Gulf War in 1990, and later wars

This video from Canada says about itself:

To Sell A War – Gulf War Propaganda (1992)

Aired in December 1992 as part of CBC programme The Fifth Estate. The programme was directed by Martyn Gregory and produced by Neil Docherty.

It exposes the Citizens for a Free Kuwait campaign as public relations spin to gain public opinion support for the Gulf War. As well, it reveals that Nurse Nayirah was in fact Nijirah al-Sabah, the daughter of Kuwait‘s ambassador to the United States Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, coached by Hill & Knowlton to forge her infamous testimony about Iraqi soldiers removing babies from incubators, which was widely reported and repeated throughout the media.

By Lindsey German in Britain:

The Gulf War: Where it all began

Saturday 1st August 2015

Stop the War’s LINDSEY GERMAN surveys the past 25 years of Western intervention in the Middle East

TWENTY-FIVE years ago this week, Iraqi president Saddam Hussein launched his invasion of neighbouring Kuwait. Iraq was deeply indebted following Hussein’s lengthy war with Iran, and he wanted to cut oil production in order to raise prices. He had a number of grievances against Kuwait, which would not waive Iraqi debts and was keeping oil production high, as well as allegedly drilling in Iraqi territory.

He could be forgiven for thinking that such an action would be at least tolerated by his erstwhile ally, the US superpower.

It had, after all, backed Hussein for much of the bloody Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. It had intervened on Iraq’s side to ensure the defeat of its main enemy in the region, Iran, shooting down an Iranian civilian airliner over the Gulf in 1989.

A conversation between Hussein and the US ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie shortly before the invasion seemed to reinforce that view.

But in fact the US, under president George H W Bush, father of the Bush who launched the war on terror in 2001, took the invasion as a cause for war.

A UN resolution was immediately passed condemning the invasion and demanding withdrawal.

Later in the year the US issued an ultimatum to withdraw or face war.

The shooting and bombing war began in early 1991. The air war was unlike any seen before. In six weeks the US flew 88,000 sorties, aimed largely at Iraqi cities and their civilian populations. More munitions were dropped in these six weeks than on Germany in the whole of WWII.

It was a gross military imbalance that led to an early defeat for the Iraqi forces and their retreat from Kuwait back to Iraq.

The US bombing and shooting of retreating Iraqi troops on the Basra road — called a “turkey shoot” by one US pilot — caused mass public revulsion internationally. The war was a turning point: it marked the end of a long period dominated by the cold war, with the existence of two nuclear-armed major superpowers.

This tended to stop “rogue states” from acting unilaterally by agreement between the two powers. The US won the cold war with the collapse of the Soviet bloc from 1989 onwards. So the timing was highly significant.

After decades of cold war it marked a new departure in the post-WWII world. The first Gulf war, as it came to be called, was conducted in a way that reflected this transition.

It was stressed as a multilateralist operation, including UN involvement and backing. But at the same time the US was determined to show that it was the world’s sole policeman, hence the aggressive bombing campaign, the pursuit on the Basra road and the imposition of no-fly zones and sanctions on a defeated Iraq, further weakening its economy and infrastructure.

The war also shaped the next wars and the justifications for them. It had strong ideological components.

Citizens for a Free Kuwait was set up by a major US PR company which was in part funded by the Kuwaiti government in exile. A caucus on human rights in the US Congress heard evidence from a 15-year-old known only as Nayirah that she had seen Iraqi soldiers pull babies from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals and leave them to die.

It turned out that not only were the stories false (even though they were repeated and endorsed at the time by Amnesty International) but that Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US and a member of the ruling royal al-Sabah family of Kuwait.

The war centred however on economic and strategic questions: the access to plentiful and cheap supplies of oil; the need to defeat US enemies in the region, primarily Iran but now also Iraq; the ability to influence and control the crucial Middle East in a post-cold war world.

The US victory in the Gulf war only created greater instability in the region. Large numbers of US troops were stationed in bases in Saudi Arabia, a key US ally and one of the biggest customers of US arms companies. There was widespread opposition to this, including from Osama bin Laden, funded by the US to fight the Russians during their invasion of Afghanistan, but now increasingly its enemy.

The penalties on Iraq also created grievances as Iraqi people suffered, without them denting Hussein’s position. An estimated 500,000 children died as a result of sanctions.

During the 1990s the levels of US intervention increased, for the most part in the former Yugoslavia, culminating in the bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo war in 1999.

This was not a UN but a Nato operation, a major step in Nato’s increasingly unilateral actions involving out-of-area operations.

The bombing campaign, which lasted more than two months, was justified on the grounds of humanitarian intervention, a doctrine spelt out by an increasingly belligerent Tony Blair in his Chicago speech in 1999.

When planes were flown into the twin towers in New York just over two years later, the stage was already set for the war on terror.

