John Edward Wilz, "The Making of Mr. Bush's War: A Failure to Learn from History? " Presidential Studies Quarterly, Summer 1996


Shortly before dawn on August 2, 1990, an estimated one hundred thousand troops and three hundred tanks of the army of Iraq, responding to the dictates of President Saddam Hussein, swarmed across the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier, and within twenty-four hours virtually completed the conquest of the 6,800-square-mile State of Kuwait.(1) During a news conference at Woody Creek, Colorado, on that same day, President George Bush of the United States and his guest, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, raised the possibility of a military intervention, presumably one sanctioned by the United Nations, aimed at expelling the Iraqi aggressors from the territory of their oil-rich neighbor.(2) Five weeks later, on September 11, President Bush, who in the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait had dramatically augmented United States armed forces deployed in the region of the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf, ostensibly to shield Saudi Arabia against an invasion by Iraq, told a joint session of Congress and a global television audience, "We will continue to review all options with our allies, but let it be clear: we will not let this aggression [by Iraq against Kuwait] stand."(3)

In a word, if the "sanctions" recently voted against Iraq by the UN did not compel Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, the president apparently was prepared, with the blessing of the UN, to unleash the military-naval might of the United States to compel Saddam Hussein to withdraw his legions from Kuwaiti territory.(4) And so it came to pass four months later, at 2:35 A.M. (Iraqi time), on January 17, 1991, that forces of the United States and its partners in an anti-Iraqi coalition, in accord with a UN resolution, undertook Operation Desert Storm aimed at driving the Iraqis from Kuwait. By the last days of February 1991, the Iraqis were in full flight from Kuwait, and on February 28 a cease-fire brought the so-called Gulf War to what in the perspective of most Americans was a glorious and triumphant termination.

Alas, even as Americans celebrated what was largely a United States military triumph of seemingly mind-boggling dimension (in the parlance of American sports enthusiasts, a "blow-out"), assorted citizens of the North American superpower, some of them members of Congress, were nurturing a conviction, or at least a suspicion, that they had held from the first weeks of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait,(5) to wit, that the administration of President Bush had erred (blundered?) in its management of policy vis-a-vis Iraq prior to August 2, 1990. As a result of its errors, such citizens reckoned, the administration was in no small measure responsible for the assumptions that prompted Saddam Hussein to undertake his adventure against Iraq's minuscule neighbor-an adventure that ultimately claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis and Kuwaitis, as well as the lives of a couple of hundred men and women of the armed forces of the United States and its coalition partners, and left Kuwait a plundered and smoldering wreck. The question of the administration's responsibility for the making of the Gulf War would become an issue during the electoral campaign of 1992 when Democrats sought to counter the claim of Republicans that America's lopsided victory in the war proved the Republican president's mastery of the intricacies of international relations. According to Democrats, Bush had proved that he was assuredly no master of international relations when he encouraged, inadvertently to be sure, Saddam Hussein to unleash a torrent of fire and steel against Kuwait.

How, in the perception of his critics, had President Bush and his administration encouraged Iraq to undertake the destruction of its neighbor! By pursuing a policy of appeasement and conciliation vis-l-vis the bellicose Saddam Hussein and in so doing emitting signals indicating that the United States would not rally to the defense of Kuwait in the event he sent his forces over the Kuwaiti frontier. According to Senator Albert Gore, Jr., the Democratic Party's candidate for vice president in the autumn of 1992, the Republican administration of George Bush had "coddled a tyrant."(6)

Bush's administration, of course, had not been the first to coddle Saddam Hussein, a head of state whose impulse to repression and brutality was transparent from the moment he became what Jean Edward Smith has described as "the effective strongman of the regime" in Baghdad in 1968.(7) Jimmy Carter's and Ronald Reagan's also had.

