The 1991 Gulf Massacre
The Historical & Strategic Context of Western Terrorism in The Gulf

by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
    II.I The Shah
    II.II The Iranian Revolution
    III.I Befriending Tyranny
    III.II Arming Iraq
    III.III Friendly Relations
IV. Protecting Order in the Gulf
    IV.I The Domestic Scene in the U.S.
    IV.II The International Scene
    IV.III U.S. War-Mongering
    IV.IV U.S./Western War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity


Western policies toward Iraq provide illuminating insight into the structure of the contemporary order, and the motives behind its construction. In 1991, the Western powers united to attack Iraq in what was known as the first Gulf War. Simultaneously, the international community imposed devastating sanctions and embargoes on the country, which by now have virtually destroyed it. By 1998-99, the United States and the United Kingdom initiated a new bombing campaign against Iraq, and since then have continued to maintain a substantial military presence there.

To comprehend the reasons and realities behind Western policies towards Iraq in the 1990s, it is essential to understand the overall direction of Western interests and strategy in the Middle East as such. This paper analyses the historical and strategic context of Western policies in the Middle East in general – utilising the example of Iran as a case study – and also attempts to relate this context to contemporary developments – this time utilising the example of Iraq as a case study. The objective of this paper is to analyse these two cases in relation to an understanding of the West’s basic interests in the Middle East, to clarify the basic principles and strategies that constitute Western foreign policy.

I. The Manipulation of the Middle East

The general tenore of Western interests in the Middle East can be gleaned from various declassified secret documents. In 1945, the United States had explicitly confirmed its desire to maintain control over the Middle East in joint coordination with its partner, the United Kingdom:

“[O]ur petroleum policy towards the United Kingdom is predicated on a mutual recognition of a very extensive joint interest and upon control, at least for the moment, of the great bulk of the free petroleum resources of the world... US-UK agreement upon the broad, forward-looking pattern for the development and utilisation of petroleum resources under the control of nationals of the two countries is of the highest strategic and commercial importance.”[1]

The long-term implications of such leverage over the Middle East were understood. For instance, two years later, Britain expressly noted that the Middle East was “a vital prize for any power interested in world influence or domination”, since control of the world’s oil reserves also means control of the world economy.[2] Accordingly, a 1953 internal U.S. document articulates American aims in the Middle East without ambiguity: “United States policy is to keep the sources of oil in the Middle East in American hands.”[3]

Clearly then, the United States aimed to dominate and control Middle East affairs to ensure its monopoly over regional resources, namely, oil. Within this U.S. scheme, it was envisaged that the United Kingdom would play the role of “junior partner in an orbit of power predominantly under the American aegis”,[4] while the other Western European powers would be brought in as collaborators in this process: “[I]t is essential that we should increase our strength in not only the diplomatic but also the economic and military spheres. This can best be done by enrolling France and the lesser Western European powers and, of course, also the Dominions, as collaborators with us”.[5] This would be achieved by opposing any movement threatening Western domination of the region, particularly what is referred to as “Arab nationalism”, a term referring to the desire of the indigenous populations to determine their own political and economic destinies, particularly their own resources. Thus, in 1958, a secret British document described the principal objectives of Western policy in the Middle East:

“The major British and other Western interests in the Persian Gulf [are] (a) to ensure free access for Britain and other Western countries to oil produced in States bordering the Gulf; (b) to ensure the continued availability of that oil on favourable terms and for surplus revenues of Kuwait; (c) to bar the spread of Communism and pseudo-Communism in the area and subsequently to defend the area against the brand of Arab nationalism.”[6]

Thus we find that shortly after the First World War, turning their eyes towards the Middle East, the Western powers aimed to dismantle Ottoman Turkey, which had been the Muslim caliphate for four centuries. The region encompassed by the Ottoman caliphate included and integrated the areas of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan and much of Saudi Arabia. Islam was naturally the basis of unity of the caliphate, and to counteract this unity the Western powers perpetuated local divisions among the Arabs. This was achieved by relying on pro-West Arab leaders with local tribal or religious followings to promote the division of the Ottoman empire. None of these leaders, however, had a claim to popular leadership.[7]

The plans of how to sponsor uprisings were improvised by British officers in the Arab Bureau in Cairo. According to Sir Arthur Hirtzel of the India Office, British aims were to divide Arabs not unify them. Thus, despite the essential publicised pretences of supporting Arab unity, the British secretly signed the 1916 Sykes-Pikot Agreement with France, thus making official the task of manufacturing small impotent states in the Middle East, and sharing in their control. The contents of this agreement were revealed in 1921 when the Bolsheviks retrieved a copy. Oil was, of course, a major determinant in the West’s creation, division, control and support of Middle East regimes, and this factor was officially recognised in the 1920 San Remo Treaty, and in the illegal 1928 Red Line Agreement, involving the British and French sharing of the oil wealth of former Turkish territories. Here, percentages of future oil production were allocated to British, French and American oil companies.[8]

The Western powers eventually succeeded in breaking up the Arab world into several impotent client regimes, an exceedingly chaotic and bloody programme that included the literal creation of twelve previously non-existent nations. The arbitrary creation of borders within what was formerly a single empire, defined the fledgling nation-states and successfully carved the region into several divided segments. Iraq was just one of these. In all of these fictional nation-states, pro-West leaders were forcefully installed to execute Western instructions. Since the objective of this programme included unimpeded access to regional resources (oil) in opposition to the wishes of the populations, it necessarily involved the provocation of force to manipulate the political environment and ensure the establishment of impotent client-regimes whose social and economic administration was subservient to Western interests. This inevitably resulted in the impoverishment and repression of the Arab people under their newly formed illegitimate governments. Due to this programme which involved a series of political, economic and cultural manipulations, these regimes became dependent on the West for their sheer survival in all significant respects.  It is worth noting that the historical context of Iraq/Kuwait conflict therefore lies in the British decision during the early years of this century to slice off a chunk of Iraqi land in the name of various imperialist desires that have now ceased to be relevant, but which were part and parcel of the West’s policy of fracturing the Middle East.

By thus creating fictional divisions and utilising existing ones, the West manufactured false states and nationalities, and played them off against one another - meanwhile exploiting all of them.[9] After the Second World War, the United States, in accordance with its strategic policy plans, replaced the United Kingdom in becoming the dominant power in the Middle East. By the 1970s, the CIA had successfully established close political and economic ties with regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Morocco, Jordan and Iraq, despite their atrocious records of repression.[10]

To this day, the Western powers under the leadership of the United States continue to prop up the same illegitimate regimes created in the 20th Century in contradiction to basic humanitarian principles, to fulfil strategic and economic interests. Middle East specialist Mamoun Fandy of Georgetown University’s Center of Contemporary Arab Studies observes that:

“Securing the flow of affordable oil is a cornerstone of U.S. Middle East policy. The U.S. strategy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq, designed to ensure that neither Iraq nor Iran is capable of threatening neighboring Gulf countries, is inextricably linked to Washington’s oil policy… Uncritical U.S. support for autocratic Gulf monarchies and their human rights abuses have weakened both U.S. policy and the oil regimes. It undermines U.S. policy by demonstrating the hypocrisy in American rhetoric about democracy and human rights and weakens the regimes by creating the perception among Gulf subjects that their countries are being ruled in the interests of an outside power.”[11]

The dire implications of this hypocritical anti-humanitarian policy have been harshly criticised by the American academy of scholars and Middle East specialists, Committee On The Middle East (COME):

“U.S. policies in the Middle East have for too long been determined by the power and money of special interest groups, as well as by narrow nationalist economic exploitation. This has led to a grossly hypocritical situation in American foreign policy, in dealing with the nations and peoples of the Middle East. While the U.S. government constantly professes a strong belief and commitment to democracy, human rights, and national self-determination, far too often the same U.S. government actually supports tyranny, repression, massive arms sales, despotism, and ongoing subjugation”.[12]

II. Defending Western Values in Iran

II.I The Shah

The case of Iran supplies a clear illustration of the profit-orientated nature of Western foreign policy and its consistent opposition to basic humanitarian principles, primarily because during the era in which the West retained close ties to the country, it was governed by a brutal dictator. During this period in the 1970s, Iran was under the reign of a monarchy which at that time was ruled by the renowned Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlevi. The Shah had been directly installed by the Western powers in a covert operation masterminded by the American CIA and British MI6 through a military coup.[13]

The Shah had been installed in place of the democratically elected Iranian leader, Mussadeq, whose policies were unfavourable to Western interests - Mussadeq had, for instance, planned on nationalising oil operations in Iran, i.e. employing the domestic resources for the benefit of the indigenous population, rather than the control and benefit of foreign investors. The Federation of American Scientists provides a lucid description of this process: “Shah-an-Shah [King of Kings] Mohammad Reza Pahlevi was restored to the Peacock Throne of Iran with the assistance of the Central Intelligence Agency in 1953” as well as British intelligence (see note 13). “The CIA mounted a coup against the left-leaning government of Dr. Mohammad Mossadeq, which had planned to nationalize Iran’s oil industry” and “subsequently provided organizational and training assistance for the establishment of an intelligence organization for the Shah. With training focused on domestic security and interrogation, the primary purpose of the intelligence unit, headed by General Teymur Bakhtiar, was to eliminate threats to Shah” from the indigenous population.[14]

This entire episode took place during the Cold War. Accordingly, it was legitimised under the guise of the fight against Communism, supposedly to prevent Communist elements within Iran from taking power.[15] The fact of the matter, however, was that there was negligible danger of a Communist takeover. Indeed, this was privately recognised by the United States and the United Kingdom as is clear from now declassified secret documents. For example, the UK ambassador had observed in September 1952 that: “… [T]he communists have... played a largely passive role, content to let matters take their course with only general encouragement from the sidelines... they have not been a major factor in the development of the Mussadeq brand of nationalism.”[16] Similarly, the U.S. embassy noted in March 1953 that “there was little evidence that in recent months the Tudeh [the Communist Party of Iran, which had close contacts with the Soviet Union] had gained in popular strength”.[17] As for the possibility of a successful Tudeh-sponsored Communist coup that the West could have feared, the U.S. State Department itself dismissed this idea, noting in a January 1953 intelligence report that “an open Tudeh move for power... would probably unite independents and non-communists of all political leanings and would result... in energetic efforts to destroy the Tudeh by force”.[18]

Thus, the Western-sponsored coup was actually a bid to eliminate “the Musaddeq brand of nationalism”, that had included the plan to nationalise Iranian oil, bringing it and the rest of Iran’s resources out of the grip of Western, particularly British and American, investors. Once the Shah - a pliant Western puppet - was installed, the normal policies of plundering Iranian resources could resume. In a candid report, the New York Times revealed the U.S./Western elite sentiments toward the Shah’s violent restoration: “Underdeveloped countries with rich resources now have an object lesson in the heavy cost that must be paid by one of their number which goes berserk with fanatical nationalism” with the view to bring “rich resources” out of Western control, so that the general population may benefit. “It is perhaps too much to hope that Iran’s experience will prevent the rise of Mossadeghs in other countries”, who may similarly wish to eliminate massive poverty, “but that experience may at least strengthen the hands of more reasonable and more far-seeing leaders”, who will henceforth keep to their Third World box; playing their subservient role of repressing their people, while providing cheap labour and resources to their Western masters.[19]

The Shah implemented economic policies in accordance with the interests of Western investors, thus ensuring that political repression resulted in the siphoning of the country’s wealth to a minority elite. Astute observers note that the Shah’s reforms “favored the rich, concentrated on city dwellers, and ignored peasantry. The profits derived from oil and natural gas were not used efficiently but were spent on showy projects and the latest in military technology.” The result was that “an even greater gulf yawned between the Westernized rich and the traditional poor.”[20] British historian Mark Curtis, a former Research Fellow at London’s Royal Institute for International Affairs, observes that an agreement was signed the year following the coup establishing a new oil consortium in which the U.S. and the UK both had a 40 per cent interest. The consortium controlled the production, pricing and export of Iranian oil. Though Britain’s share was reduced from the level of complete control it had prior to Musaddeq, it was nevertheless far greater than it would have been under the latter’s nationalisation plans. However, the U.S. had achieved the greater substantial economic stake and political influence in the country, including a significant stake in oil.[21]

American investors and the Iranian elite alike both profited immensely from the Shah’s “White Revolution”. Yet while Western investors thus enriched themselves on Iranian resources, the country’s own population suffered horrendously. As the state had grown richer, the people had grown poorer. British historian and religious affairs commentator Karen Armstrong reports that:

“There was rampant consumerism in the upper echelons of society, and corruption and deprivation among the petty bourgeoisie and the urban poor. After the oil price increase in 1973-4, there was tremendous inflation, owing to lack of investment opportunity for all but the very wealthy. A million people were unemployed, many of the smaller merchants had been ruined by the influx of foreign goods, and by 1977 inflation had even begun to affect the rich… During these years the shah’s regime became more tyrannical and autocratic than ever.”[22]

Twenty years after the Western-backed coup the top 20 per cent of households accounted for nearly half of all consumption expenditure, whilst the bottom 40 per cent accounted for 15 per cent of consumption expenditure and less than 12 per cent of total income. Mark Curtis comments: “Some of those who failed to benefit from the ‘extreme concentration of wealth’ in Iran - for example, the poor migrants and squatters in Tehran - were forced to engage regularly in a ‘desperate contest for shelter and land’; in a system that was in large part the result of the considered actions and priorities of Anglo-American power.”[23]

John Foran, assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, similarly elaborates in his award-winning study Fragile Resistance:

“The system was replete with officially sanctioned corruption, bribe-taking, and greed, from the Shah to his sister Ashraf to the minister of court Assadullah ‘Alam on down through the officer corps and economic elite, with each maintaining a mini-court of his or her own, surrounding themselves with clients and attaching a portion of all major contracts in the economy.”[24]

The extent of the deepening poverty within Iran as a result of the Shah’s regime, propped up by the Western powers, can be discerned from the heartfelt observation of a young Iranian peasant:

“Yes, we need schools and doctors, but they are just for the rich. I wish I didn’t even know doctors existed. Before, we were ignorant, but now we know that pills and shots can help us. But we can’t buy them, so we watch our children die from sickness as well as hunger. Before, the elders said if a child died, it was from the will of God (dasti khudda), but now I think it is the fault of the government (dasti-dowlat).”[25]

Naturally then, the Shah’s socio-economic policies were deeply unpopular among the Iranian population. For the Shah to maintain power, he had to control an increasingly agitated and resentful populace, and this implied pursuing policies of brutal repression – policies that were supported and, indeed, directed by America and Britain. According to Amnesty International (AI), the Shah’s regime succeeded in slaughtering over 10,000 Iranians, estimating that there were between 25-100,000 political prisoners in 1976. AI thus observed that: “[The] Shah of Iran retains his benevolent image despite the highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture which is beyond belief. No country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran”.[26] Barry Rubin noted that “prisoners were subjected to horrendous torture, equal to the worst ever devised”, in a system in which “the entire population was subjected to a constant, all-pervasive terror”.[27] Not only was this not a cause of concern to the Western powers, it was a cause of closeness between the Shah and the West. As U.S. Iran specialist Eric Hooglund reports: “The more dictatorial his [the Shah’s] regime became, the closer the U.S.-Iran relationship became.”[28]

The United States and United Kingdom, however, were directly responsible for the repression committed under the Shah’s regime – not merely for establishing his power while encouraging and consenting to his policies, but also for creating and guiding the SAVAK secret police under the Shah’s command which perpetrated the aforementioned atrocities. SAVAK, created by the United States and trained primarily by Israel with significant British input, was even instructed in torture techniques by the CIA. The British SAS was also responsible for training the Shah’s Special Forces.[29] The Federation of American Scientists reports that SAVAK, formed “under the guidance of United States and Israeli intelligence officers in 1957”, “developed into an effective secret agency”, its job being to ensure the effective subjugation of the Iranian population to the rule of the Shah.

