal lords have put at the disposal of the western bankers is conservatively estimated at $1 trillion. It is probably much more.
While the big oil companies have a going partnership with the feudal rulers of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, etc., they are relatively locked out of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Yemen, and Algeria. The goal of the U.S. war is to roll back the Arab revolution and all the other revolutionary movements that have swept the region since World War II.
The New World Order that Bush has in mind is, in fact, not so new. It is an attempt to turn the clock back to the pre-World War II era of unchallenged colonial domination and plunder of the land, labor, and resources of Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East by a handful of industrialized capitalist countries. Unlike the old world order of outright colonialism, the new world order will be imposed by Stealth aircraft, guided missiles, smart bombs, and tactical nuclear weapons – not l9th-century gunboats. This is based on grand geopolitical strategy that flows like water from Pentagon-sponsored think tanks in Washington. It leaves out the most important factor in the equation of the Middle East – the broad mass of the people whose hatred for foreign domination and capacity to struggle remains as powerful as ever.
The U.S. and its imperialist allies have won a temporary victory in the Middle East. But their policy of military domination to stop the natural progression of history – for people to liberate themselves from the yoke of colonialism – cannot succeed.