George Bush succeeded Ronald Reagan as president in January 1989, and, notwithstanding what was almost universally believed to have been Saddam's resort to chemical warfare against the Kurds, the new Bush administration appeared even more intent than its predecessors on maintaining a conciliatory relationship with his regime in Baghdad. Why! In no small measure because of Cold War considerations. As Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead had written late in 1988: "[Soviet] clout and influence is on a steady rise as the Gulf Arabs gain self-confidence and Soviet diplomacy gains in sophistication. The Soviets have strong cards to play: their border with Iran and their arms supply relationship with Iraq. They will continue to be major players and we should engage them as fully as possible."(8) But when the so-called Iran-Contra scandal became public in 1987, Saddam Hussein had learned (if he did not already know-which he almost certainly did) that the Washington government had played a double-game in the matter of the Iraqi-Iranian war, to wit, provided Iran as well as Iraq with implements of death and destruction. Accordingly, relations between the United States and Saddam's regime had become strained before Bush moved into the White House.(9)

Whatever his rationale, Bush pressed ahead with the policy of conciliating (or appeasing) Iraq, although it was increasingly transparent that Saddam, not content with repressing and even brutalizing his own people, was supporting international terrorists. The policy of conciliating Iraq continued during the year 1989 in spite of discovery by the Defense Intelligence Agency that a secret Iraqi military-procurement network was operating in the United States, discovery by the CIA and the Defense Department that Iraq, however severe its economic problems in the aftermath of the exhausting war with Iran, was moving forward with a program to develop nuclear weapons, and that an Iraqi front company operating from Cleveland was passing technology to Iraq for use in the Baghdad government's nuclear weapons program.(10) The policy also continued when, in August of 1989, FBI agents and Federal Reserve Bank investigators revealed that the Atlanta branch of the aforementioned BNL of Italy had assisted Saddam in the acquisition of military hardware by diverting agricultural credits granted by the United States to finance the export of American agricultural commodities to Iraq.(11) Indeed, on October 2, 1989, the president, in the hope that economic and diplomatic incentives would prompt Saddam to moderate his behavior, signed a top-secret National Security Directive that sanctioned closer diplomatic ties with Saddam's regime in Baghdad and cleared the way for continued economic assistance to that regime. Four weeks lacer, Secretary of State James A. Baker III pressed the secretary of agriculture to approve new agricultural loan guarantees totaling a billion dollars for Iraq. He refused to reconsider the question of loan guarantees for Saddam's government when investigators of the BNL scandal presented new and devastating information on the extent of the scandal.(12) Meanwhile, an interagency committee of the Washington government, prodded by the State Department, approved export licenses for the shipment to Iraq of such high-tech items as computers, machine tools, and optical heads for cameras. The items ostensibly were to be used for civilian purposes. Most were shipped to military installations.(13)

Coddling of Saddam by the Bush administration continued when 1989 gave way to 1990. Ignoring evidence that Iraq was testing ballistic missiles and pilfering nuclear technology, President Bush, on January 17, 1990, signed an executive order certifying that to terminate loan guarantees to the Baghdad government would not be "in the national interest of the United States" - and thereby waived congressional restrictions on use of the Export-Import Bank by Saddam's government.(14) During a meeting with Saddam in Baghdad on February 12, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs John H. Kelly told the Iraqi dictator that he, Saddam, was a "force for moderation in the region, and the United States wishes to broaden her relations with Iraq."(15) A week or so later, also in Baghdad, Ambassador Glaspie, expressed "regrets" when Saddam's governments objected to a recent editorial broadcast by the Voice of America identifying Iraq as one of several countries whose government depended on the brutality of its secret police to retain power.(16) Several weeks after that, the White House blocked an initiative by the Commerce Department to terminate the flow of American technology to Iraq. Meanwhile, the Bush administration continued to share intelligence data with Saddam's regime.(17)