Bush, aided by his closest ally Blair, immediately launched a war on Afghanistan, where bin Laden was based. It overthrew the Taliban government in a matter of weeks following the bombing and invasion of one of the poorest countries in the world.

But Bush’s real target was Iraq. Immediately after the September 2011 attacks he and his advisers tried to make a link between one of the suicide bombers, Mohammed Atta, and Iraqi secret services — a link which proved to be totally false.

During 2002, Bush and Blair secretly agreed to launch a war on Iraq, which they went on to do in March 2003, despite the largest wave of opposition against war ever seen internationally.

The war on terror had very little to do with combating terrorism, and everything to do with the US and its allies trying to take out its opponents in the form of rulers of “rogue states.”

It was a new imperialism designed for the post-cold war neoliberal era, and its consequences were bloody and brutal. Up to a million died in the course of the Iraq war, with 4 million internal and external refugees.

The war was met with resistance in every country and failed in its stated aim of stabilising the Middle East. Traditional US enemies, in particular Iran, are in a stronger position than when the war began.

The countries that have seen intervention — including Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria — are among the most unstable in the world.

Wars rage in large parts of the Middle East and Africa, and across Afghanistan and Pakistan. There is a real threat of the conflict in Syria and Iraq escalating into a much larger war across the region, with calamitous consequences for the people there.

Terrorism is a much greater threat than it was in 2001. The Western powers have responded with more wars abroad and with Islamophobia and crackdowns on civil liberties at home.

Yet all these wars have generated mass opposition. There are now regular polling majorities against most interventions, and many of the largest demonstrations of recent years have been against war.

The first Gulf war heralded a new era of wars without end, but also a mass protest movement against them.

Lindsey German is convener of the Stop the War Coalition.

On January 17, 1991, American bombers backed by one million ground troops began combat operations in Kuwait and Iraq. This was the beginning of an international US war campaign that has lasted 25 years, enveloping not only Iraq but also Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia. Years of sanctions, bombings, a second invasion in 2003, an occupation, and a third and continuing war have resulted in the deaths of over 1 million Iraqis and thousands of American soldiers in Iraq alone: here.

10 thoughts on “Gulf War in 1990, and later wars

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  3. On January 4, 1991, on the eve of the US-imposed deadline for Iraq to unconditionally withdraw its forces from Kuwait, Pentagon representatives met with Washington bureau chiefs of the major US news organizations on the just-announced “press guidelines” for the impending war. In what was described as “an acrimonious two-hour session,” the Pentagon was said to have backed down on the restrictions announced the previous day in Saudi Arabia.

    By that time, the US and allied regimes in Saudi Arabia had assembled the largest invasion force since Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa in 1941 against the Soviet Union. US commanders issued a 12-page document of restrictions for war reporting to journalists on the ground, which laid down rules far more stringent than any measures taken in the Vietnam war.

    Even after Pentagon officials later “softened” some of the restrictions in response to an outcry by media representatives, the so-called guidelines represented an unprecedented attack on press freedoms. Reporters were banned from any independent travel. Military-organized “press pools” were the only means by which reporters would be allowed in the war zone. All reporters were required to “remain with your military escort at all times.”

    All reports were subject to a “security review” before being submitted for publication. A military censor would have the power to override any objections from the journalist and hold articles until reviewed by press headquarters and then the Pentagon if deemed “unreleasable.”

    Eight publications, including The Nation, Harpers, The Village Voice and In These Times, filed a lawsuit with a US District Court on January 7, challenging the constitutionality of the rules. Major broadcast networks ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Richard Cheney to complain about the restrictions.

    The publication in Newsweek magazine that same week of a report titled “THE NUCLEAR OPTION: THINKING THE UNTHINKABLE,” revealed what the Pentagon feared. The weekly newsmagazine reported on a high-level debate within the US government over the possible use of the atomic bomb in Iraq. The magazine said, “the US commander in the gulf, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, requested authorization to explode a nuclear device high over Iraq at the start of hostilities. Such a blast would generate a massive electromagnetic pulse, which would shut down every electronic device in Iraq.” Newsweek reported that the use of atomic weapons was rejected by the White House, but only in favor of using conventional weapons in such a concentrated way, including hundreds of cruise missiles and over 2,000 air strikes per day, that more Iraqis would be killed than by a nuclear strike. “Without ever splitting an atom,” the magazine concludes, “US forces may yet subject the Iraqis to something like … [a] nuclear holocaust…”


  4. On January 26, 1991, nine days after the launching of an aerial assault on Iraq, more than 150,000 people marched in Washington, DC in opposition to the US war in the Persian Gulf. The mass demonstration was virtually ignored by the capitalist media, which had been engaged in a nonstop effort to promote the conflict over the previous months.

