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Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Egypt supply Iraq with US howitzers, helicopters, bombs, and other weapons with the secret approval of the Reagan administration. [New Yorker, 11/2/1992; Phythian, 1997, pp. 35] Italy also funnels arms to Iraq at the insistence of President Reagan who personally made the request to Prime Minister Guilio Andreotti. [Friedman, 1993, pp. 51-54; Phythian, 1997, pp. 36]
By 1987, Abu Nidal is the world’s most well-known terrorist. His group has killed over 300 people. But in 1987 his attacks generally come to a halt. A French intelligence report in 1988 explains this is because Middle Eastern governments begin paying large sums of protection money in order not to be attacked. For instance, the government of Kuwait deposits $80 million into Nidal’s BCCI bank account in London in 1987. Kuwait will later deny the payments took place, but counterterrorism experts will dismiss the denials and say that such payments to Nidal were common. In 1988, the Defense Department will conclude that one third of Nidal’s money comes from his own businesses (he is an illegal arms dealer), one third from Arab governments, and one third from various blackmail schemes. Most of these transactions, including Nidal’s arms dealing transactions, are made through Nidal’s BCCI bank account in London, and US and British intelligence has been monitoring his account there since at least 1986 (see 1984 and After). But apparently they merely gather information and make little attempt to shut down Nidal or his finances. Nidal will eventually close out his London accounts in 1990. [Wall Street Journal, 8/9/1991; Los Angeles Times, 9/30/1991] Nidal will finally be murdered in mysterious circumstances in Iraq in August 2002. He will apparently stop his attacks around 1994. [Guardian, 8/20/2002]
Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, the brother of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), works as the head of the Pakistani branch of the charity Mercy International. A book published in 1999 will allege that this charity, based in the US and Switzerland, was used by the CIA to funnel money to Muslim militants fighting against US enemies in places such as Bosnia and Afghanistan (see 1989 and After). It is not known when Zahid got involved with the charity, but he is heading its Pakistani branch by 1988, when his nephew Ramzi Yousef first goes to Afghanistan (see Late 1980s). [Reeve, 1999, pp. 120] In the spring of 1993, US investigators raid Zahid’s house while searching for Yousef (see Spring 1993). Documents and pictures are found suggesting close links and even a friendship between Zahid and Osama bin Laden. Photos and other evidence also show close links between Zahid, KSM, and government officials close to Nawaf Sharif, who is prime minister of Pakistan twice in the 1990s. The investigators also discover that Zahid was seen talking to Pakistani President Farooq Ahmad Khan Leghari during a Mercy International ceremony in February 1993. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 48-49, 120] But despite the raid, Zahid apparently keeps his job until about February 1995, when Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995). Investigators learn Yousef had made a phone call to the Mercy office, and there is an entry in Yousef’s seized telephone directory for a Zahid Shaikh Mohammed. Pakistani investigators raid the Mercy office, but Zahid has already fled. [United Press International, 4/11/1995; Guardian, 9/26/2001; McDermott, 2005, pp. 154, 162] It is unclear what subsequently happens to Zahid. In 1999 it will be reported that he is believed to be in Kuwait, but in 2002 the Kuwaiti government will announce he is a member of al-Qaeda, so presumably he is no longer welcome there. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 48; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Mercy International’s Kenya branch will later be implicated in the 1998 US embassy bombing in that country, as will KSM, Zahid’s brother (see Late August 1998).
CIA Director William Webster meets with Kuwait’s head of security, Brigadier Fahd Ahmed al-Fahd. Iraq will claim after its invasion and occupation of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990) that it had located a Kuwaiti memorandum summarizing their conversation, a memo both the CIA and Kuwaiti government officials will claim is a forgery, though both sides will admit the meeting actually took place. Iraq will accuse the CIA and Kuwait of collaborating to destabilize Iraq’s economy and government (see Late August, 1990). The memo reads in part: “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.” [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Kuwait’s Director General of State Security sends a memo to the Minister of the Interior summarizing a meeting with CIA Director William Webster. He writes: “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.” When Iraq invades Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), Iraqi officials find this memo and confront the Kuwaiti foreign minister with it during an Arab summit meeting in mid-August 1990. Upon seeing the memo, the Kuwaiti official reportedly faints. [Ahmed, 10/2/2001] The US claims the memo is a forgery. [Office of Global Communications, 1/21/2003 ]
Alan Simpson. [Source: Britt Bolen]A delegation of US senators meets with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to deliver a message from President Bush. The delegation is led by Robert Dole (R-KS) and includes Frank Murkowski (R-AK), Jim McClure (R-ID), Alan Simpson (R-WY), and Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH). The senators are joined by US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie, her deputy Joseph Wilson, and various embassy staffers. Dole delivers the message from Bush: Iraq must abandon its chemical and biological weapons programs and stockpiles, and, in return, the US will continue working to improve relations between the two countries (see July 27, 1990 and July 25, 1990). In response, Hussein says he is not trying to destabilize the region and work against US interests. As part of his statement, he says: “I didn’t really say I was going to set fire to half of Israel (see April 1990). What I said was that if Israel attacks me, then I will set fire to half of Israel.” Hussein insists he will only take action against Israel if his country is attacked first, but such a response will be swift and overwhelming, with his new WMD playing a central role. He also protests against what he calls US and British efforts to contain Iraq by scaling back economic and commercial programs, and what he calls a Western smear campaign against him and his government. When the other senators are given a chance to speak to Hussein, Wilson is struck by Metzenbaum’s response. “Mr. President, I can tell you are a honorable man,” Metzenbaum says. Wilson later writes, “I remember thinking to myself that whatever beneficial impact the president’s message and Dole’s statement may have had on Saddam, it had all just been negated by this obsequious boot-licking.” Simpson joins Metzenbaum in stroking Hussein, bending forward so low from his chair that he looks as if he is on bended knee and telling the dictator: “Mr. President, I can see that what you have here isn’t really a policy problem; what you have is a public relations problem. You’ve got a problem with the haughty and pampered press. I know all about that, because I’ve got problems with the press back home. What you need is you need a good public relations person.” Wilson will write: “Saddam no doubt took from the meeting not the admonition to stop developing weapons of mass destruction and threatening his neighbors, but rather support for his own misguided belief that he was an honorable man who didn’t really have policy problems at all, just clumsy relations. After all, one of Israel’s champions had told him so, and another American leader had knelt before him to reassure him that he had no problems with the American government.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 95]
In repeated statements, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein says that overproduction of oil by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is “economic warfare” against Iraq. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996] Iraq is not merely issuing blustery allegations with no basis in fact. Iraq is virtually bankrupt and deeply in debt to both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which funded Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war, as well as other nations such as the US and Japan. Hussein has spent billions rebuilding his military and distributing massive amounts of consumer goods to the populace in an attempt to persuade them that Iraq won the war against Iran and is now able to spend its “war dividends.” In 1999, Kuwait defied the quotas laid down by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and increased its oil production by 40%. The subsequent sharp drop in oil prices drove Iraq’s economy towards catastrophe. The situation is further aggravated by Iraqi suspicions that Kuwait is deliberately “slant-drilling” oil from Iraq’s Rumaylah oil field (see July 15-17, 1990). Hussein needs a massive infusion of revenue to maintain his large standing army and the fiction of economic growth, and he looks to Kuwait as the source of that revenue. Land issues also play a part: Iraq wants to swap some territory along the border for control of two Kuwaiti-held islands across from its port at Umm Qasr, but Kuwait is unwilling to make the trade. US diplomat Joseph Wilson, the deputy chief of mission in Baghdad, describes the Iraqi outlook on Kuwait as a nation “small, rich, and despised.” All in all, the US diplomatic entourage in Baghdad is alarmed at Iraq’s preparations for war. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 93-94; NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
When Saddam Hussein begins massing his troops on the Kuwaiti border (see July 25, 1990), the US intelligence community believes in consensus that Hussein is mostly bluffing. He wants to gain leverage in the ongoing OPEC talks, the community believes, and at most will seize a Kuwaiti oil field just across the border. The intelligence consensus ignores the fact that Hussein is moving his elite Republican Guard units, the core of his forces and what reporters Franklin Foer and Spencer Ackerman will call “the very guarantors of his rule,” from Baghdad to the southern desert. Even after invading Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), a National Intelligence Estimate released towards the end of the year concludes that Hussein will withdraw from Kuwait rather than risk a conflict with the US (see Late December 1990). Defense Secretary Dick Cheney becomes increasingly angry and frustrated at the US intelligence community. An intelligence analyst will recall being “whisked into a room, there’s Dick Cheney, he’s right in front of you, he starts firing questions at you, half an hour later and thirty questions later, I’m whisked out of the room, and I’m like, ‘What the hell just happened?’” DIA analyst Patrick Lang, that agency’s foremost Middle East expert and one of the few to predict the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, will recall: “He would ask you factual questions like, ‘OK, about this thing you said. Do I understand you correctly that such-and-such is true? And are you sure about this, and how do you know that?’ And I regard that as a legitimate question.… He wasn’t hostile or nasty about it; he just wanted to know how you knew. And I didn’t mind that in the least.” [New Republic, 11/20/2003]
Bush administration officials advocate additional agricultural loans to Iraq (see October 31, 1989), and rebuff efforts by the Departments of Defense and Commerce to restrict the export of technology Iraq is using to develop weapons of mass destruction. President George H. W. Bush personally opposes Congressional efforts to impose economic sanctions on the increasingly belligerent Iraq (see April 1990). By this point, the Reagan and Bush administrations have provided Saddam Hussein with over $5 billion in loan guarantees, money Hussein has used to rebuild his military after the Iran-Iraq War, become a major military power in the Persian Gulf (see August 1, 1990), and to invade Kuwait (see November 8, 1990). [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]
Iraq publicly accuses Kuwait of stealing oil by “slant drilling” from Iraq’s Rumaylah oil field on the Iraq-Kuwait border (see May 28-30, 1990). Iraqi government officials warn Kuwait that if the alleged theft of oil does not stop, Iraq will take military action. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996; NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein excoriates those Arab leaders whom he believes are collaborating with the US and Israel to obstruct Arab development. He accuses several unnamed Arab heads of state of being bought off with fancy houses and vehicles, and failing to stand up to Western attempts to stymie Arab ambitions. The real thrust of his criticisms is oil-based. He says that overproduction of oil and the resultant low oil prices are “a poisoned dagger” in Iraq’s back, delivered by the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait (see May 28-30, 1990). Hussein intends to use his influence with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to drive the price of oil from $14 to $25 and thus raise a large amount of cash to help pay off his country’s staggering debts to Japan, the US, and several European countries. Hussein intends to stop Kuwait overproduction, and he is willing to use military force to do it. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 97-98]
During a meeting with US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie (see July 25, 1990), Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein interrupts the meeting to take a phone call from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak has worked tirelessly to mediate the burgeoning dispute between Iraq and Kuwait. After the phone call, Hussein tells Glaspie that he has just told Mubarak the same thing he told her—that he will not invade Kuwait so long as there is an active negotiating process taking place. The US later learns that Hussein asked Mubarak not to share that piece of information with Kuwait in order to keep his “bluff” alive. Mubarak apparently honors the request, because Iraq’s subsequent invasion (see August 2, 1990) is a complete surprise to Kuwait. Mubarak is reportedly infuriated at Hussein’s apparent betrayal of his trust. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 98] In 2003, Glaspie’s then-deputy, Joseph Wilson, will tell an interviewer that Hussein “lied to [Glaspie]. He lied to President Mubarak that he was going to allow the negotiating process to go forward.” [PBS, 2/28/2003] In 2004, Wilson will write: “I believe that he met with Glaspie for the express purpose of deceiving us about his intentions, as he did with… Mubarak at the same time. In this way, he maintained the element of surprise. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 123]
April Glaspie and Saddam Hussein. [Source: Wilson's Almanac]The US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, goes to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to meet with Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, to deliver a statement made earlier in the week by State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutwiler. The statement is equivocal about Iraq’s belligerent pose towards Kuwait (see July 22, 1990), noting that although the US has no mutual defense pact with Kuwait, “Iraq and others know there is no place for coercion and intimidation in the civilized world.” Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson will later describe Glaspie as having “a keen mind and a profound understanding of the issues.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 98]
One-on-One with Saddam Hussein - Shortly after her meeting with Aziz, she is summoned back to the Foreign Ministry and driven from there to a meeting with Saddam Hussein. Wilson will write: “This was unprecedented. During the two years she had been ambassador, Saddam had never held a private meeting with her, delegating all contact to Aziz or other underlings.” During the meeting, Glaspie promises Hussein that President Bush wants “better and deeper relations.” She tells Hussein that Bush is an “intelligent man,” and adds, “He is not going to declare an economic war against Iraq.” [Washington Post, 12/30/2002; London Times, 12/31/2002; Wilson, 2004, pp. 98]
'No Opinion on Arab-Arab Conflicts' - Glaspie tells Hussein: “We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait.… We know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your other threats against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship—not confrontation—regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait’s borders?” Hussein answers that he intends to try to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Kuwait; Glaspie asks what solutions Hussein would find acceptable. Hussein wants to keep the entire Shatt al Arab [a strategically important waterway] under Iraqi control, and if given that, he is willing to make concessions to Kuwait. However, if he has to give up some control of the Shatt, he will renounce all control in favor of bringing Kuwait back under Iraqi dominion. Glaspie replies: “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary [of State James] Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.” Reportedly Hussein takes this as a green light from the US to proceed with the invasion. [New York Times, 9/23/1990; Los Angeles Times, 1/5/2003]
Glaspie Said to Be Scapegoated - Wilson will later write that the US policy failure that led to the invasion is not Glaspie’s fault and that she is merely made a scapegoat for it (see July 25, 1990 and After): “The one-on-one meeting with Saddam was fateful for Ambassador Glaspie. Out of it emerged the charge that she had not been tough enough with him and had somehow given him a green light to invade Kuwait. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Charge of US Manipulation - Author and investigative producer Barry Lando will say that the price of oil was manipulated with US connivance before the crisis in an effort to hurt Iraq (see Around July 25, 1990).