There was no deviation from what one might describe as the Washington government's policy of appeasement of Iraq when, in March of 1990, Saddam's regime in Baghdad brought to trial on what appeared to be trumped-up charges of espionage on behalf of Iran and Israel and summarily executed Farzad Bazoft, an Italian-born journalist who was in the employ of the Observer, a weekly newspaper published in London. Bazoft had been arrested in September of 1989 while looking into a mysterious explosion at a secret military installation not far from Baghdad. Nor did the policy change when what were believed to be parts for an Iraqi "super-gun" were intercepted in Britain, Greece, and Turkey. A super-gun supposedly would have the capability of launching nonconventional, i.e., nuclear or chemical, warheads against targets thousands of miles distant. Near the end of March of 1990, a joint Anglo-American customs operation resulted in seizure at London's Heathrow Airport of a shipment of forty electrical capacitors that was bound for Iraq. The capacitors were designed to be used as triggers for nuclear weapons.(18)

That its policy of conciliation or appeasement of Iraq remained in place is not to say that the Washington government felt entirely comfortable with its relationship with Saddam and his regime. After all, Saddam's rhetoric was not infrequently tinged with anti-Americanism.(19) And, of course, the

Washington government could not view with equanimity Saddam's obvious determination to produce nuclear weapons, not to mention his incendiary remarks directed at Israel, whose "special relationship" with the United States had long been a centerpiece of the Washington government's Middle Eastern policy. In an address to commanders of his armed forces, on April 2, 1990 - one that fairly reeked with anti-Americanism- the Iraqi president announced that Iraq had developed new and powerful chemical weapons. Clearly alluding to a possible repetition of the Israeli attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, he also declared, "By God, we will make fire eat half of Israel if it tries to do anything against Iraq." President Bush deplored Saddam's remarks, and the State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutwiler described them as "inflammatory, irresponsible, and outrageous."(20)

Still, the Bush administration was reluctant to revise its policy vis-a-vis Iraq -- declined even to seriously consider terminating the longtime arrangement whereby the CIA shared intelligence data with the Iraqis.(21) Assistant Secretary Kelly argued against the economic sanctions against Iraq that Congress was considering as a response to human rights violations by Saddam's regime. A review of the Washington government's Iraqi policy on April 16, 1990, that involved National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Deputy Adviser on National Security Affairs Robert Gates resulted in a determination that there was no reason to change the policy.(22) A few days before, in the city of Mosul in northwestern Iraq, a delegation of five farm-belt senators led by Robert Dole of Kansas, the Republican leader in the Senate, met with Saddam. The main concern of the senators was to keep open the Iraqi market for American growers of rice and other grains. But Dole told Saddam that President Bush had asked him to advise the Iraqi leader that "he wants better relations, and the U.S. government wants better relations with Iraq." Senator Alan Simpson, Republican of Wyoming, told Saddam that Iraq's problem was with the "haughty and pampered" Western media rather than with the United States government.(23)

It is doubtful that a subsequent decision by the White House to suspend five hundred million dollars in agricultural loan guarantees to Iraq because of questions relating to "kickbacks"(24) prompted Saddam to reconsider what Dole et al., had told him. On the same day Senator Dole delivered President Bush's message to Saddam, Secretary Baker instructed Ambassador Glaspie in Baghdad to express the Washington government's displeasure over aspects of Saddam's behavior. But, as Alan Friedman has observed, he softened his missive by directing Glaspie to tell Saddam, "We want one thing very clearly understood, however. As concerned as we are about Iraq's chemical, nuclear, and missile programs, we are not in any sense preparing the way for a preemptive military unilateral effort to eliminate these programs." The ambassador was also to remind Saddam that when Israel, in 1981, bombed Iraq's Osirak nuclear plant, "we condemned the 1981 raid. And would do so again today. We are telling Israel so."(25)

Meanwhile, Saddam Hussein was wrestling with economic problems that were besetting his country. Those problems were a legacy of the late war with Iran. Indeed, the war, which Saddam claimed to have resulted in a shining victory for Iraq, had left Iraq economically devastated. In the face of such economic devastation, Saddam's mood had increasingly become one of anger and resentment tinctured by frustration.

