The Gulf War:
Overreaction & Excessiveness
By Hassan A El-Najjar
Amazone Press, 2001
The Root of Subsequent US Invasion of the Middle East
America was dragged into conflict
with the Arab and Muslim worlds
As Iraq had been accorded the
status of an adversary well before its invasion of Kuwait, the war
option was more preferred to any peaceful solutions to end the crisis.
That was why the Bush administration kept rejecting every single peace
initiative offered by Iraq or by various intermediaries. The vast
majority of these initiatives were rejected using a pretext that
became known as "linkage."
This chapter starts with an
investigation of that “linkage” excuse. This is followed by a
review of the major peace initiatives, which were rejected as a result
of that excuse, including the well-publicized Geneva Meeting. This
chapter also sheds some light on the attempts of Democrats in the
Congress to avoid war by trying to convince the administration to use
economic sanctions instead. Leading Democrats, Such as Senator Sam
Nunn, were ridiculed for their “peaceful” behavior, so were the
Soviet “Arabists.” The chapter draws heavily on three major
sources: memoirs of President Bush and his National Security Advisor
memoirs of the Secretary of State James Baker,
and the Senate hearings conducted by Senator Sam Nunn.
Using these three major sources to analyze how the administration
behaved during the crisis allows us to avoid any disputes over
accuracy of mentioned events.
The first Iraqi offer to withdraw from Kuwait reached the Bush
administration on August 11, 1990, almost a week after the invasion.
Iraq offered withdrawal from Kuwait in return for access to the Gulf
and negotiations on oil prices.
The initiative was dismissed outright because withdrawal was
On the following day, August 12, the
Iraqi President announced another proposal that was also rejected
instantly because it included a "linkage." Iraq offered
withdrawal from Kuwait without any territorial or oil conditions, this
time, in return for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Arab
The administration rejected that initiative, too, because it would
lead to exerting pressure on Israel to observe the U.N. Resolutions
242, 338, and 425 which called for the Israeli withdrawal from the
Arab territories it occupied in 1967 and 1982.
But why did the Bush administration
miss that opportunity to achieve a peaceful Iraqi withdrawal from
Kuwait and resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, at the same time? The
answer lies in the influence of the pro-Likude specialists in the
Shimon Peres bitterly complained that Shamir rejected his successful
agreement with King Hussain in London, in 1987, to start the peace
process. They agreed to open direct negotiations between Israel and a
joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation under the aegis of an
In 1988, three prominent specialists
in the administration, Dennis Ross, Richard Haass, and Martin Indyk,
wrote a policy recommendation report that has remained as the guiding
reference for American foreign policy in the Middle East. In that
report, they took the Shamir side recommending that the U.S. should
not seek a rapid breakthrough in the peace process. Rather, they
suggested that the U.S. should engage in a gradual “ripening
In other words, they were against the idea of the U.N. international
conference. The Bush administration=s
observance of these recommendations explains why it continued
rejecting any “linkage” between ending the Iraqi invasion of
Kuwait and the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories.
In addition, supporters of Israel in
the Bush administration saw the coming war as an opportunity to
most "hated" enemy, Iraq. Therefore, it would be
inconsistent for them to accept Iraqi peace initiatives even in return
for a promise to address the Israeli occupation, later.
Thus, during the second NSC meeting
after the invasion, in August 3, Deputy Secretary of State, Larry
Eagleburger, warned that Saudi Arabia would be Saddam's next
objective, and that over time he would control OPEC and oil prices.
"If he succeeds, then he will target Israel," Eagleburger
The President's National Security
Advisor, General Brent Scowcroft echoed Eagleburger=s
argument saying: "In taking on Saddam Hussein diplomatically, and
eventually militarily, we (would be) tackling one of their (the
Israelis') principal enemies and probably their most hated
As a result of setting these
guidelines for him, President Bush followed Eagleburger and Scowcroft.
He expressed his concern about the Soviet talk regarding a
comprehensive peace settlement and a Middle East peace conference. He
felt that such a conference would include trying to solve the question
of the occupied Arab territories. He could not imagine forcing Israel
to abide by the international law as he wanted Iraq to do
unconditionally. Therefore, he considered such solutions as a
"linkage of the Gulf crisis with the Arab-Israeli
confrontation" that had to be avoided.
Had the Bush administration followed
one-standard in conducting its foreign policy, the Iraqi offer to
withdraw from Kuwait in return for an Israeli withdrawal from the
occupied Arab territories should have been welcomed. In fact, the Bush
administration was frustrated by the reluctance of the Israeli
government of Shamir to commit itself to any peaceful resolution for
the Palestinian problem.
About a year before the invasion,
Secretary of State James Baker gave a speech in the annual political
conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in
which he criticized the expansionist policies of the Israeli
He said: “for Israel, now is the time to lay aside once and for all
the unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel.”
The Shamir government was defiant and
continued building Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian
territories, in violation of the international law that prohibits
occupiers from doing so. Successive American administrations,
Democratic and Republican alike, opposed that Israeli expansionist
policy. The Carter administration called these settlements as
“illegal,” and the Reagan-Bush administrations described them as
“obstacles for peace.”
Bush stated publicly that “the foreign policy of the United States
says that we do not believe there should be new settlements in the
West Bank or East Jerusalem.”
In response, Bush and Baker were
furiously attacked by supporters of Israel in the Congress. Moreover,
the Israeli government became more defiant than before. On October 16,
1989, Shamir rejected a plan to start negotiations with an elected
Palestinian delegation. He said that “he would not compromise with
the Palestinians, even if it meant the collapse of his government and
a sharper conflict with the United States.”
During a Congressional hearing on
June 11, 1990, Congressman Mel Levine of California, a fervent
supporter of Israel, suggested that the peace process had been
sabotaged by the President=s
remarks about settlements and Jerusalem. At that moment, Baker
exploded saying to the Israelis and their supporters: “When you=re
serious about peace, call us. The White House number is
As a result, formal communications between the U.S. government and the
Israeli government stopped. An informal channel was kept open with
Dennis Ross representing the State Department and Martin Indyk
Although opposing the Israeli
expansionist policies was a very brave position for Bush and Baker, it
proved to be very costly. They lost their jobs in 1992 despite their
five great services for Israel. First, they worked hard to allow
hundreds of thousands of Russian, Syrian, and Ethiopian Jews to
immigrate to Israel and helped settle them there. Second, they
succeeded in repealing the 1975 UN resolution, which equated Zionism
with racism although the basis for that resolution was still there.
Israeli governments have continued to allow only Jews to immigrate to
Israel while denying the rights of the Palestinian people to return to
their country simply because they are not Jews. Third, they helped
Israel establish diplomatic relations with forty-four countries,
following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Actually, it became
something like a rite of passage for new Eastern European leaders to
pay their respect and pledge their allegiance to Israel. The first
thing several of them did after assuming office was paying a visit to
Israel. Fourth, by insisting on the war to resolve the Iraqi-Kuwaiti
crisis, the Bush administration succeeded in destroying Iraq, as the
perceived strategic threat to Israel. Finally, the Bush administration
Arab neighbors to the peace table for direct negotiations, something
they never wanted to do while Israel was occupying their lands. Such
direct negotiations represented a de facto recognition of Israel that
Israelis sought for more than forty years.
The third peace initiative was also rejected because of
"linkage." It was proposed on September 9, 1990 during a
meeting between Bush and Gorbachev. The Soviets knew that they lost
the Cold War and that they were no longer capable of supporting Third
World countries. Consequently, all what they could do was proposing
peace initiatives that were all rejected one after the other. During
that meeting, the Soviet President, Gorbachev, brought out a proposal
to end the crisis peacefully. Iraq offered to release the hostages,
withdraw from Kuwait, and restore the Kuwaiti government. In return,
the United States would promise (just a promise) that it would not
strike Iraq and would reduce its forces in the area, which would be
replaced by an Arab peace-keeping force. An agreement for an
international conference on the Middle East would follow. Once again,
the initiative was rejected by President Bush as a linkage.
As Scowcroft put it: "To me,
saving face for Iraq, or a partial withdrawal, a promise not to
attack, and, above all linkage with the Arab-Israeli issue, would
change the path we were on in fundamental way." Gorbachev's
proposal was discussed briefly before being rejected by the President
and his advisors: Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, John Sununu, John
Kelly, Dennis Ross, Condi Rice, and Richard Haass.
Dennis Ross played a major role in
persuading Secretary Baker, and through him President Bush, to reject
the “linkage” argument. He was mad when he sensed that Baker was
ready to discuss it. “He was impassioned almost to the point of
intemperance,” as he addressed Baker saying: “You can=t
do that. This will absolutely undercut what we=re
trying to do. We=ll
put the moderate Arabs in a position where Saddam is delivering for
the Palestinians and they are not. If we create linkage, he can claim
victory.” That was enough to persuade Baker who, by turn, persuaded
the President using the same angry tone he heard from Dennis Ross.