The deputy for US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie, Joseph Wilson, later writes of the fateful meeting between Glaspie and Saddam Hussein (see July 25, 1990). In his view, Glaspie will become a scapegoat, receiving unfair blame for giving Hussein tacit permission to invade Kuwait. Wilson later writes, “The one-on-one meeting with Saddam was fateful for Ambassador Glaspie. Out of it emerged the charge that she had not been tough enough with him and had somehow given him a green light to invade Kuwait. Nothing could be further from the truth. Glaspie has been made a convenient scapegoat for a more complicated and complex failure of foreign policy.… Her explanation of American policy towards Arab disputes did not waver from our standing instructions. The United States did not take positions on the merits of such quarrels between Arab nations, although the policy was to, in the strongest terms, urge that the parties to a dispute resolve it diplomatically or through international mediation, and not via military threats or action.” During the meeting, Hussein made clear to Ambassador Glaspie that Iraq had no intention of taking any military action against Kuwait so long as there was an ongoing negotiating process. He tells Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak the same thing (see July 25, 1990). In later years, Iraqi officials such as Aziz and then-Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Nizar Hamdun will acknowledge that Glaspie did nothing more than reiterate the main points of US policy towards Iraq to Hussein. Wilson, a friend of Hamdun’s, will recall his last conversation with Hamdun before his death in July 2003, where the ailing Hamdun confirmed that, in Wilson’s words, “The Iraqi leadership had not come away thinking she had tacitly indicated that the US condoned the use of force. On the contrary, [Hussein] knew exactly what the American position was—opposition to Iraqi military action, under any and all circumstances.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 99-101]
Barry Lando. [Source: Master Media Speakers]Author and investigative producer Barry Lando later writes that the entire Iraq-Kuwait dispute may have been manipulated to some extent by the UUS, with the meeting between US Ambassador April Glaspie and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein (see July 25, 1990) a centerpiece of the operation. In February 2007, Lando will say, “After Iraq’s war with Iran ended, the Kuwaitis manipulated the world oil price through their production—they greatly increased their oil production, which dropped the world oil price (see May 28-30, 1990 and Mid-1990). That really hurt Iraq, because Saddam was counting on oil revenues to rebuild after the war. He went to the Kuwaitis and he said, look, back off because you’re killing my economy. The Kuwaitis refused to back down. Later it came out that the Kuwaiti’s leaders had been meeting with the CIA exactly to put pressure on Saddam Hussein. [Glaspie] told Saddam Hussein that we will not take any position as far as your border disputes with Kuwait go. Her superior, Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly, also testified before Congress a couple of days later (see July 31, 1990). When asked point blank, ‘If Saddam invades Kuwait, do we have any treaty with Kuwait?’ he said, ‘No, we don’t.’” [Buzzflash (.com), 2/23/2007]
US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie delivers a letter written by President Bush to Saddam Hussein. The letter reads in part: “I was pleased to learn of the agreement between Iraq and Kuwait to begin negotiations in Jeddah [Saudi Arabia] to find a peaceful solution to the current tensions between you (see August 1, 1990). The United States and Iraq both have a strong interest in preserving the peace and stability of the Middle East. For this reason, we believe that differences are best resolved by peaceful means and not by threats involving military force or conflict. I also welcome your statement that Iraq desires friendship rather than confrontation with the United States. Let me reassure you, as my ambassador (see July 25, 1990), Senator Dole (see April 12, 1990), and others have done, that my administration continues to desire better relations with Iraq. We will also continue to support our friends in the region with whom we have had long-standing ties. We see no necessary inconsistency between these two objectives. As you know, we still have certain fundamental concerns about certain Iraqi policies and activities, and we will continue to raise these concerns with you in a spirit of friendship and candor.… Both our governments must maintain open channels of communication to avoid misunderstandings and in order to build a more durable foundation for improving our relations.”
Positive Tone - According to the later recollections of Glaspie’s deputy, Joseph Wilson, the Iraqi leadership is “startled by the positive tone of the letter.” The letter is overtly conciliatory towards Iraq and its aggression towards Kuwait (see July 22, 1990 and August 2, 1990), and, as then-Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs Nizar Hamdun will recall, leaves “the impression that the American desire for good relations with Iraq might override its concerns about Iraqi aggression.” Hamdun believes that the letter “had sent the wrong signal to Saddam by not explicitly warning him against taking any harsh military action, and not threatening harsh retaliation if he did.” Hamdun believes that Hussein “concluded from the positive tone of the letter that the US would not react militarily and that he could survive the political criticism resulting from the aggressive action toward Kuwait.”
Letter Influences Saddam's Thinking - Wilson will conclude, “This letter, much more than any other United States statement (see July 25, 1990), appears to have influenced Saddam’s thinking.” Ultimately, Wilson will note, the US’s influence with Hussein is limited at best, and his perceived reasons to annex Kuwait (see May 28-30, 1990 and July 17, 1990) will override any fears of US disapproval. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 101-104]
John Kelly. [Source: WGBH-FM]Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly testifies before an open session of the House International Relations Committee, chaired by Middle East expert Lee Hamilton (D-IN). Hamilton asks Kelly if the US has a mutual defense pact with Kuwait, a question to which Hamilton already knows the answer. Kelly answers, “We don’t have any defense treaty with the Gulf States. That’s clear. We support the independence and security of all friendly states in the region. Since the Truman administration, we’ve maintained naval forces in the area because its stability is in our interest. We call for a peaceful solution to all disputes, and we think that the sovereignty of every state in the Gulf must be respected.” Kelly’s words are transmitted to Iraq within minutes of his speaking them. US diplomat Joseph Wilson, stationed in Baghdad, later writes, “Despite the qualifiers that Kelly put into place about America’s preference for peaceful solutions to disputes, the only thing the Iraqi regime heard was that we had no legal obligation or even any mechanism to react to an invasion. That had far more effect than anything [US Ambassador to Iraq] April Glaspie may or may not have said in her meeting with Saddam Hussein (see July 25, 1990). It substantiated that she was in no position to threaten Saddam, nor that if Kuwait was invaded would we bring the B52s over and bomb Iraq back into the Stone Age. There was no legal or political basis before the invasion to make that threat, and Glaspie was never going to so grossly exceed her instructions. She could not in fact have gone any further in her response to Saddam than she had actually gone.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 104-105]
In the first few days of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990 and August 2-4, 1990), Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, the highest-ranking US diplomat in Baghdad (see July 31, 1990), takes an aggressive stance in handling the crisis. Wilson realizes that he may not hear anything concrete from Washington for days, if not weeks, and any advice from his superiors in Washington might be either useless or counterproductive. Wilson and his colleagues at the embassy know that securing their building is their first objective. He orders a thorough review of security procedures; the painting over of embassy windows to foil potential sniper attacks; the destruction of most classified files and documents, and the preparation for the remaining files to be destroyed at a moment’s notice; the preparation of evacuation plans; and for nonessential staff to make plans to leave Baghdad as quickly as possible. Wilson and his colleagues are concerned about the number of Americans detained in Kuwait, including a 12-year old California girl who had flown alone into the Kuwait City airport on her way to meet her parents in India; she had been taken into Iraqi custody straight off her airliner. Wilson successfully presses his friend, Iraq Deputy Foreign Minister Nizar Hamdun, to release the girl into his custody; he keeps her busy helping out around the embassy until he can get her on a flight out of Iraq, and will later remember her as “a real trouper.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 112-114]
Iraq and Kuwait meet to discuss their political differences in a diplomatic session arranged by Egypt’s ruler Hosni Mubarak (see July 25, 1990). According to US diplomat Joseph Wilson, the negotiations are a sham on Iraq’s part. The Iraqi diplomatic delegation is composed of, in Wilson’s words, “formidable thugs with nary a diplomatically inclined bone in their collective bodies. They were enforcers, pure and simple, and the Kuwaitis clearly had miscalculated when they assumed a negotiated settlement could be achieved. Though Mubarak had arranged the negotiations, and Saudi Arabia hosted them, representatives from no third countries are present.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 105]
Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson is in charge of the US Embassy in Baghdad after US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie departed for her twice-delayed annual vacation to the US (see July 31, 1990). At 2:30 a.m., local time, Wilson is awakened by a phone call from Washington. The operator tells him, “Mr. Wilson, I have the White House on the line.” Wilson, assuming he is going to speak directly to the president, finds himself standing at attention, stark naked in the middle of his bedroom. Instead, the line goes dead. (Phone service in Iraq is unreliable at best, and the Iraqis often cut service to the embassy phones.) Wilson calls Sandra Charles, a National Security Council specialist on the Middle East, and Charles tells him that she is receiving reports that the US Embassy in Kuwait City, Kuwait, is being surrounded by hostile Iraqi troops (see August 2, 1990). At 7:30 a.m., Wilson, having gotten dressed, pounds on the door of Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz. The two have what Wilson will later recall as a forceful exchange, and Aziz agrees to restore phone service to the embassy. More pertinently, Wilson tells Aziz that the US is flatly opposed to any military moves against Kuwait. “It seems to me that with your army in Kuwait City and my navy in the Gulf we have an obligation to avoid any escalation of this crisis if we can,” Wilson tells Aziz. A member of the embassy staff later recalls being impressed with Wilson’s political dexterity. “I always knew Joe was bright,” the former staffer recalls, “but he really showed here he could be quick on his feet. That was a pretty smart way to handle the situation.” The meeting with Aziz is the first of many diplomatic efforts Wilson will make over the next few weeks to defuse the situation (see August 2-4, 1990) and protect the Americans in Iraq and Kuwait, whom Wilson fears will be taken hostage by Iraqi forces. [Vanity Fair, 1/2004]
The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 660 condemning Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990 and demanding that Iraq “withdraw immediately and unconditionally all its forces to the positions in which they were located on 1 August 1990.” [United Nations Security Council, 8/2/1990]
The UN Security Council adopts Resolution 678 authorizing “Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait… to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area.” [United Nations, 11/29/1990]
Iraqi tanks poised to roll into Kuwait. [Source: Kristina Greve]Iraq invades Kuwait. In response, the US suspends National Security Directive 26 (see October 2-6, 1989), which established closer ties with Baghdad and mandated $1 billion in agricultural loan guarantees to Iraq. [Los Angeles Times, 2/23/1992] The secretary of defense, Dick Cheney, begins pressing President Bush to go to war with Iraq without securing Congressional approval. His rationale is two-fold: he doesn’t need Congressional authority, and he might not get it if he asks. Cheney moves the Pentagon onto a full war footing, even going so far as to create what author and former White House counsel John Dean calls “his own concocted high-risk plans of battle, which he tried but failed to sell at the White House.” Bush will juggle Cheney’s view with that of House Speaker Tom Foley, who will give the president a document signed by 81 Democratic members who insist that if Bush wants to go to war, he needs the authorization of Congress. Dean will write that Cheney’s arguments “are based on bogus legal and historical arguments that have been made before, but no one has pushed them longer or harder than he has.” [Dean, 2007, pp. 89-91] Bush decides not to follow Cheney’s advice. In 2007, author and reporter Charlie Savage will observe: “By urging Bush to ignore the War Powers Resolution on the eve of the first major overseas ground war since Congress enacted the law, Cheney was attempting to set a powerful precedent. Had Bush taken his advice and survived the political fallout, the Gulf War would have restored [former President] Truman’s claim that as president he had ‘inherent’ powers to send American troops to the Korean War on his own” (see June 30, 1950). [Savage, 2007, pp. 62]
Two days of intense fighting follow Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990); Kuwait’s small military is overrun by Iraq’s much larger ground forces. Many Kuwaiti military units flee to Saudi Arabia rather than fight the Iraqis. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007] The invasion is such a surprise to the Kuwaitis that the Emir and the royal family barely escape with their lives. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996; Wilson, 2004, pp. 98]
Over 100 Americans are trapped in the US Embassy in Kuwait City. Perhaps 2,000 Americans are hiding from Iraqi soldiers throughout the capital city, and at least 115 are already in Iraqi custody, essentially being held as hostages. Iraqi forces bring a number of Americans, mostly oilfield workers, to Baghdad, where they are put up at local hotels. The Iraqis do not allow the “freed” Americans to leave the hotels or meet with US Embassy officials. It is clear that though the Iraqis call them “guests,” they are hostages. Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, the ranking US diplomat in Baghdad, learns to his dismay that his superiors in the US are similarly reluctant to consider the Americans as hostages, arguing that if US officials begin calling them hostages, then the Iraqis will treat them as such. Perhaps Iraq is holding the Americans only until their control of Kuwait is complete, and will release them. But, except for the release of a single American girl (see Early August, 1990), the Iraqis release no hostages. Embassy personnel succeed in rounding up around 100 Americans, mostly workers for the Bechtel Corporation, and housing them in the confines of the Embassy building. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 117-118, 126]
Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, accompanied by senior aide Paul Wolfowitz and US CENTCOM commander-in-chief General Norman Schwarzkopf, visits Saudi Arabia just four days after Iraq invades Kuwait (see August 2, 1990). [School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, 8/3/2000; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 100] Cheney secures permission from King Fahd for US forces to use Saudi territory as a staging ground for an attack on Iraq. Cheney is polite, but forceful; the US will not accept any limits on the number of troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, and will not accept a fixed date of withdrawal (though they will withdraw if Fahd so requests). Cheney uses classified satellite intelligence to convince Fahd of Hussein’s belligerent intentions against not just Kuwait, but against Saudi Arabia as well. Fahd is convinced, saying that if there is a war between the US and Iraq, Saddam Hussein will “not get up again.” Fahd’s acceptance of Cheney’s proposal goes against the advice of Crown Prince Abdullah. [School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, 8/3/2000; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 100-101] With Prince Bandar bin Sultan translating, Cheney tells Abdullah, “After the danger is over, our forces will go home.” Abdullah says under his breath, “I would hope so.” Bandar does not translate this. [Middle East Review of International Affairs, 9/2002; History News Network, 1/13/2003] On the same trip, Cheney also visits Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who rejects Cheney’s request for US use of Egyptian military facilities. Mubarak tells Cheney that he opposes any foreign intervention against Iraq. [School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, 8/3/2000] US forces will remain in Saudi Arabia for thirteen years (see April 30-August 26, 2003).