“An elaborate system was created to monitor all facets of political life. For example, a censorship office was established to monitor journalists, literary figures, and academics throughout the country; it took appropriate measures against those who fell out of line. Universities, labor unions, and peasant organizations, among others, were all subjected to intense surveillance by SAVAK agents and paid informants. The agency was also active abroad, especially in monitoring Iranian students who publicly opposed Pahlavi rule.”

The agency’s “torture methods” passed on to it from its U.S., Israeli and British masters, “included electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weight to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails.” The extent of its terrorisation of the indigenous population is clear from the fact that it even had “at least 13 full-time case officers running a network of informers and infiltration covering 30,000 Iranian students on United States college campuses… The head of the SAVAK agents in the United States operated under the cover of an attache at the Iranian Mission to the United Nations, with the FBI, CIA, and State Department fully aware of these activities.”[30] Iranian scholar Reza Baraheni observes that SAVAK’s aim was to “spread a deep sense of fear, suspicion, disbelief, and apathy throughout the country.”[31] This objective was successfully attained. The Shah’s regime of “torture and intimidation, made people feel that they were held prisoner in their own country, with the connivance of Israel and the United States.”[32]

The Western powers were very pleased with their creation’s brutal activities. America’s former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, for instance, referred to the Shah as “that rarest of leaders, an unconditional ally”.[33] Kissinger also described the tyrant as “a pillar of stability in a turbulent and vital region”, a “dedicated reformer” with the most “noble aspirations”. “The least we owe him is not retrospectively to vilify the actions that eight American Presidents - including the present incumbent - gratefully welcomed”, namely, the institutionalisation of mass poverty, torture, murder and corruption.[34] At a ceremonial dinner hosting the Shah in November 1973 President Jimmy Carter delivered a moving address in which he described the Iranian regime as “an island of stability in a turbulent corner of the world.”[35] In a report submitted to President Eisenhower’s National Security Council in 1953, U.S. policymakers summed up their approval of the dictatorship:

“Over the long run, the most effective instrument for maintaining Iran’s orientation towards the West is the [Shah’s] monarchy, which in turn has the army as its only real source of power. U.S. military aid serves to improve army morale, cement army loyalty to the Shah, and thus consolidate the present regime and provide some assurance that Iran’s current orientation towards the West will be perpetual.”[36]

The Western powers exploit other countries in the Middle East  - and other areas of the world  - in much the same way, developing close political ties and using those to secure economic relations which are favourable to the West and to the Eastern dictators with whom they are working; relations which also happen to be highly detrimental to the masses who live under the grip of these regimes. Countries that have been regularly subject to such counter-democratic Western procedures include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Bahrain, among numerous others. Their goal is to further American/Western domination of the Middle East and to secure a rich supply of appropriately priced oil, which inevitably results in huge profits as well as effective control of the world economy. “Mutual Anglo-American support”, Curtis explains, “in ordering the affairs of key nations and regions, often with violence, to their design has been a consistent feature of the era that followed the Second World War.”[37]

It is clear that the purpose of such policies lies in the fact that the main Western interest in the Middle East is to ensure that there is no development of what the West describes as ‘radical nationalism’ - a technical term meaning nationalist forces that refuse to obey Western orders – with the view to protect the major Western interest in the region: control of the Middle East’s energy resources which are the largest and cheapest in the world. In earlier years, the West was able to intervene directly to ensure such control. However, as the world has become more complex and Western capacity to intervene directly has reduced, the West has turned to surrogates. This strategy of utilising regional surrogate regimes to play a subservient role within a wider matrix of Western interests was formalised in the Nixon-Kissinger doctrine. According to this doctrine, the United States, now leading the Western powers, would be committed to maintaining what the infamous U.S. statesman and war criminal Henry Kissinger called the “overall framework of order”. Regional powers would pursue particular goals within this overall framework of subservience. With regard to the extremely crucial Middle East region - primarily the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, where most of the oil is - the broad plan was that Israel and Iran under the Shah would play the role of “guardians of the Gulf”, i.e. the principal regional surrogates. This plan was outlined by the U.S. Senate’s ranking oil expert, Senator Henry Jackson, in May 1973. Jackson stressed the necessity of “the strength and Western orientation of Israel on the Mediterranean and Iran [under the Shah] on the Persian Gulf”. Israel and Iran were “reliable friends of the United States” who, along with Saudi Arabia “have served to inhibit and contain those irresponsible and radical elements in certain Arab states... who, were they free to do so, would pose a grave threat indeed to our principle sources of petroleum in the Persian Gulf”, which are needed primarily as a reserve and a lever for control of the global economy.[38]

II.II The Iranian Revolution

In the 1960s, open opposition to the Shah’s regime began to grow tremendously. More and more students were attending the course in Islamic ethics by the late Ayatullah Khomeini at the Fayziyah Madrasah in Qum. He would often sit on the floor beside his students and openly criticise the government. In 1963, Khomeini spoke from his pulpit in his official capacity against the Shah’s regime. Karen Armstrong records that:

“At a time when nobody else dared to speak out against the regime, Khomeini protested against the cruelty and injustice of the shah’s rule, his unconstitutional dismissal of the Majlis, the torture, the wicked suppression of all opposition, the shah’s craven subservience to the United States, and his support of Israel, which had deprived Palestinians of their homes. He was particularly concerned about the plight of the poor: the shah should leave his splendid palace and go and look at the shantytowns in South Tehran… Reprisals were swift and inevitable. On March 22, 1963… SAVAK forces surrounded the madrasah, and attacked it, killing a number of students. Khomeini was arrested and taken into custody.”[39]

Some naive commentators attribute the unfolding Islamic movement within Iran spearheaded by Ayatullah Khomeini as well as many other religious scholars, intellectuals, and writers, to an insincere desire to gain power and establish an autocratic Islamic regime. This view arises from sheer ignorance of the complex developments within Iran at that time, particularly the new ideas and visions of political Islam being explored even by Western-educated Iranian philosophers such as Dr. Ali Shariati (1933-77).[40] Indeed, Khomeini’s outspoken opposition to the Shah’s regime almost led to his death. He only narrowly escaped execution because a senior mujtahid Ayatullah Muhammad Kazim Shariatmadari (1904-85) saved him from this fate by promoting him to the rank of Grand Ayatullah, making it too risky for the regime to kill him without provoking massive protests.[41] His radical thesis on Islamic Government, was thus not written to simply legitimise his own rise to power, but rather to provide an Islamic political alternative that was relevant and meaningful to the Muslim masses of Iran. When he first wrote his landmark book, Hokomat-e- eslami, (Islamic Government), he had not anticipated an imminent revolution. On the contrary, he thought that it would be another two hundred years before Iran would be capable of implementing such a system.[42] In fact, the revolution occurred much earlier.

The revolution entered a new stage on 9 January 1978, when four thousand students poured on to the streets of Qum, demanding a return to the 1906 constitution, freedom of speech, the release of political prisoners, the reopening of Fayziyyah Madrasah, and permission for Khomeini, who had been exiled since 1964, to return to Iran. The Shah’s police opened fire into the crowds of unarmed protestors, killing 70 students.[43] For the Shah, this was the beginning of the end. Millions of Iranians responded to the massacre with outrage, and the uprising against his regime escalated. In different subsequent marches hundreds of demonstrators were killed in the following months as the Iranian people protested against his reign. In one gathering at Jaleh Square of around 20,000 people on Friday 8 September, martial law was declared and all large gatherings were banned. The demonstrators had no knowledge of the ban which was declared at 6AM that day. The Shah’s soldiers responded to their refusal to disperse with rifle-fire, resulting in the killing of as many as 900 civilians. The massacre only inflamed the anger of the Iranian people further as crowds began raging through the streets in protest while the Shah’s forces continued to fire at them from tanks.[44]

The U.S. response to such events is instructive. At 8AM on 10 September, President Jimmy Carter called the Shah from Camp David to reassure him of U.S. support. Several hours later, the White House officially confirmed the conversation and affirmed the ongoing “special relationship” between the U.S. and Iran. The White House added that despite the President’s regret for the loss of life, he had expressed hope that the campaign of political liberalisation just begun by the Shah would continue.[45] A clearer statement of support for state terrorism can barely be imagined. Highly relevant in regard to the U.S. role is an astute series of Washington Post reports by American journalist Scott Armstrong, which is based in part on government documents. According to Armstrong, U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski continually urged the Shah to employ military force to crush the mounting popular opposition against his dictatorship. U.S. State Department sources indicate that Brzezinski even drafted a letter to the Shah “which unambiguously urged him to use force to put down the demonstrations”, although State Department officials recognised that this would lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of Iranians. After the September 1978 massacre of demonstrators on ‘Black Friday’, “American policymakers viewed the Shah’s willingness to use force as a good sign,” reports Armstrong. U.S. admiration for the sort of brutal, dictatorial and anti-humanitarian policies habitually employed by military juntas to enforce regional U.S. hegemony was reconfirmed by then U.S. Ambassador William H. Sullivan who objected when the Shah’s forces lessened their human rights abuses against the Iranian people. He found that “the Shah’s new directives to his security forces, such as instructions to desist from torture... are disorienting” - clearly because the practice of torture by U.S. client-regimes serves well to subjugate the masses and is therefore ‘orienting’. Sullivan expressed his distress at the results of the command to refrain from torture, since the Shah’s security forces were thereby “being prevented from using the time-honored methods of arrest, long imprisonment and manhandling - if not worse - to get at the threat” (report of 1 June 1978). Indeed, the U.S. clearly played a role that was unequivocally supportive of human rights abuses. U.S. General Robert Huyser, for instance, was dispatched to Tehran to urge Iranian generals “that the military should be pushed into action”, and should employ military force to capture the oil fields.[46]

By mid-January, the revolution had succeeded. The Shah had fled and his appointed Prime Minister Shahpour Bhaktiar was forced by the massive protests to allow Khomeini to return. From here onwards, a complex new process of political development and turmoil began, and Khomeini was voted in as Iran’s new leader almost unanimously by the Iranian population in democratic elections whose authenticity, like the entire revolution, shocked the Western powers. As Karen Armstrong observes, “Western people were also forced to note that Khomeini never lost the love of the masses of Iranians, especially the bazaaris, the madrasah students, the less-eminent ulema, and the poor.”[47]

Indeed, for this reason the economic hardships suffered by the new regime were embarrassing, especially since “for religious reasons”, the government had “put social welfare at the top of its original agenda on coming to power…

“Khomeini did his best for the poor. He set up the Foundation for the Downtrodden to relieve the distress of those who had suffered most under the Pahlavis. Islamic associations in the factories and workshops provided workers with interest-free loans. In the rural areas, Construction Jihad employed young people in building new houses for the peasants, and in agricultural, public health, and welfare projects, especially in the war zones… In 1981, the Majlis had proposed some important land reforms, which would ensure a fairer distribution of resources.”

Unfortunately, these efforts had been “offset by the war with Iraq, which had not been of Khomeini’s own making.”[48]

III. The Iran-Iraq War: Still Defending Western Values

The Western powers were horrified by the 1979 revolution regardless of its domestic popularity. It implicated their expulsion from Iranian territory and the subsequent insecurity of elite interests in that region, including America’s strategic designation of Iran as a ‘guardian of the Gulf’ subordinate to U.S. orders. The Islamic nature of the revolution gave the West further reason to fear. The Western powers anticipated that the events in Iran might pose a model for other Muslim nations in the region whose people suffered similarly under Western-backed dicatorships. In this respect, the Iranian revolution bore the potential to severely damage U.S. hegemony in the Middle East. As Professor John Keane comments:

“To the surprise of most observers Islam did the unthinkable. It showed that a late twentieth century tyrant, armed to the teeth and backed by western investors and governments, could be toppled by popular pressure, and that the new Islamic regime installed by such pressure could stand politically between the two superpowers without being committed to either.”[49]

The solution was to attempt to crush the revolution of Iran before it bore fruit. The objective was to illustrate to other countries in the region what is liable to happen to those who attempt to pursue an independent course; in this case, by building up the very same Iraqi regime that is ruthlessly condemned today, and pushing the new war-machine into a devastating confrontation with Iran that would cripple the newly formed Islamic Republic. With the fall of the Shah’s repressive U.S.-friendly regime, a “pillar” of US policy was lost. Therefore, a new “guardian of the Gulf” was required to keep Middle East oil “in American hands”. Iraq represented many possibilities in this regard. There was the possibility of infiltrating Iraq; of overthrowing the new government of Iran; of Iraq becoming a replacement for the former Iranian “guardian of the Gulf”; and of course the lucrative opportunities for investment. Once Saddam’s Iraq was removed from the terrorism list, the new U.S. plan could begin actualisation. Throughout this period, the disregard for human rights, democracy and peace consistently manifested itself in the traditional manner. The London Guardian reports that the war “which Saddam Hussein started” continued with “encouragement from the Americans, who wanted him to destroy their great foe, Ayatollah Khomeini. When it was over, at least a million lives had been lost in the cause of nothing, fuelled by the arms industries of Britain and the rest of Europe, the Soviet Union and the United States”.[50]

