Twenty Years of War

Operation Desert Storm

When the Soviet Empire gradually collapsed between 1989 and 1991, the remaining sole superpower United States faced a new situation. The Cold War was over. What to do with the military-industrial complex? In August 1988, the eight-year long Iraq-Iran war had ended with hundreds of thousands casualties on both sides. Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s brutal dictator had been sort of an ally in taking revenge after Khomeini had humiliated the U.S. during the 444 days in 1979-1981 when the American Embassy in Tehran had been taken hostage by revolutionary students.  Well, support for the dictator in Baghdad was not confined to humanitarian help as some historians want us to believe. And it was not confined to the U.S. While poison gas was employed by Saddam to mass murder both Iranian combatants and Kurdish rebels, the West turned a blind eye to it.

Saddam’s claim to ultimate power was largely underestimated when, on 2 August 1990, tanks crossed the northern borders of Kuwait and reached the capital within hours. Negotiations between Iraqi and Kuwaiti delegates about oil and border disputes had failed the day before. Saddam simply declared Kuwait the 19th province of Iraq.

It took until 23 February 1991 when the allied ground offensive ‘Operation Desert Storm’ led by the U.S. and United Kingdom eventually began. In particular the American public had to be prepared for a new war in the remote corner of the Persian Gulf which most Americans would not even be able to locate on a Globe [1].

In the beginning, one-term president George H. Bush’s aim was not only to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait but also to topple Saddam in Baghdad. But why should Kuwait be liberated? The necessary propaganda to convince the American public included the notorious ‘incubator lie’ [2], the invention of embedded journalism, and frank censorship in the acclaimed oldest democracy. For the first time, one could watch war from home, in real time, on TV. Mainstream media would report in an enthusiastic way, uncritical, with computer-animated maps. War became designed, very much similar to a computer war game. Air strikes were essentially described as ‘surgical’, almost aseptic. As a matter of fact, though, about 1500 casualties among soldiers of the Coalition Force contrast with 20,000-35,000 among Iraqi soldiers [3].

The ground offensive lasted not even five days [4], but Saddam wasn’t ousted in 1991. That was only accomplished in April 2003. The more recent Third Gulf War (if the Iraq-Iran war is considered the first), initiated by former U.S. president G.W. Bush and vice president Dick Cheney and engaging a ‘coalition of the willing’; and that in Afghanistan are further prime examples of war in modern times, involving embedded journalism, full TV coverage, gross manipulation of the public and, of course failure due to bigotry, hubris, and intercultural incompetence.

It is feared that the long-time looming disaster in both Iraq and Afghanistan will not prevent President Obama from gearing up for another war, that with Iran.


[1] The borders between Kuwait, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as drawn by the British in 1922, are essentially arbitrary. As John R. McArthur writes in his book Second Front – Censorship and propaganda in the 1991 Gulf War, citing J. B. Kelly’s Arabia, the Gulf and the West, “in the 1930s, before the full potential of its oil riches was known, Kuwait considered itself poor in contrast with Iraq. The then-Iraqi king, Ghazi ibn Faisal, exploited the economic disparity, as well as centuries of close commercial ties, in arguing for union between Iraq and Kuwait as well as with the other Gulf states. Britain’s divide-and-rule approach to the region could not permit such an arrangement, and […] the Kuwaiti ruler, Sheikh Ahmad al-Sabah, ‘was made to dismiss his advisory council and disown the resolutions’ advocating union. ‘Riots followed in Kuwait, and Ghazi wanted to intervene and occupy the sheikhdom. Pressure was exerted upon him to refrain from doing so, and the affair came to an abrupt end in April 1939 when Ghazi killed himself in a motorcar accident.”

[2] Nurse Nairah (Kuwait’s Ambassador’s 15-year old daughter) and Dr. Issah Imbrahim, a Kuwaiti dentist, invented atrocities which had never happened. Find more information here and my personal encounter with the latter here on this blog.

[3] There were several thousand civilian casualties, in particular in Iraq. Saddam invented ecological warfare when setting fire to 700 oil wells in Kuwait and spilling millions of barrels of crude oil into the Persian Gulf. Kuwait expelled 300,000 Palestinians who became refugees. They were accused of having been Saddam’s collaborators. A bit more information may be found here on this blog.

[4] Officially, Operation Desert Storm ended only on November 30, 1995.

Last update August 2, 2010.

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1 Response to Twenty Years of War

  1. Muller says:

    Reblogged this on Freelance and commented:

    Twenty-five years on, the situation in Iraq is even more dire. The chaos former president George W. Bush and his VP Dick Cheney (not to forget Condoleeza Rice) have left behind has spread to the entire Middle East.

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