American journalists, with their camera and sound crews, begin pouring into Baghdad, causing an enormous strain on the US Embassy personnel. The embassy personnel quickly decide to house them in the US Information Service Cultural Center across the street from the embassy, where the journalists will not interfere with embassy’s operations but can still file their stories and images using the embassy’s direct telephone and satellite connections. By and large, the embassy staff, from Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson on down, welcome the media representatives, because, as Wilson will later write, “we thought it important that the story be covered as fully and openly as possible from Iraq.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 118]
Joseph Wilson and Saddam Hussein, during their August 6 meeting. [Source: Joseph Wilson / New York Times]Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, the ranking US diplomat in Baghdad (see July 31, 1990 and August 1-2, 1990), is admitted to an unexpected and impromptu meeting with Saddam Hussein. Wilson, determined not to let Hussein get the better of him in front of the Iraqi photographers present at the meeting, refuses to do anything that could be construed as bowing to Hussein (an effect Hussein is known to strive to create with his “guests”) and is careful not to laugh for fear a picture could be taken out of context by Iraqi propagandists. As Wilson will later recall, “It dawned on me that the last thing in the world that I wanted to be beamed around the world was a picture of me yukking it up with Saddam Hussein.” Hussein proposes a solution to the Iraq-Kuwait conflict, involving the US giving its blessing to Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait (see August 2-4, 1990) and in return promising to provide cheap oil to the US from Iraqi and Kuwaiti oil fields. He also promises not to strike against Saudi Arabia unless that country allows itself to be used as a launching pad for a strike against Iraq. If the US reacts militarily to the invasion, Hussein says, then the US will be responsible for the “spilling of the blood of ten thousand soldiers in the Arabian desert.” Wilson will later write, “There it was then, the carrot of cheap oil coupled with the stick of dead American soldiers.” Wilson, in turn, presses for Hussein to allow foreign citizens in general, and American citizens in particular, to leave Iraq immediately (see August 4, 1990). Hussein asks if such a request indicates that the US is planning to launch its own military response; Wilson responds that he knows nothing of any such plans, but that he intends “to be here so long as there is a role for diplomats to play in resolving this situation peacefully.” The meeting adjourns with nothing being agreed upon; Wilson has no power to negotiate on behalf of the US, Wilson does not trust Hussein to keep any such bargains, and most importantly, the US has not shown any indication of any willingness to allow Hussein to stay in Kuwait. [Vanity Fair, 1/2004; Wilson, 2004, pp. 118-123]
The US military’s ‘Desert Shield’ logo. [Source: Eagle Crest (.com)]The US officially begins “Operation Desert Shield” in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990) and Saudi Arabia’s request for US troops to defend it from possible Iraqi incursions. The first US forces, F-15 fighters from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, arrive in Saudi Arabia (see August 5, 1990 and After). [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996; American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] The US opens a military response to the Iraq invasion as much to defend Saudi Arabia as to defend Kuwait. Both the US and Saudis fear that Iraq will occupy Saudi Arabia’s Hama oil field near the countries’ mutual border, one of its largest. Between its own oil fields and those of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia which Iraq could feasibly control, Iraq would control the majority of the world’s oil reserves. Iraq would have difficulty in successfully occupying the Hama oil field, because of the large amount of inhospitable desert terrain it would have to cross to reach the field, and because of the likelihood of intense air strikes from the US-equipped Saudi Air Force. President Bush says the operation is “wholly defensive” in nature, a claim quickly abandoned. The US deploys two carrier groups and two battleship groups to the Persian Gulf, and deploys numerous Air Force units. Eventually, half a million American troops will join the other US forces. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson and the other US diplomats in Baghdad learn that the Iraqis have taken about 115 Americans as hostages (see August 4, 1990) and are placing them at strategic sites they consider most likely to be targeted by US air and ground strikes—in essence using the hostages as human shields. Two thousand Americans still remain trapped in Kuwait City, where Iraqis are, Wilson will write, “terrorizing the population.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 126]
Iraq announces that it intends to “annex” Kuwait, in essence forcing it to become a part of Iraq instead of a sovereign nation. Kuwait City is renamed al-Kadhima. The next day, the US will declare the annexation null and void. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996; Wilson, 2004, pp. 126] Iraq plans for part of Kuwait to become a portion of Iraq’s southernmost Basra province, and the rest is to be Iraq’s 19th province. Iraq’s claim that Kuwait is part of Iraq is rooted in history as well as current events. For centuries, Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman Empire province of Basra, which included much of modern-day Iraq. Iraq has not recognized Kuwait’s sovereignty since 1899, and the border between Iraq and Kuwait has never been clearly defined to both sides’ satisfaction. According to Iraqi officials, the annexation of Kuwait merely rights a historical wrong. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007] The US ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, will protest that when she gave Iraq indications that the US would not oppose Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (see July 25, 1990), she did not expect Iraq to take “all of Kuwait” (see Late August 1990).
The US diplomats at the embassy in Baghdad, led by Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, hold a long and sobering discussion of the possibilities confronting them in the days and weeks to come. They are well aware of the grim fate meted out to several Americans during the 1958 revolution (see 1958), and realize that they, too, may be killed in the near future. As Wilson will later write, they ask themselves: “If, in all likelihood, we were going to die anyway, did we want to go meekly to our deaths delivering useless diplomatic notes to a brutal regime, or did we want to be defiant, treating the Iraqi actions as the outrages they were? We opted for the latter code of conduct. That decision—to stand up and confront Saddam [Hussein] at every opportunity—set the tone at the embassy from that moment on.” Wilson will add: “Months later, after I’d left Baghdad, a psychologist at the CIA told me that the only way to deal with a personality like Saddam’s is to stand up to him: to be defiant, antagonistic, and intimidating. We had not had the benefit of such CIA wisdom back in August, but our instincts were still on the mark.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 126-127]
The New York Times prints a long article based on a highly classified memo written about US diplomat Joseph Wilson’s meeting with Saddam Hussein two days before (see August 6, 1990). Neither Wilson nor anyone else at the US Embassy in Baghdad leaked the memo, Wilson will aver; he believes the memo was leaked by a senior government official in Washington. The Iraqis are understandably furious at the public revelation of the events of the Hussein-Wilson meeting. When the Iraqis demand to see the US response to Hussein’s proposals as advanced in the meeting, Wilson is instructed by a senior State Department official to tell the Iraqis to “turn on CNN” for the American reply. CNN is broadcasting footage of American C-5 transport planes filled with military equipment bound for Saudi Arabia; the US is beginning its deployment of troops to the region in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (see August 7, 1990). [Wilson, 2004, pp. 124-125]
Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein declares a “jihad,” or Islamic holy war, against the US. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996] Hussein uses the language of the Afghani Islamist mujaheddin in issuing his jihad. Though he does not expand the jihad to cover Saudi Arabia (the US’s strongest ally in the region), he accuses Saudi Arabia of being the illegitimate guardian of two of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, charges long echoed by both the Islamist militants in Afghanistan as well as in Iran. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Nine days after Iraq invades Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton creates a front organization, “Citizens for a Free Kuwait,” almost entirely funded by Kuwaiti money. Hill & Knowlton’s point man with the Kuwaitis is Craig Fuller, a close friend and political adviser to President Bush (see July 23, 1986). Veteran PR reporter Jack O’Dwyer will later write, “Hill & Knowlton… has assumed a role in world affairs unprecedented for a PR firm.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002; Public Relations Watch, 6/3/2007] Citizens for a Free Kuwait is one of about twenty PR and lobbying groups formed by the Kuwaiti government. Other American PR firms representing these groups include the Rendon Group and Neill & Co. Citizens for a Free Kuwait will spread a false story of Kuwaiti babies being killed in their incubators by Iraqi troops, a story that will help inflame US public opinion and win the Bush administration the authority to launch an assault against Iraq (see October 10, 1990). Another public relations and lobbying effort includes a 154-page book detailing supposed Iraqi atrocities, entitled The Rape of Kuwait, that is distributed to various media outlets and later featured on television talk shows and in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. The Kuwaiti embassy also buys 200,000 copies of the book for distribution to American troops. Hill & Knowlton will produce dozens of “video news releases” that are offered as “news stories” to television news broadcasters throughout America; the VNRs are shown on hundreds of US television news broadcasts, usually as straight news reports without being identified as the product of a public relations firm. [Public Relations Watch, 6/3/2007]
A sketch of a 1990 US Army GPS system similar to that used by the Air Force. [Source: Department of the Army]Shortly after Iraq invades Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), a US Air Force official arrives at the Baghdad airport with a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver in a briefcase. He is driven to the US Embassy. At the embassy, he takes a position in the courtyard and takes a single GPS reading. He then flies to the US, where he gives the GPS receiver to CIA officials in Langley, Virginia. The CIA determines the precise GPS location of the embassy from the Air Force officer’s reading. That set of grid coordinates will serve as the center of the large and sophisticated coordinate system used to designate military strike targets in and around Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm (see January 16, 1991 and After). [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
US diplomat Joseph Wilson meets with Iraq’s Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and asks what Iraq intends to do with the thousands of US citizens in Iraq and Kuwait if the US Embassy decides that most of its personnel should leave. Wilson wants to ensure that no more Americans will be captured and used as hostages (see August 4, 1990, August 8, 1990, and August 17-23, 1990). Wilson is particularly concerned about the 2,000 or so Americans in Kuwait. Aziz says that Iraq will honor its obligations under the Geneva and Vienna Conventions, which specify that innocent civilians must be allowed to leave a war zone and not be held against their will. Wilson informs his State Department superiors in Washington of Aziz’s promises and recommends that every American be moved out of Kuwait as soon as possible—if not out of the region entirely, then at least to Baghdad. Wilson has little confidence in Aziz’s assurances, calling the minister a “lying son of a b_tch” in his communique. Wilson later learns that the decision goes all the way to President Bush, who decides to follow Wilson’s recommendation and order all but the ambassador, Nat Howell, and a skeleton staff to abandon the Kuwait embassy. The US wants to keep the Kuwait embassy open to show that it does not accept Iraq’s claim that Kuwait is no longer a sovereign state and therefore does not warrant its own diplomatic representation from other countries. By August 24, around 120 Americans, many of them diplomats and staffers from the Kuwait embassy, and their families, arrive at the US Embassy in Baghdad. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 135-137]