When Baker told President Bush not to worry about the conference idea,
he replied: “Well, I=ve
got to worry about it. I put all those kids out there. Nobody else did
it -- I did it. And I=ve
got to take every step to be sure that I don=t
put their lives at risk needlessly. If I can get them out of there
without fighting, I=ll
do it.” That was a golden opportunity for the Arab-American, John
Sununu, to break the silence and to try to avoid Arab bloodshed. He
said, “maybe we can put a reference to an international conference
in there.” However, he was silenced instantly by James Baker who
told him “to get off of it.” At that moment, the President knew
that his Secretary of State was committed to the anti-linkage
argument. As a result, he gave up saying: “Look, Jimmy, if you can
get the statement without it, fine.”
Consequently, Dennis Ross worked with
his Soviet counterpart, Sergie Tarasenko, to produce the statement
that was to the satisfaction of the administration. It concluded with
language that sidestepped "linkage." However, to please
Gorbachev, it mentioned that it was essential to work actively to
resolve all remaining conflicts in the Middle East and the Gulf.
President Bush was excited because the statement "headed off
another attempt to link the crisis with Israel."
Thus, the Bush administration rejected this Soviet initiative
that could have resolved the conflict peacefully. The administration
preferred to go to war to destroy Iraq rather than promising to
address the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories. This position
continued even after being confronted with possible casualty figures,
which were estimated in the thousands if Iraq would use chemical and
This was evidence on the Bush administration’s willingness to
sacrifice the lives of thousands of American soldiers in order to help
Israel continue its occupation of the Arab territories. More and more
Peace initiatives continued to be proposed, just to be rejected with
Another Soviet-brokered peace
initiative was also rejected as a "linkage." On October 4-5,
1990, Primakov's visit to Baghdad resulted in a new Iraqi initiative.
Iraq would withdraw from Kuwait in exchange for access to the Gulf and
a promise to address the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories.
Two days later, on October 7, President Bush instructed Secretary
Baker to announce the rejection of the initiative.
Thus, automatic rejection of peace initiatives on basis of
"linkage" marked the Bush administration's double-standard
approach in international relations. In particular, it portrayed the
administration as the protector of the Israeli aggression and
occupation. When it was forced by events to change that image a little
bit, it back lashed against the President. On October 8, Israeli
troops fired into Muslim worshipers in Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
They killed 21 and injured more than 150 Muslim worshippers. President
Bush had to agree to a resolution in the United Nations Security
Council (UNSC) condemning Israel for the use of excessive force and
calling for a committee to investigate how Palestinians can be
protected. However, the Shamir government refused to cooperate with
the UN committee. Supporters of that government among Jewish Americans
were surprised, hurt, and furious for the position of the Bush
administration that allowed the resolution to pass. That position,
together with his refusal to give Shamir the loan guarantees to build
settlements in the West bank, later, led to losing their support for
his reelection in 1992.
Then, several peace initiatives followed. All attempted to
convince the Bush administration to allow Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait
without punishment or even with symbolic face saving, but in vain.
During the November 19 meeting between Bush and Gorbachev, the Soviet
President brought another peace initiative from Primakov. He said that
Iraq would agree to withdraw from Kuwait in exchange for access to the
Gulf. Although this initiative did not include any
"linkage," it was also rejected by the Bush administration
because withdrawal "was tied to a condition."
On November 29, directly after the
U.N. vote that authorized the use of force against Iraq, Foreign
Ministers of the five permanent members of the Security Council met
for a celebration. During that meeting, Sheverdnadze launched a peace
initiative. He suggested that Iraq be given assurances that it would
not be attacked while withdrawing. He was supported by the British,
French, and Chinese Foreign Ministers right away. Moreover, they
expressed their readiness to send bilateral and collective messages of
assurance to Iraq. However, Secretary Baker and President Bush
adamantly rejected this initiative like they did to the previous ones.
They would not allow any assurances or guarantees.
Moreover, President Bush and his advisors expressed their anger
against Soviet “Arabists”
for their stance against the use of force. Actually, those
“Arabists” represented one of the two competing groups in the
Soviet Foreign Ministry bureaucracy. While Shevardnadze led the
pro-Western group, Primakov led the “Arabists,” in an attempt to
maintain some independent Soviet positions. It is amazing that
President Bush and his advisors have criticized that balance in the
Soviet policy while failing to see the extreme bias in the American
foreign policy. In fact, the American foreign policy team was the one
that should be criticized for its unbalanced structure, which violated
the principle of checks and balances that the founding fathers called
for. Bush and Baker should have balanced the pro-Israeli team with a
group of Arabists in the administration.
More peace initiatives continued to
no avail. On December 4, Iraq ended the human shields’ problem by
permitting foreigners, including Americans, to leave the country if
they wished. Then, it asked for a broader dialogue about ending the
Israeli occupation but the administration refused.
On January 5, 1991 the UN
Secretary-General, Javier Perez de Cuellar, arrived at Camp David and
asked President Bush to allow him to mediate in the conflict. Instead,
the President tried to talk him out of the mission. He thought that it
would offer "Saddam hope that he could find another way
out," and he did not want him to find any way out.
The last peace
initiative, which was also rejected by the Bush administration, was
few days before the beginning of the war. On January 14, the French
Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas, expressed his government's desire to
make a last-minute attempt to persuade the Iraqis to withdraw. Dumas
proposed that the UN Security Council agree to a conference on the
Middle East if Iraq would pull out of Kuwait. But President Bush,
again and for the last time, rejected the proposal because he
perceived it as a "linkage."
The Bush administration's continuous rejection of peaceful
initiatives made it crystal clear that war was a goal in itself. The
only attempt to communicate, not negotiate, with Iraqis was the Geneva
meeting between Secretary Baker and the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tareq
Aziz. The meeting lasted six hours, during which an ultimatum was
delivered to Iraq to withdraw unconditionally or face destruction. The
Iraqis were also threatened not to use unconventional weapons or they
would suffer devastation. In brief, the meeting aimed at making the
rules of engagement clear. It was never intended to end the crisis
The idea of that meeting came to
President Bush the evening after the UNSC had voted to authorize the
use of force, on November 29, 1990. At the beginning, he wanted to
propose that Aziz come to Washington and Baker go afterward to
Baghdad. Scowcroft was not enthusiastic for the idea because it
reawakened the possibility of negotiations that may lead to a peaceful
resolution of the crisis, which he did not prefer. Thus, on November
30, the President announced the invitation for Aziz to meet with him
in Washington, in the latter part of the week of December 10. He also
asked the Iraqi President to receive Baker at a mutually convenient
time between December 15 and January 15.
This was the fourth time, in which
President Bush was willing to consider a peaceful resolution to the
conflict. The first was represented by his desire to have friendly
relations with Iraq before the invasion. The second was the day after
the invasion, before his meeting with Margaret Thatcher. The third was
on September 9, 1990, when he was willing to accept the Soviet
initiative. The fourth was on November 30, 1990, when he proposed that
Baker go to Baghdad and Aziz come to Washington. However, everybody
around him except Sununu, stood against that. Every time he blinked
for peace, they prevailed for war, and they won.
Thus, on December 14, President Bush
changed his mind concerning dates of the meetings. He announced that
he had asked Secretary Baker to be available to go to Baghdad any time
up to January 3, instead of the previously announced January 15 date.
In response to this change of dates, the Iraqi President canceled
Aziz's trip to Washington, the following day.
On January 1, 1991, President Bush
felt the need for a meeting between Baker and Aziz in Switzerland. The
message he wanted Secretary Baker to convey included an ultimatum with
four no's: "no negotiations, no compromises, no attempts at
face-saving, and no rewards for aggression." The meeting was
actually designed to communicate ultimatums and no’s. On January 3,
President Bush offered to send Baker to meet with Aziz in Geneva on
January 7, 8, or 9. Iraq accepted the proposal and picked the latter
date. In retrospect, Bush admitted that it was a risk for him even to
suggest that meeting. The occasion could have been used by Iraq to
announce a "plan with untold numbers of conditions attached,
perhaps even pulling out some troops and taking his time to remove the
rest while saying he wanted to talk."
Scowcroft was against the Geneva
meeting from the beginning. He was afraid of the possibility of an
Iraqi withdrawal without war. He believed that an Iraqi withdrawal
would leave the U.S. in a most difficult position. The Iraqi forces
could withdraw back just north of the border and stay there, poised
for attack. The U.S. forces, on the other hand, could not remain in
place for a long time. Thus, Iraq would win, he argued.
On January 9, Baker finally met with
Aziz in Geneva and delivered the letter of ultimatums to him. The
letter was in a sealed envelope but he gave Aziz a photocopy. When
Azis read it, he refused to take the envelope saying that it was
nothing but "threats". Indeed, it threatened that
United States will not tolerate the use of chemical or biological
weapons or the destruction of Kuwait's oil fields and installations.
