[Forward from AML (ACTIV-L) -- see bottom for more info] A better title for this article,

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[Forward from AML (ACTIV-L) -- see bottom for more info] ------------------------------------------------------------------ A better title for this article, despite its rhetoric that "Taking the official at his word, the only possible explanation of the Bush administration's miscalculations in the days before the invasion is sheer incompetence on the part of the president and his men." "Now that we are at war, it can be said that the Bush administration's actions in those days almost certainly constitute the worst diplomatic failure by any modern president." is "The Baiting of Saddam", not "diplomatic bungling" ################################################################## From dave%ratmandu.csd.sgi.com@SGI.COM Thu Feb 14 02:37:17 1991 Date: Wed, 13 Feb 91 12:31:05 CST Sender: Activists Mailing List To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ the following appeared in the "VILLAGE VOICE," January 22, 1991 Slouching Toward Baghdad: How Diplomatic Bungling Brought Us to the Brink By Murray Waas Five days before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, President Bush was briefed by William H. Webster, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. This reporter has learned that Webster warned that Saddam Hussein was likely to invade Kuwait, predicting that Iraq would probably seize only a small part and not the whole country (although, he hedged, that was a possibility). Webster told Bush that the Iraqis would take the Kuwaiti side of the Rumaila oil fields straddling the Iraq-Kuwait border and the islands of Bubiyan and Warba. Iraqi control of the latter would provide Baghdad's first unrestricted access to the Persian Gulf in its history. Despite this strong personal warning from Webster, high-level spokespersons for the Bush administration, including Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs John H. Kelly, continued to state publicly, for the world and Saddam Hussein to hear, that the U.S. would remain neutral in any Iraq-Kuwait conflict, asserting that the U.S. had no obligation to come to Kuwait's aid militarily. As the possibility of an invasion became clear to midlevel U.S. intelligence and diplomatic officials, they recommended that the administration reverse its neutral public stance, and send a strong message to Saddam that there would be U.S. retribution for any invasion. But those warnings were ignored by Secretary of State James Baker and the president. Since the invasion, highly classified U.S. intelligence assessments have determined that Saddam took U.S. statements of neutrality in the Iraq-Kuwait conflict as a green light from the Bush administration for an invasion. One senior Iraqi military official, who has proved to be a valuable source of information for the CIA in the past, has told the agency that Saddam seemed to be sincerely surprised by the subsequent bellicose reaction of the Bush administration following the August 2 invasion. Says one senior diplomatic official: "If Saddam claims to have been confused and baffled by our signals--before and after the invasion--we have only ourselves to blame." In an interview with this reporter, a senior administration insider bristled at the suggestion made by some intelligence analysts that the Bush administration would have acquiesced in an Iraqi annexation of the oil field and the two islands. "Our position then was what it is now: such a seizure is a violation of international law and unacceptable to this administration." Taking the official at his word, the only possible explanation of the Bush administration's miscalculations in the days before the invasion is sheer incompetence on the part of the president and his men. It is impossible to say for sure whether Iraq would have invaded Kuwait if the administration's rhetoric had been remotely the same before August 2 as it has been since. Now that we are at war, it can be said that the Bush administration's actions in those days almost certainly constitute the worst diplomatic failure by any modern president. Sending the First Message: No Sanctions Why didn't President Bush and his administration send a strong message to Saddam prior to the invasion in an effort to prevent war? Iraqi intentions were hardly a closely guarded secret in the weeks and months prior to the invasion. As early as Feb. 24, 1990, during a meeting of the Arab Co-operation Council held in Amman, Jordan, Saddam took Jordan's King Hussein and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak aside and made an ominous threat: Kuwait and Saudi Arabia must not only forgive the $30 billion in debt Iraq incurred during its war with Iran but also provide Iraq with an additional $30 billion in new grants. If they did not comply, Hussein warned, reprisals would be taken by Iraq. Hussein's private comments to the two Arab heads of state were relayed almost immediately to U.S. intelligence officials, sources say. As Saddam stepped up the shakedown of his neighbors, the Bush administration was winking at him. On Apr. 12, 1990, the Iraqi leader met with a delegation of U.S. senators headed by minority leader Robert Dole. Saddam harangued his guests about a Voice of America broadcast critical of his regime as well as efforts in Congress to impose economic sanctions on Iraq over human rights abuses. Dole, saying he was speaking on behalf of the president, reassured Saddam that neither of those actions properly reflected the policy of the Bush administration, according to a transcript of the meeting that was made public by the Iraqi government. (Dole and the other U.S. participants have not denied the accuracy of the transcript.) A low- level VOA