III.I Befriending Tyranny

Before the inception of the Iran-Iraq war, America had made moves toward extending the hand of friendly relations to the Iraqi regime under the rule of Saddam Hussein. In a television interview, then National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski stated: “We see no fundamental incompatibility of interests between the United States and Iraq”. He emphasised that: “We do not feel that American-Iraqi relations need to be frozen in antagonism”.[51] On 22 September 1980, Saddam Hussein initiated his offensive against Iran with U.S. consent. Referring to the tacit U.S. influence in this connection, former National Security Council aide Gary Sick reports that there was a strategy of “letting Saddam assume there was a U.S. green light because there was no explicit red light”.[52] Other reports are even more revealing, referring to U.S. involvement in a covert operation for a “blitzkrieg” against Iran, launched from Iraq. This was to be led by several of the Shah’s ex-generals “to form a provisional government [in Iran] under Iraqi tutelage”.[53] On 26 February 1982, the U.S.-Iraq special relationship was officially sealed - Iraq was removed from the U.S. terrorism list. As was later admitted by the leading Defense Department counterterrorism official, “no one had any doubts about his [Saddam’s] continued involvement with terrorism... The real reason [for taking Iraq off the terrorism list] was to help them succeed in the war against Iran.”[54]

This was followed by intensive support of Iraq during its devastating war with Iran, including the use of chemical and biological – and other – weapons of mass destruction, military training and instruction, and the provision of intelligence. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the United States turned a blind eye when Iraq used American intelligence for operations against Iran that made rampant use of chemical weapons and ballistic missiles, according to senior administration and former intelligence officials”, while the “combination of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and American intelligence eventually helped turn the tide of the eight-year war in Baghdad’s favor.” A former U.S. intelligence official familiar with the American role admitted U.S. awareness that Iraq “used chemicals in any major campaign… Although we publicly opposed the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world we knew the intelligence we gave the Iraqis would be used to develop their own operational plans for chemical weapons.” Another administration official stated: “They [the Americans] built this guy up and let him do whatever it took to win. And that included the use of chemical weapons and ballistic missiles.” U.S. intelligence sources went so far as to provide data to Iraq on Iran’s equipment and troop strength. Former intelligence officials have stated clearly that Washington was well aware that Iraq began using chemical weapons in 1983 and intensified their use in 1986. By 1988, Iraq’s use of gases had also repeatedly been documented by UN specialists.[55]

According to another former U.S. intelligence official: “It was all done with a wink and a nod... We knew exactly where this stuff was going, although we bent over backwards to look the other way.” Washington knew Iraq was “dumping boatloads” of chemical weapons on Iranian positions, he added. Policy at the time, according to another former Reagan official, recognised that: “Hussein is a bastard. But at the time, he was our bastard.” In 1986, as the Iran-Iraq war began to turn decisively in Iran’s favour the pace of U.S. intelligence information to Iraq escalated as part of a bid to restore Iraq’s edge. The United States was not alone in this endeavour. In advance of the Faw counter offensive, France, Egypt and Jordan provided help in reorganising and re-training the Iraqi military.[56] 

The United Kingdom was also heavily involved. Throughout the devastating eight-year war, the British government assured its public that it was not selling “lethal equipment” to either side. However, evidence given to the inquiry by Lord Justice Scott into arms sales to Iraq, has revealed that this alleged policy was for the purpose of public deception only. In reality, Britain was one of the 26 countries - including the United States, France and other Western nations along with their Middle East client-regimes - which sold the greater bulk of arms to Saddam’s genocidal regime.[57] American arms specialist William D. Hartung - Senior Fellow at the World Policy Institute - observes that despite recent efforts by the U.S. defence industry and the Clinton administration to argue that the United States did not arm Iraq in the period leading up to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, there is ample documentation (some of which shall be discussed here) demonstrating that the Reagan and Bush administrations supplied critical military technologies that were put directly to use in the construction of the Iraqi war machine. Further strong evidence discussed by Hartung indicates that the “executive branch’s failure to crack down on illegal weapons traffickers or keep track of third party transfers of U.S. weaponry allowed a substantial flow of U.S.-origin military equipment and military components to make their way to Iraq.”[58]

III.II Arming Iraq

Leading American analyst Bruce Jentleson - Director of the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Professor of Public Policy & Political Science, and formerly of the U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff as Special Assistant to the Director - reports that huge amounts of military aid were poured into Iraq.[59] With Iraq off the terrorism list and export controls on dual-use technologies (i.e. with both civilian and military applications) therefore less restrictive, 60 Hughes MD-500 ‘Defender’ helicopters, and then 10 Bell Helicopters - models which were widely employed in the invasion of Vietnam - were sold to Saddam’s regime. Other helicopter sales followed, such as 48 that were said to be for “recreation” purposes. These were subsequently employed to bomb and gas Kurdish civilians.[60]

A total of 241 licenses were approved for dual-use exports to Iraq in the last two years of Reagan’s Administration; only 6 were denied. The nature of these exports was conspicuously such that they could be put to military use. Bruce Jentleson notes, for instance, that precision tools for “general military repair” ended up being used to upgrade SCUD missiles for longer-range firing. Quartz crystals and frequency synthesisers as “components in a ground radar system” were used for missile guidance systems. Fuel air explosive technology was exported, although it was capable of producing bombs ten times more lethal than conventional bombs. Indeed, exports “were knowingly sent to Iraqi nuclear installations”, according to a former White House official.[61]

The Iraqi Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialisation (MIMI) was a notorious example of this. Having been created in April 1988 to bring together civilian and military projects, the United States was fully aware that MIMI was linked to nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes. Yet it was regularly inundated with dozens of dual-use technologies, licensed for export by the U.S.[62] Another typical example was NASSR (Nassr State Establishment for Mechanical Industries), which from the 1970s onwards was well known to be an important military installation. By 1987, the United States knew of a ballistic missiles programme in operation there. Yet the Department of Commerce continued to licensed exports for dual-use technologies to this installation.[63] Dual-use technologies supplied to military installations such as MIMI, Sa’ad 16, and others, as well as directly to the Iraqi military, included: equipment for the Arab Company for Detergent Chemicals (a front for chemical weapons); bacteria samples to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission and University of Baghdad (both linked to “biological warfare, support and numerous other military activities” by the CIA); communications and tracking agreement for Sa’ad 16; helicopter guidance, helicopters, engines and fight equipment for the Iraqi airforce; computers to the Iraqi navy; and so on.[64]

Douglas Frantz and Murray Waas of the Los Angeles Times report that in 410 of 526 cases with potential nuclear applications, export licenses were approved. According to U.S. Congressman Henry Gonzalez, two of every seven U.S. non-agricultural exports to Iraq between 1985 and 1990 accrued to its expanding military-industrial complex.[65] The United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection teams confirmed that U.S. technology was used by Iraq in its weapons programme - not a surprise considering that dual-use U.S. technologies were being systematically and knowingly licensed to military installations undertaking exactly these kinds of programmes. According to the head UN/IAEA inspector: “The simple answer to the question of whether U.S. produced equipment and technology has been found to be part of the Iraqi nuclear weapons program is yes”.[66] Examples of this include the equipment discovered by UNSCOM from 11 American companies in Iraqi missiles and chemical weapons plants. Some of the 17 bacterial and viral cultures licensed by the U.S. were also found at the Salman Pak site that was party to “a major military research program... concentrating on anthrax and botulism”.[67]

As the torrent of military and financial assistance continued to pour into Iraq, Saddam was busy applying this aid - which came to him not only from the U.S., but from France, Germany, Britain, among others - in systematic human rights abuses. According to former U.S. Secretary of State Shultz, the first reports of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iran - “drifted in”.[68] As was the case with Saddam’s other flagrant violations of the 1925 Geneva Protocol Banning the Use of Chemical Weapons in War, his use of chemical weapons against Iran was extensively documented by the UN.[69] The UN found evidence that Saddam had used chemical weapons four times during the Iran-Iraq war. The other three were in April 1985, February-March 1986 and April-May 1987. Saddam was also busy violently oppressing his own people, cracking down particularly on the Kurds of northern Iraq - including, for instance, according to Amnesty International, the abduction and torture of about three hundred children from Kurdish families.[70] In 1987, a U.S. Senate staff delegation to Kurdistan discovered the ravaging effects of Saddam’s policy towards the Kurds in Iraq, reporting “hundreds of villages levelled”; the countryside was described as having “an eerie quality to it. Fruit trees, graveyards and cemeteries stand as reminders of the absent people and livestock.”[71]

In February 1988, Saddam instigated an even more massive campaign against the Kurds. His troops employed the traditional methods of destruction. By 16 March 1988, the Iraqi air force was strafing Halabja with mustard gas and nerve toxins. “Entire families were wiped out and the streets were littered with the corpses of men, women and children”, reported the Washington Post. “Other forms of life in and around the city - horses, house cats, cattle - perished as well”.[72] An estimated 5,000 people were massacred. As Professor Jentleson observes, this death toll is proportionate to over a half million deaths in a city the size of New York. The U.S. response to all the above is instructive. Such atrocities did not suffice for the United States and its Western allies to cease military assistance to the regime. Even the Halabja atrocities only led to the token tightening of a few export controls related to chemical weapons manufacture and the production of what amounted to an effectively meaningless condemnatory resolution in the UN Security Council. These gestures were apparently propagandistic in purpose, since they unfortunately did not amount to any significant reduction in U.S./Western military assistance to Saddam’s regime.[73]

Indeed, the possibility of sanctions being imposed on Iraq due to the massacres was deliberately blocked by the U.S. Administration, because they would “undermine relations and reduce U.S. influence on a country that has emerged from the Persian Gulf War as one of the most powerful Arab nations”.[74] Rather than impose sanctions, the very opposite was done. Bruce Jentleson observes that after the Halabja massacres, the U.S. was granting new licenses for dual-use technology exports at a rate more than 50 per cent greater than before Saddam’s gassing of the Kurds. Between September and December 1988, sixty-five licenses were granted for dual-use technology exports - this averages out as an annual rate of 260 licenses: more than double the rate between January and August 1988 (which involved the granting of 85 licenses, amounting as Jentleson notes to a 128 annual rate).[75] The tremendous escalation of exports occurred in spite of the fact that inspectors of the U.S. Customs Service had “detected a marked increase in the activity levels of Iraq’s procurement networks. These increased levels of activity were particularly noticeable in the areas of missile technology, chemical-biological warfare and fuze technology”.[76]

In January 1988, reports of Iraqi germ warfare capabilities in the open specialised press emerged. According to a respected American analyst, “there were growing indications in late 1988 that Iraq was producing a botulin toxin in military quantities, or some similar agent”. A U.S. government official was more forthcoming: “Everybody knows the Iraqis are trying to develop biological weapons”.[77] Nevertheless, from 1985-9, seventeen licenses were approved for exports of bacterial and fungal cultures to Iraqi government agencies.[78] This occurred in spite of a human rights appeal to the UN Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, issued by Amnesty International, pointing clearly to the “grave fears that in the aftermath of the [Iran-Iraq] war a further significant deterioration in human rights could occur in Iraq”. Amnesty noted that Saddam’s regime was conducting “a systematic and deliberate policy... to eliminate large numbers of Kurdish civilians”.[79] This AI report was issued just three days before the Iran-Iraq cease-fire of 20 August 1988. Further domestic chemical attacks on an unprecedented scale were initiated by Saddam only a few days later. Yet as noted above, the aftermath of these attacks did not result in a reduction in U.S. licensed exports of dual-use technologies, but on the contrary resulted in their increase.

III.III Friendly Relations

The U.S. not only provided Saddam’s regime with military aid, but also with financial aid, huge investment, and abundant trade. For example, American CCC credits had grown to exceed $1 billion per year.[80] The U.S. had become a major customer for Iraqi oil, importing by 1987 30 million barrels. This was still minimal in comparison to later imports: In 1988 - the year of the most conspicuous domestic atrocities instigated by Saddam’s forces – U.S. imports of Iraqi oil had rocketed to 126 million barrels. This figure should be compared to the 1981 figures when the U.S. had not imported even a single barrel of Iraqi oil. The disparity constituted a momentous increase of over 400 per cent, with U.S. purchases bringing in $1.6 billion. The U.S. was essentially purchasing one out of every four barrels of Iraqi oil exports.[81] Jentleson points out that American oil companies also began receiving a discount of $1 per barrel below the prices being charged to European oil companies. This amounted to approximately $37 million in the last quarter of 1988 and another $123 million through the first three-quarters of 1989. The per-barrel discount was later increased to $1.24 in January 1990, resulting in savings of another hefty $241 million on imports (the US was so enthusiastic about these that they continued for over a month after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait).[82]

Iraq became the twelfth largest market for American agricultural exports in the 1980s; for some crops (e.g. rice) the country became the number one export market. Iraq was, in fact, second only to Mexico as a beneficiary of CCC export credit guarantees. In addition to the $1.1 billion the previous year and $3.4 billion cumulative since fiscal year 1983, another $1.1 billion in guarantees were scheduled for the fiscal year about to arise. The U.S. Agricultural Department was unsurprisingly optimistic about “Iraq’s enormous market potential for U.S. agricultural exports”.[83] As has already been seen, business was also flourishing on the manufacturing and dual-use technology export front. Jentleson reports that in sectors such as petroleum, electricity generation, petrochemicals, steel, and transportation, billions of dollars in contracts were being fervently signed.[84]

One of the groups which was particularly active in ensuring that the U.S. did not impose sanctions on Iraq was the U.S.-Iraq Business Forum, established in 1985, whose president Marshall Wiley was a lawyer and former U.S. Ambassador to Oman as well as former ranking U.S. diplomat in Baghdad.[85] According to Bruce Jentleson, companies that were members of this group - whose influence was crucial in preventing sanctions (providing yet another example of the preference of Western governments for elite interests as opposed to human rights) - included those involved in importing discounted Iraqi oil (Amoco, Mobil, Exxon, Texaco, Occidental), defence contractors (Lockheed, Bell Helicopter-Textron, United Technologies) and others (AT&T, General Motors, Bechtel, Caterpillar).[86] This clearly illustrates that the the United States is influenced most significantly in its policies by the interests of corporate elites - the military-industrial complex and multinational corporations - at the expense of the human rights and decisions of the masses throughout the world. These elite sectors possess the most powerful leverage over policy; and the results, as is now quite evident, are globally catastrophic.

Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, Phyllis Bennis, a Middle East expert based in Washington, describes the anti-humanitarian nature of the U.S.-Iraq alliance, an alliance based solely on strategic and economic interests:

“Long before the invasion of Kuwait, one might have wondered about the US-Iraq alliance. Certainly it was partly tactical, aimed at preventing outright victory for the ascendant Islamic Republic of Iran in the Iran-Iraq war. Certainly it reflected the three long-standing goals of US policy in the Middle East: protection of Israel, control of access to oil and stability. One might have wondered why US officials willingly, if not eagerly, turned a blind eye to the Iraqi regime's crimes. It wasn’t as if they didn’t know of Iraq’s repressive rule, its Anfal campaign to depopulate Kurdish villages and its use of internationally outlawed poison gas against both civilians and Iranian soldiers. Human rights violations are common throughout the region - arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, house demolitions, repression of dissidents, persecution of Communists - and Iraq’s government was right up there with the best. Washington knew of Iraq’s violations, but expressed little official concern.” [87]

U.S./Western policy then is simply not premised on concern for human rights. On the contrary, Western strategic and economic interests are the driving force of foreign policies that are systematically anti-humanitarian and counter-democratic.