The American people would demand the strongest possible response.
Further, you will be held directly responsible for terrorist actions
against any member of the coalition. You, the Ba'ath Party, and your
country will pay a terrible price if you order unconscionable actions
of this sort."
The letter also threatened that there
would be no stalemate, no UN cease-fire or breathing space for
negotiations. Furthermore, Baker purposely left the impression that
the use of chemical or biological agents by Iraq could invite the use
of tactical nuclear weapons in retaliation. In response, Aziz
complained about the American double-standard foreign policy that does
not see anything wrong with the Israeli possession of chemical,
biological, and nuclear weapons or with the Israeli occupation of the
Arab territories. The meeting failed, as designed. Thus, after the
meeting, Baker read the statement that he wrote a day before. By doing
so, he demonstrated for the last time his failure as a diplomat, who
was supposed to struggle for a peaceful resolution for the conflict.
The stage was now set for war.
Struggle to Avoid War
Although the Geneva meeting between Aziz and Baker was designed
to fail, it served to show the predominantly Democratic Congress that
the administration made an effort for peace.
The goal was to obtain a yes vote on a resolution that would authorize
the use of force following the UNSC resolution. Such a Congressional
resolution was necessary because, from the beginning of the crisis,
majority of Democrats and few Republicans in Congress opposed the
war option for the resolution of the crisis. They argued that the
Iraqi withdrawal could be secured by economic sanctions instead of the
use of force. They were relentless in their efforts to persuade the
President to give sanctions and peace initiatives a chance. When they
failed, most of them voted against the use of force.
On October 30, Tom Foley, Speaker of the House of
Representatives, and George Mitchell, leader of the Democratic
majority in the Senate, came to the Whitehouse for a meeting with the
President. Foley gave him a letter signed by eighty-one Democratic
members, urging him to pursue peaceful means to resolve the conflict
and to give sanctions a chance.
Mitchell told the President that it was less than three months from
the invasion and less than two months since sanctions were put in
place. He added that no one expected them to work in a week and the
case had not been made that sanctions had failed. Foley, by turn,
pleaded with the President not to take the country into war unless
there was a gross provocation.
On November 12, Senator Patrick
Moynihan called upon the administration to have a UN and Congressional
did not feel that the Kuwaiti leadership deserved to be restored. He
added that Kuwait's existence itself was an accident of history with
boundaries drawn by bureaucrats of the colonial powers.
Senator Bob Byrd told President Bush in a letter in mid December that
the administration has not made the case for the use of force. He
believed that sanctions would get the job done. He also pointed that
if there was "a high death count on the Arab side, even in
winning we'd lose."
Of course, Senator Byrd was talking about the morality of the war. He
knew that the war was about oil and about winning at any cost. Thus,
it would not make sense to kill hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to
restore Al-Sabah family in few months.
Finally, President Carter wrote members of the UN Security
Council asking them not to support a resolution that would authorize
the use of force. He argued that the costs in human life, the economic
consequences, and the permanent destabilization of the Middle East
were too high and unnecessary. He called for the UN to mandate a 'good
faith' negotiation with the Iraqi leaders, to consider their concerns,
and to ask Arabs to try to work out a peaceful solution.
On January 6, President Bush drafted a letter to the Congress
asking its members to support the UN resolutions, and the use of all
necessary means (including the use of force) to eject Iraq out of
The administration expended enormous amount of time and energy to
ensure a favorable vote. Almost no members of Congress went without
multiple efforts to persuade them to support the administration. In
addition, several powerful Democratic House members such as Aspin,
Murtha, Solarz, and Torricelli were supportive and vocal in favor of
the resolution. However, in the Senate, the vote was very close and
the outcome was in doubt until it was clear that ten Democratic
senators had broken with their leadership and supported the war
resolution. These were Breaux, Bryan, Gore, Graham, Heflin, Johnson,
Liebermann, Reid, Robb, and Shelby.
This resulted in that the House
passed the Michel and Solarz resolution by 250-183 votes and the
Senate passed the Dole and Warner resolution by 52-47 votes. The two
resolutions supported the administration in its quest for the use of
force to eject Iraq out of Kuwait.
Two Republican senators, Hatfield and
Grassley, voted against the resolution, together with the vast
majority of the Democratic senators, who explained their position
clearly. Senator Sam Nunn said: ""I don't think a war at
this time is wise and I think there are alternatives." Senator
Mitchell argued that "if we go to war now, no one will ever know
if sanctions would have worked if given a full and fair chance."
Senator Kennedy put it more sharply by saying that there “is still
time to save the President from himself... And save thousands of
American soldiers in the Persian Gulf from dying in the desert in a
war whose cruelty will be exceeded only by the lack of any rational
necessity for waging it."
But Senator Sam Nunn was the most outspoken member of Congress in
opposition to the use of force.
The importance of Sam Nunn’s position stemmed from the fact
that he was the Chairman of the Senate=s
Armed Forces Committee for a long time (100th-103rd
Congresses). So, he could not be accused as an anti-defense person. He
was also one of the most informed experts in the Congress on American
defense policies. His knowledge and experience led him to become more
interested in seeing America using its capabilities as a superpower
with global responsibilities, rather than using them to intervene in
small regional conflicts.
In the early 1980s, he called on the
Reagan administration to have a clear and concise strategy for the
military forces. In particular, he argued that such a strategy should
aim at protecting American vital interests, which he saw as
strengthening NATO. For him, regional alliances in the Middle East and
East Asia were important but in relation to NATO. His major goal was
looking for the best way to avoid nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
Therefore, he suggested having a viable conventional defense instead
of focusing on “no first use” of nuclear weapons, simply because
there would be no winners in a nuclear war. So, his task as he
described was to “reverse the record of history,” from war to
the end of the 1980s, Sam Nunn realized that the Cold War strategy of
“containment” was no longer needed after the collapse of the
Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union in 1989 and 1990. As a result, he
called for a new strategy to fill in the vacuum. He argued that the
new strategy should continue to aim at prevention of nuclear war
through viable conventional weapon systems. He also envisioned that
regional threats would displace the East-West “Cold War” conflict.
In particular, he considered securing access to oil resources of the
Arabian (Persian) Gulf an American national interest, as 40 percent of
the oil used by Americans comes from that region.
Despite the absence of an imminent
nuclear threat, Nunn still called for keeping NATO as strong as
possible for the stability of Europe. However, the absence of that
threat should lead to reduction in the military spending
in order for the U.S. to be able to sustain its economic
competitiveness vis-à-vis Germany and Japan. But the American
military forces should be ready to help defend America’s friends and
allies in the Far East, the Middle East, and Latin America. In order
for the new military strategy to achieve these goals, Nunn proposed
that it should include five essential elements. These are deterrence
of nuclear war, reduction in forward-deployed forces, greater
utilization of the reserves, flexible readiness, and smarter defense
When the Gulf crisis erupted in 1990,
Nunn was clear that it did not warrant an American invention. He
argued that the administration should exhaust peaceful initiatives to
resolve it. If these fail, economic sanctions should be given the
chance to work. But as a result of his non-hawkish position, he became
the target of attacks from the war hawks inside and outside the
administration. In spite of these attacks, he continued his efforts to
educate the administration, the Congress, and the public about the
origins and consequences of the Gulf crisis.
Thus, he started a series of
televised Senate hearings on September 11 and 13, November 27-30, and
December 3, on the U.S. Gulf policy, posing questions on the use of
sanctions. He argued that the U.S. should stick to sanctions for up to
two years, if necessary. His position attracted the support of
majority of Democrats. During the hearings, he called 17 of retired
senior military officers, government officials, and experts to
testify. Thirteen of the witnesses argued for the use of economic
sanctions and against the use of force. Even the two most prominent
military leaders, Powell and Schwarzdopf, supported that argument. The
Secretary of Defense and three other witnesses argued for the use of
force to resolve the conflict.
James Schlesinger was the first to testify. He said that it was
illogical to express impatience with sanctions because they would not
have produced the hoped-for results in 6 months. He insisted that
nothing warranted the use of force, including claims of the Iraqi
nuclear single and untested device that would need a decade to be
Schwarzkopf, cited by Senator Nunn, urged patience and giving
sanctions enough time to work because war would lead to killing an
awful lot of people.
Admiral Crowe agreed that even the Iraqi nuclear potential would not
justify an attack on Iraq. He argued for giving sanctions up to 18
months to work. If they failed, then the use of force may be
contemplated. However, he said that war would not solve the problems
of the Middle East. General Jones expressed his opinion that the
American forces in the Gulf could be sustained for years through troop
rotation, in order to give sanctions the time they need to work. He
added that the coalition members had preference for diplomatic and
economic measures over offensive military action with particular
sensitivity about attacking Iraq itself.