bureaucrat was responsible for the broadcast, Dole explained. The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, had already given Saddam a similar explanation of the incident, diplomatic sources say. As for economic sanctions, Dole reassured Saddam that the Bush administration was opposed to them as well. "We believe, as leaders in the U.S. Congress, that Congress does not represent Bush or the government," Dole told Saddam. "I assume Bush will object to the sanctions. He may veto them unless something provocative occurs." When the Iraqi strongman continued to complain about an alleged "large-scale campaign" against Iraq by the United States and Europe, Dole shot back that its impetus "was not from President Bush." To buttress Dole's remarks, Senate Minority Whip Alan Simpson added that the U.S. media was to blame for any mischief at Iraq's expense. The American press, Simpson told the dictator, was "spoiled and conceited." This he knew, the senator explained, from personal experience. Dole and Simpson met with President Bush when they returned to Washington in late April, and counseled forbearance toward Saddam. It was a message George Bush was ready to hear. When Iraq's war with Iran ended in August 1988, many in the Reagan administration argued unsuccessfully that the tilt toward Iraq should end. Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead and analysts at the CIA sent memos recommending that course. But Bush opposed this policy, high-level administration officials say, arguing that those concerned about Iraqi human rights abuses and development of chemical and nuclear weapons were being shortsighted. Once he became president, Bush insisted that they were refusing to see the long-term, positive role Iraq might someday play in the Middle East. Within days of meeting with Dole, according to intelligence officials, Saddam ordered his top military commanders to secretly prepare a contingency plan for invading Kuwait. During this same period, Saddam met with Kuwaiti and Saudi diplomats and once again demanded help in retiring his war debt, according to Saudi and Kuwaiti accounts provided almost contemporaneously to the Bush administration. The two neighboring countries committed sums of money considerably less than the $60 billion Saddam wanted: the Saudis offered $200 million, the Kuwaitis $40 million. Saddam was incensed. The Second Message: All's Fair Secretary Baker, appearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee on Apr. 25, was unexpectedly confronted by Frank Lautenberg (Democrat, New Jersey) about the administration's "forbearance" on Iraq. "We [have] heard from President Hussein of Iraq too often, too bellicose," Lautenberg said. "On Apr. 2, he threatened to scorch half of Israel with a binary chemical weapon . . . The testimony of numerous arms experts proves that Iraq is developing or already has nuclear capabilities despite their denials." In an extraordinary and previously unreported statement (since the routine hearing on the State Department's budget attracted little press attention), Baker appeared to give credence to Iraq's rationale for developing chemical weapons: "Let me say that, at least, the use of chemical weapons we view very seriously and it is very disturbing to us. Having said that, I must tell you what Saddam Hussein told members of the Senate [referring to the Dole mission] who visited with him last week. "And I am not vouching for these statements. I am simply reporting to you what was reported to us. And that is . . . chemical weapons [would be used only] on the assumption that Iraq would have been attacked by nuclear weapons. At least that is what he says. `If we are attacked by nuclear weapons we will respond with the only [similar weapon] we have, which is chemical weapons.' "I am not taking sides in that argument. I am just stating that." Baker's testimony was extraordinary for a number of reasons. Although the Reagan and Bush administration had done little to discourage Iraq's use of chemical weapons, at least in public statements it had always spoken in a unified voice to condemn these indiscriminate weapons of terror. Though neither administration really backed up its rhetoric with action--Reagan opposed congressional attempts to impose economic sanctions on Iraq only one day after then secretary of state George Shultz denounced Iraq for using poison gas--at least the United States was on the record as unequivocally opposed to the use of chemical weapons. Baker's statement made them seem to be a potentially legitimate part of any deterrence equation. If the American press was too busy to report Baker's remarks, one important audience was listening: U.S. intelligence sources have told this reporter that Baker's comments were cabled back to Baghdad from its Washington embassy and are believed to have been made known to Saddam Hussein personally. A History Lesson for the State Department The same intelligence sources say that the very next day an Iraqi embassy officer attended a House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on "U.S.-Iraqi Relations." And once again, the Bush administration was to send the wrong message to Saddam. Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly had some of the toughest words the Reagan and Bush administrations were to have for Iraq prior to the invasion of Kuwait. Kelly told the subcommittee on Apr. 26 that certain "Iraqi actions have raised questions about Iraqi intentions in the region." He cited Saddam's criticism of U.S. naval power in the gulf, the murder of an Iraqi dissident in the U.S. with the apparent sanction of the Iraqi government, and the execution of a British newspaper reporter on the charge of spying. Anyone who construed Kelly's statement to signal a tougher policy toward Iraq was disappointed to hear the rest of what he had to say that afternoon. Kelly made clear that the Bush administration policies remained the same. The White House still opposed economic sanctions of any kind. Kelly even went on to praise Saddam for "talking about a new constitution and an expansion of participatory democracy." By the end of the day, it was evident that Kelly was more comfortable in his familiar role as an apologist for Saddam. "You drew a dichotomy between words and deeds," Representative Tom Lantos (D-California) said after Kelly claimed to believe Saddam's threats against Israel were only rhetorical. "We are not dealing with words, although the words that Saddam Hussein is spewing forth, I have not heard since Adolf Hitler. I believe Saddam Hussein. I don't think he would have the slightest pangs of conscience for killing half the people living in Israel. He would probably rejoice and have a banquet at the end of the day. "At what point will the administration recognize that this is not a nice guy, and that conceivably sanctions are appropriate?" Lantos asked. "They were appropriate vis-a-vis Nicaragua in the previous administration. Did Nicaragua have a worse human rights record? Did Nicaragua threaten to wipe out its neighbors with poison gas? Did Nicaragua use poison gas on the contras?" Kelly insisted Saddam was only engaging in rhetoric: "I remember hearing Khrushchev saying I will bury you," he retorted. "You know the context," an angered Lantos responded. "It's related to economic competition. I don't think it is fair for you to retroactively reinterpret Khrushchev's comments. Nobody in the American government took these words to mean a physical annihilation of the United States. You are the first one to make this observation." "That may be true," Kelly lamely replied. "I was not in the government at the time." "But you were an adult and you heard that statement?" asked Lantos. "I don't think I had reached voting age." Just what message that little exchange sent Saddam is anybody's guess. Go to War for Kuwait? Not This Administration Continuing to think he had nothing to fear from the Bush administration, Saddam stepped up his pressure on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. On May 28, during the Arab League Summit in Baghdad, Saddam accused his fellow Arabs of engaging in an "economic war against Iraq." He said that if things weren't settled soon, he might be willing to go to war. Meanwhile, Iraq's intentions for Kuwait were becoming more apparent. On July 11 at a special meeting of OPEC, Iraq was unsuccessful in convincing other members of the cartel to raise oil prices and limit production. Saddam's anger at the Saudis and Kuwaitis hardened: not only had they refused to help him retire his war debt, but their refusal to raise oil prices would cause irreparable harm to the Iraqi economy. On July 16, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, attending the Arab summit in Tunisia, shocked his fellow diplomats by declaring, "We are sure some Arab states are involved in a conspiracy against us. And we want you to know, our country will not kneel and our women will not become prostitutes and our children will not be barred from food." The very next day, Saddam threatened military action during a speech to a large crowd in Baghdad. "Countries which hurt Iraq should remember an old Iraqi saying that cutting a neck is better than cutting a means of life." Few high up in the Bush administration took note. But one of those who had been receiving intelligence reports about Iraqi troops massing on the Kuwaiti border was Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. On July 19, Cheney told reporters during a press briefing that the United States was committed to militarily defend Kuwait if attacked. (Cheney was only reiterating a longstanding policy: The Reagan administration had assured Kuwait during the Iran-Iraq war that it would militarily defend it against attack, although the promise was made, ironically, because Kuwait, then allied with Iraq, feared an attack from Iran.) Shortly after Cheney's comments were reported in the press, they were quickly repudiated by his spokesperson, Pete Williams, who explained that the secretary had spoken with "some degree of liberty." According to one senior Defense Department source, "the White House cut the secretary down to size rather quickly. They said, `You're committing us to war we might not want to fight.'" Adds the official: "He was told quite pointedly that from then on, statements on Iraq would be made by the White House and State Department." From that date on, the Bush administration did speak with one voice--a consistent one that assured Saddam the U.S. would look the other way if Iraq were to attack Kuwait. On July 24, State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutwiler, asked during a press briefing about whether the U.S. had any commitment to militarily defend Kuwait, responded: "We do not have any defense treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait." The very next day, July 25, Saddam was personally told the same by no less than the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie. Two days later, on July 27, both the Senate and House voted to impose limited economic sanctions against Iraq. The proposed sanctions would have prohibited further agricultural credits to Iraq, which during the Reagan and Bush administrations had already climbed to a total of more than $4.5 billion. Although appearing to be substantive, the sanctions would have been little more than symbolic. To gain a majority in both houses to support them, the sanctions were amended to include a provision granting the president broad powers to simply waive any part or all of them if he judged they could