Saddam Hussein inquires about the health of young British hostage Stuart Lockwood, a scene broadcast on Iraqi television and shown worldwide. [Source: BBC]Iraqi officials announce that their forces will hold the citizens from any country threatening Iraq as hostages until the threats are ended. According to US diplomat Joseph Wilson, currently holed up in the US Embassy in Baghdad with his fellow diplomats, staffers, and at least 100 Americans hoping for protection from Iraqi depredations, the Iraqi announcement ends the fiction that Iraq is holding these citizens as “guests” (see August 4, 1990 and August 8, 1990). Still, Saddam Hussein tries to maintain the fiction for the press; in what Wilson will describe as “one notorious television appearance,” Hussein ruffles the hair of a seven-year old British boy, Stuart Lockwood, and asks if he had had his milk that day. Wilson will write, “The scared look on Stuart’s face, and his parents’ equally frightened expressions, chilled viewers worldwide.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 133-134; NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
President Bush authorizes the first call-up of US military reservists for service in Operation Desert Shield (see August 7, 1990). The first active duty tours are for 90 days, but will be extended to 180 days in November 1990. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000]
Iraqi officials break their promise to allow the 120 or so Americans who have recently arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait (see August 17, 1990) to leave the country. Ranking US diplomat Joseph Wilson is furious. He storms into the Iraqi Foreign Ministry and, failing to find Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, leaves a message for the minister calling him a liar (he substitutes the word “prevaricator” when the Iraqi protocol official suggests using a less inflammatory term). Wilson and his Baghdad embassy colleagues turn their attention to getting the Kuwaiti embassy staffers and their families out of the country, with first priority going to the women and children. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 138]
Iraq abruptly announces that foreign women and children are free to leave the country, effectively releasing them as hostages (see August 17-23, 1990). Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, the ranking US diplomat in Baghdad, believes the release was in part precipitated by a humiliating news report from CBS’s Dan Rather. The Egyptian ambassador to Iraq had met earlier with Wilson, and discussed the need for the international community to heighten its propaganda campaign against Saddam Hussein. He noted that a statue of Hussein had recently been erected in Arab Knight Square in Baghdad, replacing a statue of an Arab warrior on horseback. At the same time, Iraqi police had forced businesses around the country calling themselves “Arab Knight” to change their names, telling them “there is only one Arab knight in Iraq and you are not it.” Since Hussein wants to be known as the Arab Knight, the Egyptian ambassador says, maybe the world should point out that true Arab knights do not hide behind the skirts of women or behind little children. Wilson liked the idea and passed it on to Rather, who filed a story containing the insult on August 22. On August 25, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher accused Hussein of “hiding behind the skirts of women.” Wilson will later write, “While we could not confirm that our campaign to humiliate Saddam was responsible for this decision, we were sure that our general strategy of confrontation (see August 8-9, 1990) had contributed to it.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 134-135]
Iraqi officials claim to have found a memorandum summarizing the November 1989 meeting between CIA Director William Webster and Kuwaiti head of security Brigadier Fahd Ahmed Al-Fahd (see November 1989). According to a Washington Post article, when Kuwait’s foreign minister is confronted with the document at an Arab summit, the minister faints. Iraq cites this memorandum as evidence of a CIA-Kuwaiti plot to destabilize Iraq both politically and economically (see May 28-30, 1990). Both CIA and Kuwaiti officials call the meeting between Webster and al-Fahd “routine,” and claim the memorandum is a forgery. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Shortly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), US ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie is confronted with transcripts of her July meeting with Saddam Hussein, where she told Hussein that the US had “no position” on Iraq’s dispute with Kuwait, a statement that Hussein apparently took as tacit US permission to invade its neighbor (see July 25, 1990). A British reporter asks Glaspie, “You encouraged this aggression—his invasion. What were you thinking?” Glaspie replies, “Obviously, I didn’t think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait,” to which the astounded journalist asks, “You thought he was just going to take some of it? But how could you? Saddam told you that, if negotiations failed, he would give up his Iran [Shatt al Arab] goal for the ‘whole of Iraq, in the shape we wish it to be.’ You know that includes Kuwait, which the Iraqis have always viewed as an historic part of their country!” When Glaspie refuses to answer, the journalist continues, “America green-lighted the invasion. At a minimum, you admit signalling Saddam that some aggression was okay—that the US would not oppose a grab of the al-Rumalya oil field, the disputed border strip and the Gulf Islands—territories claimed by Iraq?” Again, Glaspie refuses to respond, and is driven away in a limousine before she can refuse to answer further questions. [New York Times, 9/19/1990] Speculation has always been rampant about why Bush, who formerly considered Hussein a staunch ally against Iran and Islamist influences in the Middle East, suddenly turned on his former ally. Author and investigative producer Barry Lando has a partial reason. Lando will write in 2007, “One of the reasons was [British prime minister] Margaret Thatcher, who had a talking to him. She told him he had to act like a man and react. But it was also the fear that Saddam would take over Kuwait, and then have a much stronger position in the world oil market. That really scared George Bush…. At that point, he totally turned around. They began calling the man who had been almost a de facto ally a few months earlier, a man worse than Hitler. And Bush started shipping thousands of American troops to the Gulf.” [Buzzflash (.com), 2/23/2007]
Walter Reed Army Institute of Research logo. [Source: Walter Reed Army Institute of Research]A team from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research arrives in the Persian Gulf region to work with “Desert Shield” personnel in handling stress and other psychological issues. [Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, 1/17/2008]
Reverend Jesse Jackson. [Source: Yann Gamblin / Corbis]What ranking US diplomat Joseph Wilson calls the “celebrity statesman tour” begins this month, with lawmakers and personages from all sides of the political spectrum visiting Iraq. Wilson notes that these visits, as well-meaning as they are, violate US and UN sanctions on non-accredited US citizens meeting with Saddam Hussein, and, in his opinion, help “create an illusion of legitimacy for the dictator.” Wilson will later write, “They would be photographed sitting attentively next to him, would make some inane antiwar comments to the camera and, as a reward, Saddam would bestow a few hostages on them (see August 17-23, 1990), enabling them to claim that they had been on an errand of mercy.” Wilson names as some of the visitors former attorney general and antiwar activist Ramsey Clark, former Texas Governor John Connally, sports icon Muhammad Ali (already visibly suffering from Parkinson’s disease), former British Prime Minister Edward Heath, German Prime Minister Willy Brandt, and Yusuf Islam, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens (and whom Wilson misidentifies as Yousef Ibrahim). Wilson calls the visits “well-intentioned but misguided… a violation of international sanctions, and… dangerous, as Saddam had clearly demonstrated his penchant for taking hostages.” On the other hand, each hostage released into the custody of a celebrity is one more American safe from harm, so “we applauded each new release as we continued to press for the safe departure of all Americans.” Wilson and his staff decide to “be as supportive as possible; after all, even if the visitors were in technical violations of American law, they were our citizens and, as such, were legitimate beneficiaries of whatever consular support we could provide.” Wilson is particularly taken with one visitor, American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, whose stature and aplomb upstage even Hussein. Wilson is impressed that Jackson’s insistent and even confrontational tactics win the freedom of twenty Americans. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 145-146; Yusuf Islam, 9/28/2007]
Britain and France announce the deployment of 10,000 ground forces to the Persian Gulf to join US forces in opposition to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996]
The Pentagon, citing top-secret satellite images, claims that some 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks are gathering on Saudi Arabia’s border in preparation for an attack. But two commercial Soviet satellite images of the border area, taken at the same time, obtained by Florida’s St. Petersburg Times, show only an empty desert. “The bulk of the mighty Iraqi army, said to number more than 500,000 in Kuwait and southern Iraq, couldn’t be found,” Newsday reports. [St. Petersburg Times, 1/6/1991; Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 1/5/2003]
The televised Congressional hearings of Iraqi atrocities against the Kuwaiti people, featuring the emotional testimony of a young Kuwaiti girl who tells the wrenching tale of Iraqi soldiers murdering Kuwaiti babies in their incubators (see October 10, 1990), sparks an outcry among both lawmakers and members of the US public. The story is later proven to be entirely false, but only long after the story, the product of an American public relations firm (see August 11, 1990), has had its desired impact (see January 9-13, 1991). The story is repeated over and over again, by President Bush, in subsequent Congressional testimony, on television and radio broadcasts, and even at the UN Security Council. Bush says that such “ghastly atrocities” are like “Hitler revisited,” and uses the images of “babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor” to excoriate Congressional Democrats reluctant to authorize the impending invasion. Author John MacArthur will later write, “Of all the accusations made against the dictator [Saddam Hussein], none had more impact on American public opinion than the one about Iraqi soldiers removing 312 babies from their incubators and leaving them to die on the cold hospital floors of Kuwait City.” American public opinion remains deeply divided about the necessity of a war with Iraq; the US Senate authorizes the war by a bare five-vote margin (see January 9-13, 1991). Journalists John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton will later write, “Given the narrowness of the vote, the babies-thrown-from-incubators story may have turned the tide in Bush’s favor.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002; Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002; CounterPunch, 12/28/2002; Public Relations Watch, 6/3/2007] In 1995, Bush’s National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft will say: “We didn’t know it wasn’t true at the time.… [I]t was useful in mobilizing public opinion.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002]
’Nayirah’ testifying before Congress. [Source: Web Fairy (.com)]An unconfirmed report of Iraqi soldiers entering a Kuwaiti hospital during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990) and removing newborns from their incubators causes a sensation in the US media. The rumor, which later turns out to be false, is seized upon by senior executives of the PR firm Hill & Knowlton, which has a $11.9 million contract from the Kuwaiti royal family to win support for a US-led intervention against Iraq—the largest foreign-funded campaign ever mounted to shape US public opinion. (Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the firm should have been held accountable for its marketing campaign, but the Justice Department fails to intervene.) The firm also has close ties to the Bush administration, and will assist in marketing the war to the US citizenry. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002; Independent, 10/19/2003; Public Relations Watch, 6/3/2007] Hill & Knowlton uses a front group, “Citizens for a Free Kuwait” (see August 11, 1990), to plant the stories in the news media.
Congressional Hearings - Hearings on the story, and other tales of Iraqi atrocities, are convened by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, chaired by Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA) and John Porter (R-IL). Reporters John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton will later characterize the caucus as little more than an H&K-funded sham; Lantos and Porter are also co-chairs of the Congressional Human Rights Foundation, a legally separate entity that occupied free office space in Hill & Knowlton’s Washington, DC offices. The star of the hearings is a slender, 15-year old Kuwaiti girl called “Nayirah.” According to the Caucus, her true identity is being concealed to prevent Iraqi reprisals against her or her family. Sobbing throughout her testimony, “Nayirah” describes what she says she witnessed in a hospital in Kuwait City; her written testimony is provided to reporters and Congressmen in a media kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait. “I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital,” she tells the assemblage. “While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where… babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 1/5/2003; Public Relations Watch, 6/3/2007] The hearings, and particularly “Nayirah’s” emotional tale, inflame American public opinion against the Iraqis (see October 10, 1990 and After) and help drum up support for a US invasion of Iraq (see January 9-13, 1991).