Webb criticized President Bush for mishandling the crisis. He said
that had the President sent a small force to Saudi Arabia then
negotiated mutual withdrawal, the crisis would have been over in a few
months. He argued for the reduction of the size of the American troops
in the Gulf region. He was against the use of force because the U.S.
had no treaties with the Gulf states; none of them were democracies;
and the American troops had not been attacked.
Luttwak was strongly opposed to rushing to military action. Instead,
he called for the use of sanctions. He criticized defending
illegitimate and non-democratic Gulf regimes. He also criticized the
argument that the security of the Gulf oil supplies was a vital U.S.
interest. He argued that American troops should be reduced in the
area, not increased as the President did. An interesting part of his
testimony was represented by his predictions of the military strategy
in case of war. He predicted an air campaign that would precede the
ground war. He also predicted that the American forces would cut off
the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. But they would avoid the Iraqi
fortifications by going to the west of Kuwait then rushing east in
southern Iraq. His war scenario turned to be an accurate one.
Helms argued that a negotiated settlement was the optimum solution.
She warned against the effects of a devastating defeat on the Iraqi
nation-state. Consequently, she was against the use of force and for
the use of sanctions.
James Placke mentioned that there was evidence that sanctions were
having effect on the Iraqi economy. But he warned that the expected
serious internal political disruption would happen only when the Iraqi
economy would be on the verge of breakdown.
Marr suggested that in order for sanctions to succeed, they need time
and they should be coupled with the threat of military force. She
mentioned the double-standard American policy in the Middle East that
tolerated the Israeli occupation of the Arab territories for decades
while there was a rush to end the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait by force,
within a few months. Then, she argued that the poorer Arabs had felt
more bitterness when they saw the U.S. backing the wealthy Gulf
states, which discriminated against them. She warned that backing the
Gulf monarchies would not be without costs. It may harm the cause of
democracy and increase the anti-American sentiments in the region.
Then, she concluded by warning against a devastating war that would
turn the Iraqi people and much of the Arab world against the United
States. Instead, she suggested the use of international pressure and
diplomacy. If these fail, she suggested the use of air power to
minimize casualties on both sides.
Odom was in favor of giving sanctions time to work and not rushing for
the use of force. But he advocated keeping the offensive option over a
long period of time.
Gary Milhollin added that Iraq’s nuclear threat potential did not
warrant the use of force simply because Iraq could not make nuclear
weapon material on its own due to the embargo.
Leonard Spector accused the Bush administration of overstating the
danger of Iraqi nuclearization. He argued that Iraq’s nuclear
potential should not push the U.S. into war. Instead, he was in favor
of pursuing sanctions while holding the military option in reserve.
General Colin Powell said that waiting for sanctions to work is a
political, not military, judgment. But he assured the Committee that
the American armed forces can wait up to 18 months, if they were
three of the witnesses, in addition to the Secretary of Defense, were
pro-war and against sanctions. Henry Kissinger was in favor of the use
of force, to destroy the Iraqi military power, then the use of
sanctions to weaken Iraq economically.
Richard Perle argued that there were three American interests at
stake: oil, the world order, and America’s role in the post-Cold War
world. He was against the use of sanctions because they may not lead
to the Iraqi withdrawal or to the destruction of the Iraqi military
power. He also agreed with Luttwak’s war scenario.
William Graham was in favor of the use of force in order to destroy
the Iraqi nuclear facilities. He believed that Iraq was about to
obtain nuclear weapons, in a short time.
The Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, argued for war because
sanctions may not work, and because it would be better to do it (war)
at that time than five or ten years later 
(For more details, see Appendix VIII.A).
Supporters of the administration in
the Congress were active, too. On December 14, Steven Solarz formed a
committee that supported the use of force. The committee included Ann
Lewis, the former director of the Democratic National Committee,
former Reagan officials such as Richard Perle, Frank Carlucci, and
Jeane Kirkpatrick, and members of Congress such as John McCain, Dick
Lugar, Jack Murtha, and Bob Torricelli.
The main objective of the
committee was to control any damages to the administration=s
policy that may be caused by the Sam Nunn hearings. In spite of that,
Nunn persisted in his opposition to the use of force arguing for the
use of sanctions, instead. On January 2, he said: "I'm willing to
use force after all other avenues are explored. Over half of the Iraqi
GNP has been taken away. I believe that every month that goes by,
Saddam gets weaker. There is erosion of his economy and military
capabilities." Lee Hamilton agreed with Sam Nunn saying that Iraq
was “a country under great stress. Sanctions are working and we must
exhaust all other possibilities."
opposition to the use of force cost him withdrawal from the national
political arena. In 1992, he ruled himself out from the presidential
race and he did not seek reelection for Congress in 1996. The war
turned to be a stunning military success for the U.S. This was
contrary to his warnings that the U.S. casualties would be between
25,000 and 40,000 killed or seriously injured American soldiers.
Although he received these estimates from military intelligence
sources, he felt that his military expertise had been so damaged that
his opponents may use that against him in the future. The fact of the
matter was that these estimates were based on the possibility that
Iraq would use chemical and biological weapons. In an attempt to avoid
these casualties, Sam Nunn and most Democrats in Congress argued for
sanctions rather than the use of force.
All in all, Sam Nunn, the majority of
Democrats, and some Republicans who opposed the use of force have
proved to be wise and courageous. Although the war was decisively won
by the coalition, it was devastating to the Iraqi infrastructure,
economy and people. Nunn and his colleagues cautioned against the
unnecessary devastation and they will be remembered for that. On the
other hand, pro-war Democrats became more prominent, dragging the
Party closer and closer to the positions of Republicans.
In order to secure the adoption of the November 29, 1990 UNSC
Resolution 678, which authorized the use of force, the Bush
administration used variety of methods, which included “cajoling,
extracting, threatening, and buying votes.” The Secretary of State,
James Baker, described these methods as politics of diplomacy.
He used them first to finance the coalition from the Gulf states,
particularly Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. During his “tin cup” tour of
September 7, 1990, he asked King Fahd and the Emir of Kuwait
to pay $17 billion each for war costs.
They agreed instantly knowing that much more is going to be paid for a
long time to come.
This was necessary also to fulfill Baker=s
earlier promises to the coalition members.
When King Fahd agreed to receive American troops in his
country, on August 6, 1990, he demanded that President Bush secure the
participation of troops from other Arab states, particularly Egypt and
Morocco. Historically, the Egyptian policy was in support for the
independence of Kuwait. Thus, Egypt sided with Kuwait in 1990 again,
like it did in 1961. Therefore, the Egyptian participation was
achieved as early as August 10, following the Arab League meeting. In
return, President Bush called President Hosni Mubarak on September 1,
1990 to tell him that he was going to recommend to Congress that Egypt=s
entire debt of $7.1 billion to the United States be forgiven. The
Congress passed the debt forgiveness legislation in the first week of
Then, President Mubarak and all other Arab coalition leaders wanted President Bush to meet with President Hafez Al-Assad of Syria, in his way back from the Middle East after Thanksgiving. The objective was to convince him to join the coalition against Iraq. A meeting was arranged for them in Geneva, on November 23, 1990, in which Assad agreed to send Syrian troops to Saudi Arabia. However, he gave Bush a lecture about the origins of all problems in the Middle East. He said that Israel was behind the falling apart of the inter-Arab system of solidarity. It did this first by forcing Egypt to a bilateral peace, then by intervening to lengthen the Iran-Iraq war, and finally by contributing to the tensions that led to the invasion of Kuwait. In return for the Syrian participation, the Syrian foreign debts were forgiven. Syria was also rewarded after the war by lifting its name from the American list of states that harbor “terrorists.” Moreover, the Gulf states rewarded Syria of about $3 billion for that participation.
Turkey played a major role in strengthening the coalition against Iraq in two ways. First, it made its military bases, particularly the Incirlik airbase, available for use by the coalition forces. Second, it stopped the Iraqi oil from being exported through the pipeline that passes on its soil to the Mediterranean. In return, the U.S. promised to pay Turkey $1 billion, support Turkey=s application to join the European Common Market, and to extend the World Bank=s loans to Turkey form $400 million to $1.5 billion for the following two years. As a follow-up to that, on January 10, 1991, Secretary Baker presented a bill to Saudi Arabia, in which he asked that Turkey be paid $800 million in economic aid and $1 billion over the following five years for a Turkish special defense fund. Kuwait was also asked to pay Turkey another $800 million in economic aid in compensation for its lost revenues from Iraqi exported oil. Both governments were more than happy to pay.
Germany was persuaded to participate in the coalition by promising her unification. The Germans paid $2 billion in support for U.S. forces, increased their military and economic aid to Turkey, and provided ships to transport the Egyptian forces to Saudi Arabia. In return, the United States led the other three World War II allies in a ceremony in Moscow, on September 13, 1991, that officially ended the allied military occupation. Only then, the German re-unification became possible.