To wage the fight against Iran, one that he reckoned Iraq had fought on behalf of all Arab states to contain the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, Saddam had drained the Iraqi treasury. A prosperous country that held some thirty-five billion dollars in foreign exchange reserves in 1980, Iraq was saddled with an eighty-billion dollar foreign debt by 1990. Its economic infrastructure was a shambles, unemployment was rampant, inflation was raging out of control. Complicating Iraq's difficulties had been the one-third decline in the world price of oil in recent years, a decline that constituted a shattering blow to Iraq, inasmuch as the export of oil provided the revenues that fueled the Iraqi economy. What had prompted the decline! In no small measure, the production of oil by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in excess of quotas set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), of which Kuwait and the UAE, as well as Iraq, were members.(26)

As he nursed his anger and frustration, Saddam doubtless pondered the fact that Iraqis had long considered Kuwait, by the 1980s a nation whose per capita wealth exceeded that of any other country in the world, to be a rightful part of their national domain. In 1963, indeed, Iraq's president had asserted an Iraqi claim to Kuwait, only to back down when the British deployed a detachment of regular troops in the emirate. In 1973, after Iraq withdrew troops from a Kuwaiti outpost in the face of pressure by other Arab states, the Iraqi foreign minister asserted, "There is a document saying that Kuwait is Iraqi territory."(27)

The foregoing aside, Saddam believed that Kuwait, in addition to being an oil-quota cheater, was an oil thief, inasmuch as the Kuwaitis, during the 1980s, when Iraq felt compelled to bury mines in its share of the field lest it fall to the Iranians, had pumped great quantities of oil from the fabulous Rumaila oil field, ninety percent of which lay under Iraq. In truth, Saddam, contending that the entire field was the rightful property of Iraq, argued that Kuwait was entitled to none of the oil of the Rumaila field. According to Saddam, the present-day border between Iraq and Kuwait, imposed by the British in 1922, lacked legitimacy. He likewise believed that Kuwait's Bubiyan Island, wedged between the southeastern tip of Iraq and the northeastern corner of Kuwait (and commanding Iraq's minuscule coastline along the Persian Gulf), was the rightful property of Iraq.(28)

During a meeting of leaders of the Arab Cooperation Council in the Jordanian capital of Amman in February of 1990, Saddam had made clear that he remained adamant regarding a demand he had made during his late war with Iran, to wit, that the oil-rich Arab states in the region of the Persian Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, must forgive loans they had made to finance Iraq's war effort. He also demanded that those same states provide Iraq with an additional thirty billion dollars. "Let the Gulf regimes know," he threatened, "that if they do not give this money to me, I will know how to get it." To reinforce the latter threat, he ordered the Iraqi army to stage military maneuvers along the Kuwaiti frontier. Later in that same month, February 1990, Saddam advised King Fahd of Saudi Arabia that the Saudis must persuade the Gulf states to honor the quotas of oil production set for them by OPEC. At a meeting of heads of Arab states in Baghdad in May of 1990, he declared that continued violation of OPEC oil quotas by assorted Arab states constituted a declaration of war against Iraq. His words failed to move the leaders of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.(29)

By July of 1990, Saddam was stepping up the pressure against Kuwait and the UAE, and on July 10 the leaders of Kuwait and the UAE, pressed by the Saudis and Iranians as well as the Iraqis, pledged to honor their oil-production quotas. But Saddam Hussein obviously did not trust the Kuwaitis to keep their pledge. Moreover, he remained bent on extracting a huge grant of funds from Kuwait as well as forgiveness of the loans extended by Kuwait to Iraq during the latter's war with Iran. Then, in a radio address on July 17, Saddam delivered what the Financial Times of London described as "an unprecedented verbal attack on his neighbours." Inspired by America, he declared, some Arab states, at a time when Iraq was facing up to the imperialists and Zionists, had stabbed Iraq in the back "with a poisoned dagger." Observing that Iraq had issued warnings to those states, he told his auditors, "If words fail to protect Iraqis, something effective must be done to return things to their natural course . . . Iraqis will not forget the maxim that cutting necks is better than cutting the means of living."(30)