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IV. Protecting Order in the Gulf

IV.I The Domestic Scene in the U.S.

Contrary to conventional opinion, their exists considerable evidence to indicate that the Gulf War had not only been anticipated by the United States, but fell well within its political, strategic and economic interests. A variety of factors, both within the U.S. and the Middle East, appear to support the conclusion that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait was deliberately engineered by the U.S. to provide a pretext for war.

Prior to the Gulf War, the United States was facing massive cutbacks in military expenditure. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. had lost its old Cold War foe, leaving its military institutions such as NATO with nothing left to do – or at least no credible pretext on which to do it. Consequently, a political conflict had begun within the U.S. over the issue of the necessity of defence spending. With the Cold War over, many outside the U.S. military establishment naturally called for the reduction of military expenditure. In February 1990, the Washington Post reported that “the administration and Congress are expecting the most acrimonious, hard-fought defense budget battle in recent history”.[88] By June, the Post reported that “tensions have escalated” between the Congress and the Pentagon, “as Congress prepares to draft one of the most pivotal defense budgets in the past two decades”.[89] By July, due to the vote of a Senate Armed Services subcommittee calling for cuts in military manpower almost three times that of Bush’s recommendations, it appeared that the Pentagon was losing the battle for military spending. The Los Angeles Times reported: “The size and direction of the [military] cuts indicate that President Bush is losing his battle on how to manage reductions in military spending.”[90] Being Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, former CIA Director, and a former investor in Texas oil, Bush was instrumental in fighting against such reductions. Yet while he was drastically failing to secure high U.S. military spending, his domestic popularity was also drastically decreasing. Although in January 1990 he had an approval rating of 80 per cent having emerged victorious from the U.S. war in Panama, towards the end of July his ratings had steadily dropped to 60, and were set to drop further.[91] Thus, President Bush and the corporate-military interests he was supporting were searching for a way to boost military spending and generate renewed public popularity.

The background for Bush’s campaign to maintain high levels of military spending was rooted in the prospects for a U.S. military presence in the Middle East, particularly the Gulf region. When the Iran-Iraq War ended in 1988, U.S. contingency plans for war in the Gulf region posed Iraq as the enemy.[92] In January 1990, CIA Director William Webster acknowledged the West’s increasing dependency on Middle East oil in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.[93] One month later, General Schwarzkopf advised the Committee to increase the U.S. military presence in the Middle East, describing new plans to intervene in a regional conflict. The principal vehicle of this operation would be the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), formerly the Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force, which had been covertly expanding a network of U.S. military-intelligence bases in Saudi Arabia.[94] Notably, CENTCOM’s War Plan 1002, which was designed during the inception of the Reagan administration to implement the Carter Doctrine of confronting any challenge to U.S. access to Middle East oil by military force, was revised in 1989 and renamed War Plan 1002-90; the last two digits, of course, standing for 1990. In the updated plan, Iraq replaced the Soviet Union as the principal enemy.[95]

It is in this crucial context that CENTCOM, under the direction of General Schwartzkopf, began devising war simulations directed at Iraq. At least four such simulations directed at Iraq were conducted in 1990, some of which hypothesised an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, long before the actual invasion occurred. One of the first of these, dubbed ‘Internal Look’, occurred in January. In May 1990, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington-based think tank affiliated to Georgetown University, completed a two-year study predicting the outcome of a U.S. war with Iraq. The study explored the future of conventional warfare, and concluded that the war most likely to occur requiring U.S. military intervention was between Iraq and Kuwait or Saudi Arabia. The study was widely circulated among Pentagon officials, members of Congress, and military contractors.[96] By July, the Pentagon’s computerised command post exercise (CPX), initiated in late 1989 to explore possible responses to “the Iraqi threat” was in full swing, focusing on simulations of an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or both.[97] The Naval War College in Newport, R.I., ran programmes in which participants were asked to determine effective U.S. responses to a hypothetical invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.[98]

Indeed, according to Professor of International Law at the University of Illinois, Francis Boyle – who is on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA, and who worked with the International Commission of Inquiry into United States war crimes committed during the Persian Gulf War - the U.S. had been planning an assault on Iraq for some time. Reviewing the year-by-year process of intensification of war plans, Professor Boyle records that:

“Sometime after the termination of the Iraq-Iran War in the Summer of 1988, the Pentagon proceeded to revise its outstanding war plans for U.S. military intervention into the Persian Gulf region in order to destroy Iraq. Schwarzkopf was put in charge of this revision. For example, in early 1990, Schwarzkopf informed the Senate Armed Services Committee of this new military strategy in the Gulf allegedly designed to protect U.S. access to and control over Gulf oil in the event of regional conflicts. In October 1990, [General] Powell referred to the new military plan developed in 1989. After the war, Schwarzkopf referred to eighteen months of planning for the campaign.”

Boyle reports that in late 1989 or early 1990, these war plans for “destroying Iraq and stealing Persian Gulf oil fields were put into motion.” Accordingly, General Schwarzkopf “was named the Commander of the so-called U.S. Central Command - which was the renamed version of the Rapid Deployment Force - for the purpose of carrying out the war plan that he had personally developed and supervised. During January of 1990, massive quantities of United States weapons, equipment, and supplies were sent to Saudi Arabia in order to prepare for the war against Iraq.”[99] The U.S., it thus seems had begun conducting intense planning for a possible war with Iraq as early as 1988 through to 1990.

IV.II The International Scene

Meanwhile in the Middle East, conflict was brewing between Iraq and Kuwait. The historical context of Iraq-Kuwait conflict lies in the fact that Kuwait was once a district of Iraq during Ottoman rule, before the British carved it off to form an independent state. This had never been accepted by Iraq as a legitimate division, and thus established a context of political tension between the two entities. Yet the main cause of Iraq-Kuwait tension just prior to the Gulf War was far more contemporary, originating in the policies of Kuwait. Iraq was incensed at Kuwait for around three reasons: during the Iran-Iraq War, Kuwait was apparently stealing $2.4 billion worth of oil from the Rumaila oil-field beneath the Iraq-Kuwait border; Kuwait had built various structures, including military structures, on Iraqi territory; after the Iran-Iraq War, Kuwait had been colluding with the United Arab Emirates to exceed the production quotas fixed by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), resulting in the reduction of oil prices.

Kuwait decided to drastically increase oil production on 8 August 1988, only one day after Iran agreed to a ceasefire with Iraq.[100] Stable oil prices were essential to finance postwar reconstruction at this critical time. Yet Kuwait’s violation of OPEC agreements sent crude oil prices plummeting from $21 to $11 a barrel. Consequently Iraq was losing $14 billion a year.[101] This was only the beginning. In March 1989, Kuwait demanded a 50 percent increase in the OPEC quotas it was already flagrantly violating. Although OPEC rejected the demand in a June 1989 conference, Kuwait’s oil minister declared that Kuwait would not be bound by any quota at all. Kuwait then went on to double production to over a million barrels per day.[102]

On top of this, as Pierre Salinger recorded, Kuwait “intended to extract more from the oil fields at Rumaila”, which lie on the disputed Iraq-Kuwait border.[103] During the Iran-Iraq War, Kuwait had illegally extended its border northward, thus grabbing hold of 900 square miles of the Rumaila oil field. U.S.-supplied slant drilling technology allowed Kuwait to steal oil from the part of Rumaila that was indisputably within Iraq’s borders. Additionally, Kuwait’s rulers had lent Iraq $30 billion during its war with Iran, and was now demanding that Iraq recompense them. Yet Kuwait’s own behaviour towards Iraq had made this impossible. The Iran-Iraq War had already cost Iraq over $80 billion. With oil prices plummeting thanks to Kuwaiti intransigence, it became impossible for Iraq to generate the necessary funds to recompense Kuwait. Iraq’s response between 1988 and 1990 was to endeavour to resolve these problems through diplomatic means. Yet all attempts at negotiation were rebuffed.[104] One senior U.S. official in Bush’s administration remarked: “Kuwait was overproducing, and when the Iraqis came and said, ‘Can’t you do something about it?’ the Kuwaitis said, ‘Sit on it.’ And they didn’t even say it nicely. They were nasty about it. They were stupid. They were arrogant. They were terrible.”[105]

Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Henry M. Schuler described these policies as “economic warfare” against Iraq.[106] Iraq complained that Kuwait’s policies were “tantamount to military aggression”.[107] By now Iraq was losing a billion dollars a year for each reduction of one dollar in the oil price. By 1990, these policies had decimated Iraq’s economy to such an extent that it was in worse condition than during its war with Iran, with inflation at 40 per cent and its currency plummeting.[108] Considering that Iraq had always espoused a historical claim to Kuwait, Saddam’s reaction to Kuwait’s policies is notable. Rather than immediately utilising the crisis as a pretext for acquiring Kuwaiti territory by force, Iraq appeared to be anxious to resolve the situation swiftly and peacefully. The late King Hussein of Jordan, a friend of the Western powers particularly admired by the United States and Israel, found Kuwait’s response perplexing. He testified to the San Francisco Chronicle:

“He [Saddam Hussein] told me how anxious he was to ensure that the situation be resolved as soon as possible. So he initiated contact with the Kuwaitis... this didn’t work from the beginning. There were meetings but nothing happened... this was really puzzling. It was in the Kuwaitis’ interest to solve the problem. I know how there wasn’t a definite border, how there was a feeling that Kuwait was part of Iraq.”[109]

Indeed, after having fought for eight devastating years with Iran, war was the last thing on Saddam’s mind. A study by the Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College, issued in early 1990, found that:

“Baghdad should not be expected to deliberately provoke military confrontations with anyone. Its interests are best served now and in the immediate future by peace... Revenues from oil sales could put it in the front ranks of nations economically. A stable Middle East is conducive to selling oil disruption has a long-range adverse effect on the oil market which would hurt Iraq... Force is only likely if the Iraqis feel seriously threatened. It is our belief that Iraq is basically committed to a nonaggressive strategy, and that it will, over the course of the next few years, considerably reduce the size of its military. Economic conditions practically mandate such action... There seems no doubt that Iraq would like to demobilize now that the war has ended.”[110]

Yet Kuwait’s provocative – and for Iraq devastating – behaviour, continued to generate increasing tension between the two countries. The international community ignored the growing tension. By July 1990, Kuwait had continued to ignore Iraq’s territorial and economic demands - including its OPEC-assigned quota. Subsequently, Iraq prepared for a military venture, amassing large numbers of troops along the border. A significant indication of the U.S. role in this can be discerned from a crucial discovery that occurred after the invasion, when the Iraqis found a confidential memorandum in a Kuwaiti intelligence file. The document (dated 22 November 1989) was a top secret report to the Kuwaiti Minister of the Interior by his Director General of State Security, informing him of a meeting with the Director of the CIA in Washington, William Webster. The document stated:

“We agreed with the American side that it was important to take advantage of the deteriorating economic situation in Iraq in order to put pressure on that country’s government to delineate our common border. The Central Intelligence Agency gave us its view of appropriate means of pressure, saying that broad cooperation should be initiated between us on condition that such activities be coordinated at a high level.”[111]

In response, the CIA accused Iraq of forging the memo. Yet the Los Angeles Times disagrees with the CIA allegation, pointing out that: “The memo is not an obvious forgery, particularly since if Iraqi officials had written it themselves, they almost certainly would have made it far more damaging to US and Kuwaiti credibility.”[112]  There is further evidence demonstrating the memo’s authenticity. When the Iraqi foreign minister confronted his Kuwaiti counterpart with the document at an Arab summit meeting in mid-August, his Kuwaiti colleague found it so sufficiently authentic – and indeed damaging – that he fainted.[113] And as noted by Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney-General under the Lyndon Johnson administration, “many experts affirm that it is genuine. It is telling evidence, documenting the economic warfare waged against Iraq by Kuwait and the United States”.[114]

There are further reasons to believe that the U.S. encouraged Kuwait not to come to a peaceful compromise with Iraq. Indeed, this is what has been asserted by the head of the Palestine Authority, Yasser Arafat, in relation to the events at an Arab summit in May. Arafat stated that the U.S. pressured Kuwait to refuse any deal when Saddam offered to negotiate a mutually acceptable border with Kuwait at the summit to resolve the issue. “The U.S. was encouraging Kuwait not to offer any compromise which meant that there could be no negotiated solution to avoid the Persian Gulf crisis.”[115] Astute observers have noted that Kuwait’s behaviour was plainly irrational and could not have been conducted without external encouragement from a more powerful ally. Dr. Mussama al-Mubarak, a Professor in Political Science at Kuwait University, for instance, commented: “I don’t know what the [Kuwaiti] government was thinking, but it adopted an extremely hard line, which makes me think that the decisions were not Kuwait’s alone. It is my assumption that, as a matter of course, Kuwait would have consulted on such matters with Saudi Arabia and Britain, as well as the United States.”[116

The testimony of King Hussein of Jordan, who had been an intermediary in negotiations between Iraq, Kuwait and other Arab states at that time, confirms the U.S. role. American investigative journalist Dr. Michael Emery, using King Hussein as his pre-eminent source, found that:

“Parties to the Arab negotiations say the Kuwaitis... had enthusiastically participated in a behind-the-scenes economic campaign inspired by Western intelligence agencies against Iraqi interests. The Kuwaities even went so far as to dump oil for less than the agreed upon OPEC price ... which undercut the oil revenues essential to cash hungry Baghdad. The evidence shows that President George Bush, British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and other Arab leaders secretly cooperated on a number of occasions, beginning August 1988, to deny Saddam Hussein the economic help he demanded for the reconstruction of his nation.... However, Washington and London encouraged the Kuwaitis in their intransigent insistence.”[117]