Even the Soviet Union was bought into participation in the effort to destroy Iraq. Although the Soviets kept bringing new peace initiatives to resolve the crisis, they had no problem dropping them at the first American rejection. Actually, they helped deceive the world public opinion that some peaceful resolution may finally happen. In return for their help, particularly for not insisting on the international peace conference, “linkage,” Secretary Baker promised Gorbachev to provide his government with economic assistance. On September 12, 1990, the Soviet President requested that Saudi Arabia pay his country $5 billion to ease the hardship of transition. The Saudis responded generously with $4 billion, which persuaded Gorbachev not to insist on his peace initiatives.
When the time came for the vote on
the November 29, 1990 Resolution 678, that authorized the use of force
against Iraq, Secretary Baker used all means necessary to get a
majority. Again, he used cajoling, extracting, threatening, and buying
votes. He admitted in his memoirs that if the member states in the
Security Council resisted his pressures, he was ready for two major
concessions. First, the U.S. was willing to withdraw a fixed
percentage of American troops from Saudi Arabia, if Iraq withdrew.
Second, the U.S. was ready to call for the creation of an Iraq-Kuwait
claims tribunal at the Hague to deal with their border dispute.
However, most leaders of these member states were not brave enough or
willing to resist the Bakerian diplomacy. Only two member states
resisted: Cuba and Yemen. They were neither afraid nor for sale,
although they are among the poorest in the world.
China was the hardest in
bargaining for not using its veto power in the UNSC. The Chinese
Foreign Minister, Qian Qichen, wanted a visit by President Bush or
Secretary Baker to Beijing, in return for abstention. On November 18,
he lowered his demand to just a meeting with the President. Baker
bargained that a meeting reward would be granted for a yes vote not
for an abstention. At the end of the day, Qian Qichen got what he
wanted in return for not obstructing the American effort. It was so
important for the Chinese to show that they were being accepted by the
U.S. administration, which criticized them for the way they handled
the Tiananmen Square affair.
The Foreign Minister of Zaire
was less difficult in bargaining. He demanded that the U.S. foreign
aid be restored to his country, in return for a yes vote. The Ivory
Coast Foreign Minister asked that the G-7 countries forgive his
debt in return for a yes vote. The Romanian vote was probably
the cheapest. It was bought for just $80 million in humanitarian aid
during a short meeting between Secretary Baker and the Romanian
Foreign Minister, in Paris.
an oil-exporting state, Malaysia did not need U.S. foreign aid.
Therefore, its vote could not be bought, but could be obtained by
threats. The Malaysian Foreign Minister started the
meeting, on November 8, 1990, by reminding Secretary Baker that Israel
did not withdraw from the occupied territories. However, Secretary
Baker did not care about the implied U.S. double-standard policy in
handling international relations. He threatened him that a negative
vote would “affect relations between the two countries.” At that
moment, the Foreign Minister “became dead silent,” and he gave a
Yemen refused to sell its vote
and it did not allow itself to be intimidated. Secretary Baker met
with President Ali Abdullah Salih on November 21, 1990. He promised
him that in return for a yes vote, Saudi Arabia would stop forcing
about one million Yemenis out of the country. When this did not work,
he threatened the Yemeni President that his country would be listed as
a terrorist state and would lose the annual $70 million in U.S.
foreign aid. The Yemeni answer was still a no vote.
Cuba was the other state,
together with Yemen, that voted against the resolution in spite of the
threats that Secretary Baker used with the Cuban Foreign Minister,
Malmierca. They met on November 28, just one day before the vote.
Baker threatened that his country would be isolated if it voted no.
Malmierca replied that Cuba would vote against the resolution even if
it were alone.
Thus, the November 29, 1990 vote that
authorized the use of force against Iraq did not represent the free
will of member states in the UNSC. Rather, it represented how the
world system is controlled and manipulated through the use of the
The Bush administration opted for
war from the beginning of the crisis. As a result, it rejected all
peace initiatives. The main excuse used to justify that rejection was
the linkage argument. That position represented a striking
double-standard policy in international relations. On the one hand,
the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was unacceptable and had to be reversed
by force in a few months. On the other, the Israeli occupation of the
Arab territories, which continued for decades, was tolerated. In deed,
a golden opportunity was lost. Had the administration promised to
address the Israeli occupation, Iraq would have withdrawn from Kuwait
without bloodshed and destruction. More important, the U.S. would have
been seen as an honest and a fair broker of peace in the world
generally, and in the Middle East in particular.
The vote in Congress to authorize the
use of force represented the fact that the war decision lacked a
reasonable justification. The vote was so tight in the Senate that the
administration had to lobby heavily to secure it. The war was not
perceived as necessary, particularly because Iraq was announcing
everyday that it would withdraw if the U.S. promised not to attack
later. Moreover, sanctions were not given a chance to work. Democrats
struggled to avoid war because they expected heavy unnecessary Iraqi
deaths. They also feared heavy American casualties and deaths had
non-conventional weapons been used. Opposition to the use of force was
best articulated during the hearings held by the Senate Armed Forces
Committee, chaired by Sam Nunn.
The vote in the UN Security Council
also represented the determination of the Bush administration to pass
Resolution 678 by any means, even by bribes and threats. The vast
majority of member states did not resist the Bakerian diplomacy. Some
of them received money. Others were given favors in return for their
cooperation. Three of them were threatened with punishment if they
voted against the resolution. However, two of the three, Cuba and
Yemen, demonstrated that there was still hope in humanity. They voted
against the resolution.
By rejecting all peace initiatives
and using all means to gain the UN authorization to use force against
Iraq, the Bush administration demonstrated that its main goal was not
just ending the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Rather, the war itself was
the goal, as Chapter IX reveals.
Senate Armed Forces Committee Hearings
Chairman Nunn opened the hearings, on September 11, 1990,
calling for clarity about America’s objectives. He argued for
sustaining the American presence in the Gulf in order to give
sanctions the chance to work (pp. 2-3). Secretary of Defense, Dick
Cheney, was the first to speak before the Committee. He mentioned that
the American military deployment in the Gulf aimed at protecting the
American energy interests in the area. In particular, it aimed at
denying Iraq the opportunity to control about 20 percent of the world
oil reserves. He argued that if Iraq succeeded in annexing Kuwait, it
would dictate the future of worldwide energy policy, through its
hegemony in the region. In addition to protecting America’s energy
interests, the American military deployment had eight main objectives
to achieve. These were deterring further Iraqi actions against other
Gulf states; defending Saudi Arabia if deterrence failed; enforcing
economic sanctions; the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait; the restoration
of Kuwait borders; the restoration of Kuwaiti government; protection
of American lives in the region; and the restoration of stability in
the Gulf (p. 8-23). General Colin Powel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, was the second to speak before the Committee. He explained
the logistics of the deployment (pp. 23-33).
On November 27, 1990, the Committee heard the testimony of Dr.
James Schlesinger (pp. 107-182).
Senator Nunn opened the hearings by mentioning that the American
forces had accomplished their original “defensive” mission that
President Bush announced on August 8. Iraq’s further military
advance was deterred at the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia, and the
U.N. economic embargo had been successfully enforced. Then, Senator
Nunn posed several questions for Dr. Schlesinger to answer. He
wondered if it was in America’s vital interest to force Iraq to
withdraw from Kuwait through military action. He asked about the
period of time the economic sanctions would need to work in order to
achieve the Iraqi withdrawal without a war. He wanted to know if the
President changed his objectives when he ordered further military
deployment. Finally, he wanted Schlesinger to comment on the future
balance of power in the Middle East if the Iraqi key military
capabilities were eliminated during the war.
Dr. Schlesinger mentioned three main
American interests in the Gulf: oil, defense of Saudi Arabia, and
security of Israel. He explained that the U.S. “cannot allow so
large a portion of the world’s energy resources to fall under the
domination of a single hostile party.” Concerning economic
sanctions, he expected them to work within a year. He added that “it
seems rather illogical to express impatience with them because they
will not have produced the hoped-for results in 6 months time.” Then
Schlesinger argued that it would be much better for the United States
to achieve the Iraqi withdrawal without war. He warned that an Iraqi
devastating defeat would result in an enmity directed to the United
States for an extended period of time, not only by Iraqis but also by
the rest of Arabs. The alternative would be much better for the
future. Iraqis told Primakov that they were ready to withdraw if they
would be promised that sanctions would be lifted and that they would
not be attacked subsequently. Then, Senator Nunn asked if achieving
the Iraqi withdrawal was a vital U.S. interest. Schlesinger answered
that it was not a vital interest on August 2. Only after the
investment of the prestige of the President it became a vital
interest. However, he added that it did not have to be achieved
through military force. Nothing warranted the use of force, including
claims of the Iraqi nuclear weapons that would need a decade to be
produced. Even if this happened, it would be a single untested device.