Meanwhile, the Iraqi president had begun to deploy powerful military forces in the vicinity of the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier-had also stepped up his diplomatic offensive against Kuwait. On July 16, his foreign minister Tariq Aziz forwarded a memorandum to the secretary-general of the Arab League charging that Kuwait had stolen Iraqi oil and set up military establishments, police posts, oil installations, and farms on Iraqi territory. Kuwait's actions, he said, had amounted "to a military aggression" against Iraq, whose economic plight was a result of its defense of the "soil, dignity, honour and wealth" of the Arab "nation," i.e., the entire Arab world. Speaking before Arab leaders during a meeting in Tunis on that same day, Aziz declared, "We are sure some Arab states are involved in a conspiracy against us. We want you to know that our country will not kneel, our women will not become prostitutes, our children will not be deprived of food." In London, the editors of the Economist, observing that Aziz's memorandum of July 16 and Saddam's speech of July 17 had caused "near-panic" in Kuwait, surmised that the memorandum and speech sounded "alarmingly like a pretext for invasion."(31)

And what sort of signals did George Bush's government in Washington emit in response to Saddam Hussein's bluster and threats of mid-July 1990! The signals were mixed.

When asked about the threats Saddam had directed against Kuwait and the UAE, a State Department spokesperson, on July 18, told reporters that the United States remained "strongly committed to supporting the individual and collective self-defense of our friends in the [G]ulf with whom we have longstanding ties" -- but, it was reported, declined to say whether the United States would provide military assistance to Kuwait in the event of an Iraqi attack.(32) At a press breakfast on the following day, July 19, Secretary of Defense Richard B. Cheney remarked that a commitment by the Washington government undertaken during Iraq's war with Iran to move to Kuwait's defense remained in effect.(33) A few hours later, Under Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz reiterated Cheney's point during a luncheon with Arab ambassadors. But later on that same day, a State Department spokesperson said that Cheney had been quoted "with some degree of liberty."(34) And an administration official-"a former U.S. envoy in the Persian Gulf"-asserted that the United States commitment to Kuwait had been intended to protect Kuwait "against the spillover from the Iran-Iraq war" and did not address aggression that might result from the current oil and territorial disputes involving Iraq and Kuwait.(35) Indeed, Cheney had declined to speculate on how the United States might respond in the event Iraq moved to occupy Kuwaiti territory.(36)

However mixed or ambiguous the foregoing signals, the State Department thereupon notified the Iraqi ambassador in Washington that the United States would continue to support the sovereignty and integrity of the Gulf states and that Iraq's dispute with Kuwait must be settled peaceably and without intimidation.(37) State made the identical point on that same day, July 19, in cables to Ambassador Glaspie and United States ambassadors in other Arab capitals. Asserted the State Department, "While we take no position on the border delineation raised by Iraq with respect to Kuwait, or other bilateral disputes, Iraqi statements suggest an intention to resolve outstanding disagreements by the use of force, an approach which is contrary to U.N. principles." It stated further that the United States would "continue to defend its vital interests in the gulf" and was "strongly committed to supporting the individual and collective self-defense of our friends in the Gulf." Glaspie promptly passed the rather steely message to Iraqi officials.(38)

Meanwhile, the CIA, upon analyzing data collected by spy satellites hovering in the sky over the region of the Persian Gulf, had reported the deployment of large Iraqi military forces in the vicinity of the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier. What was Saddam up to! The prevailing view within the American intelligence community was that the deployment was intended to intimidate Kuwait and was not a harbinger of an invasion. But then, on July 24, architects of United States policy received an intelligence report that "Iraq now has ample forces and supplies available for military operations inside Kuwait."(39) Whereupon the

Washington government signaled its support of Kuwait and the UAE by announcing that the United States would undertake a joint naval exercise with the UAE- also would provide the UAE with two KC-135 aerial-refueling tankers. The announcement observed that the United States remained "strongly committed to supporting the individual and collective self-defense of our friends in the Gulf" and indicated that it was prepared to defend the "principle of free navigation and to ensure the free flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz," i.e., the narrow passage connecting the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean.(40)