As a consequence, Kuwait adopted a hard-line policy of no-compromise with Iraq, refusing to negotiate and intransigent in the face of Iraq’s threat of using military means to put a stop to Kuwait’s policies. According to senior Kuwaiti officials, this was because the U.S. had already promised to intervene in case of an Iraqi attack. The Kuwaiti foreign minister, who is also brother of the ruling Emir, declared just before the Iraqi invasion: “We are not going to respond to [Iraq]... if they don’t like it, let them occupy our territory... we are going to bring in the Americans.” According to King Hussein, the Kuwaiti Emir commanded his senior military officers to hold-off the Iraqis for 24 hours in the event of an invasion, by which time “American and foreign forces would land in Kuwait and expel them.”[118] Middle East expert Milton Viorst interviewed both U.S. and Kuwaiti officials for a report in the New Yorker. He was informed by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Salem al-Sabah that General Schwarzkopf was a regular visitor to Kuwait after the Iran-Iraq War: “Schwarzkopf came here a few times and met with the Crown Prince and Minister of Defense. These became routine visits to discuss military cooperation, and by the time the crisis with Iraq began last year, we knew we could rely on the Americans.”[119] Schwarzkopf’s role has been corroborated by other sources, particularly the testimony of a U.S. official in Kuwait who stated: “Schwarzkopf was here on visits before the war, maybe a few times a year. He was a political general, and that was unusual in itself. He kept a personally high proflle and was on a first-name basis with all the ministers in Kuwait.”[120] The American-Kuwaiti plot was also confirmed after the Gulf War. The Kuwaiti Minister of Oil and Finance stated: “But we knew that the United States would not let us be overrun. I spent too much time in Washington to make that mistake, and received a constant stream of visitors here. The American policy was clear. Only Saddam didn’t understand it.”[121] As Francis Boyle thus notes, reviewing this sequence of events, the United Stated encouraged Kuwait in “violating OPEC oil production agreements to undercut the price of oil to debilitate Iraq’s economy”; “extracting excessive and illegal amounts of oil from pools it shared with Iraq”; “demanding immediate repayment of loans Kuwait had made to Iraq during the Iraq-Iran War”; and “breaking off negotiations with Iraq over these disputes.” In doing so, the U.S. “intended to provoke Iraq into aggressive military actions against Kuwait that they knew could be used to justify U.S. military intervention into the Persian Gulf for the purpose of destroying Iraq and taking over Arab oil fields.”[122]

When Iraq began preparing for a military incursion into Kuwait, the U.S. did not publicise its official position of willingness to intervene on behalf of Kuwait. Instead the United States presented a green light to Saddam Hussein by consistently asserting a position of neutrality on the issue, contrary to its actual policy. On 25 July, while Saddam’s troops were amassed on Kuwait’s border in preparation to attack, after hearing the Iraqi dictator inform her that Kuwait’s borders were drawn in the colonial era April Glaspie, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, told Saddam:

“We studied history at school. They taught us to say freedom or death. I think you know well that we... have our experience with the colonialists. We have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait... [Secretary of State] James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”

On 24 July, Glaspie received a cable from the U.S. State Department directing her to reiterate to Iraqi officials that the U.S. had “no position” on “Arab-Arab” conflicts.[123] Leading authority on U.S. foreign policy John Stockwell - the highest-ranking CIA official to go public - has conducted an important review of Glaspie’s role and its context in a wider array of U.S. policies.[124] With regards to the Gulf War, he observes that “the United States and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia lured Saddam Hussein and Iraq” into attacking Kuwait. Saddam Hussein had been “protesting... formally to every public body” against Kuwait’s U.S.-sponsored policies of ‘economic warfare’ against Iraq. There was no response from the international community. In the summer of 1990 Saddam “called in the U.S. Ambassador, April Glaspie, and asked her what the U.S. position was... on the defense of Kuwait. She did not know she was being tape-recorded, and she told him ten times in the conversation that [the U.S.] had no defense agreement with Kuwait”, adding that “the Secretary of State [James Baker] had ordered her to emphasize this instruction”, and moreover that “she had conferred with the President about it.” Stockwell also points out the crucial fact that then U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton - member of the U.S. House Committee on International Relations, Chair of the Joint Economic Committee, and now Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars – concluded that the United States had indeed intentionally goaded Iraq into invading Kuwait: “Congressman Lee Hamilton concluded, from hearings on this, that [America] had deliberately given Saddam Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait.” In his own words, Hamilton stated: “We gave him, Saddam Hussein, the green light to invade Kuwait.”[125]

On 31 July, John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, told Congress: “We have no defense treaty relationship with any Gulf country. That is clear... We have historically avoided taking a position on border disputes or on internal OPEC deliberations.” Representative Lee Harrison then asked that if Iraq “charged across the border into Kuwait”, would it be true to say that the United States did “not have a treaty commitment which would obligate us to engage U.S. forces” in the region. “That is correct”, replied Kelly.[126] Numerous official statements of similar intent were issued by U.S. officials, while indications to the contrary were almost immediately withdrawn and corrected. Indeed, not long before the Gulf War - just after Saddam’s hanging of London-based Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft in 1990 - a group of American senators visited Saddam in Baghdad and assured him that “democracy is a very confusing issue – I believe that your problems lie with the Western media and not with the U.S. government” (U.S. Senator Alan Simpson). Senator Howard Metzenbaum told Saddam: “I have been sitting here and listening to you for about an hour, and I am now aware that you are a strong and intelligent man and that you want peace.”[127] All these statements of neutrality – and indeed appeasment of Saddam’s Baathist regime - were clearly a misrepresentation of the official U.S. position. While giving Saddam a green light to invade by carefully not showing him a red light, the U.S. covertly assured its Kuwaiti ally that in the event of an invasion, U.S. forces would intervene and expel the Iraqi army from Kuwaiti territory.

Even the mainstream press has been forced to acknowledge how U.S. statements of neutrality were so frequent and non-interventionist in character that they led Saddam to believe he had a green light to invade Kuwait. The Washington Post reported:

“Since the invasion, highly classified U.S. intelligence assessments have determined that Saddam took U.S. statements of neutrality... as a green light from the Bush administration for an invasion. One senior Iraqi military official... has told the [CIA] agency that Saddam seemed to be sincerely surprised by the subsequent bellicose reaction.”[128]

“State Department officials... led Saddam Hussein to think he could get away with grabbing Kuwait”, concluded the New York Daily News. “Bush and Co. gave him no reason to think otherwise.”[129] This was clearly the desired outcome. The former French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson has observed that: “The Americans were determined to go to war from the start,” and Saddam Hussein “walked into a trap”.[130] A major piece of evidence showing that the U.S. set up the war with Iraq is contained in an impeachment resolution and brief in support by U.S. Representative Henry Gonzalez presented to U.S. Congress and printed in full in the Congressional Record:

“As early as October 1989 the CIA representatives in Kuwait had agreed to take advantage of Iraq’s deteriorating economic position to put pressure on Iraq to accede to Kuwait’s demands with regard to the border dispute.


“… Encouraging Kuwait to refuse to negotiate its differences with Iraq as required by the United Nations Charter, including Kuwait’s failure to abide by OPEC quotas, its pumping of Iraqi oil from the Rumaila oil field and its refusal to negotiate these and other matters with Iraq.


“Months prior to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the United States administration prepared a plan and practiced elaborate computer war games pitting United States forces against Iraqi armored divisions.


“In testimony before Congress prior to the invasion, Assistant Secretary Kelly misleadingly assured Congress that the United States had no commitment to come to Kuwait’s assistance in the event of war.


“April Glaspie’s reassurance to Iraq that the dispute was an ‘Arab’ matter and the U.S. would not interfere.”[131]

As leading scholar of international affairs and authority on international law, former U.S. Attorney-General Ramsey Clark - who led the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal on the Gulf War - thus concludes: “The evidence that this assault was planned for years before Iraq invaded Kuwait cannot be doubted. That a decision to provoke Iraq into an act that would justify the execution of those plans is clear beyond a reasonable doubt…

“It was not Iraq but powerful forces in the United States that wanted a new war in the Middle East: the Pentagon, to maintain its tremendous budget; the military-industrial complex, with its dependence on Middle East arms sales and domestic military contracts; the oil companies, which wanted more control over the price of crude oil and greater profits; and the Bush administration, which saw in the Soviet Union’s disintegration its chance to establish a permanent military presence in the Middle East, securing the region and achieving vast geopolitical power into the next century through control of its oil resources.”[132]

This of course brings up the question as to why the U.S. would wish to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The answer to this question may lie in Saddam Hussein’s domestic policies combined with his emerging tendencies towards independence. Although his regime was a dictatorship whose policies were exceedingly brutal against any form of opposition to the Baathist establishment, “in his prewar period”, Saddam Hussein “did more than most rulers in that part of the world to meet the basic material needs of his people in terms of housing, health care, and education”, reports Middle East expert Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco.

“In fact, Iraq’s impressive infrastructure and strongly nationalistic ideology led many Arabs to conclude that the overkill exhibited by American forces and the postwar sanctions was a deliberate effort to emphasize that any development strategy in that part of the world must be pursued solely on terms favorable to Western interests. Saddam Hussein was also able to articulate the frustrations of the Arab masses concerning the Palestinian question, sovereignty regarding natural resources, and resistance to foreign domination. He was certainly opportunistic and manipulative in doing so, but it worked.”[133]

As similarly pointed out by Head of the Middle East Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, Phyllis Bennis, “the majority of Iraqi civilians enjoyed an almost First World-level standard of living, with education and health care systems that remained free, accessible to every Iraqi and among the highest quality in the developing world.”[134] This domestic development strategy was combined with a strongly nationalistic ideology that appeared to be intensifying with time. In February 1990, Saddam made a speech before an Arab summit that certainly seemed to show that his days of subservience to the West could be ending. Condemning the ongoing U.S. military presence in the Gulf, Saddam warned: “If the Gulf people and the rest of the Arabs along with them fail to take heed, the Arab Gulf region will be ruled by American will”, and that the United States would dictate the production, distribution and price of oil, “all on the basis of a special outlook which has to do solely with U.S. interests and in which no consideration is given to the interests of others.”[135]

Saddam’s demonstration of a developing propensity for independence was almost certainly a crucial factor in the U.S. decision to eventually attempt to eliminate him, or at least cut him down to size. Having developed weapons of mass destruction under U.S. tutelage and being strategically located in the Persian Gulf, any significant moves toward independence from the West by Iraq would signify a threat to U.S./Western domination of Gulf oil, and thereby a wider threat to general U.S. hegemony in the region. When Saddam began manifesting this very propensity it was thus necessary to block that movement before it gained momentum. “With the launch of the allied attacks, the primary showdown pitted one of the most articulate spokesmen for Arab nationalism against the West”, notes Professor Zunes. “Thus, there was real concern, both in the Middle East and beyond, that the United States was using Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait as an excuse to exert a long-desired military, political, and economic hegemony in the region.”[136]

This has, indeed, been confirmed by the Pentagon itself. A leaked Pentagon draft document stated:

“In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil... As demonstrated by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, it remains fundamentally important to prevent a hegemon or alignment of powers from dominating the region.”[137]

IV.III U.S. War-Mongering

According to conventional opinion, Saddam Hussein had not demonstrated any desire to seek a peaceful solution. The truth is quite the contrary. In fact, the Western powers had refused to acknowledge the grievances that had led Iraq to implement its offensive in the first place. President Bush declared that the Iraqi invasion was “without provocation” – an assertion that ignored Kuwait’s U.S.-inspired policies of “economic warfare”.[138] Despite this, Saddam had made several crucial offers of peace that were rejected outright by the international community, without even a feeble attempt at negotiation. According to the New York Times, the U.S. wanted to “block the diplomatic track because it might defuse the crisis at the cost of a few token gains for Iraq.”[139] As Stephen Zunes notes: “Unilateral demands are not negotiations. American specialists on the negotiation process felt that the United States wanted a war, given that Washington gave the Iraqis no opportunity to save face.”[140]

In early August 1990, and once again in October, Saddam made explicitly clear that he was willing to pull Iraqi forces out of Kuwait and allow foreigners to leave the country, in return for the following: control of the Rumaila oil field; access to the Persian Gulf; the lifting of sanctions that had been subsequently imposed; and a resolution of the oil price problem with Kuwait.[141] There was nothing particularly unreasonable about these conditions. One Bush administration official who specialised in the Middle East acknowledged that “the terms of the proposal are serious”, describing the package as “negotiable”. Newsday reported that in response to the offer, “some [U.S.] government officials now say that they see some hope of a negotiated settlement.”[142] The offers were rejected. The 23 August offer, for instance, was simply dismissed by the U.S. administration and virtually blacked out by the mass media. Indeed, at first the State Department “categorically” denied that the offer had even been made; only later was the existence of the offer confirmed by the White House.[143

On 2 January 1991, Iraq proposed another peace package, offering to withdraw from Kuwait on condition that the U.S. did not attack Iraqi soldiers as they pulled out; foreign troops left the region; there would be agreement on the Palestine issue and on the banning of weapons of mass destruction in the region. The proposal was described as “a serious prenegotiation position” by a State Department Middle East expert. Other U.S. officials observed that the prospects of the offer were “interesting”.[144] The proposal illustrated a clear willingness to compromise – Saddam had now dropped the previous Iraqi claims to two Kuwaiti islands and control of the Rumaila oil field. Yet this was barely reported in the mass media.[145] Western leaders continued to categorically dismiss the possibility of negotiations, instead pushing eagerly for a full-scale offensive.[146]

U.S. political analyst William Blum, a former State Department official, summed up the U.S. dismissal of all possible peaceful solutions: “The U.S. military and President Bush would have their massive show of power, their super-hi-tech real war games, and no signals from Iraq or any peacenik would be allowed to spoil it.”[147] As a consequence, the United States, with support from its Western allies, attacked Iraq and imposed a massive military presence in the Gulf region.