Senator Kennedy pointed that the
principal purpose of the hearings was to determine whether peaceful
alternatives had failed, so that military action could be justified.
In his view, the case for using force was not made yet because
sanctions were working well. Sanctions required Iraq to pay a heavy
price for staying in Kuwait. Iraq’s oil export earnings dropped from
$1.5 billion a month to zero. Iraq’s assets abroad had been seized
and the Iraqi economy was declining at an estimated rate of 5 percent
a month. If sanctions were given enough time, they would lead to the
Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait without war. Finally, Senator Kennedy
summarized Schlesinger’s conclusion, saying that the U.S. “should
give the sanctions more time to work, that the sanctions can succeed
in forcing Iraq out of Kuwait, and that the President has acted
prematurely in turning to an offensive strategy” (P. 138).
Then, Schlesinger contemplated about
the war. He said that the Israelis wanted a total destruction of
Iraq’s military power because that would reduce the Arab order of
battle, and as a result, they would be principal beneficiaries of that
(p. 159). He criticized the way the administration built the
coalition, particularly through donations, saying that he had “a
certain dislike, not ambivalence, to see our Secretary of State or our
Secretary of the Treasury having to go around the world rattling the
tin cup, asking for contributions. That is not a dignified position
for the United State” (p. 160).
Senator Dixon pointed to the dilemma
that the Bush administration created by telling Iraq publicly to leave
Kuwait while insisting on avoiding negotiations to achieve that goal.
Senator Warner asked about whether the further deployment that the
President announced on November 8 would enhance the sanctions course
or detract from it. Senator Nunn echoed this question several times
throughout the hearings inviting witnesses to answer it.
On November 28, 1990, the Committee
listened to General David Jones and Admiral William Crowe (pp.
General Jones stated that coalition members had preference, from the
beginning, for diplomatic and economic measures over offensive
military action with particular sensitivity about attacking Iraq
itself. Admiral Crowe pointed that most experts believed that
sanctions would work with time. Estimates ranged between 12 and 18
months. In other words, the issue was not whether an embargo would
work but whether we had the patience to let it take effect, he added.
It was wrong to say that Iraq was not being hurt. It lost about $30
billion of foreign exchange earnings per year. As a result, Iraq was
seeking a way out, a face-saving way to withdraw.
Then, Admiral Crowe argued that force
should be used only if sanctions fail to achieve their objectives. He
explained that using force would not solve the problems of the Middle
East. Actually it would exacerbate them, particularly the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict, stability of Arab regimes, boundary
disputes, the U.S. links to Israel, and the dominant position of
American oil companies in foreign policy. He mentioned that many Arabs
would deeply resent a campaign, which would kill large numbers of
Arabs and Muslims. Admiral Crowe, then, continued his argument for
using sanctions, not force. He said that he “cannot understand why
some consider our international alliances strong enough to conduct
intense hostilities but too fragile to hold together while we attempt
a peaceful solution” (p. 197). He explained that using economic
pressure may prove protracted, but if it could avoid hostilities or
casualties, those are highly desirable ends that can be considered
also national interests. Finally, Admiral Crowe ended his argument
saying that it would be a sad commentary if Saddam Hussain, the ruler
of 17 million people with a gross national product of $40 billion,
“proved to be more patient than the United States, the world’s
most affluent and powerful nation” (p. 197).
Senator Nunn mentioned an interview
with General Scharzkopf, published in the Atlanta Journal and
Constitution, on October 28, 1990. In that interview, Schwarzkopf
urged patience and giving sanctions enough time to work because war
would lead to killing an awful lot of people. He said:
“Golly, the sanctions have only been in effect about a couple of months ... And now we are starting to see evidence that the sanctions are pinching. So why should we say, okay, gave them 2 months, didn’t work. Let’s get on with it and kill a whole bunch of people? That’s crazy. That’s crazy. You don’t go out there and say, Okay, let’s have a nice war today. God Almighty, that war could last a long time, long time and kill an awful lot of people. And so we’ve just got to be patient” (p. 209).
Admiral Crowe agreed with General Schwarzkopf saying that even the potential Iraqi nuclear weapons would not justify an attack on Iraq. General Jones expressed his opinion that the American forces in the Gulf could be sustained for years through troop rotation. He added that this would be seen as a sign of strength because it would show that the American forces are able to stay there enforcing the sanctions until they achieve the goal. However, he argued that a lower troop level would be easier to sustain (pp. 216-217). Senator Dixon commended the witnesses for counseling patience saying that “nobody wants war” (p. 227). Senator Glen echoed saying that “while war in the abstract may be glorious, war up close is hideous. I agree very strongly with your counsel that we exhaust other means before we really go into an attack mode” (p. 231).
Admiral Crowe and General Jones stood by their argument even when pro-war senators tried to sway them away of it. In an answer to a question from Senator McCain about whether Iraq’s potential nuclear capabilities would warrant the use of military force, General Jones confirmed what Admiral Crowe had said before. He said that the “question is whether you degrade it (the Iraqi military) by military action, by combat and the loss of lives, or you do it through patience and sanctions and embargo” (p. 234). Senator Gore summarized the administration’s pro-war argument. He said that the “administration seems to feel that if we had to wait for as long as a year or 18 months that unpredictable events and increased tensions, many of which introduce a dangerous set of variables that might make it impossible for the embargo to work” (p. 237). Then, he asked Admiral Crowe about his reaction to that argument. Admiral Crowe answered him saying that “with the proper kind of effort and engineering, we can keep our alliances together because most of them are not too warm and enthusiastic about starting a war over there” (p. 237). Senator Nunn thanked the witnesses and concluded by saying that the Committee was united in favor of enforcing the United Nations’ overall mandate for Iraq to get out of Kuwait. There was no disagreement on that among Republicans and Democrats. “The question is how much pain we administer and how quickly and whether we do it with the embargo or the use of force” (p. 257).
On November 28, the Committee also
met to receive testimony from Dr. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of
State. Kissinger expressed his opinion that the objectives announced
by the administrations were not enough. He said that “any solution
to the crisis must also provide for a reduction of Iraq’s offensive
capability, which now overshadows its neighbors” (p. 261). He was
against diplomatic solutions because they would “dilute the UN
objectives while maintaining Iraq’s war-making potential and thus
confirming Iraq as the supreme military power of the Middle East”
(p. 265). Then, Kissinger presented his alternative, which included
the use of force first to destroy the Iraqi military then the use of
sanctions to weaken Iraq. He said: “The destruction of the Iraqi
military complex, especially its chemical and nuclear facilities as
well as its air and missile forces, would improve the military balance
in the Gulf and would speed up the effects of sanctions” (p. 268).
He wanted war to start before the month of Ramadhan and the Haj season
that would follow, which would be about the middle of January, 1991
(p. 275). Senator Kennedy asked Kissinger for the record to confirm
his opinion that sanctions would not work, which he did. Senator
Kennedy, then, warned that the war would result in overwhelming Arab
casualties, which did not trigger a response from Kissinger.
On November 29, 1990, the Committee
received testimony from three military strategists: James Webb, former
Secretary of the Navy; Richard Perle, former Assistant Secretary of
Defense; and Edward Luttwak, from the Center for Strategic and
International Studies. In his statement, James Webb criticized the
President for his military strategy. He mentioned that “had the
President dispatched a modestly-structured air-ground presence to
Saudi Arabia, and then begun negotiating a mutual withdrawal of
American and Iraqi forces from their respective positions, the crisis
may have been over by now. Britain employed this strategy in 1961”
(p. 309). Then, Secretary Web continued with his criticism warning
that “the President’s mistake in sending so many troops should not
be compounded by a further error in using them in a premature,
unprovoked ground offensive” (310). More important was the fact that
the U.S. had no treaties in the region. None of the countries involved
were democracies, and the American troops had not been attacked. He
concluded by calling for reduction in the size of the American troops
in the Gulf area.
In his testimony, Dr. Edward Luttwak
also pointed that the Gulf governments lack democratic participation
and legitimacy. Then, he mentioned that the international conflicts
have been geo-economic, not geopolitical. He criticized repeating the
argument that the security of the Gulf oil supplies is a vital U.S.
interest. He said that this should not be the case because the U.S. is
50 percent dependent on oil imports while Japan is 100 percent
dependent on oil imports. “So perhaps it would suit us to have
Persian Gulf oil supplies entirely disrupted yielding very high oil
prices” (p. 316). Thus, Luttwak was strongly opposed to rushing for
military action. Instead, he called for using a “perfectly viable
strategy of protracted, multiyear, economic sanctions” (p. 317).