During a press briefing on that same day, July 24, Spokesperson Margaret Tutwiler of the State Department announced that the United States remained "strongly committed to supporting the individual and collective self-defense of our friends in the gulf, with whom we have deep and longstanding ties" and that "Iraq and others know there is no place for coercion and intimidation in a civilized world." But she also observed, "We [the United States] do not have any defense treaties with Kuwait and there are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait."(41) Individuals who subsequently criticized the Bush administration's management of policy vis-a-vis the Iraqi-Kuwaiti crisis of the summer of 1990 suspected that the latter observation signaled Saddam Hussein that the Washington government was not apt to move to the defense of Kuwait in the event he hurled his tanks and troops against his Arab neighbor.

More damning, in the view of the Bush administration's later-day critics, were comments allegedly made by Ambassador Glaspie during an interview with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad on July 25, 1990. Excerpts from a purported transcript of the conversation, released by the Baghdad government on September 11, appeared in The New York Times on September 23.(42)

According to the foregoing transcript, Saddam opened the meeting with a monologue in which he enumerated what he perceived to be the tribulations of Iraq. "I clearly understand your message," Glaspie responded. "We studied history at school. They taught us to say freedom or death. I think you know well that we as a people have our experience with the colonialists." She reminded Saddam that President Bush had directed his administration to reject the suggestion of implementing trade sanctions against his country. Said the ambassador, "I have a direct instruction from the president to seek better relations with Iraq." She remarked that in his commentary opening the present meeting Saddam had mentioned "the issue of the article published by the American Information Agency and that [the article] was sad." She reminded the dictator that her government had made a formal apology in the matter of the article.

Glaspie said that she had seen a television program regarding Iraq on the American Broadcasting Company - a program narrated by Diane Sawyer. "And what happened in that program was cheap and unjust. And this is a real picture of what happens in the American media-even to American politicians themselves. These are the methods the Western media employs. I am pleased that you add your voice to the diplomats who stand up to the media. Because your appearance in the media, even for five minutes, would help us to make the American people understand Iraq."

The ambassador told the dictator, "I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country." Whereupon she uttered words that later-day critics of the Washington government's policy vis-a-vis the Iraqi-Kuwait dispute in the days before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait considered most revealing. "But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait. I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60's. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. [Secretary of State] James [A.] Baker [III] has directed our official spokesman to emphasize this instruction."

Glaspie brought up the matter of the massive deployment of Iraqi military forces in the south of Iraq. "Normally that would not be any of our business. But when this happens in the context of what you said on your national day [July 17, 1940], then when we read the details in the two letters of the foreign minister, then when we see the Iraqi point of view that the measures taken by the U.A.E. and Kuwait is, in the finally analysis, parallel to military aggression against Iraq, then it would be reasonable for me to be concerned. And for this reason, I received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship - not in the spirit of confrontation regarding your intentions." In response, Saddam said, "We want to find a just solution which give us our rights but not deprive others of their rights. But at the same time, we want the others to know that our patience is running out regarding their action, which is harming even the milk our children drink, and the pensions of the widow who lost her husband during the war, and the pensions of the orphans who lost their parents. As a country, we have the right to prosper. We lost so many opportunities, and the others [i.e., Kuwait, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states] should value the Iraqi role in their protection [from Iran]." Pointing to the interpreter, he said, "Even this Iraqi feels bitter like all other Iraqis."