The whole process allowed Bush to maintain both U.S. military spending and his domestic popularity. The Senate was led to acknowledge that the Iraqi attack “demonstrates the continuing risk of war and the need for advanced weapons”. Concerning the need for continued high military spending demonstrated by Iraqi aggression, Senator Dole remarked: “If we needed Saddam Hussein to give us a wake-up call at least we can thank him for that.”[148] The Washington Post recorded the legitimacy the war gave to the expansion of the U.S. military-industrial complex:

“Less than a year after political changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union sent the defense industry reeling under the threat of dramatic cutbacks, executives and analysts say the crisis in the Persian Gulf has provided military companies with a tiny glimmer of hope... The possible beneficiaries of the crisis cover the spectrum of companies in the defense industry.”[149]

By early October 1990 this “tiny glimmer of hope” was transformed into a massive boost:

“The political backdrop of the U.S. military deployment in Saudi Arabia [in response to Iraq’s invasion] played a significant role in limiting defense cuts in Sunday’s budget agreement, halting the military spending ‘free fall’ that some analysts had predicted two months ago, budget aides said. Capitol Hill strategists said that Operation Desert Shield forged a major change in the political climate of the negotiations, forcing lawmakers who had been advocating deep cuts on the defensive. The defense budget compromise... would leave not only funding for Operation Desert Shield intact but would spare much of the funding that has been spent each year to prepare for a major Soviet onslaught on Western Europe.”[150]

Meanwhile, Bush’s approval rating had been boosted to a successful 73 per cent in October 1990. When Bush continued to contradict himself about the actual purpose of the Gulf War, this soon dropped to a meagre 56 per cent.[151] But once the actual military onslaught against Iraq had begun, by January Bush’s popularity was again soaring at 82 per cent - the highest ever during his presidency.[152] Yet in spite of his success in duping the American public, beneath Bush’s popularity there was an uneasy awareness that the war was merely an excuse to legitimise U.S. military expansion. James Webb, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy, observed that:

“The President should be aware that, while most Americans are laboring very hard to support him, a mood of cynicism is just beneath the veneer of respect. Many are claiming that the build up is little more than a ‘Pentagon budget drill’, designed to preclude cutbacks of an Army searching for a mission as bases in NATO begin to disappear.”[153]

IV.IV. U.S./Western War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity

The U.S.-led attack on Iraq enthusiastically employed a policy of wholesale destruction, which intentionally targeted not only Iraq’s military, but also the entire civilian population. A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office, for instance, explicitly affirms that the Desert Storm air campaign of 1991 was aimed at: “Five basic categories of targets - command and control, industrial production, infrastructure, population will, and fielded forces.” The bombing of civilian infrastructure - including electricity, water, sanitation and other life-sustaining essentials - was intended, according to the report, to “degrade the will of the civilian population.”[154]

These facts, contrary to the mainstream myth of Western ‘smart’ bombs hitting solely military targets, have been exhaustively documented by Middle East Watch (MEW), affiliated to the international U.S.-based rights monitor Human Rights Watch (HRW). MEW has documented numerous cases of the intentional mass destruction of civilian buildings and areas, such as the bombing of residential areas; crowded markets; bridges while they were brimming with pedestrians and their vehicles; a busy central bus station, all of which occurred largely in broad daylight with no governmental or military structures in the vicinity.[155]

According to its principal report on the Persian Gulf War, MEW records that “allied attacks appear to have been indiscriminate, in that they failed to distinguish between military and civilian objects…

“[N]umerous witnesses described incidents in which civilian structures, most typically houses in residential areas they lived in or knew well, were destroyed or damaged in areas where they believed there were no conceivable military installations or facilities nearby, including anti-aircraft artillery… [These] accounts suggest that some civilian casualties during the war were not the product of inaccurate bombing - mere misses - but of attacks that, pending convincing justification from the allies, appear to have been indiscriminate.”

A typical example of these policies is the targeting of Basra, “which was largely off-limits to foreign reporters during the air wars, [and] appears to have suffered considerably more damage to civilian structures than Baghdad, where a small international press force was present.” MEW also dissects the pretexts for the targeting of Iraqi civilian infrastructure. Referring to the destruction of Iraq’s nationwide electrical system, MEW reports:

“The apparent justification for attacking almost the entire electrical system in Iraq was that the system functioned as an integrated grid, meaning that power could be shifted countrywide, including to military functions such as command-and-control centers and weapons-manufacturing facilities. But these key military targets were attacked in the opening days of the war. The direct attacks by the allies on these military targets should have obviated the need simultaneously to destroy the fixed power sources thought to have formerly supplied them. If these and other purely military targets could be attacked at will, then arguably the principle of humanity would make the wholesale destruction of Iraq’s electrical-generating capability superfluous to the accomplishment of legitimate military objectives.”[156]

Indeed, the Allies embarked on purposeful destruction of almost the entirety of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure. Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and Coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, observed that the bombing “effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq - electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry, health care. Food, warehouses, hospitals and markets were bombed. Power stations were repeatedly attacked until electricity supplies were at only 4 per cent of prewar levels.”[157] Hoskin’s team further recorded that:

“The children strive to understand what they saw: planes bombing, houses collapsing, soldiers fighting, blood, mutilated and crushed bodies. The children fight to forget what they heard: people screaming, desperate voices, planes, explosions, crying people. They are haunted by the smell of gunfire, fires and burned flesh.”[158]

Many Iraqi civilians tried to escape the bombing by fleeing to Jordan, only to be bombarded by air attacks on the highway between Baghdad and Jordan’s border. This included assaults on buses, taxis and private cars with Western cluster bombs, rockets and machine guns. The violence occurred in broad daylight, with no military structures or vehicles in sight, and with targets clearly being civilians. Busloads of passengers were literally incinerated, while civilians evacuating their vehicles fled for their lives; they too were subsequently fired at by tailing Allied planes.[159]

The 13th February 1991 was probably when the Allies first escalated their bombing strategy to terrorise the Iraqi people. Two missiles launched from a U.S. stealth bomber hit a civilian establishment - an air raid shelter - killing 1,500 civilians, many of them women and children. In response to international concern and outrage, the U.S. claimed that the shelter was a cover for a military outpost. Yet neighbourhood residents insistently pointed out the existence of constant Western aerial surveillance overhead which clearly would have observed the daily flow of women and children into the shelter,[160] and Western reporters at the site admitted that absolutely no signs of military use could be discovered.[161] People living in the vicinity informed researchers that it was simply “unbelievable” that the U.S. was unaware of how the shelter was used primarily by women and children coming and going twice a day. Abu Kulud, who lost his wife and two daughters in the bombing, testified: “It was impossible for them not to know there were only civilians in the shelter. Their air [communications] were everywhere.” Similar testimony came from a woman who lost her mother and two sisters: “How could they not know? They had to know. They had the satellite over our heads twenty-four hours a day, as well as photographs the planes took before they bombed.”[162]

U.S. officials also failed to answer a reporter’s key question at a military briefing, and prevented any form of independent inquiry from taking place:

“Why did they not show the video that showed military personnel going in and out of the bomb shelter? The U.S. military refused to produce the pictures or allow an independent investigation of the incident. Within the space of twenty-four hours the Pentagon announced that its own internal investigation, conducted in secret, of course, was over and the case closed.”[163]

However, the later testimony of a Pentagon official revealed the duplicity of a U.S. cover-up: The U.S. had known the site was a civilian shelter, but had targeted it to intentionally terrorise the Iraqi people. Brian Becker, Co-director of the Washington-based International Action Center (IAC) - the anti-war organisation founded and headed by former U.S. Attorney-General Ramsey Clark - calls attention to the official’s crucial testimony:

“The U.S. has deliberately targeted Iraqi civilians in the past. During the Persian Gulf war, for instance, the U.S. used two precision or ‘smart’ bombs to destroy the Al-Amariyah bomb shelter in downtown Baghdad... The Pentagon spokesman went on TV in February 1991 to announce that the attack on Al-Amariyah was not an accident. The U.S. was trying to terrorize the population.”[164]

Francis Boyle provides an accurate summary of the bombing campaign:

“Systematic aerial and missile bombardment of Iraq was ordered to begin at 6:30 p.m. E.S.T. January 16, 1991, in order to be reported on prime time TV. The bombing continued for 42 days. It met no resistance from Iraqi aircraft and no effective anti-aircraft or anti-missile ground fire. Iraq was basically defenceless. Most of the targets were civilian facilities. The United States intentionally bombed and destroyed centres for civilian life, commercial and business districts, schools, hospitals, mosques, churches, shelters, residential areas, historical sites, private vehicles and civilian government offices. In aerial attacks, including strafing, over cities, towns, the countryside and highways, United States aircraft bombed and strafed indiscriminately. The purpose of these attacks was to destroy life and property, and generally to terrorise the civilian population of Iraq. The net effect was the summary execution and corporal punishment indiscriminately of men, women and children, young and old, rich and poor, of all nationalities and religions. As a direct result of this bombing campaign against civilian life, at least 25,000 men, women and children were killed. The Red Crescent Society of Jordan estimated 113,000 civilian dead, 60% of them children, the week before the end of the war. According to the Nuremberg Charter, this ‘wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages’ is a Nuremberg War Crime.”[165]

The Commission for Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal initiated by former U.S. Attorney-General Ramsey Clark elaborates on these horrendous war crimes and crimes against humanity:

“The destruction of civilian facilities left the entire civilian population without heat, cooking fuel, refrigeration, potable water, telephones, power for radio or TV reception, public transportation and fuel for private automobiles. It also limited food supplies, closed schools, created massive unemployment, severely limited economic activity and caused hospitals and medical services to shut down. In addition, residential areas of every major city and most towns and villages were targeted and destroyed. Isolated Bedouin camps were attacked by U.S. aircraft. In addition to deaths and injuries, the aerial assault destroyed 10 - 20,000 homes, apartments and other dwellings. Commercial centers with shops, retail stores, offices, hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations were targeted and thousands were destroyed. Scores of schools, hospitals, mosques and churches were damaged or destroyed. Thousands of civilian vehicles on highways, roads and parked on streets and in garages were targeted and destroyed. These included public buses, private vans and mini-buses, trucks, tractor trailers, lorries, taxi cabs and private cars. The purpose of this bombing was to terrorize the entire country, kill people, destroy property, prevent movement, demoralize the people and force the overthrow of the government.”[166]

According to a United Nations inspection team in the aftermath of the war, the Western offensive had “a near apocalyptic impact” on Iraq. The country, which “had been until January a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society”, had been bombed into a “pre-industrial age nation”.[167] It is reasonable to believe that one of the motivations for ruthlessly targeting the civilian population was to encourage desperate citizens to overthrow Saddam Hussein, and institute a new subservient regime. A U.S. Air Force planner declared: “Big picture, we wanted to let people know, ‘Get rid of this guy and we’ll be more than happy to assist in rebuilding. We’re not going to tolerate Saddam Hussein or his regime.’ Fix that and we’ll fix your electricity.”[168]

This did not mean that the U.S. preferred a popular democratic government to take power. On the contrary, when a popular Shi’ite and Kurdish uprising erupted in Iraq during the Gulf War after President Bush had urged Iraqis to rebel against Saddam’s regime, the revolt was put down by Saddam’s forces with U.S. complicity, as was revealed by a report by Peter Galbraith of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in light of a March 1991 fact-finding mission. Galbraith reported that the U.S. Administration withheld support of the uprising against Saddam Hussein. Noam Chomsky describes the revealing account provided by Galbraith and other sources on the matter:

“Galbraith reported that the Administration did not even respond to Saudi proposals to assist Shi’ite and Kurdish rebels, and that the Iraqi military did not attack until it had ‘clear indication that the United States did not want the popular rebellion to succeed.’ A BBC investigation found that ‘several Iraqi generals made contact with the United States to sound out the likely response if they moved against Saddam,’ but received no support, concluding that ‘Washington had no interest in supporting revolution; that it would prefer Saddam Hussein to continue his office...’ An Iraqi general who escaped to Saudi Arabia told the BBC that ‘he and his men had repeatedly asked the American forces for weapons, ammunition and food to help carry on the fight against Saddam’s forces,’ only to be refused each time. As his men fell back towards US-UK positions, the Americans blew up an Iraqi arms dump to prevent them from obtaining arms, and then ‘disarmed the rebels’. Reporting from northern Iraq, ABC correspondent Charles Glass described how ‘Republican Guards [Saddam’s army], supported by regular army brigades, mercilessly shelled Kurdish-held areas with Katyusha multiple rocket launchers, helicopter gunships and heavy artillery,’ while journalists observing the slaughter listened to General Schwarzkopf boasting to his radio audience that ‘we have destroyed the Republican Guard as a militarily effective force’ and eliminated the military use of helicopters. Such truths are not quite the stuff of which heroes are fashioned, so the story was finessed at home, though it could not be totally ignored, particularly the attack on the Kurds, with their Aryan features and origins; the Shi’ites who appear to have suffered even worse atrocities right under the gaze of Stormin’ Norman, raised fewer problems, being mere Arabs.”[169]          

Western aversion to the removal of Saddam in this case appears to have been associated with the problem of how to ensure that the Kurdish/Shi’ite rebellion would result in the installation of an appropriately subservient government. There was no guarantee in this regard - the U.S. certainly did not want the Shi’ite Muslims to take power, as had happened in Iran. Hence, the revolt went unsupported.

Western indifference to the plight of the Kurds, rooted in strategic and economic interests, has a long record. The contradiction between the West’s professed concern for the rights of Kurd in Iraq, and Western policy toward Turkey, is one contemporary example of this. Human Rights Watch (HRW), for instance, reports that it “is particularly troubled that throughout Turkey’s scorched-earth campaign, U.S. troops, aircraft and intelligence personnel have remained at their posts throughout Turkey, mingling with Turkish counterinsurgency troops and aircrews in southeastern bases such as Incirlik and Diyarbakir…

“Some U.S. troops are in Turkey on NATO-related duties, while others operate within the framework of Operation Provide Comfort, a no-fly zone in northern Iraq designed to defend Iraqi Kurds from Saddam Hussein’s Air Force... U.S. military and diplomatic personnel have studiously ignored the abusive actions of their Turkish allies. It appears that in return for Turkey’s support for Operation Provide Comfort, the U.S. has agreed not to publicly criticize what Turkey does with its own Kurdish citizens, located directly across the Iraqi border from the zone protected by U.S. warplanes... [E]lements within the U.S. government possess detailed knowledge of the full scope of Turkish abuses as well as the key role played by U.S. weapons.”[170]

This combination of hypocrisy and complicity can be located in “Turkey’s status as an important NATO ally and as a major base for U.S. troops, including U.S. intelligence units, as well as U.S. nuclear weapons”. In other words, strategic interests far outweigh alleged humanitarian concerns.[171]

All this is nothing novel and remains consistent with traditional policies. For example, in the early 1970s there was a Kurdish revolt supported by Iran - then ruled by the Shah. The purpose of the revolt as far as Iran and its American masters were concerned was simply to cause trouble for Iraq in accordance with strategic considerations - Iraq was not a U.S. ally at this time. In order to further its strategic interests the U.S. decided to help. The Pike Committee report has made clear that both the U.S. and its Iranian stooge of the time did not want the Kurds to win, and that the uprising was given limited support only to pressurise Iraq to settle a border issue concerning access to the Persian Gulf. Consequently, as soon as Iraq accepted Iranian demands, both Iran and the United States cancelled their support of the Kurdish uprising. A classified report by the House Select Committee on Intelligence that was leaked to the press clarified this matter, stating that U.S. officials:

“… hoped that our clients [the Kurds] would not prevail. They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap [Iraqi] resources... This policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting. Even in the context of covert action, ours was a cynical enterprise.”[172]

It was in 1975 that aid to the Kurds was suddenly cut off, allowing Saddam to begin slaughtering them immediately. One thousand pesh merga fighters who had surrendered were shot down “in cold blood”, while another five thousand Kurdish women, children and elderly men were slaughtered as they attempted to flee the country.[173]