Outright Lies - Neither Lantos, Porter, nor H&K officials tell Congress that the entire testimony is a lie. “Nayirah” is the daughter of Saud Nasir al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US. Neither do they reveal that “Nayirah’s” testimony was coached by H&K vice president Lauri Fitz-Pegado. Seven other “witnesses” testify to the same atrocities before the United Nations; the seven use false names and identities. The US even presents a video made by Hill & Knowlton to the Security Council. No journalist investigates the claims. As author Susan Trento will write: “The diplomats, the congressmen, and the senators wanted something to support their positions. The media wanted visual, interesting stories.” It is not until after the war that human rights investigators look into the charges. No other witnesses can be located to confirm “Nayirah’s” story. Dr. Mohammed Matar, director of Kuwait’s primary care system, and his wife, Dr. Fayeza Youssef, who runs the obstretrics unit at the maternity hospital, says that at the time of the so-called atrocities, few if any babies were in incubator units—and Kuwait only possesses a few such units anyway. “I think it was just something for propaganda,” Dr. Matar will say. It is doubtful that “Nayirah” was even in the country at the time, as the Kuwaiti aristocracy had fled the country weeks before the Iraqi invasion. Amnesty International, which had supported the story, will issue a retraction. Porter will claim that he had no knowledge that the sobbing little girl was a well-rehearsed fabricator, much less an ambassador’s daughter. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporters will ask al-Sabah for permission to question his daughter about her testimony; he will angrily refuse. “Naiyrah” herself will later admit that she had never been in the hospital herself, but had learned of the supposed baby murders from a friend. In a subsequent interview about media manipulation during the war, Fitz-Pegado will say: “Come on.… Who gives a sh_t whether there were six babies or two? I believed her.” She will later clarify that statement: “What I meant was one baby would be too many.” [CounterPunch, 12/28/2002; Independent, 10/19/2003; Public Relations Watch, 6/3/2007]
Entity Tags: Susan Trento, Tom Lantos, Sheldon Rampton, US Congress, United Nations Security Council, Saud Nasir al-Sabah, US Department of Justice, Mohammed Matar, Lauri Fitz-Pegado, Citizens for a Free Kuwait, ’Nayirah’, Amnesty International, Bush administration (41), John Stauber, Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Fayeza Youssef, John MacArthur, John Porter, Hill and Knowlton, Congressional Human Rights Foundation, Jack O’Dwyer
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda
Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, the ranking US diplomat in Iraq, and his remaining colleagues in the beleaguered US Embassy in Baghdad decide to use the Thanksgiving holiday as a chance to remind the US that Iraq is still holding some 120 Americans as hostages (see August 17-23, 1990). He has proposed to his superiors in Washington that he make a high-profile visit to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to demand the release of the hostages, to be followed by an on-the-record press conference. Journalists would then join Wilson for Thanksgiving dinner at his home in Baghdad. He was told, “Nobody is going to tell you not to do it, but with the president traveling to Saudi Arabia to have Thanksgiving with the troops, the White House press office is concerned that you might step on the president’s story. That said, if you insist, feel free to go ahead. Just so you are aware of the concerns here.” Wilson and his colleagues decided to go through with the program. During dinner, CNN correspondent Richard Roth appears at Wilson’s home to announce that Iraqi officials have brought a contingent of American hostages to Baghdad for an on-camera Thanksgiving dinner. Does Wilson have a reaction? Roth asks. Wilson does indeed, and launches into a tirade, calling Iraq’s government “sadistic” for “parad[ing] hostages before the cameras as a propaganda tool while denying them access to their country’s embassy or consular officials.” Roth airs Wilson’s remarks on CNN. It is this impromptu condemnation of the Iraqi government, along with Wilson’s open defiance of Iraqi officials days before (see September 20, 1990), that prompts President Bush to send a laudatory letter to Wilson praising his courage and patriotism. (Wilson will give a copy of Bush’s cable to Roth, telling the reporter that he deserves the president’s praise as much as Wilson does.) [Wilson, 2004, pp. 160-161]
Admiral William Crowe. [Source: Associated Press]Admiral William Crowe, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, breaks with the Bush administration to come out for the continuation of US sanctions (see August 6, 1990) and against the proposed war against Iraq (see November 29, 1990). Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Crowe says: “[W]e should give sanctions a fair chance before we discard them.… If, in fact, the sanctions will work in twelve to eighteen months instead of six months, a trade-off of avoiding war, with its attendant sacrifices and uncertainties, would in my estimation be more than worth it.” Joseph Wilson, the ranking US diplomat in Iraq, is dismayed at Crowe’s stance. The embassy had sent a report to Washington weeks before stating the opinion of the embassy diplomats and staff that sanctions were not having the desired effect; though they were eroding Saddam Hussein’s military structure, Wilson and his staff concluded, they would not in and of themselves force Hussein out of Kuwait any time soon. Economic sanctions would take years, perhaps a decade or more, to have the effect the US wants. “By that time,” Wilson will later write, “he would have looted the Kuwait treasury, found ways around the sanctions, and repopulated Kuwait with Iraqis so as to rig any vote on the future of the country. Sanctions would make the war easier, we believed, but not unnecessary, as long as our goal was to liberate Kuwait.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 161-162]
The United Nations passes Resolution 678. The resolution gives Iraq until January 15, 1991 to withdraw entirely from Kuwait (see July 25, 1990) and restore its national sovereignty. The US uses UN authority to build a “coalition” of nations to support its upcoming “Desert Storm” operation designed to repel Iraqi forces from Kuwait (see January 16, 1991 and After). 34 countries contribute personnel: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Spain, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States. West Germany and Japan do not contribute forces, but they do contribute $6.6 billion and $10 billion, respectively, to the cause. While some countries join out of a sincere belief that Iraq must not be allowed to dominate the region and control Middle Eastern oil reserves (see August 7, 1990), others are more reluctant, believing that the affair is an internal matter best resolved by other Arab countries, and some fear increased US influence in Kuwait and the region. Some of these nations are persuaded by Iraq’s belligerence towards other Arab nations as well as by US offers of economic aid and/or debt forgiveness. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007] As with all such UN resolutions, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein rejects this resolution. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996]
The ranking US diplomat in Baghdad, Joseph Wilson, has a breakthrough in his relentless efforts to win the freedom of the 120 or so American hostages being held by Iraq (see August 17-23, 1990). Wilson meets an Arab journalist who has considerable influence in the Gulf region. He tells her that President Bush has already concluded, in his opinion, that the loss of the hostages as a result of an American invasion would be lamentable but not enough to deter military action against Iraq. Therefore, Saddam Hussein is “deluding himself” if he thinks the hostages will prevent the US from launching an attack against Iraqi forces in Kuwait. The other side of the coin, he tells the journalist, is that if something untoward does happen to the hostages, “American anger might be such that the president would be forced to go to war to avenge that mistreatment.” It is wholly to Hussein’s benefit to release the hostages, Wilson argues. Ten days after that lunch, Wilson receives the minutes from a meeting between Algerian Foreign Minister Sid Ahmed Ghozali and the US Ambassador to Algeria, Chris Ross, in which Ghozali echoes Wilson’s message almost verbatim. Wilson later writes, “I was certain that my contact had been speaking to other Arab leaders, and I saw that the thesis was gaining some traction. It would soon get back to Saddam from Arab interlocutors. It did not matter how many times I told the Iraqis the risks they ran—they expected me to say it. But when a fellow Arab said the same thing, it would have far greater impact.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 164-165]
After a meeting between Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and Jordan’s King Hussein, in which the king exhorted the Iraqi leader to free the 120 or so American hostages in Iraqi custody in order to avoid the possibility of US retaliation (see Late November, 1990), Hussein announces that Iraqi forces are now strong enough to withstand a US military strike, so the hostages may depart. After a chaotic few days of arranging transport for the newly released hostages, the number of Americans in Baghdad dwindle to fewer than ten: the ranking US diplomat in Baghdad, Joseph Wilson, and a few embassy staff members. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 165-166]
A British journalist tells US diplomat Joseph Wilson, one of the few remaining Americans in Iraq not affiliated with the media, that Iraqi officials have told him they are sure the US will not attack Iraqi forces. “The Iraqis have concluded that you are bluffing,” the journalist tells Wilson. “If you were serious, you wouldn’t keep beating your chests. You would let your actions speak for you.” Wilson’s subsequent advice to Washington to tone down the rhetoric goes unheeded. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 168-169]
With Iraqi forces occupying much of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), the US intelligence community releases a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that predicts, wrongly, that Iraq will withdraw from Kuwait rather than face a US invasion (see January 16, 1991 and After). [New Republic, 11/20/2003] This is a follow-up to the consensus among US intelligence agencies that Iraq would not invade Kuwait (see Mid-1990).
Final diplomatic efforts between the US and Iraq to stave off US military action, represented by US Secretary of State James Baker and Iraq Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz respectively, end in stalemate. The United Nations has given Iraq until January 15, 1991 to withdraw its forces from Kuwait (see November 29, 1990). Iraq has no intentions of doing so. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996]
Faced with a lawsuit from 53 members of Congress demanding that he seek Congressional authorization before invading Iraq (see December 1990 and January 16, 1991 and After), President Bush asks Congress for such an authorization. His carefully worded request does not directly acknowledge the constitutional requirement that Congress authorize any military involvement by the US. After three days of what the New York Times calls “solemn, often eloquent debate,” both chambers of Congress approve the war resolution. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996; Dean, 2007, pp. 90-91] That authority is granted in part because of propaganda efforts mounted by Pentagon and Kuwaiti officials (see October 10, 1990). Even with such powerful persuasive tactics, the vote in the US Senate is 52-47 and 250-183 in the US House of Representatives, the closest such vote since the War of 1812. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
House Reminds Bush that Congress Retains Power to Declare War - The House passes another resolution, 302-131, informing the White House that Congress has the exclusive authority under the Constitution to declare war. Of this second resolution, author and former Nixon White House counsel John Dean will write in 2007, “The breakdown of the vote is telling: 260 Democrats and 41 Republicans along with one independent voted to support the wording and clear intention of Article I of the Constitution; 126 Republicans and 5 Democrats, all hard-right conservatives (including Tom DeLay, R-TX, and two would-be presidents of the United States, Newt Gingrich, R-GA and Duncan Hunter, R-CA) voted against the resolution.” [Dean, 2007, pp. 90-91]
Gore Persuaded to Support War by Wilson - One of the few Democratic senators to vote for the war is Al Gore (D-TN). Gore takes time from the floor deliberations to speak with the ranking US diplomat in Iraq, Joseph Wilson, who once served as Gore’s aide (see September 5, 1988 and After). Gore grills Wilson for twenty minutes on the efficacy of US sanctions against Iraq (see August 6, 1990) and the necessity of US intervention to free Kuwait before returning to the Senate to vote for the authorization. Wilson later writes of his outrage that Gore’s fellow senator, Alan Simpson (R-WY), would accuse Gore during the 2000 election of being what Simpson will call “Prime Time Al” for the timing of his speech in favor of the war authorization. Wilson recalls Simpson as the senator who had been “practically on bended knee before Saddam in April 1990, reassuring the Iraqi dictator that he had a press problem and not a policy problem” (see April 12, 1990). Wilson will continue, “It was an outrage that a decade later he had the nerve to be critical of the one senator who had really taken the time to listen to an analysis from the field and factor that into his decision on what most senators agreed was one of the most momentous votes of their careers.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 163-164]
Entity Tags: Tom DeLay, New York Times, Joseph C. Wilson, Newt Gingrich, George Herbert Walker Bush, Albert Arnold (“Al”) Gore, Jr., Duncan Hunter, Bush administration (41), Alan Simpson, John Dean
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
With US military strikes just days away (see January 9-13, 1991 and January 16, 1991 and After), ranking US diplomat Joseph Wilson shuts down the US embassy in Baghdad, hauling down the flag from over the embassy and taking it with him as he drives to the airport to leave Iraq. Wilson is the last American to leave Iraq before the invasion. He later calls it “probably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do.” He particularly worries about the loyal and hardworking Iraqis who, until today, worked for the embassy. They are now unemployed and likely to face retribution for working with the Americans. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 171]
One of the many air strikes launched against Iraqi targets during Operation Desert Storm. [Source: US Air Force]The US launches a massive air assault against Iraq in retaliation for that country’s invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990). The air assault begins the day after a UN deadline for Iraq’s withdrawal from Kuwait expires (see November 29, 1990). F-117 Stealth bombers hit Baghdad with an array of high-tech bombs and missiles; many of the explosions are televised live, or on briefly delayed feeds, on CNN, which launches virtually 24-hour coverage of the air strikes. In the first 48 hours of the war, 2,107 combat missions drop more than 5,000 tons of bombs on Baghdad alone, nearly twice the amount that incinerated Dresden in World War II.