Consequently, American troops should be reduced in the area, not
increased as the President did. But one of the most interesting parts
of Luttwak’s testimony was his accurate predictions regarding the
military strategy, in case force would be used to resolve the
conflict. He predicted that air power would be used first to destroy
military installations in Iraq. It would also “starve the Iraqi
forces out of Kuwait, or rather give them a choice between starving in
place, or deserting south, or retreating north” (p. 320). The air
campaign would be followed by a ground operation that would start
“way to the west of Kuwait, swinging around in the best traditions
of armored warfare in the desert to cut off the Iraqi forces in
Richard Perle started his testimony
by stating that the Gulf crisis is a defining issue for America. This
was not only because of oil and world order, but also because it
“involves the transcendent issue of America’s role in the
post-Cold War world” (p. 327). Then, Perle expressed his pro-war
opinion saying that “there can be no political solution to this
crisis,” no face-saving, no negotiated compromise that would allow
Iraq to keep its military power (p. 329). As a result, he argued
against the use of sanctions because they may not lead to the Iraqi
withdrawal soon. He added that even if they did, the Iraqi military
power would continue to threat the stability of the region (p.
330-331). He also expected the same military strategy that Luttwak
mentioned, in case of war (p. 335). Thus, Perle was the second witness
before the Committee, after Henry Kissinger, who opposed sanctions and
called for war.
On November 29, 1990, the Committee
received testimony from three experts on the Middle East: Drs.
Christine Helms, James Placke, and Phebe Marr.
Christine Helms argued that a negotiated settlement was the optimum
solution. She based her argument on the fact that “American-led
forces could well win a military victory but the Bush administration
could suffer severe political defeat. The force required to obtain
Bush’s objectives risks the integrity of the Iraqi nation-state.
Resulting economic, political, and military problems may then become
intractable, costly, and extend far beyond Kuwait and Iraq” (p.
381). Consequently, she was against the use of force and for the use
of sanctions (p. 382).
James Placke mentioned that there had
never been a case where international sanctions were absolutely
effective. However, he mentioned that there was evidence that
sanctions were having effect on the Iraqi economy. But he warned that
the expected serious internal political disruption would happen only
when the Iraqi economy “is really on the verge of breakdown” (p.
Phebe Marr discussed the impact of the Gulf crisis on four main
issues: the Arab-Israeli conflict, the growing socio-economic cleavage
among Arabs, legitimacy and stability of the Gulf regimes, and the
growing Islamic resurgence and Arab nationalism. With respect to the
first issue, she mentioned that there was “a widespread perception
in the Arab world that the United States has been hypocritical in its
denunciation of the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait while acquiescing in
the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza ... The linkage
between the Arab-Israeli problem and the Gulf crisis is widespread in
the minds of most Arabs despite U.S. attempts to separate the two”
Concerning the second issue, she
mentioned that the crisis had intensified the socio-economic disparity
between the wealthy Gulf states and the other poorer Arabs. This
explains why there was little sympathy in the Arab world for the
plight of the Kuwaitis. The bitterness increased when Arabs saw the
United States backing the wealthier Gulf states in the confrontation
and seeking to restore the ruling family to Kuwait (p. 411-412).
Third, the long-term presence of
American troops in the Gulf area would contribute to the stability of
the Gulf oligarchic monarchies. However, the middle classes would not
accept that presence without a price, which would be demanding
democratic participation. Finally, the U.S. military presence had
strengthened Islamic movements in the Arab world. Many of these
movements fused with Arab nationalists, taking an anti-American line,
because the American presence in the region is seen as imperialist.
“Islamic movements oppose continued Israeli occupation of the
West Bank and Gaza; they strongly favor a better distribution of
wealth and benefits in the Arab world; they are opposed to the
corruption and oppression of the ruling regimes; and, above all, they
are against what they see as the imposition of foreign domination and
control, particularly of Arab oil resources” (p. 413).
Phebe Marr concluded her testimony by
warning against resolving the conflict by a long and devastating war
that would destroy Iraq’s military and infrastructure. It would turn
the Iraqi people and much of the Arab world against the United States.
Consequently, she suggested employing international pressure and
diplomacy instead. If these would fail, she suggested the use of air
power to minimize casualties on both sides (p. 414).
The three witnesses, then, answered
questions asked by Committee members. Senator Dixon asked them if they
believed that sanctions would succeed. James Placke said that the
embargo can succeed in accomplishing the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.
Christine Helms agreed saying that sanctions had a chance for success.
Phebe Marr suggested that in order for the sanctions to succeed, they
need time and they should be coupled with the threat of military
When Phebe Marr tried to explain the
administration’s double-standard policy, pro-Israel senators became
angry. Senator Al Gore described the Israeli occupation of the Arab
territories as “establishing a defensive perimeter” (p. 450).
Senator Cohen was stronger in defending the Israeli occupation,
warning Phebe Marr that it was “absolutely wrong to allow the
establishment of any kind of a moral symmetry between Saddam
Hussein’s claim to Kuwait, and Israel’s occupation of the Golan
Heights and the West Bank and Gaza” (p. 450). He continued warning
her that “And so I do not think we should accommodate that view,
whether or not it exists in the minds of Arabs” (p. 451). He also
warned President Bush not to give any promises to the Arabs that he
would address the Israeli occupation after the Iraqi withdrawal. He
said: “I think that would be an absolutely wrong thing for him to
do” (p. 451). As a result of his warnings, Phebe Marr took her
argument back and agreed with Senator Cohen. She conceded saying: “I
am not indicating that we should make some kind of moral equivalency
with Israel” (p. 452).
Senator Nunn asked whether the panel
believed that the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia should be
lower than it was at that time. While Phebe Marr agreed with him
directly, James Placke agreed indirectly. He said that the U.S.
deployments would affect the Haj because most pilgrims come through
the Jeddah airport, which is heavily used by the coalition forces (p.
453). Christine Helms argued for negotiations with Iraq, which would
lead to the Iraqi withdrawal and the lowering of the American presence
in the region (p. 454).
On November 30, 1990, the Committee
met to hear the testimony of Lt. General William Odom,
who was in favor of giving sanctions time to work and not to rush for
the use of force (p. 461). However, he advocated keeping the offensive
option over a long period of time (p. 466). Then, the Committee heard
the testimony of Gary Milhollin, William R. Graham, and Leonard S.
Senator Nunn asked the panel about the range of possibilities with
respect to Iraq’s efforts to obtain a nuclear weapons capability.
Gary Milhollin answered that Iraq could not make nuclear weapon
material on its own (p. 520). Graham expressed his opinion that Iraq
may be working on obtaining nuclear weapons in a short time. As a
result, he was in favor of the use of force to destroy the Iraqi
nuclear facilities (p. 536-537). Spector accused the Bush
administration of overstating the danger of Iraqi nuclearization. He
argued that Iraq’s nuclear potential should not push the U.S. into
war. Instead, he was in favor of pursuing sanctions while holding the
military option in reserve (p. 544-545).
On December 3, 1990, the Committee
met for the last time to hear the testimony of Secretary of Defense,
Richard Cheney, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General
Colin Powell. Senator Nunn started by posing the basic questions for
them to answer. He wanted them to comment on the pressures that a
large American force had on logistics capability and the ability and
willingness to pursue a patient policy. He expressed the broad support
for President Bush in defending Saudi Arabia and enforcing the United
Nations embargo against Iraq. He also expressed support for the
President’s policy that Iraq must leave Kuwait. But he asked the
witnesses whether it was necessary and wise at that time to use force
in order to achieve the Iraqi withdrawal or leave the U.N. embargo
take its time to accomplish that goal (p. 636-637).
Secretary Cheney started his
testimony with a historical background of the American commitment for
the defense of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. He said that the
commitment began with President Roosevelt, in 1945, during his meeting
with King Abdul Aziz. Subsequently, every President had reaffirmed the
U.S. strategic interest in that vital part of the world. The Carter
Doctrine, which was declared during the State of the Union Address on
January 23, 1980, formalized that commitment into a policy. It stated
that an ”attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian
Gulf will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the
United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any
means necessary, including military force” (p. 641-642).
Secretary Cheney explained why he
preferred the use of force rather than waiting for sanctions to work.
He said that Iraq should not be allowed to control the word’s supply
of energy. This would lead to the Iraqi control over production and
prices. More important would be the huge wealth generated from the
expected high prices of oil. Iraq would use the wealth for the
acquisition of military weapons that would threaten the rest of the
world! (p. 644).
With respect to sanctions, Secretary
Cheney said that the U.S. had been able to shut off the Iraqi ability
to export oil and to shut down much of the flow of goods into Iraq
from outside. The embargo was also successful in drying up Iraq’s
major international commerce. However, the ultimate goal of sanctions
was getting Iraq out of Kuwait, not just the destruction of the Iraqi
economy. Consequently, the U.S. cannot wait indefinitely for sanctions
to achieve that goal (p. 646-647). Then, Secretary Cheney posed the
question: “Can we make the judgment that sanctions will achieve the
desired result of forcing him out of Kuwait?” He was not sure about
the answer. First, he said, “I don’t know.” Then, he said:
“They might. But then again, there is a lot of evidence that they
won’t” (p. 649). The Secretary concluded his testimony with a
clear opinion. He said that, “it is far better for us to deal with
him now, while the coalition is intact, while we have the United
Nations behind us ... than it will be for us to deal with him 5 or 10
years from now” (p. 650).