Western indifference to the slaughter of Kurds and people of other ethnicities in the non-Western world, is therefore a long-standing reality that continues to this day, because policy is driven not by benevolence, but by elite interests in the maximisation of profits. The massive military presence in the Gulf today, legitimised by the no-fly-zones over Iraq purportedly established to monitor Saddam’s treatment of his people and ensure their protection, in fact plays the role of continuing the war against the Iraqi people. Nearly half of the targets of the ongoing Anglo-American bombing campaign against Iraq, largely blacked out by an unconscionably indifferent mass media, are civilian, not military. Award-winning British journalist John Pilger notes that according to an internal UN Security Sector report, in a single five month period,

“41 per cent of victims of the bombing were civilians in civilian targets: villages, fishing jetties, farmland and vast, treeless valleys where sheep graze. A shepherd, his father, his four children and his sheep were killed by a British or American aircraft, which made two passes at them.”[174]

Indeed, as IAC Coordinator Brian Becker pointedly remarks:

“The U.S. says it is ‘concerned’ about the Kurds in northern Iraq and the Shiite population in the south. That’s hogwash. Those are the people who are being killed and maimed by U.S. bombs and missiles. The real reason is that the U.S. wants control over these two regions because that is where Iraq’s oil reserves are located. This oil constitutes 10% of the worlds known reserves.”[175]         

It is clear then that a fundamental purpose of attacking the civilian society of Iraq during the Gulf War was politically motivated, and performed with the view to induce a population that could be appropriately subdued into recognising Western superiority, to support the removal of the overly-independent Saddam and bring Iraq back under U.S. sphere of influence.[176] Western objectives in Iraq were candidly outlined by Thomas Friedman, then Chief Diplomatic Correspondent of the New York Times. Friedman reported that the West’s hope was for Iraqi generals to topple Saddam Hussein, “and then Washington would have the best of all worlds: an iron-fisted Iraqi junta without Saddam Hussein.” In this way, the United States - civilised leader of the “free world” - hoped to recreate the days when Saddam’s pro-West “iron-fist... held Iraq together, much to the satisfaction of the American allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia”, as well as their Western masters.[177]

This record of Western policy in the Middle East illustrates not only that the concept of Western humanitarian intervention is redundant, but also that the conventional assumptions of mainstream political discourse - in which Western benevolence, concern for human rights, and promotion of democracy are integral aspects of Western foreign policy – are without genuine empirical foundation. Indeed, these assumptions are entirely at odds with the systematically brutal and anti-democratic nature of Western foreign policy under U.S. leadership, as demonstrated in the example of the Middle East. This has broad implications for the terms and foundations of our understanding of international relations. In particular, it brings into question the relevance of the concept of a global “civil society” in understanding the structure of the current world order, which is clearly dominated by the drive for power and profit, and where freedom, democracy and human rights are merely ideological tools manipulated by an elite to veil and justify policies of repression, subjugation and mass terrorisation.


[1] Memorandum by the Acting Chief of the Petroleum Division, 1 June 1945, FRUS, 1945, Vol. VIII, p. 54.

[2] Introductory paper on the Middle East by the UK, undated [1947], FRUS, 1947, Vol. V, p. 569.

[3] NSC 5401, quoted in Heikal, Mohammed, Cutting the lion’s tail; Suez through Egyption eyes, Andre Deutsch, London, 1986, p. 38. It is essential to note in this connection that the ongoing Western desire to control Middle East oil has nothing to do with security, and everything to do with the simple maximisation of corporate profits. Michael Shuman of the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) based in Washington DC, points out in an important study of the subject that “greater energy efficiency could enable the United States to reduce its dependence on foreign oil supplies and the associated military risks of the Persian Gulf.” For example, “before the United States sent its troops to Saudi Arabia, it was calculated that investing a single year’s budget for the Rapid Deployment Force in efficiency improvements could eliminate the United States’ need for Middle East oil, as well as the risks posed by the force itself.” In other words, “had the United States invested as much as a quarter of the price it is paying for the war against Iraq on energy savings, the country could have permanently unplugged itself from Persian Gulf oil. Just increasing the efficiency of American cars by three miles per gallon could replace all U.S. oil imports from Iraq and Kuwait.” (Shuman, Michael, ‘Participatory peace policies’, in Hartman, Chester and Vilanova, Pedro, Paradigms lost: The post Cold War era, Pluto Press, London, 1992, p. 133).

[4] Spoken by John Balfour of the British embassy in Washington, to Bevin, 9 August 1945, DBFP, Ser. II, Vol. II, pp. 244-5.

[5] By Orme Sargent, ‘Stocktaking after V.E. Day’, 11 July 1945; refer to Ross, Graham (ed.), The Foreign Office and the Kremlin: British documents on Anglo-Soviet relations 1941-45, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1984, p. 211.

[6] File FO 371/132 779. ‘Future Policy in the Persian Gulf’, 15 January 1958, FO 371/132 778.

[7] Aburish, Said K., A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite, Indigo, London, 1998.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Public Statement, ‘Do Not Bomb Iraq’, Committee On The Middle East (COME), December 1997. Also see Aburish, Said K., A Brutal Friendship, op. cit., for an analysis of the West’s self-interested infiltration and manipulation of the Middle East, continuing to this day, including the creation and subsequent control of impotent but repressive Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, etc. Also of some relevance in this regard is Kayali, Hasan, Arabs and Young Turks: The Ottoman Empire 1908-1918, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1997.

[11] Fandy, Marmoun, ‘US Policy in the Middle East’, Foreign Policy In Focus, Vol. 2, No. 4, January 1997.

[12] COME, ‘Towards a New Middle East’, Washington DC, January 1998

[13] For firsthand accounts of the Anglo-American backed coup by the MI6 and CIA officials responsible for it, see Woodhouse, C. M., Something Ventured, Granada, London, 1982; Roosevelt, Kermit, Countercoup: The struggle for the control of Iran, McGraw Hill, London, 1979.

[14] Pike, John, ‘Minister of Security SAVAK’, Federation of American Scientists Intelligence Resource Program, 16 January 2000,

[15] See Curtis, Mark, The Ambiguities of Power: British Foreign Policy Since 1945, Zed, London 1995.

[16] G. Middleton to A. Eden, 23 September 1952, PRO, FO 248/1531.

[17] U.S. embassy Tehran dispatch, 19 May 1953, PRO, FO 371/104566.

[18] Cited in Blum, William, The CIA: A forgotten history, Zed, London, 1986.

[19] New York Times, 6 August 1954.

[20] Armstrong, Karen, The Battle for God: Fundamentalism in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, HarperCollins, London, 2001, p. 245.

[21] Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, op. cit.

[22] Armstrong, Karen, The Battle for God, op. cit., p. 299.

[23] Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, op. cit.

[24] Foran, John, Fragile Resistance: Social Transformation in Iran from 1500 to the Revolution, West View Press, Oxford, 1993. This book won awards from the Middle East Studies Association, the American Sociological Association, and the Pacific Sociological Association.

[25] Pishevar, Shervin, Centralization of Power & Dictatorship in Modern Iran: Prelude to Collapse, LeaderNet, Shervin Pishevar is founder and editor-in-chief of the peer reviewed research journal Berkeley Scientific and is the Director of Global Outreach, Co-Founder and Chair of the Board of Directors of the American scholarly research group LeaderNet.

[26] Cited in ibid., p. 95; Pishevar, Shervin, Centralization of Power & Dictatorship in Modern Iran: Prelude to Collapse, op. cit.

[27] Rubin, Barry, Paved with good intentions: The American experience and Iran, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1980, p. 67.

[28] Cited in Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, op. cit., p. 95.

[29] Ibid., p. 96.

[30] Pike, John, ‘Minister of Security SAVAK’, op. cit.

[31] Baraheni, Reza, The Crowned Cannibals: Writings on Repression in Iran, Vintage Books, New York, 1977.

[32] Armstrong, Karen, The Battle for God, op. cit., p. 246.

[33] Cited in Kolko, Gabriel, Confronting the Third World: United States foreign policy 1945-1980, Pantheon, New York, 1988.

[34] Kissinger, Henry, The White House Years, Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1979.

[35] Cited in Sick, Gary, All Fall Down: America’s Fateful Encounter with Iran, London, 1985, p. 30.

[36] Cited in Milani, Mohsen M., The Making of Iran’s Islamic Revolution: From Monarchy to Islamic Republic, Westview Press, Boulder, 1988, p. 77.

[37] Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, op. cit.

[38] Cited in Chomsky, Noam, Deterring Democracy, Vintage, London, 1995, p. 55.

[39] Armstrong, The Battle for God, op. cit., p. 248.

[40] Shariati studied at the University of Mashad and at the Sorbonne, where he had studied the work of French orientalist Louis Massignon, existentialist Jean-Paul Sarter, and anti-imperialist Frantz Fanon.

[41] Momen, Moojem, An Introduction to Shii Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shiism, London, 1985, p. 254.

[42] Fischer, Michael J., ‘Imam Khomeini: Four Levels of Understanding’, in Esposito, John (ed.), Voices of Resurgent Islam, Oxford, 1983, p. 159.

[43] Keddie, Nikki R., Roots of Revolution: An Interpretive History of Modern Iran, London, 1981, p. 243.

[44] Sick, All Fall Down, op. cit., p. 51; Keddi, Roots of Revolution, op. cit., p. 250.

[45] Sick, All Fall Down, op. cit., p. 51.

[46] Washington Post, 25-30 October 1980; cited in Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War, op. cit.

[47] Armstrong, The Battle for God, op. cit., p. 323. Also see Fischer, ‘Imam Khomeini: Four Levels of Understanding’, op. cit., p. 171.

[48] Armstrong, The Battle for God, op. cit., p. 325-26.

[49] Keane, John, ‘Power-Sharing Islam?’, in Tamini, Azzam (ed.), Power-Sharing Islam?, Liberty for Muslim World Publications, London, 1993.

[50] Pilger, John. ‘Squeezed to death’, The Guardian, 4 March 2000.

[51] Cited in Editorial, ‘An Open Eye on Baghdad’, New York Times, 5 May 1980.

[52] Timmerman, Kenneth R., The Death Lobby: How the West Armed Iraq, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1991, pp. 76-77.

[53] Saddam’s War: The Origins of the Kuwait Conflict and the International Response, Faber and Faber, London, 1991, pp. 75-76.

[54] Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Noel Koch, cited in ‘At War, Iraq Courted U.S. into Economic Embrace’, Washington Post, 16 September 1990.

[55] Wright, Robin, ‘Hypocrisy Seen in U.S. Stand on Iraqi Arms’, Los Angeles Times, 16 February 1998

[56] Ibid.

[57] See ‘The War Machine’, International Broadcasting Trust (IBT), 1994.

[58] Hartung, William D., ‘U.S. Weapons at War: U.S. Arms Deliveries to Regions of Conflict’, World Policy Institute, May 1995. Also see discussion of these matters in Pilger, John, Hidden Agendas, Vintage, London, 1998.

[59] Jentleson, Bruce W., With Friends Like These: Reagan, Bush and Saddam, 1982-1980, W.W. Norton & Company, London, 1994.

[60] U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Government Operations, ‘U.S. Government Controls on Sales to Iraq’, hearing before the Commerce, and Monetary Affairs Subcommittee’, 101st Congress, 2nd Session, 27 September 1990, p. 386.

[61] Timmerman, The Death Lobby, op. cit., p. 157-160.

[62] Congressman Henry Gonzalez (D-Texas) statement in the Congressional Record, 10 August 1992, p. H 7871-82.

[63] Gonzalez, Congressional Record, 21 July 1992, pp. H 6338-46.

[64] Jentleson, Bruce W., With Friends Like These, op. cit.

[65] ‘U.S. Documents Dispute Bush on Iraq A-Arms’, Los Angeles Times, 2 July 1992; Congressional Record, 21 July 1992, p. H6341; ‘Iraq Got U.S. Technology After CIA Warned Baker’, Los Angeles Times, 22 July 1992.

[66] Testimony of David Kay, Gary Milhollin and Kenneth Timmerman in U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, ‘United States Export Policy Towards Iraq Prior to Iraq’s Invasion of Kuwait’, Hearing, 102nd Congress, 2nd Session, 27 October 1992, p. 81.

[67] ‘Dozens of U.S. Items Used in Iraqi Arms’, Washington Post, 22 July 1992.

[68] Shultz, George P., Turmoil and Triumph: My Years as Secretary of State, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1993, p. 238.

[69] UN, Security Council, Document S/16433, ‘Report of the Specialists Appointed by the Secretary General to Investigate Allegations by the Islamic Republic of Iran Concerning Use of Chemical Weapons’, 26 March 1984.

[70] Axelgard, Frederick W., A New Iraq? The Gulf War and Implications for U.S. Policy, Praeger, New York, 1988, p. 41.

[71] U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, ‘War in the Persian Gulf: the U.S. Takes Sides’, Staff Report 100-60, 100th Congress, 1st Session, 1987, p. 16.

[72] ‘Poison Gas Attack Kills Kurds’, Washington Post, 24 March 1988.

[73] U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, ‘Civil War in Iraq’, Staff Report (S. Rpt. 102-27), 102nd Congress, 1st Session, May 1991, p. 13.

[74] U.S. State Department Memorandum, ‘US-Iraqi Relations: Implications of Passage of Economic Sanctions Bill’, 18 October 1988.

[75] ‘Approved Licenses to Iraq, 1985-1990’, US Department of Commerce.

[76] U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committe on Ways and Means, ‘Adminstration and Enforcement of U.S. Export Control Programs’, hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight, 102nd Congress, 1st Session, 18 April and 1 May 1991, p. 466.

[77] ‘U.S. Gave Iraq Bacteria, Sen. McCain Charges’, Washington Post, 26 January 1989.

[78] U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committe on Ways and Means, ‘Adminstration and Enforcement of U.S. Export Control Programs’, hearing before the Subcommittee on Oversight, 102nd Congress, 1st Session, 18 April and 1 May 1991, p. 466.

[79] U.S. Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, ‘United States Policy Toward Iraq: Human Rights, Weapons, Proliferation and International Law’, Hearing, 121st Congress, 2nd Session, 15 June 1990, p. 60.

[80] U.S. Congress, General Accounting Office, ‘Iraq’s Participation in U.S. Agricultural Export Programs’, GAO/NSIAD-91-76, November 1990.

[81] U.S. Department of Energy, ‘Petroleum Supply Annual’, Energy Information Administration, Office of Oil and Gas, 1981-90; ‘Discount Princes on Imports of Iraqi Oil, 1988-1990’, document provided by U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Power to Bruce W. Jentleson.