potentially harm the export competitiveness of the U.S. Such a provision, considering the administration's past support for Saddam, would hardly have been crippling. Still, the Bush administration mounted an aggressive and ultimately successful campaign to make sure that the sanctions were defeated. Let's Make This Perfectly Clear: What's a Border Dispute? Early on the morning of July 28, CIA director William Webster and a small contingent of aides--including Richard Stolz, the deputy director of operations--arrived at the White House to inform President Bush that they believed that an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was imminent. But Webster told the president that the Iraqis were more likely to only annex the Rumaila oil fields and the two islands. To substantiate their claims, the CIA officials were armed with satellite photos showing Iraqi troops massed near the Kuwaiti border. Two CIA experts on satellite imaging accompanied Webster to the White House, in case Bush had detailed questions; but the president showed little interest. (A White House spokesperson refused to confirm or deny that such a briefing was ever held for the president. A spokesperson for the CIA, Mark Mansfield, told this reporter he could only say that the CIA furnished the White House with "very useful and timely information.") Despite Webster's personal warning, spokespersons for the Bush administration in the four days remaining before the invasion continued to insist the U.S. would remain neutral and not come to Kuwaits assistance. Then on July 31, just two days before the invasion, another senior official of the.Bush administration would leave little doubt with Saddam that the U.S. would not come to the rescue of Kuwait if it was attacked. The occasion was yet another appearance by Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly before House foreign affairs subcommittee. By this time, analysts at both the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency reportedly had reached a consensus that some type of Iraqi military action against Kuwait was imminent, although there were disagreements as to whether Saddam was simply targeting the Rumaila oil fields and the two islands or the entire country. Despite this new assessment, Kelly told the congressmen in a prepared statement: "Historically, the U.S. has taken no position on the border disputes in the area, not on matters pertaining to internal OPEC deliberations." The subcommittee chairman, Representative Lee Hamilton (Democrat, Indiana), who opposed U.S. military intervention at he time, pressed Kelly more specifically: "I read a statement . . . in the press [in which] Secretary Cheney said the United States' commitment was to come to . . . Kuwait's defense if attacked. And I wondered if . . . I'm not sure that's an accurate statement, but that's what I read in the press. Perhaps you could clarify for me just what our commitment is." Asserting that he had never even heard of Cheney's statement, Kelly said: "We have no defense treaty relationship with any gulf country. That is clear. . . . We have not historically taken a position on border disputes." Hamilton pressed Kelly further, apparently to make sure the U.S. was not about to become involved in a war in the Persian Gulf: "If Iraq . . . charged across the border into Kuwait--what would be our position with regard to the use of U.S. forces? . . . It is correct to say, however, that we do not have a treaty commitment which would obligate us to engage U.S. forces there?" "That is correct." Kelly responded. Whatever little doubt, whatever slight ambiguity existed about the U.S. position on an Iraqi takeover of Kuwait was now gone, thanks to the public statement of a senior Bush administration policymaker. Two days later, Iraqi troops crossed the border into Kuwait. Who Lost Kuwait? Saddam's understanding that the Bush administration had given him a green light to invade could not have been any more emphatically reinforced than it was one week before the invasion, at a July 25 meeting at the Presidential Palace with Ambassador Glaspie. The Iraqi government gave a transcript of that meeting to ABC News in September. The Bush administration has not refuted the accuracy of the Iraqi transcription--knowing with virtual certainty that Saddam had secretly taped the meeting. Saddam left little doubt during the two-hour meeting that he was considering an invasion of Kuwait. He bluntly told Glaspie that he considered Kuwait to be engaging in acts of war against Iraq by not assisting with Iraq's war debt or agreeing to limit its production of oil. If Iraq attacked, Saddam explained, it would be because Kuwait was already at war with Iraq. "When planned and deliberate policy forces the price of oil down without good commercial means, then that means another war against Iraq," Saddam told Glaspie. "Military war kills people, but economic war kills their humanity by depriving them of their chance to have a good standard of living. As you know, we gave rivers of blood in a war that lasted eight years, but we did not lose our humanity. Iraqis have a right to live proudly. We do not accept that anyone could injure Iraqi pride or the Iraqi right to have a high standard of living. [Kuwait has been] at the forefront of that policy. . . . "We want others to know that our patience is running out, regarding their actions [which deny] even the milk our children drink, and the pensions of the widow who lost her husband during the war. . . . We are not aggressors, but we do not accept aggression either." Saddam even went so far as to warn Glaspie he would not fear U.S. military retaliation after an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. "You can come to Iraq with aircraft and missiles," he told her, "but do not push