'Thunder and Lightning of Desert Storm' - US Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), announces the beginning of hostilities by transmitting the following: “Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines of the United States Central Command, this morning at 0300, we launched Operation Desert Storm, an offensive campaign that will enforce the United Nation’s resolutions that Iraq must cease its rape and pillage of its weaker neighbor and withdraw its forces from Kuwait. My confidence in you is total. Our cause is just! Now you must be the thunder and lightning of Desert Storm. May God be with you, your loved ones at home, and our country.” [US Navy, 9/17/1997]
Initial Attacks Obliterate Iraqi Navy, Much of Air Force, Many Ground Installations - The attack begins with an assault of over 100 Tomahawk land attack missiles (TLAMs) launched from US naval vessels in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and attack helicopter strikes on Iraqi radar installations near the Iraq-Saudi Arabian border. The assaults destroy much of Iraq’s air defense and command-and-control capabilities. The missile assault is quickly followed by fighter, bomber, and assault helicopter strikes which continue pounding at Iraqi government buildings, power stations, dams, military sites, radio and television stations, and several of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. The strikes essentially obliterate the Iraqi Navy, and drastically cripple the Iraqi Air Force. (Between 115 and 140 aircraft and crews of the Iraqi Air Force flees to Iran over the course of the war, a move that surprises US commanders, who expected the aircraft and their crews to attempt to flee to Jordan, not Iran. The Iranians will never give Iraq back its aircraft, and will not release Iraqi air crews for years to come.) A US Navy review later calls the combined Navy-Marine air campaign, conducted in concert with US Air Force strikes, “successful beyond the most optimistic expectations.” The Navy later reports that “allied air forces dropped over 88,500 tons of ordnance on the battlefield.” [US Navy, 9/17/1997; NationMaster, 12/23/2007] Iraqi anti-aircraft counterattacks are surprisingly effective, downing around 75 US and British aircraft in the first hours of attacks. The US media does not widely report these downings, nor does it give much attention to the dozens of pilots and air crew captured as POWs. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
'The Mother of All Battles' - Five hours after the first attacks, Baghdad state radio broadcasts a voice identified as Saddam Hussein. Hussein tells his people that “The great duel, the mother of all battles has begun. The dawn of victory nears as this great showdown begins.” [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
US Embassy Helped Locate Targets for Air Strikes - Deputy Chief of Mission Joseph Wilson, the last American to leave Baghdad (see January 12, 1991), and his staff provided critical assistance to the US battle planners in choosing their initial targets. Over the months, Wilson and his staff developed a “hostage tracking system,” monitoring and recording the movements of the American hostages as they were transferred from site to site to be used as human shields in the event of a US strike (see August 4, 1990 and August 8, 1990). Wilson and his staff were able to identify some 55 sites that were being used around the country, presumably some of the most critical military and infrastructure sites in Iraq. Wilson gave that information to the Pentagon. He will later write, “I was gratified when several months later, on the first night of Desert Storm, long after the hostages had been released, many of those sites were ones hit by American bombs.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 141]
Entity Tags: US Department of the Navy, United Nations, US Department of the Marines, US Department of the Air Force, US Department of the Army, CNN, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Norman Schwarzkopf, Joseph C. Wilson, US Department of Defense, US Department of State, Saddam Hussein
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
One of the US Army Patriot batteries deployed in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia that destroyed Iraqi Scuds. [Source: US Army]Iraqi forces launch seven Scud missiles at targets inside Israel. US forces intercept one of the Scuds over Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, with a Patriot anti-missile battery. The Israeli government agrees to a US request not to retaliate with its own military strike against Iraq. Two days later, the Pentagon redeploys several Patriot batteries from their bases in Europe into the region. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] This is the first of a number of Scud attacks by Iraq against Israeli targets. Many believe that Iraq’s intention in attacking Israel—announced before the war—is to draw Israel into the conflict and thus draw other Arab countries into the war in support of Iraq, particularly Jordan and/or Syria. Israel, pressured by the US, refuses to retaliate. The Scuds that are fired at Israel have been drastically modified to fly much farther distances than they were originally designed to do, and as a result they are wildly inaccurate. A common joke among US military and civilian personnel is: “How many Iraqis does it take to launch a Scud? Two: one to launch the missile and another to watch CNN to see where it lands.” [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
President Bush rejects a peace plan proposed by Iraq and the Soviet Union. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996] This is not the only peace proposal from Iraq and its various friends and allies rejected by the US. The US insists on a full, immediate, and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait. Iraq’s peace proposals contain various conditions, mostly involving the withdrawal of Syrian and/or Israeli troops from other Middle Eastern countries such as Lebanon. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
An Army M-270 rocket system deployed in Saudi Arabia. [Source: US Army]After over a month of aerial and naval assaults against Iraqi forces (see January 16, 1991 and After), the US-led coalition launches a massive ground assault against Iraqi forces in Kuwait. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] Battalions from the 11th Marine Division lead the assault by clearing Iraqi minefields in southern Kuwait placed to impede ground forces’ progress. [Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, 1/20/2008] A key component of the US strategy is the so-called “left hook” maneuver, based on General Ulysses S. Grant’s similar strategy in the 1863 Battle of Vicksburg. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996] The “left hook” is designed to sidestep a large contingent of heavily fortified Iraqi troops along the Iraq-Kuwait border, prepared to defend Kuwait City from an attack by US and coalition forces. General Norman Schwarzkopf, the US’s chief strategist, uses a small contingent of Marines to keep this larger Iraqi force busy while 250,000 troops land behind the dug-in Iraqi forces; one contingent sweeps north to attack forces around Basra, and the rest surprise the Iraqis along the border by attacking from the north. [Bard, 2002, pp. 280]
Demolished and disabled vehicles litter the ‘Highway of Death’ in the hours after Iraqi forces were slaughtered by US strikes. [Source: Public domain / US Department of Defense]Thousands of Iraqi soldiers retreating on two highways from Kuwait City, Kuwait, towards Basra, Iraq, are slaughtered by US forces on what is later called the “Highway of Death.” [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996] The so-called “Battle of Rumaylah,” or as some call it, the “Battle of the Junkyard,” is not a battle in the classic sense, as the huge losses of Iraqi soldiers and vehicles are contrasted with the loss of a single American tank, lost when an Iraqi tank explodes too close to it. Only one US soldier is injured. In the two separate but connected US assaults that make up the battle, at least 600 Iraqi tanks, armored vehicles, and trucks are destroyed or disabled; estimates of Iraqi personnel losses vary widely, but the losses are well in the thousands. Iraqi, Kuwaiti, and Palestinian civilians, including children, are caught in the heavy US assault as well as innumerable Iraqi soldiers. (Some believe the Kuwaitis and Palestinians were being taken to Baghdad to be used as hostages.) Most of the bodies are buried within hours, making it impossible to ascertain the number of dead. During the US assault, US tanks, using sophisticated thermal-imaging targeting, have little trouble sighting and destroying Iraqi tanks before the Iraqi units are even aware that they are being fired upon. [Time, 3/18/1991; New Yorker, 5/22/2000; Newsweek, 5/29/2000]
Air Strikes - Initially, a force of retreating Iraqi armored units are bombed front and rear by US aircraft during the night of February 27-28, trapping the convoy between the centers of destruction. The remaining units are targets for later air strikes. Most of the vehicles—military tanks, trucks, and armored personnel carriers, as well as civilian cars and trucks—are destroyed.
Five-Hour Air, Armor Assault - The March 2 attack on the Iraqi Republican Guard “Hammurabi” tank division is ordered by Army General Barry McCaffrey (the general who commanded the already-famous “left hook” maneuver days before—see February 23, 1991 and After), in response to what McCaffrey says is an attack on his forces with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). The decision surprises some in the Allied command structure in Saudi Arabia and causes unease among civilian and military leaders in Washington, who worry about the public relations ramifications of an attack that comes days after a cease-fire was implemented (see February 28, 1991). McCaffrey himself later calls the attack “one of the most astounding scenes of destruction I have ever participated in.” The “Hammurabi” division is obliterated in the assault.
Criticism from Fellow Officers - Some senior US officers are not sure that McCaffrey’s unit, the 24th Mechanized Division, was in fact attacked; many senior US officers privately assert that McCaffrey’s five-hour assault was well out of proportion. (McCaffrey, later accused of war crimes by an anonymous but well-informed accuser, will be exonerated by an Army inquiry.) McCaffrey will assert that his troops were indeed attacked—an assertion backed by other field officers on the scene—and that he ordered the retaliation because had he not, his forces would have come under heavy attack by Iraqi armored units. Besides, McCaffrey will later say, the entire war was intended to be a one-sided affair: “We didn’t go up there looking for a fair fight with these people.” The whole war, one British commander said in earlier weeks, was “rather like a grouse shoot.” [New Yorker, 5/22/2000; Newsweek, 5/29/2000]
One critic is the commander of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Unit, Lieutenant General James Johnson, who will later say: “There was no need to be shooting at anybody. [The Iraqis] couldn’t surrender fast enough. The war was over.” Johnson, whose unit is deployed near McCaffrey’s, will add, “I saw no need to continue any further attacks.” Explaining why McCaffrey ordered the assault on his own authority, Johnson will say that McCaffrey—widely perceived as CENTCOM commander General Norman Schwarzkopf’s favorite general—“does what he wants to do.”
Lieutenant General Ronald Griffith, commanding the 1st Armored Division of VII Corps, will later say that many of the tanks destroyed in the assault were being transported on trailer trucks to Baghdad, with their cannons facing away from the US troops, and thus posing no threat. “It was just a bunch of tanks in a train, and he made it a battle,” Griffith will later say of McCaffrey. “He made it a battle when it was never one. That’s the thing that bothered me the most.”
Major James Kump, the senior intelligence officer for the Army’s 124th Military Intelligence Battalion, is monitoring what he believes to be a routine retreat before McCaffrey’s units begin attacking the Iraqi forces. Kump will later recall: “I thought, I can’t believe what I’m hearing! There’s nothing going on. These guys are retreating.” Kump receives a large amount of electronic data indicating that McCaffrey is attacking a retreating force. “I had links to several intelligence systems—more than I can talk about,” he will later say. “And I’d have known if troops were moving toward us.… I knew of no justification for the counterattack. I always felt it was a violation of the ceasefire. From an integrity standpoint, I was very troubled.”
McCaffrey’s orders will be questioned even by one of his own subordinates, Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Lamar, the 24th’s operations officer. Lamar, who is in charge of the assault command post and who relays McCaffrey’s orders to the field units, will later say: “There was no incoming. I know that for a fact.” The battle is “a giant hoax. The Iraqis were doing absolutely nothing. I told McCaffrey I was having trouble confirming the incoming.” But, Lamar will recall, nothing he says matters. McCaffrey wants to attack.
Private First Class Charles Sheehan-Miles, a gun loader in a 1st Brigade tank platoon, will later recall being sent to rescue an American unit under attack by Iraqi armored units. “We went up the road blowing the sh_t out of everything,” he will recall. “It was like going down an American highway—people were all mixed up in cars and trucks. People got out of their cars and ran away. We shot them.” Sheehan-Miles recalls shooting at least one person in civilian clothing. “My orders were to shoot if they were armed or running. The Iraqis were getting massacred.”
Specialist 4 James Manchester, a member of the Scout platoon of the 27th Battalion of the 1st Brigade, will later call the battle nothing more than “f_cking murder.”
Shortly after the attack, an interpreter for the 124th Military Intelligence Battalion interrogates a captured Iraqi tank commander who asks over and over: “Why are you killing us? All we were doing was going home. Why are you killing us?”
After the battle, military analysts will pore over the battle films recorded by the Apache attack helicopters participating in McCaffrey’s assault. One of the analysts will later tell a reporter that the footage was clear: the Iraqi tanks were in full retreat and posed no threat to American forces. “These guys were in an offroad defensive position—deployed in a perimeter,” the analyst will recall. Some of the Iraqi tanks attempted to return fire once McCaffrey began his assault: “We saw T-72s in battle lines, firing away blindly in the air. They didn’t know what was killing them, but they were gamely shooting—knowing they would die.”
Many officers on the ground will later describe actions by McCaffrey and some of his senior subordinates they believe are designed to provoke a response from the retreating Iraqis and thus provide an excuse to begin a counterattack.
Massacre Factor in Decision to End Hostilities - Reporters are not allowed in the area, so no one is there to report on, or photograph, the actual assault or its immediate aftermath. But the area is heavily photographed in the following days, and the swath of destroyed, burned-out vehicles becomes at once a symbol of US military superiority and of Iraqi defeat. It is later cited as one of the factors in President Bush’s decision to accept Iraq’s surrender and cease hostilities. The decision enables the Iraqi Army to survive the war somewhat intact, and keeps Saddam Hussein in power. Bush will later explain: “If we continued the fighting another day… would we be accused of a slaughter of Iraqis who were simply trying to escape, not fight? In addition, the coalition was agreed on driving the Iraqis from Kuwait, not on carrying the conflict into Iraq or on destroying Iraqi forces.”
