August 13, 2005

And So It Began... 15 years ago

When I was about eight or nine or ten years old, my sister chided me for saying or doing something unusual. (Don't ask for details, I have no idea what the context was.)
I shrugged and (mistakenly) said, "Hey, it's a free world!"

"No," some adult corrected me waving his finger. "It's a free COUNTRY. It's not a free world."
Even before he said it I think I knew he was right. Maybe I was just thinking wishfully.

While doing some research for a post that I want to write (and would have posted on Wednesday the 2nd if I had time during the week to do research), I came across this loverly little threat:

"If you use pressure, we will deploy pressure and force. We know that you can harm us although we do not threaten you. But we too can harm you. Everyone can cause harm according to their ability and their size. We cannot come all the way to you in the United States, but individual Arabs may reach you."

--Saddam Hussein to U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie, 25 July, 1990

(There's a sizable excerpt of the infamous Hussein/Glaspie meeting here. Fascinating read.)

15 years ago last Wednesday, August 2nd, Iraqi troops crossed the border and seized Kuwait. Before Saddam would roll, he wanted to know what a U.S. response to his aggression would be. After his meeting with Ambassador Glaspie, Saddam felt assured that the U.S. would consider it none of our business. He felt assured of that because he was:

"But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.

I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60's. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are solved quickly."

--Ambassador April Glaspie, 25 July, 1990

Saddam had troops at the border then, ready to go. Clearly he called the meeting with Glaspie in order to make sure that the United States was neutral on the matter before he pulled the trigger. Saddam was to have a meeting with Egyptians, Kuwaitis and Saudis to "find a solution" to the border dispute.
Addressing concerns about his troop movements, Saddam says unambiguously:

"...President Mubarak told me they were scared. They said troops were only 20 kilometers north of the Arab League line. I said to him that regardless of what is there, whether they are police, border guards or army, and regardless of how many are there, and what they are doing, assure the Kuwaitis and give them our word that we are not going to do anything until we meet with them.

When we meet and when we see that there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death, even though wisdom is above everything else. There you have good news."

Saddam wanted good relations with the U.S., and it's probably safe to say that if April Glaspie either told Saddam that the Americans would look unfavorably on aggression or, even, said nothing of substance at all, that Saddam would have thought longer and harder, and may have scrapped his plan for invasion completely. But, with the U.S. apparantly out of the mix, Saddam was free to settle the dispute his way.

Okay, so it's the 15the anniversary, so what? Why am I writing about this? Because this, more than anything else, I think, is where the chain of events that led to 9-11, the War on Terror and our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

Just as an aside, I'm wondering why it was policy not to openly express an opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts.

My guess is that it's because the sides that we favor would be out of favor with many in the Middle East. Anwar Sadat was assassinated for signing a peace treaty with Israel. The "we don't want to state a position publicly" policy might have had some strategic merit, but, in this case -- with Saddam and Kuwait both open to good relations with America -- perhaps a preference for a given Arab-Arab resolution might have benefited all involved.

Oh, well. Visualize peace. Hindsight is 20/20.......

President George Herbert Walker Bush was meeting with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when news of the invasion of Kuwait came in. The official neutrality on the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border dispute was suddenly moot. Saddam wasn't simply tweaking a map's borderline, he was annexing the entire nation Kuwait as the 19th province of Iraq.

President Bush was, at first, reluctant to respond with saber-rattling. He wanted some time to think it through a little more. Privately, Prime Minister Thatcher famously implored him not to "go wobbley" at this juncture -- wouldn't be prudent. Bush's later response was not even more forceful, it was resolute: "This aggression Will. Not. Stand."
(I remember, very clearly, thinking at the time that it was Thatcher's influence more than anyone else's that inspired Bush's resolve to eject Saddam from Kuwait.)

After a deadline for Saddam's withdrawal had been set (Jan 15th, '91), President Bush gave a speech before a joint session congress. Some of what he said that night:

We stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment. The crisis in the Persian Gulf, as grave as it is, also offers a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times, our fifth objective -- a new world order -- can emerge: a new era -- freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace. An era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony.

A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor. Today that new world is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we've known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak.

This is the vision that I shared with President Gorbachev in Helsinki. He and other leaders from Europe, the Gulf and around the world, understand that how we manage this crisis today could shape the future for generations to come.

The test we face is great -- and so are the stakes. This is the first assault on the new world that we seek, the first test of our mettle. Had we not responded to this first provocation with clarity of purpose, if we do not continue to demonstrate our determination, it would be a signal to actual and potential despots around the world.

America and the world must defend common vital interests. And we will. And the world must support the rule of law. And we will. America and the world must stand up to aggression. And we will.
And one thing more -- in the pursuit of these goals America will not be intimidated.

The date that he delivered that speech was September 11th, 1990.

It's never been a secret that it was the presence of American and other Western troops on Saudi soil during -- and since -- Operations: Desert Shield and Desert Storm that turned millionaire oil heir Osama Bin Ladin from a run of the mill xenophobe to a murderous madman. The liberation of Kuwait and even the recent liberation of Iraq are not important to Osama. But, the presence of non-muslim troops with guns is.

Maybe it's just that Freedom puts people that are different from him on an equal footing with him. I can't get into his head, but if Osama thinks that this about Arab sovereignty then he's a myopic moonbat. If he thinks that this is about religion then he's a tyrant.

Do I care what Osama Bin Ladin thinks? Yes. And I can read the names of over 3,000 reasons why I care.

Bottom line, IMHO:

Weaken and/or oust the tyrants;
allow liberty to take hold;
make sure it is secure and, finally;
reduce U.S./coalition troop presence to pre-1990 levels -- meaning: zero. This is in our national interest.

It may take time, but, in the end, the People will be free of the fear of torture for simply dissenting from the majority. The culture and character of the People does not have to be "Americanized", it need only be freed to flourish peacefully. In this time the state of foreign nations is not only, obviously, in our own national interest, it is in the interest of every nation's People who long to defend their thoughts and emotions by simply shrugging and saying "hey, it's a free country".

Visualize Freedom. Peace will follow.

Posted by Tuning Spork at August 13, 2005 04:52 PM | TrackBack
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