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Was 1991 Gulf War a prelude to the 2003 Iraq debacle?

By       Message Abdus Sattar Ghazali     Permalink
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“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.”

Former U.S. Department of State official William Blum says in his book, Killing Hope, that Iraq was right about the CIA-Kuwait plot. The plot, Blum argues, was in response to increasing Iraqi warnings about American hegemony in the Gulf region, as well as to help stanch expected cuts in defense spending and boost President Bush's domestic popularity.

As happened with the second Gulf War a litany of lies and disinformation preceded the attack on Iraq in 1991. The path to war was one of overbearing, unquestioned rhetoric used by those bent on war to override disquiet. Lies and deceptions, used to mislead the public, prior to during and after the first Gulf War were the equivalent of a ‘second front’ in the war.

Polls showed that upwards of 80% of the American public supported the troop deployment. The anti-war faction and its “No Blood For Oil” slogan was ignored throughout the conflict.

President George H.W. Bush, British Prime Minister John Major and other Western leaders cloaked their war aims in the most noble language. They were fighting Saddam to 'liberate' Kuwait, to 'uphold international law', and to defend 'democracy' against evil 'dictatorship'.

Whatever the high-sounding justifications put forward by Bush, Major and the rest, there was no doubt that the decisive motive for the war was oil. Iraq and Kuwait accounted for 19 per cent of world oil reserves. Saudi Arabia, threatened by Saddam's regime, accounted for 25 per cent.

Nobody doubts that the global interests of the oil moguls, together with the demand of big business for cheap oil, were crucial factors in deciding Bush's policy. In fact, Bush's decision to send forces to the Gulf was merely the implementation of the 'Carter doctrine', put forward by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 after the Iranian hostage crisis. Any assault on the West's Middle Eastern oil supplies, announced Carter, "will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States," and will "be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." (New York Times, 24 January 1980)

Carter declared oil supplies "a vital interest" of the United States. Casper Weinberger, the US Defense Secretary, said: "The umbilical cord of the Western world runs through the Straits of Hormuz into the Arabian Gulf and the nations which surround it." (New York Times, 5 March 1981) Sixty-five per cent of the world's oil reserves are located in the Middle East. Kuwait, the Gulf states, and Saudi Arabia account for over 50 per cent of OPEC's known reserves.

Their real motive for war was the defense of the economic and strategic interests of US and world capitalism. On this occasion, however, the unprecedented unity of the UN Security Council allowed the US to cloak its policy in international legality. This had been made possible by the willingness of the Gorbachev leadership in the Soviet Union to accommodate the interests of US imperialism.

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Karl von Clausewitz, a Prussian general says that states wage wars in pursuit of political objectives. Clausewitz metaphor is most commonly presented as seeing war in terms of political cost-benefit analysis: Each nation-state has political objectives, and war may best serve those objectives. The political "gains" are to be weighed against acceptable "costs."

The Gulf War was the most cost effective for US. Indeed, we made a profit on the war during the fiscal year 1991. Coalition partners contributed $54 billion for the war. Two thirds of the $54 billion was provided by the Gulf States, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia ($36 billion) with the remaining one-third mostly provided by Japan and Germany ($16 billion). The US paid roughly $7 billion, less than 12% of the total US cost. The US Department of Defense estimated the incremental cost at $61 billion.

The inflow of foreign capital not only offset America's budget costs but also helped reduce the United States balance-of-payments deficits. America's foreign balance swung from a $23.4 billion deficit in the fourth quarter of 1990 to a $10.2 billion surplus in the first quarter of 1991.

Historian Dr. Stephen J. Sniegoski, is perhaps right when he says: the neocons could not have initiated the 2003 war if the 1991 Gulf War had not taken place. In that sense the first Gulf War was a prelude to the 2003 war on Iraq, in which the U.S. government would pursue a policy in complete harmony with the thinking of the neocons to precipitate regime change and destabilize the Middle East.

As stated officially, the US objectives as a measure of ‘preemptive defense’ were mainly to eradicate Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and its infrastructure to support terrorism (both of which later proved wrong); as well as a change of its corrupt regime headed by President Saddam Hussain.

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However, when viewed in the historical context, the overall US security policy’s stated objectives turned out to be merely the military tools of securing vital US security and economic interests in the region. These were twofold: safeguarding Israeli security, which is the main US ally in the region; as well as to have total physical control of the oil resources in the region, thus securing for the US a dominant role in the formulation of global energy policies, naturally in the US interests.

Also one of the biggest hidden agenda was about the currency used to trade oil and consequently, who will dominate the world economically, in the foreseeable future — the US or the European Union. America had a monopoly on the oil trade, with the US dollar as the fiat currency, until Iraq broke ranks in 2000, started to trade oil in the EU’s fledgling euro, and profited mightily as the dollar sank by 20 per cent against the euro. Besides ensuring the dollar remains the premier world trading currency, physical control of oil reserves is vital to the US to ensure supply at affordable prices.

The greenback’s grip on oil trading and consequently on world trade in general, was under serious threat. If America did not stamp on this immediately, this economic brushfire could rapidly be fanned into a wildfire capable of consuming the US’s economy and its dominance of world trade. The US has enjoyed a special advantage for 30 years — it has been getting a free world trade ride because of the oil trade being conducted in dollars and oil is the major commodity to be traded. The US has been receiving a huge subsidy from everyone else in the world. As its debt has been growing, it has printed more money to keep trading.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)

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