Dehumanizing the Iraqis - Manchester will later tell a reporter: “I was as patriotic as they come. I was a gung-ho ass-kicking Commie-hating patriotic son of a b_tch. I hated the Arabs. We all did. I dehumanized them. Did the Iraqis commit war crimes in Kuwait? Did they retreat back into Iraq to commit war crimes against their own people? The answer is yes to both questions. But does that make March 2nd justified? There have to be limits, even in war. Otherwise, the whole system breaks down.” [New Yorker, 5/22/2000]
Entity Tags: US Department of the Air Force, Ronald Griffith, Saddam Hussein, George Herbert Walker Bush, Charles Sheehan-Miles, Barry McCaffrey, US Department of Defense, James Johnson, James Manchester, James Kump, Patrick Lamar, Norman Schwarzkopf, US Department of the Army
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
US forces enter Kuwait City, Kuwait, with the Army’s 1st Armored Division fighting the last major battle of the Gulf War against the Iraqi Revolutionary Guard, in an operation later dubbed the Battle of Medina Ridge. President Bush declares Kuwait officially liberated from Iraqi occupation. [PBS Frontline, 1/9/1996]
After three days of relentless ground assaults from US and coalition forces (see February 25, 1991), Iraq informally surrenders. Hostilities officially cease at 8:01 a.m. local time. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000] US Army forces begin surveying chemical and biological weapons storage units in their respective areas. [Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, 1/20/2008] Reflecting on the war, the former Deputy Chief of Mission to the US Embassy in Baghdad, Joseph Wilson, will later write that the war had been necessary: “The Iraq invasion of Kuwait was a brazen case of armed robbery, pure and simple,” and nothing short of military intervention would end it. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 178]
The former Deputy Chief of Mission to the US Embassy in Baghdad, Joseph Wilson, reflecting on the ramifications and consequences of the Gulf War as it comes to an end (see February 28, 1991), will later write: “The war… established the blueprint for the post-Cold War New World Order. For the first time since the Korean War, the world had engaged in a conflict sanctioned by international law. In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, America’s foreign policy establishment understood that the next generation’s war would not be of the World War II variety, with huge mobilizations of national assets and a fight for survival among the major powers; it would instead consist of small, bloody conflicts that would best be dealt with by a coalition of the willing operating under the mandate of the United Nations. Our challenge would be to ensure that the United States did not become the world’s policeman, a costly and enervating task, but rather used our power to mobilize coalitions and share costs and responsibilities. In my mind, Desert Shield and Storm were case studies of how to manage both the diplomacy and the military aspects of an international crisis. We were successful in obtaining international financing to cover most of the costs of the war, we were successful in putting together a coalition force with troops from more than twenty nations, and we were successful in obtaining an international legal mandate to conduct the war. It was, in every way, an international effort driven by American political will and diplomatic leadership.” Wilson agrees with President Bush and others that the US had been right not to drive into Baghdad and depose Saddam Hussein (see February 1991-1992, August 1992, and September 1998). The US-led coalition had no international mandate to perform such a drastic action, Wilson will note. To go farther than the agreed-upon mandate would alienate allies and erode trust, especially among Arab nations fearful that the US would overthrow their governments and seize their oilfields, or those of their neighbors. Wilson will observe, “The credibility that we later enjoyed—which permitted us to make subsequent progress on Middle East peace at the Madrid Conference in October 1991, and through the Oslo process (see September 13, 1993)… was directly related to our having honored our promises and not exceeded the mandate from the international community.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 178-179]
US soldiers destroy around 40 ammunition bunkers and 45 warehouses in various locations throughout Iraq and Kuwait. In one open-air location outside the Khamisiyah Ammunition Supply Point (nicknamed “the Pit” by American soldiers), 1,250 rockets are destroyed. UN inspectors will later determine that many of those rockets had contained chemical warfare agents. [Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, 1/20/2008]
The Defense Department announces the first troop withdrawals from Iraq and Kuwait, with the Army’s 24th Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, Georgia, the first to depart. [American Forces Press Service, 8/8/2000]
The United Nations Security Council passes Resolution 687. The resolution “[w]elcom[es] the restoration to Kuwait of its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and the return of its legitimate government.” The bulk of the resolution addresses Iraq, requiring that nation to destroy all of its chemical, nuclear, and biological weapons, as well as all of its ballistic missiles with a range greater than 150 kilometers. The resolution says that Iraq’s compliance will represent “steps towards the goal of establishing in the Middle East a zone free from weapons of mass destruction and all missiles for their delivery and the objective of a global ban on chemical weapons.” Other portions of the resolution require Iraq to pay war reparations to Kuwait, to honor its international debts, and reaffirm the Iraq sanctions already passed by the UN. The resolution also paves the way for the controversial Oil-for-Food program by taking charge of Iraq’s petroleum exports. On the UN Security Council, twelve nations vote for the resolution; one, Cuba, votes against it, and two, Ecuador and Yemen, abstain. [United Nations, 4/3/1991; UNDemocracy (.com), 4/3/1991]
A container leaking an unknown but potentially dangerous substance is reported at a Kuwaiti girls’ school in Kuwait City. [Office of the Special Assistant for Gulf War Illnesses, 1/20/2008] The container is a storage tank that is initially shown to contain mustard agent and phosgene. The report causes a brief media sensation in the British and US press. Later, more intensive analysis of the data by British inspectors shows that the tank contained no chemical warfare agents, but instead contained a substance known as inhibited red fuming nitric acid (IRFNA). The US Defense Department will confirm those reports. [Illnesses, 3/19/1998]
Outgoing president George H. W. Bush defends his protection and support of Iraq in the years, months, and days preceding Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (see July 23, 1986 and November 8, 1990), arguing that “we were trying to work with Saddam Hussein and try[ing] to bring him along into the family of nations.” He will deny that the US in any way helped Hussein in his attempts to develop a nuclear weapon (see November 1989), calling any such allegations “fallacious.” However, a raft of secret US government documents contradict Bush’s denials and prove that Bush’s own actions helped propel the United States into war with Iraq (see July 25, 1990). [New Yorker, 11/2/1992]
The US fires 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles at intelligence sites in Baghdad, in response to allegations of an Iraqi plot to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush during his visit to Kuwait in April. [Barletta and Jorgensen, 5/1999; Roberts, 2008, pp. 121]
Iraq masses its armored forces on its southern border, obviously threatening another incursion into Kuwait (see August 2, 1990). The Clinton administration responds forcefully, warning the Iraqis that it will deploy 40,000 US troops inside Kuwait within a week if the Iraqis remain in place. The US also increases its Air Force presence inside Kuwait. In response, Iraq withdraws its forces. However, the Iraqi threat impels the US to steadily increase its military presence in Kuwait. By 2000, the US will have increased its Kuwaiti troop deployment from 8,000 to 30,000. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005; Roberts, 2008, pp. 121]
Hamza Alghamdi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Future 9/11 hijacker Hamza Alghamdi flies from Iran to Kuwait on October 8, travels to Qatar the next day, and enters Saudi Arabia on October 13. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 32-33 ] According to the 9/11 Commission, he is accompanied on the flight from Iran to Kuwait by fellow hijacker Mohand Alshehri. The 9/11 Commission will mention this flight in a section of its final report suggesting co-operation on travel between Iran, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda—Iran may have helped al-Qaeda by allowing operatives to transit Iran on their way to and from Afghanistan without stamping their passports (see After October 12, 2000). According to a detainee who may have been tortured, Alghamdi was in Afghanistan in the summer of 2000 (see Summer 2000); according to militant leader Luai Sakra, he was in Turkey at around this time (see Late 1999-2000), so it is unclear where Alghamdi and Alshehri are coming from. In any case, there are no direct links between this flight and actions by Iranian operatives, although the commission will note in this context that a senior Hezbollah operative visited Saudi Arabia around this time, and planned to help people in Saudi Arabia travel to Iran. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240] The 9/11 Commission’s statement that the hijackers took this flight will be based on intelligence reports from the NSA, mostly drafted shortly after 9/11. Another source for the paragraph that mentions this flight will be “operative’s claimed identification of photos of two Sept. 11 hijackers,” dated August 2002, although it will not be clear if this applies to this trip by Alghamdi and Alshehri. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 529; Shenon, 2008, pp. 370-3]
US Central Command raises the force protection condition level for US forces based in the Arabian peninsula and the Persian Gulf. In six countries the force protection level is raised to Delta, the highest level possible. The US orders all its naval ships docked in those countries out to sea, and the US Fifth Fleet moves out of port in Bahrain. Regional military exercises are canceled and US embassies are temporarily closed. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 256-257, 534] This is partly in response to an al-Qaeda video which surfaced the previous week containing the message, “It’s time to penetrate America and Israel and hit them where it hurts most” (see June 19, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 241; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 256, 534] Additionally, Newsweek reports at the time that this alert comes after “Western intelligence agencies picked up ‘quite reliable’ signs of increased activity among Islamic extremists with Afghanistan ties. These indications are said to have included information picked up through electronic monitoring of suspected militants, who US experts say have acquired fairly sophisticated communications and computer equipment.” [Newsweek, 7/22/2001] However, as author James Bamford later notes, “No precautions were ever taken within the United States, only overseas.” [Bamford, 2004, pp. 241]
A neighbor of Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam who had frequent contact with future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour in San Diego and/or Virginia (see March 2001 and After), will later claim that, in the first week of August 2001, al-Awlaki knocks on his door and tells him he is leaving for Kuwait. “He came over before he left and told me that something very big was going to happen, and that he had to be out of the country when it happened,” the neighbor says. [Newsweek, 7/28/2003] The neighbor, Lincoln W. Higgie, lives in San Diego, California, and has long been friendly with al-Awlaki. Al-Awlaki had already moved to Virginia earlier in the year (see March 2001 and After), but apparently he is briefly stopping by San Diego. Higgie will later recall that he tells al-Awlaki to visit if he is ever in the area. Al-Awlaki replies: “I don’t think you’ll be seeing me. I won’t be coming back to San Diego again. Later on you’ll find out why.” [New York Times, 5/8/2010]
Shabbir Khan, an executive for the Saudi conglomerate Tamimi Global Co, throws a lavish birthday party for KBR procurement manager Stephen Seamans at a Tamimi “party house” near Camp Arifjan, a Kuwaiti base near the border. Khan gives Seamans the use of a prostitute as one of his birthday presents. Driving Seamans back home, Khan offers Seamans $130,000 in kickbacks. Five days after the party, with Seamans and Khan driving the deal, KBR awards Tamimi a $14.4 million mess hall subcontract for the upcoming invasion of Iraq. This and other information about KBR war profiteering in Iraq comes from a federal investigation that will begin in late 2007 (see October 2006 and Beyond). [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
The United States exports arms to 25 countries this year. Of these, 18 are involved in ongoing conflicts, including Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Colombia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Israel. Sales to these countries total almost $1 billion, with most it—$845.6 million—going to Israel. More than half of the top 25 recipients are currently designated “undemocratic” by the US State Department’s Human Rights Report. Those countries—including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan—account for more than $2.7 billion in US sales. When countries with a poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are also added to the list, 20 of the top 25 US arms recipients, or 80 percent, are either undemocratic regimes or governments with a poor human rights record. [Berrigan and Hartung, 6/2005; Boston Globe, 11/13/2006]
Entity Tags: Angola, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Israel, Egypt, Philippines, Ethiopia, United States, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Colombia
Timeline Tags: US Military, US International Relations
KBR procurement manager Stephen Seamans gives his crony Shabbir Khan (see October 2002), of the Saudi conglomerate Tamimi Global Co, inside information that allows Tamimi to secure a $2 million KBR subcontract to establish a mess hall at a Baghdad palace. Seamans subsequently puts through change orders that inflate the subcontract to $4.7 million. This and other information about KBR war profiteering in Iraq comes from a federal investigation that will begin in late 2007 (see October 2006 and Beyond). [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
KBR procurement managers Stephen Seamans and Jeff Mazon, who have between them already executed logistics subcontracts for the US military in Iraq worth $321 million, put together yet another deal for their business crony Shabbir Khan, of the Saudi conglomerate Tamimi Global Co (see October 2005, October 2002, and April 2003). However, this deal puts US soldiers at risk. According to KBR’s enormous LOGCAP contract with the Army, KBR is required to medically screen the thousands of kitchen workers subcontractors such as Tamimi import from poor villages in countries like Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Instead of performing the required medical screenings, Khan gives falsified files on 550 Tamimi kitchen workers to the US Defense Department. KBR retests those 550 workers at a Kuwait City clinic and finds that 172 test positive for exposure to the hepatitis A virus. Khan tries to suppress the test results, telling the clinic that Tamimi would do no more business with his clinic if it informs KBR about the results. Further retests show that none of the 172 have contagious hepatitis A, and Khan’s attorneys will claim during a subsequent investigation (see October 2006 and Beyond) that no soldiers caught any diseases from any of Tamimi’s workers. Other firms besides Tamimi show similar problems, causing KBR to begin vaccinating the employees for a variety of diseases at the job sites. [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