Of the Glaspie interview and other "signals" emanating from the Washington government in July of 1990, a senior United States diplomat in the Middle East was reported to have said, presumably in the autumn of 1990 or the winter of 19901991, "We virtually gave him [Saddam Hussein] the green light [to attack Kuwait]. If I had been sitting where he was sitting and getting the signals he was getting from Washington and elsewhere at the time, I would probably also have gambled on the invasion of Kuwait."(43)

As for Glaspie, in separate appearance before the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate and the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, on March 20 and 21, 1991, respectively, she denounced the Iraqi transcript of her interview with Saddam as having been "maliciously" edited by the Iraqis "to the point of inaccuracy."(44) Of special note, she explained to the Foreign Relations Committee, the transcript included only one part of her sentence to Saddam Hussein explaining that the United States had no opinion on his quarrel with Kuwait. "The other part of my sentence was, 'but we insist that you settle your disputes with Kuwait nonviolently.' And he told me that he would do so."(45) "I told him orally we would defend our vital interests," the ambassador said, "[that] we would support our friends in the Gulf, we would defend their sovereignty and integrity." According to Glaspie, the foregoing statement was omitted from the Iraqi transcript.(46) Indeed, Glaspie told the senators, "I sensed that he was flummoxed-it had just occurred to him that we really might fight [to defend America's friends in the region of the Persian Gulf]." At that point, she went on, Saddam had "surrendered" and asked her to inform President Bush "that he would not solve his problems with Kuwait by violence, period."(47) What, then, had gone wrong! Why had the Washington government's policy before August 2, 1990, failed to deter Saddam from ordering an invasion of Kuwait! According to Glaspie, because "we foolishly did not realize he was stupid, that he did not believe our clear and repeated warnings that we would support our vital interests."(48)

On the following day, Representative Lee Hamilton, Democrat of Indiana, asked Glaspie, "You believe that Saddam Hussein clearly understood, without any shadow of a doubt, that if he went into Kuwait the United States was going to oppose him vigorously and strongly with all of its military power!" Replied Glaspie, "With all of its military power, no, I wouldn't suggest he thought we were going to nuke Baghdad, but I am absolutely sure he knew we would fight."(49) A few moments later, Hamilton asked, "Did you ever tell Saddam Hussein, [']Mr. President, if you go across the line into Kuwait, we are going to fight![']" Glaspie: "No, I did not. Absolutely not." Hamilton: "Yet you think he believed that [the United States would fight in the event of an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait]." Glaspie: "I certainly do. I told him we would defend our vital interests."(50) Responding to a query by Representative Benjamin A. Gilman, Republican of New York, Glaspie asserted, "Our best chance [to deter Saddam from ordering an invasion of Kuwait] was to tell him [that the United would fight to defend Kuwait], [to] draw a line in the sand. We did [draw a line in the sand], and he walked over it into defeat for himself and his country."(51)

Although the senators and representatives treated Glaspie with deference, there was considerable doubt in the minds of many Americans, including various of her intelocutors, that she had, in fact, been as unequivocal in her remarks to Saddam Hussein in July of 1990 as she appeared to remember in March of 1991. Or as Representative Tom Lantos, Democrat of California, stated to Glaspie, "Let me tell you, very few people were sure [in late July and early August of 1990] that we [the United States] would move militarily [in the event Saddam ordered an invasion of Kuwait]....For you to say in retrospect that Saddam Hussein absolutely knew that we would move in a military way is simply absurd."(52)

Reinforcing the doubts of Lantos and other critics of administration policy vis-a-vis Iraq before August 2, 1990, was the explanation offered by Glaspie and her superiors regarding the State Department's response (or lack of response) to the Iraqi transcript of Glaspie's interview with Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990. If the transcript misrepresented the ambassador's message to the Iraqi president, why had the State Department failed to denounce it as inaccurate at the time of its release in September of 1990! The department's explanation, in March 1991, that it had declined to contest the accuracy of the transcript because the Washington government did not wish to divert attention from the enterprise of organizing an anti-Iraqi coalition(53) failed to persuade critics of the Bush administration's Iraqi policy.