    A simultaneous demonstration in San Francisco brought out 120,000 anti-war demonstrators.

    On January 31, the first major ground battle of the US war against Iraq punctured the pretense of imperialist invincibility spread by the Bush administration and the Pentagon. A few hours of fighting at Khafji and other locations on the Saudi-Kuwaiti border resulted in 12 dead Marines and an unreported number of Saudi and Qatari casualties, after an Iraqi attack that caught the US-led coalition forces by surprise.

    For months, the American people were bombarded with lies from the Bush administration, the Pentagon and the media, aimed at concealing the war aims of US imperialism and the horrendous cost of the impending war, both in lives and in attacks at home on jobs, living standards and democratic rights.

    The real goals of the massive US military intervention in the Persian Gulf—seizing the oil fields, conquering Iraq and reasserting the dominant world position of American imperialism—were concealed behind the rhetoric about restoring the independence of “tiny Kuwait.”


  5. 25 years ago: Australian journalists strike over Hawke’s pro-war witchhunt
    Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke

    Some 800 journalists at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) carried out a nationwide strike February 13, 1991 against ABC management’s decision to launch a state witchhunt over the network’s coverage of the Gulf War.

    An internal inquiry into the ABC coverage was announced in the wake of a jingoistic attack by Prime Minister Bob Hawke on ABC’s reporting and commentary, which he denounced as “disgraceful’’ and pro-Iraq. Defense Minister Robert Ray joined in the attack, threatening that the Labour government would cut funding to ABC, whose budget was about to be reviewed.

    In particular, Hawke condemned an interview with Robert Springborg, an academic from Macquarie University who opposed the deployment of Australian warships in the Persian Gulf. Hawke demanded that ABC “label” the personal views of its commentators. ABC current affairs announcers Geraldine Doogue and Andrew Ollie were also condemned for “bias” and “aggressive demeanor.”

    The ABC inquiry amounted to a crude witchhunt aimed at stamping out even the tamest criticism of the imperialist war in the Persian Gulf and at ensuring that ABC functioned as nothing more than a propaganda agency controlled by US and Australian military censors.

    The journalists angrily voted to “reject the prime minister’s non-specific and unsubstantiated criticism of the ABC” and to “condemn the ABC management’s ad hoc inquiry into coverage of the Gulf hostilities.”

    Toeing the government’s line, ABC management began censoring its coverage of antiwar demonstrations. A report on ABC radio February 9 on an upcoming antiwar rally in Sydney was cut from the morning news after New South Wales news editor Lloyd Tonkin intervened.

    Immediately after Hawke’s attack on ABC, the director of radio, Malcolm Long, issued an internal memo to all staff which was leaked to the major media. It read in part: “Care must be taken so that items about planned marches or demonstrations will not be construed as an invitation for listeners to support or attend these events.”


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  7. 25 years ago: Leaked cables creates furor over US provocation of Iraq

    On July 12, 1991, the Washington Post published excerpts of secret State Department cables revealing the trap that was set by the US to provide a pretext for the bloody war against Iraq. One year after the meeting between US Ambassador April Glaspie and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, 10 months after the release of an Iraqi transcript of the discussion and four months after Glaspie denounced the Iraqi document as a “fabrication” in Congressional hearings, the leaked cables verified the Iraqi transcript and exposed Glaspie as a barefaced liar.

    Democratic Senator Alan Cranston issued a statement charging, “April Glaspie deliberately misled the Congress about her role in the gulf tragedy.” Other Democrats declared that the newly uncovered cables demonstrated a “failure of intelligence” on the part of the Bush administration as to Iraqi intentions toward Kuwait.

    The July 25, 1990 meeting took place barely one week before Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and less than two weeks before George H.W. Bush announced that he was drawing a “line in the sand.” It was held at the request of the Hussein regime, which asked for a discussion on the deterioration in US-Iraqi relations over the previous months.

    In her testimony before the Senate, Glaspie insisted that she had delivered a tough warning to Saddam Hussein about US determination to defend “vital interests” in Kuwait and that Hussein had responded with assurances that he intended to settle his disputes with the oil emirate by peaceful means.

    At the end of her two days of testimony in March 1990, delivered in the midst of the official euphoria over US imperialism’s “victory” over a virtually defenseless Iraqi army seeking to flee Kuwait, Glaspie was being lionized by the capitalist politicians in the Senate, as well as by the bourgeois media, for having “stood up to Hussein.”

    The Iraqi transcript, which painted a rather different picture, was universally dismissed as “disinformation” and the cloud cast over Glaspie by her rather long silence on the matter was attributed to a failed attempt to make her a “scapegoat” for the administration’s earlier dealings with the Iraqi regime. Now it was evident that the “disinformation” was coming not from Baghdad but from the US State Department.


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