Compounding effect of multiple tiers of subcontractors [Source: News Observer] (click image to enlarge)Despite the fact that the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) contract explicitly prohibits Halliburton and its subcontractors from subcontracting security services, Halliburton subcontractor ESS hires the firm Blackwater USA to provide security through Regency Hotel, another subcontractor. Each of the subcontractors involved in this arrangement will charge a substantial mark-up for the security personnel. Blackwater pays its security guards $600 per day and charges Regency $815 per day plus overhead costs, while Regency charges ESS between $1200 and $1500 per day for each security guard. It is not known what ESS charges Halliburton or what the final bill is for the taxpayer. Halliburton refuses to disclose this information to Congress. Congressman Henry Waxman, in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, will suggest that Halliburton’s invoice to the US government for these services was not legal and should not have been paid. [Regency Hotel & Hospital Company, 3/12/2004 ; News & Observer, 10/24/2004; News & Observer, 10/28/2006; US Congress, 12/7/2006 ]
Three war contractors for KBR, the firm supplying logistical support for US troops in Iraq and Kuwait, meet in a quiet lounge in London’s Cumberland Hotel. The three men are unaware that federal agents are tailing them. They spend the afternoon drinking and discussing the various bribes they have accepted as kickbacks as a routine part of doing business. KBR procurement manager Stephen Seamans, who, unbeknownst to his colleagues, is wearing a wire for the FBI, wonders whether or not he should return $65,000 in bribes his two fellows, executives from the Saudi conglomerate Tamimi Global Co, gave him. One of the two executives, Tamimi operations director Shabbir Khan, tells him to conceal the money by falsifying business records. “Just do the paperwork,” Khan advises. This and other information about KBR war profiteering in Iraq comes from a federal investigation that will begin in late 2007 (see October 2006 and Beyond). [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
KBR subcontractor Stephen Seamans and his business crony, Shabbir Khan of the Saudi Arabian conglomerate Tamimi Global Co, are arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into war profiteering by KBR and its subcontractors (see October 2006 and Beyond). Khan is convicted of lying to federal agents about the kickbacks he provided Seamans (see February 20, 2008, October 2005, October 2002, April 2003, and June 2003), and will serve 51 months in prison. Seamans pleads guilty to charges stemming from the same business deals, and serves a year and a day in prison. Seamans, an Air Force veteran, once taught ethics to junior KBR employees. In December, during his sentencing hearing, he says he is sorry for taking the bribes, “It is not the way that Americans do business.” [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
Federal prosecutors attempt to determine just how much corruption, fraud, and theft has occurred among government contracts handed out to corporations for their work in Iraq. The preliminary answer: a great deal. The US Justice Department chooses to center its probe into war profiteering in the small town of Rock Island, Illinois, because high-ranking Army officials at the arsenal there administer KBR’s LOGCAP III contract to feed, shelter, and support US soldiers, and to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure. KBR, formerly Kellogg, Brown, & Root, is a subsidiary of oil-construction giant Halliburton. The reported violations are rampant (see February 20, 2008, October 2005, October 2002, April 2003, June 2003, and September 21, 2007). [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008] The investigation is under the aegis of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force, formed by the Justice Department to detect, identify, prevent, and prosecute procurement fraud by firms such as KBR. The Task Force includes the FBI, the US Inspectors General community, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and others. [PR Newswire, 7/13/2007]
Multiple Prosecutions Underway - The Justice Department prosecutes four former supervisors for KBR, the large defense firm responsible for most of the military logistics and troop supply operations in Iraq. The government also prosecutes five executives from KBR subcontractors; an Army officer, Pete Peleti, has been found guilty of taking bribes (see February 20, 2008). Two KBR employees have already pleaded guilty in another trial, and about twenty more people face charges in the ever-widening corruption scandal. According to recently unsealed court documents, kickbacks, corruption, and fraud were rampant in contractual dealings months before the first US combat soldier arrived in Iraq. Not only did KBR contractors receive handsome, and illicit, payoffs, but the corruption and fraud endangered the health and safety of US troops stationed in Iraq and Kuwait. One freight-shipping subcontractor has already confessed to bribing five KBR employees to receive preferential treatment; five more were named by Peleti as accepting bribes. Prosecutors have identified three senior KBR executives as having approved deliberately inflated bids. None of these people have yet been charged. Other related charges have been made, from KBR’s refusal to protect employees sexually assaulted by co-workers to findings that the corporation charged $45 for a can of soda.
Pentagon Slashed Oversight - The overarching reason why such rampant fraud was, and is, taking place, prosecutors and observers believe, is that the Department of Defense outsourced critical troop support jobs while simultaneously slashing the amount of government oversight (see 2003 and Beyond).
Lack of Cooperation - Kuwait refuses to extradite two Middle Eastern businessmen accused of LOGCAP fraud. And KBR refuses to provide some internal documents detailing some of its managers’ business dealings. KBR says it “has not undertaken an exhaustive search of its millions of pages of procurement documents” to determine whether other problems exist. [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
US intelligence learns al-Qaeda courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real full name. According to later media reports, his real name is Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed. In late 2005, intelligence analysts concluded Ahmed was very likely working for Osama bin Laden or some other high ranking al-Qaeda leader (see Late 2005). [MSNBC, 5/4/2011; Associated Press, 6/1/2011] An unnamed US official will cryptically say that the crucial intelligence on his real name comes not from Pakistan, but “from a different part of the world.” [CNN, 5/2/2011]
Intel from Ahmed's Family? - Apparently, around 2006, US intelligence somehow learned his real last name (see (2006)). But since “Ahmed” is a common name in many countries, more work was needed to learn the rest of his name. It appears that intelligence comes from learning about his family. The New York Times will later report that after his last name was discovered, analysts “turned to one of their greatest investigative tools—the National Security Agency (NSA) began intercepting telephone calls and e-mail messages between the man’s family and anyone inside Pakistan. From there they got [Ahmed’s] full name.” [New York Times, 5/2/2011]
How Did US Intelligence Know about His Family? - The exact sequence of events of how analysts learn who his family is will not be revealed. But the “al-Kuwaiti” in Ahmed’s “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti” alias obviously refers to Kuwait, and US intelligence learn at some point from other prisoners that Ahmed’s parents had moved to Kuwait (even though he originally was from Pakistan). [Associated Press, 6/1/2011]
Could Ahmed's Father Be Important Al-Qaeda Figure? - It will later be reported that Ahmed’s father was close to bin Laden. This still unnamed father, who lived and worked in Kuwait, allegedly had a trusting relationship with bin Laden going back 30 to 40 years. [Dawn (Karachi), 5/7/2011] Perhaps this is not relevant, but if US intelligence already had some intelligence on Ahmed’s father, this could have narrowed down the search of Pakistani-linked families living in Kuwait.
Real Name Will Lead to Location - It is unclear when, but the NSA eventually starts tracking the phone calls of Ahmed’s relatives in the Persian Gulf to anyone they call in Pakistan. Later, the NSA will be able to figure out Ahmed’s location in Pakistan from one such phone call (see Summer 2009). [Associated Press, 6/1/2011]
Former KBR subcontract administrator Anthony J. Martin pleads guilty to violating the Anti-Kickback Act. Martin admits to taking bribes from a Kuwaiti company in 2003 in return for granting a $4.67 million contract to the firm. Although the Justice Department does not identify the Kuwaiti firm, other court documents subsequently name the firm as First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting (see September 21, 2007). Martin worked from February 2003 through February 2004 in Kuwait, where he solicited bids from prospective subcontractors under KBR’s largest contract with the US Army, the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP III). Martin’s conviction is part of a much larger investigation mounted by the Justice Department in Rock Island, Illinois, investigating corporate fraud in the provision of logistics to the US military deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan (see October 2006 and Beyond). Martin has admitted to accepting $10,000 from the managing partner of First Kuwaiti, Lebanese businessman Wadih Al Absi. He was to receive almost $200,000 more, but testified in his plea bargain agreement that he felt guilty about taking the $10,000 and subsequently refused to take any more. Martin faces up to ten years in prison and possible restitution. [PR Newswire, 7/13/2007; Associated Press, 9/21/2007]
First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting, the Kuwaiti firm building the US embassy in Baghdad, is accused of agreeing to pay $200,000 in kickbacks in return for two unrelated Army contracts in Iraq. According to now-sealed court documents, First Kuwaiti worked with a manager for KBR, the US contracting firm that handles logistics for the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan. The document is based on grand jury testimony from the former KBR manager, Anthony J. Martin, who pled guilty in July to taking bribes from First Kuwaiti in 2003 (see July 13, 2007). The US government has tried to keep First Kuwaiti’s name out of public records related to Martin’s case. Martin told the grand jury that he took part in a bribery scheme with Lebanese businessman Wadih Al Absi, the controlling official of First Kuwaiti. That firm has done a large amount of work for US government entities, including the Army Corps of Engineers and the US Marine Corps. It is under investigation by Congress for its allegedly illegal labor practices, and the Justice Department is investigating the firm for alleged contract fraud on the embassy project. J. Scott Arthur, one of Martin’s defense lawyers, says the US government is improperly withholding evidence about Martin and his relationship with Al Absi and First Kuwaiti. Martin has said that he took kickbacks in return for his awarding a $4.6 million contract to First Kuwaiti to supply 50 semi-tractors and 50 refrigeration trailers for six months. A month later, Martin awarded First Kuwaiti an additional $8.8 million subcontract to supply 150 more semi-tractors for six months. In return, First Kuwaiti agreed to pay him $200,000. Martin says he took $10,000, then refused to take any more money. Martin will testify in the trial of former KBR procurement manager Jeff Mazon (see June 2003). First Kuwaiti denies any wrongdoing, and KBR says through a spokesperson that it “in no way condones or tolerates unethical behavior,” adding, “We have fully cooperated with the Department of Justice.” [Associated Press, 9/21/2007]
Chief Warrant Officer Pete Peleti, formerly the military’s top food adviser in the Middle East, is sentenced to 28 months in prison for taking bribes from US contractors operating fraudulent war-profiteering schemes in Iraq and Kuwait. Peleti took bribes from Saudi conglomerate Tamimi Global Co, US firm Public Warehousing Co, and others between 2003 and 2006. Among the bribes Peleti accepted was a trip to the 2006 Super Bowl. Peleti also accepted bribes from Tamimi executive Shabbir Khan to influence military contracts. In 2006, Peleti was arrested as he re-entered the US at Dover Air Force Base; he was carrying a duffel bag stuffed with watches and jewelry, and had $40,000 hidden inside his clothes. Peleti is now cooperating with prosecutors. This and other information about KBR war profiteering in Iraq comes from a federal investigation that will begin in late 2007 (see October 2006 and Beyond). [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad orders that his country’s foreign exchange reserves be moved from the dollar to the euro, setting the stage for the Iranian Central Bank to cut its foreign currency reserve interests rates from 12 percent to 5 percent. The estimated rate cut makes it cheaper for the bank to acquire foreign currency. “They have been talking about switching their foreign currency reserve from the dollar to the euro for a while now, but it makes them more dependent on the euro and the European Union,” says Dr. Ali Ansari, director of Scotland’s St. Andrews University Iranian Studies Centre.
Followed Call Addressed to OPEC - Ahmadinejad’s decision comes shortly after he called for the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to discard the dollar as the currency standard for oil-related deals. Despite recent declines in dollar value and the fact that most major oil producing countries are outside the US, the dollar remains the prevailing currency for pricing a barrel of oil. The dollar also remains the most frequently used international trade currency.
Possible Motivation - Some analysts believe that exchanging the dollar for the euro may be Iran’s attempt to lessen the effects of US economic sanctions in force since the 1979 Islamic revolution when the US backed the overthrown Shah of Iran, who was replaced by an Islamic republic. US sanctions include prohibiting US involvement with Iran’s petroleum development, as well as prohibiting all trade and investment activities by US citizens around the globe. Sanctions were softened somewhat in 2000, when the US Treasury amended its prohibition edict by allowing US citizens to buy and import carpets and food products like dried fruits, nuts, and caviar produced in Iran. Recent media reports suggest, however, that President Obama is considering an increase in sanctions if Iran persists in its alleged development of nuclear weapons. Iran maintains that its nuclear program is solely for power production. [Media Line, 9/22/2009]
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