[82] U.S. Department of Energy, ‘Imports from Iraq’, 26 August 1992; US Congress, House of Representatives, ‘Discount Prices on Imports of Iraqi Oil, 1988-1990’, Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Power.

[83] U.S. General Accounting Office, ‘Iraq’s Participation in U.S. Agricultural Export Programs’, p. 15.

[84] U.S. State Department Memorandum, ‘U.S.-Iraqi Relations: Implications of Passage of Economic Sanctions Bill’, 18 October 1988.

[85] Canason, Joe, ‘The Iraq Lobby’, The New Republic, 1 October 1990; Waas, Murray, ‘What We Gave Saddam for Christmas’, Village Voice, 18 December 1990, included in U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Government Operations, ‘U.S. Government Controls on Sales to Iraq’, hearing before the Commerce, Consumer and Monetary Affairs Subcommittee, 101st Congress, 2nd Session, 27 September 1990, pp. 300-310; Timmerman, The Death Lobby, pp. 219-23, 305-308.

[86] Many of the internal U.S. documents cited in this section can be found in Jentleson, Bruce W., With Friends Like These: Reagan, Bush and Saddam, 1982-1980, W.W. Norton & Company, London, 1994, See this book for more on U.S. policies towards Iraq up to the Gulf War. Jentleson chooses not to draw conclusions about the structure of U.S. democracy in light of the systematically anti-humanitarian nature of U.S. policies; subsequently, I would argue that his advice concerning U.S. policy changes is solely orientated toward finding a better way of appeasing U.S. interests. However, Jentleson hardly ever compromises on facts, and his study therefore suffices as a most lucid documentation of U.S. policies towards Iraq. In his failure to comprehend the implications of his own analysis, however, in regard to the inherent orientation of U.S. policies toward corporate interests - or rather, in his failure to see this as a genuine flaw in need of drastic change - Jentleson betrays his effectively pro-elite standpoint. His conclusions are therefore conditioned by this standpoint. Also see Aburish, Said K., A Brutal Friendship, op. cit., p. 98-102; Rezun, Miron, Saddam Hussein’s Gulf Wars, Praeger, 1992; Phythian, Mark, Arming Iraq: How the US and Britain Secretly Built Saddam’s War Machine, Northeastern University, 1997. For a further insight into the horrifying policies of repression and torture that the West supported by propping up Saddam, see Al-Hilli, Walid, Human Rights in Iraq 1968-1988, London, 1990.

[87] Bennis, Phyllis, ‘And They Called It Peace: US Policy on Iraq’, Iraq: A Decade of Invasion, Middle East Report 215, Middle East Research and Information Network (MERIP), Washington DC, Summer 2000,

[88]Washington Post, 12 February 1990.

[89] Washington Post, 16 June 1990.

[90] Los Angeles Times, 11 July 1990.

[91] The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 1990, op. cit.

[92] Webster, William, ‘Threat Assessment; Military Strategy; and Operational Requirements’, Testimony to Senate Committee on Armed Services, January 23, 1990, 60.

[93] Schwarzkopf, H. Norman, ‘Threat Assessment; Military Strategy; and Operational Requirement’, Testimony to Senate Committee on Armed Services, February 8, 1990, 577-579.

[94] United States Army, ‘A Strategic Force for the 1990s and Beyond’, January 1990, by Gen. Carl E. Vuono, U.S. Army Chief of Staff, 1-17.

[95] Mathews, Tom, et al., ‘The Road to War’, Newsweek, 28 January 1991.

[96] Blackwell, Major James, Thunder in the Desert: The Strategy and Tactics of the Persian Gulf War, Bantam Books, New York, 1991, p. 86-87.

[97] Ibid., p. 85-86. Also see Newsweek, 29 January 1991; ‘Triumph Without Victory: The Unreported History of the Persian Gulf War’, U.S. News & World Report/Times Books, 1992, p. 29-30; Air Force Magazine, Arlington, March 1991, p. 82.

[98] Los Angeles Times, 5 August 1990.

[99] Boyle, Francis A., ‘International War Crimes: The Search for Justice’, symposium at Albany Law School, 27 February 1992; reprinted as ‘U.S. War Crimes During the Gulf War’, New Dawn Magazine, September-October 1992, No. 15.

[100] Schuler, G. Henry, ‘Congress Must Take a Hard Look at Iraq’s Charges Against Kuwait’, Los Angeles Times, 2 December 1990.

[101] Salinger, Pierre and Laurent, Eric (Howard Curtis [trans.]), Secret Dossier: The Hidden Agenda Behind the Gulf War, , Penguin Books, New York, 1991.

[102] Pelletiere Stephen C., et al., Iraqi Power and U.S. Security in the Middle East, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA.

[103] Salinger and Laurent, Secret Dossier, op. cit.

[104] Clark, Ramsey, The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf, Thunder’s Mouth Press, New York, 1992.

[105] Knut Royce, ‘A Trail of Distortion Against Iraq’, Newsday, 21 January 1991.

[106] Hayes, Thomas, ‘Big Oilfield Is at the Heart of Iraq-Kuwait Dispute’, New York Times, 3 September 1990. Also see Schuler, G. Henry, ‘Congress Must Take a Hard Look at Iraq’s Charges Against Kuwait,’ op. cit.

[107] Graz, Liesi, Middle East International, 3 August 1990; energy specialist Henry Schuler cited in Hayes, Thomas, New York Times, 3 September 1990.

[108] ‘Note from the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tariq Aziz, to the Secretary-General of the Arab League, July 15, 1990’, in Salinger, Pierre and Laurent, Eric, Secret Dossier, op. cit., Appendix 1, p. 223-224 .

[109] San Francisco Chronicle, 13 March 1991.

[110] Frankel, Glenn, ‘Imperalist Legacy; Lines in the Sand’, Washington Post, 31 August 1990.

[111] Kuwaiti Intelligence Memorandum, labelled top secret, from Brigadier General Fahd Ahmad Al-Fahd, Director-General of the State Security Department, to Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah, Minister of the Interior, November 1989. Iraq claimed that its forces had discovered the document from Kuwait’s Internal Security Bureau.

[112] Los Angeles Times, 1 November 1990.

[113] Washington Post, 19 August 1990.

[114] Clark, Ramsey, The Fire This Time, op. cit.

[115] Christian Science Monitor, 5 February 1991.

[116] Viorst, Milton, ‘A Reporter at Large: After the Liberation,’ The New Yorker, September 30, 1991.

[117] Village Voice, 5 March 1991. Also cited in International Viewpoint, 15 April l991.

[118] Emery, Michael, ‘How Mr. Bush Got His War’, in Ruggiero, Greg and Sahulka, Stuart (eds.), Open Fire, The New Press, New York, 1993, p. 39-40, p. 52, based on Emery’s interview with King Hussein, 19 February 1991, in Jordan.

[119] Viorst, Milton, ‘A Reporter At Large: After the Liberation’, op. cit.

[120] Cited in Clark, Ramsey, The Fire This Time, op. cit.

[121] Viorst, Milton, ‘A Reporter At Large: After the Liberation’, op. cit., p. 66.

[122] Boyle, Francis A., ‘International War Crimes: The Search for Justice’, op. cit.

[123] New York Times, 23 September 1990, 17 July 1991; Independent, 30 December 2000.

[124] As the highest ranking CIA official to go public, Stockwell is the founding member of Peaceways and the Association for Responsible Dissent (ARDIS - an organisation of former CIA and U.S. government officials who are openly critical of the CIA’s activities). A former U.S. Marine Corps major, he was hired by the CIA in 1964, spent six years working for the CIA in Africa, and was later transferred to Vietnam. In 1973 he received the CIA’s Medal of Merit, the Agency’s second-highest award. In 1975, he was promoted to the CIA’s Chief of Station and National Security Council coordinator, managing covert activities during the first years of Angola’s bloody civil war. After two years he resigned, a 13-year CIA veteran determined to reveal the truth about the agency’s role in the Third World. Since that time, he has worked tirelessly to expose the criminal activities of the CIA particularly and U.S. foreign policy in general.

[125] Stockwell, John, ‘The CIA and the Gulf War’, Speech delivered at Louden Nelson Community Center, Santa Cruz, California, 20 February 1991,

[126] ‘Developments in the Middle East’, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 31 July 1990, p. 14.

[127] Fisk, Robert, ‘Saddam Hussein: The last great tyrant’, Independent, 30 December 2000.

[128] Waas, Murray, ‘Who Lost Kuwait? How the Bush Administration Bungled its Way to War in the Gulf’, Village Voice, 22 January 1991, p. 30.

[129] New York Daily News, 29 September 1991.

[130] ‘Setting the American Trap for Hussein’, International Herald Tribune, 11 March 1991.

[131] H. Res. 86, February 21, 1991, included in the printed report: ISBN 0-944-624-15-4.

[132] Clark, Ramsey, The Fire This Time, op. cit., p. 37, p. 12

[133] Zunes, Stephen, ‘The Gulf War: Eight Myths’, Special Report, Foreign Policy in Focus, January 2001.

[134] Bennis, Phyllis, ‘And They Called It Peace: US Policy on Iraq’, Iraq: A Decade of Devastation, Middle East Report 215, Summer 2000.

[135] Schoenman, Ralph, Iraq and Kuwait: A History Suppressed, Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, CA, pp. 11-12; New York Review of Books, 16 January 1992, p. 51.

[136] Zunes, Stephen, ‘The Gulf War: Eight Myths’, op. cit.

[137] Cited in Tyler, Patrick, ‘U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop’, New York Times, March 8, 1992.

[138] New York Times, 9 August 1990.

[139] New York Times, 22 August 1990.

[140] Zunes, ‘The Gulf War: Eight Myths’, op. cit.

[141] Parry, Robert, ‘The Peace Feeler That Was’, The Nation, 15 April 1991, pp. 480-2; Newsweek, 10 September 1990; Los Angeles Times, 20 October 1990.

[142] Royce, Knut, ‘Middle East crisis secret offer: Iraq sent pullout deal to US’, Newsday, 29 August 1990.

[143] Newsweek, 10 September 1990.

[144] ‘Iraq offers deal to quit Kuwait’, Newsday, 3 January 1991; ‘Rumours of a deal emerge’, International Herald Tribunal, 4 January 1991.

[145] See Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, op. cit., p. 194-196.

[146] Emery, Michael, Village Voice, 5 March 1991.

[147] Blum, William, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 1995, Chapter 52: Iraq 1990-91 – Desert Holocaust.

[148] Los Angeles Times, 3 August 1990; Washington Post, 3 August 1990.

[149] Washington Post, 10 August 1990.

[150] Los Angeles Times, 2 October 1990.

[151] The Gallup Poll, Public Opinion 1989, Wilmington, 1990; Wall Street Journal, 21 November 1990.

[152] The Gallup Poll, Public Opinion 1991, Wilmington, 1992.

[153] New York Times, 23 September 1990.

[154] U.S. General Accounting Office, Cruise Missiles: Proven Capability Should Affect Aircraft and Force Structure Requirements. 04/20/95, GAO/NSIAD-95-116. Cited in Abunimah, Ali, letter to National Public Radio News, 25 January 1999,

[155] Blum, William, Killing Hope, op. cit., Chapter 52.

[156] MER Report, Needless deaths in the Gulf War: Civilian casualties during the air campaign and violations of the laws of war, Middle East Watch (Human Rights Watch), New York, 1991, p. 133.

[157] ‘Killing is killing - not kindness’, New Statesman and Society, 17 January 1992.

[158] ‘Gulf war `will haunt Iraqi children forever`’, Guardian, 23 October 1991.

[159] MER Report, Needless deaths in the Gulf War, op. cit., p. 201-24; The Los Angeles Times, 31 January 1991, 3 February 1991.

[160] MER Report, op. cit., p. 128-47. Also see Clark, Ramsey, The Fire This Time, op. cit., p. 70-72.

[161] The Gulf War and its Aftermath, The 1992 Information Please Almanac, Boston, 1992, p. 974.

[162] Clark, The Fire This Time, op. cit., p. 70-72; Martin, Miriam, Gulf Peace Team, Interviews submitted to Clark Commission, Sati-Castek-Martin, 1992.

[163] Marcy, Sam, ‘Damage to the infrastructure: civil defense: the Amariyah bomb shelter’, in Clark, Ramsey (ed.), Challenge to Genocide: Let Iraq Live, International Action Center, New York, September 1998.

[164] IAC Press Release, ‘Did the U.S. Intentionally Bomb Civilians in Basra, Iraq?’, International Action Center, New York, 26 January 1999; Becker, Brian, ‘Pentagon admits bombing Iraqi civilians’, Workers World News Service, 4 February 1999.

[165] Boyle, Francis A., ‘International War Crimes: The Search for Justice’, op. cit.

[166] Clark, Ramsey, et. al, War Crimes: A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq, Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal, New York, ISBN 0-944624-15-4.

[167] The Gulf War and its Aftermath, The 1992 Information Please Almanac, Boston, 1992, p. 974.

[168] Washington Post, 23 June 1991.

[169] Chomsky, Noam, Deterring Democracy, Vintage, London, 1992.

[170] See HRW Report, Weapons Transfers and Violations of the Laws of War in Turkey, Human Rights Watch, New York, November 1995; HRW Report, Forced Displacement of Ethnic Kurds from Southeastern Turkey, Human Rights Watch, New York, October 1994.

[171] Ibid.

[172] U.S. House of Representatives, Select Committee on Intelligence, 19 January 1976 (Pike Report). Cited in Village Voice, 16 February 1976. Also see Safire, William, Safire’s Washington, New York, Times Books, 1980, p. 333.

[173] al-Khalil, Samir, Republic of Fear: The Inside Story of Saddam’s Iraq, University of California Press, Berkely, 1989, p. 23.

[174] The Guardian, 4 March 2000. It is worth noting Pilger’s exceptional documentary aired on British television, Paying the Price: The Killing of the Children of Iraq, ITV Carlton, 6 March 2000, in which the devastatingly anti-humanitarian Anglo-American war on Iraq was uncompromisingly exposed.

[175] IAC Press Release, ‘Did the US Intentionally Bomb Civilians in Basra, Iraq?’, op. cit.;  Becker, Brian, ‘Pentagon admits bombing Iraqi civilians’, op. cit.

[176] For instance, Newsweek (3 September 1990) reports Bush’s approval, right from the outset, of a CIA plan to overthrow Saddam.

[177] Friedman, Thomas, New York Times, 7 July 1991.

Mr. Nafeez Ahmed is a political analyst and human rights activist based in London. He is Director of the Institute for Policy Research & Development and a Researcher at the Islamic Human Rights Commission.


by courtesy & © 2001 Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed

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