us to the point we cease to care." Then he exploded, ominously: "And when we feel that you want to injure our pride and take away the Iraqi's chance of a high standard of living, then we will cease to care and death will be the choice for us. Then we would not care if you fired 100 missiles for each missile we fired because without pride life would have no value." Later, Saddam warned Glaspie, "Yours is a not society which can accept 10,000 dead in one battle." Incredible as it now seems, the American ambassador had no forceful words to discourage Saddam from invading Kuwait. Instead, the transcript shows, even as Saddam was making his intentions known, Glaspie was openly expressing sympathy for his attitude toward Kuwait. "We studied history at school," Glaspie told him. Then she compared his plight to that of America's Founding Fathers. "They taught us to say, `Freedom or death.' I think you know well that we as a people have our own experience with colonialists." And then Glaspie went on to tell Saddam that the Bush administration wanted only closer relations with Iraq, pointing out that the president himself "had [directed his] administration to reject the suggestion of implementing trade sanctions." But Saddam wasn't in a conciliatory mood. Bush had clamped down recently (too late and still in only a quite limited fashion) on sales of U.S. goods that could be used for military purposes or enhance Iraq's capabilities to execute chemical and biological war. "There is nothing left for us to buy from America," Saddam complained. "Only wheat. Because every time we want to buy something, they say it is forbidden. I am afraid that one day you will say, `You are going to make gunpowder out of wheat.'" Glaspie could have defended the new efforts to enforce the export restrictions, pointing to any one of a number of instances in which Saddam had broken his word and converted "dual use" items for the military. She could have cited the example of the Bell 214 helicopters sent to Iraq, which the Iraqi government promised would be restricted to be used only for "recreation" but were converted for military purposes. U.S. intelligence reports crossing her desk noted the use of analogue computer systems for missile guidance and forges that were used to manufacture artillery barrels. Or she could have cited the 1985 Iraqi request of the Centers for Disease Control for three shipments of the rare West Nile Fever Virus for "research on viruses." The viruses ended up as part of Iraq's biological warfare program, used by the Iraqis to infect Israeli soldiers at two military installations. Instead, Glaspie was apologetic, letting Saddam know that she was there to serve him: "I have a direct instruction from the president to seek better relations with Iraq." The most extraordinary event of the Saddam-Glaspie meeting, however, is that Glaspie, without having been solicited to do so, signaled to Saddam that the U.S. would do nothing if Iraq invaded Kuwait. "We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreements with Kuwait. I was in the American embassy in Kuwait during the late '60s. The instructions we had during that period were that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed out official spokesman to emphasize the instruction." Chivalry Is Dead After the invasion of Kuwait and after the Iraqis made public a transcript of the Hussein-Glaspie meeting, the White House attempted to make the ambassador into a scapegoat of sorts, emphasizing that she left for a vacation right after her meeting with Saddam--just two days before the invasion. "I thought to postpone my trip because of the difficulties we are facing," she told Saddam at the end of the meeting. Feeling reassured after speaking to him she changed her mind. "Now I will fly on Monday." After returning to Washington, Glaspie was confined to a desk job and was told she would not return to Iraq. Soon thereafter, the White House began to leak stories to favored reporters, in part blaming miscalculations by Glaspie for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Glaspie's defenders in the State Department countered with their own campaign of leaks, making it known that Glaspie's statements to Saddam only followed the strict instructions of a cable signed by James Baker. Baker admitted on a Sunday morning talk show that there was such a cable signed by him, but said that he shouldn't be held responsible, claiming that it was only one among "probably 312,000 cables or so that go out under my name." Glaspie wasn't the only one to be sandbagged with responsibility for the invasion fiasco. The White House also orchestrated a series of leaks, according to a U.S. intelligence official, blaming the CIA for losing Kuwait. "Newsweek," for one, falsely reported that the CIA told employees to take their vacations in July because nothing much of importance was happening around the world. A "senior White House official" falsely told "The New York Times" that "CIA assessments of Iraqi military aims were `flawed' and that the agency concluded that Iraq's saber-rattling was bluster, not genuine." To this day, Glaspie languishes in a dead-end job at Foggy Bottom, which appears to make her the scapegoat for the whole affair. During a House foreign affairs subcommittee hearing some two weeks after the invasion took place, Assistant Secretary of State Kelly was asked who had made the decision not to send Glaspie back to her post in Baghdad. "My understanding is [the decision] was made by the president." Not exactly a gentlemanly act. But then again, the stakes are high for the president. It appears now that quite possibly a costly bloody war could have been averted except for the most idiotic diplomatic blundering.


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