General Colin Powell spoke of the objective of the military
build up. He said that starting from November 8, 1990, the mission
changed from defending Saudi Arabia to removing the Iraqi army from
Kuwait. However, the mission was not to punish or retaliate. Then, he
explained the military strategy that would be followed in war. He said
that the military leaders “recommended and the President approved a
force build up capable of accomplishing the mission which seizes the
initiative and which forces the Iraqis to consider the consequences of
a combined, overwhelming, air/land/sea campaign against them.” He
added that the military strategy would focus on the least possible
loss of life on the American side through avoiding the Iraqi
fortifications (p. 663).
With respect to sanctions, General Powell stated that they were
having a serious impact. “But no one, as the Secretary also
indicated, knows if and when they will work. We will know they worked
only when Saddam Hussein tells us they have worked by withdrawing”
(p. 664). He concluded by saying that in “the final analysis, how
long to wait is a political, not a military, judgment. The armed
forces of the United States must be and will be ready to accomplish
whatever mission is assigned to it, whether the answer to the waiting
period is 4, 5, 6, 12, or 18 months.”
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998)
 Baker (1995).
 U.S. Senate (1990).
 Cockburn (1991).
 Whitaker (1991).
These are the Palestinian territories of Gaza Strip and the West Bank,
the Syrian (Golan) Heights, and South Lebanon.
Actually, these continued as a pro-Likude that the Israeli Prime
Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, requested President Clinton to keep the
talks in Oslo as secret. He feared that some of them (Anthony Lake,
Martin Indyk, and Dennis Ross) may slow or even stop the talks
(Perry, 1994: 297-299).
 “The Iraqi control over OPEC and oil prices” argument has been proven all wrong throughout the years that followed the 1991 Gulf War. Oil prices reached as high as $30 a barrel, in the year 2000 without any Iraqi control over OPEC or oil prices.
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 323).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 347).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 362).
 It was courageous of Secretary Baker to criticize Israeli expansionism inside the very own castle of Israel in America, AIPAC. However, he and President Bush could not continue in that direction. Actually, they ended up taking on Iraq, instead of pressuring Israel to withdraw from the occupied Arab territories.
 Baker (1995: 121).
 Baker (1995: 122).
 Baker (1995: 127).
 Baker (1995: 124).
 Baker (1995: 131).
 Baker (1995: 126).
Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk were still in charge of the American foreign policy in the Middle East, for the following decade, well after the Bush and Clinton administrations are gone. Actually, the appointment of Indyk as a U.S. ambassador to Israel was at the request of the Israeli Prime Minister, Barak (The Washington Post, July 17 2001). This demonstrates the hegemonic position of Israel in the U.S. even in appointing ambassadors.
 On December 16, 1990, the U.N. General Assembly rescinded Resolution 3379 that equated Zionism with racism (Pimlott and Badsey, 1992: 278). The basis for that resolution was the racial discrimination against Palestinians in all aspects of life. In particular, Palestinian refugees are denied their right to return to their country while Jews can immigrate freely to Israel.
 Baker (1995: 540-541).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 365).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 367).
 Baker (1995: 292-293).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 368-69).
 Baker (1995: 303).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 377).
Bush used Israeli terminology,
in referring to Al-Aqsa Mosque (Bush and Scowcroft, 1998: 378). At
least, he could have mentioned the Arab-Islamic name, as well.
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 378).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 409).
 Baker (1955: 347-48).
 The term AArabists@ was used by President Bush, Secretary Baker, and their aids as a way to criticize anyone who sympathizes with Arabs.
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 423-24).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 440).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 448).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 419-20).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 424).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 437).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 437).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 441-443).
 Baker (1995: 356-361).
 Baker (1995: 331).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 389).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 391).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 396).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 429).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 413).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 440-41).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 443, 446).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 446).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 446).
 Samuel Augustus Nunn was born in Perry, GA, in 1938. He graduated from the Law School of Emory University in 1962. He served in the Georgia House of Representatives between 1968 and 1972, when he was elected as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate. In 1996, he did not seek reelection and resumed the practice of law in Atlanta in 1997 (Biographical Information, U.S. Senate Website).
 Nunn (1983).
 Nunn (1990).
He projected that over a five-year period, the savings from the
reduction in military spending would reach approximately $225-$255
billion in budget authority and $180-$190 billion in outlays (Nunn,
Dr. James Schlesinger was a former Secretary of Defense, Secretary
of Energy, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (U.S.
Senate, 1990: 110, 107-182).
General Norman Schwarzkopf was the Commander of Central Command
(U.S. Senate, 1990: 209).
Both were former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. General
David Jones served as Chairman from October 1985 to September 1989.
Admiral Crowe served as Commander, Middle East Force, a command base
in Bahrain, from June 1976 to July 1977 (U.S. Senate, 1990: 180,
James Webb, formerly Secretary of the Navy and Assistant Secretary
of Defense for Reserve Affairs during the Reagan administration, as
well as a highly decorated Vietnam combat veteran, and an author
(U.S. Senate, 1990: 304, 305-315.
Dr. Edward Luttwak was an affiliate of the Center for Strategic and
International Studies (U.S. Senate, 1990: 304, 315-331).
Dr. Christine Helms was an independent consultant on international,
economic, political, and social issues, specializing on the Middle
East. She published extensively about the region, traveled in Iraq
during the 1980s, and met many of the senior officials in Iraq (U.S.
Senate, 1990: 379, 381-401.
James A. Placke was an international affairs consultant in private
business in Washington, D.C. He was a retired Foreign Service
Officer who had served in Iraq, Kuwait, and Libya. He also served in
several government positions involving Middle East policy issue,
including as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Easter
and South Asian Affairs (U.S. Senate, 1990: 380, 401-410).
Dr. Phebe Marr was a Middle East historian and specialist on Iraq.
She had studied the area for years, written widely about it, and
traveled extensively in the Middle East. She visited Iraq three
times between 1987 and 1990, and met a variety of senior Iraqi
officials and citizens (U.S. Senate, 1990: 380, 410-457).
Lt. General William Odom was retired from the U.S. Army. While in
service, he worked as the Director of the National Security Agency (NSA).
He also served as head of Army Intelligence. After retirement, he
was the Director of National Security Studies at the Hudson
Institute (U.S. Senate, 1990: 459, 460-485).
Mr. Gary Milhollin was a Professor of Law at the University of
Wisconsin and Director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms
Control, which monitors nuclear proliferation developments (U.S.
Senate, 1990: 517, 519-534).
Mr. Leonard S. Spector was Director of the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and
co-author of a book about the Iraqi nuclear program, called
“Nuclear Ambitions” (U.S. Senate, 1990: 517, 544-556).
General Colin Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
during the Gulf crisis and the war, 1990-1991 (U.S. Senate, 1990:
Dr. Henry Kissinger was the Secretary of State during the Nixon and
Ford administrations (U.S. Senate, 1990: 260-303).
 Richard Perle was a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and formerly Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy during the Reagan administration (U.S. Senate, 1990: 304, 326-334.
Dr. William R. Graham was Senior Vice President at JAYCOR and
formerly the Science Advisor to Presidents Reagan and Bush. He also
served as Deputy Administrator of NASA and Chairman of the President
Reagan’s General Advisory Committee on Arms Control (U.S. Senate,
1990: 518, 534-544).
Richard (Dick) Cheney was the Secretary of Defense during the Bush
administration (U.S. Senate, 1990: 638-658).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 426).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 439).
 Grimes and Barry (1997).
 Baker (1995: 305).
 It was amazing that Secretary Baker never mentioned the names of the Emir of Kuwait and his Crown Prince in his entire book although the whole war was allegedly launched to restore their rule of Kuwait.
 Baker (1995: 287-90).
 Saudi Arabia bought about $23 billion worth of American weapons after the war (Levrani, 1997: 109), in addition to other purchases from Britain, France and other weapon-exporting countries.
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 460-474); Baker (1995: 291).
 Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 409-412).
 Frontline (1998).
 Baker (1995: 284, 372).
 Baker (1995: 299).
 Baker (1995: 305).
 Baker (1995: 309, 323).
 Baker (1995: 315, 316).
 Baker (1995: 319).
 Baker (1995: 317-18).
 Baker (1995: 320-21).
U.S. Senate, 1990: 110.
U.S. Senate, 1990: 180.
U.S. Senate, 1990: 379-380.
U.S. Senate, 1990: 459.
U.S. Senate, 1990: 517-518.
 U.S. Senate, 1990: 665.
Table of Contents, Gulf War: Overreaction & Excessiveness, By Hassan A El-Najjar