Then there was the matter of a cable that Glaspie had dispatched to Washington in late July of 1990 reporting her interview with the Iraqi president. According to Glaspie, the cable made clear that she had pressed Saddam Hussein to refrain from resorting to force to resolve his dispute with Kuwait.(54) But in the view of an unnamed "policymaker," Glaspie's cable had been "appalling." And in the words of an unnamed "senior State Department official," "Believe me, if we had thought at the time [the Iraqis released the foregoing transcript, in September 1990] that we could defend her with any credibility, we would have. But there were enough similarities between the transcript and her cable that we had to be guarded. As she described it in her cable, she did not adopt a harsh or tough tone toward him."(55) Or, as "a senior Administration official" expressed it, "If you read her cable you would not say that the entire Iraqi transcript was phoney baloney."(56) Unfortunately, the State Department turned aside requests by the chairmen of the Foreign Relations Committee and European and Middle East Subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee that it release Glaspie's controversial cable.(57) Nor did officials of the State Department consent to explain why, upon receiving Glaspie's cable, they failed to direct her to deliver a tougher message to Saddam, if they, in fact, believed she had taken an unduly soft line in her interview with the Iraqi dictator.

But then, a few months later, in July of 1991, in response to appeals by Senators Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island, and Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, the State Department provided the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with copies of the foregoing and other cables pertaining to the Iraqi-Kuwaiti crisis in late July of 1990. Having received copies of the cable from an unidentified source (or sources), The Washington Post promptly published excerpts from the cables, as did The New York Times.(58)

Those excerpts indicated that Glaspie - who during her appearance before committees of the Senate and House on March 20-21, 1991, insisted she had warned Saddam on July 25, 1990, that the United States would not tolerate a military move against Kuwait - had reported to superiors in Washington of her repeated comment to Saddam that President Bush sought improved relations with Iraq and did not seek a confrontation with the Baghdad regime. When she asked Saddam about Iraq's military buildup along its frontier with Kuwait and his "intentions," she explained that she had posed the question gently "in the spirit of friendship, not confrontation."(59) Commented Senator Pell, "No place [in the cable reporting the interview with Saddam] does she report clearly delivering the kind of warning she described in her [statement]...to the [Foreign Relations] committee [on March 20, 1991]. In some instances, her statement is contradicted by the reporting cable."(78) In a report that was published in The New York Times, the newswoman Elaine Sciolino observed that "most of her remarks appeared to be aimed at mollifying the Iraqi leader."(61) Or as the columnist Leslie H. Gelb expressed it, Glaspie "slobbered all over Saddam."(62) In addition to accusing the Bush administration of a willingness to be party to false statements to Congress, Senator Alan Cranston, Democrat of California, declared that "a stern warning to Saddam Hussein at that time could have prevented the invasion [of Kuwait] and all the death and destruction it caused."(63)

The cables contradicted Glaspie's testimony of March 20-21, 1991, in other respects. During her testimony to the congressional committees, Glaspie asserted that Saddam Hussein had assured her that Iraq would settle its disputes with Kuwait peaceably. But as Elaine Sciolino observed, Saddam, during the interview of July 25, 1990, made several veiled threats to the effect that he might feel compelled to use force against the Kuwaitis. For example, Glaspie, in one of the cables, quoted Saddam as having said that the impending American military maneuvers with the United Arab Emirates would encourage the U.A.E. and Kuwait to ignore conventional diplomacy. "If Iraq is publicly humiliated by the U.S.G. [United States government]," she continued, "it will have no choice but to 'respond,' however illogical and self-destructive that would prove." Then there was Glaspie's insistence during he hearings of March 20-21 that the aforementioned Iraqi transcript of the interview was fabrication. According to Sciolino, "with few exceptions her cables largely parallel the Arabic translation" of the Iraqi document.(64)

In a report that appeared in The New York Times as the presidential electoral campaign of 1992 was moving to a climax, Michael R. Gordon quoted Glaspie as having said in the cable, "Saddam, who in the memory of the current diplomatic corps, has never summoned an ambassador, is worried. He does not want to further antagonize us. With the [aforementioned] U.A.E. maneuvers [involving forces of the United States], we have fully caught his attention, and that is good. I believe we would be well-advised to ease off on public criticism of Iraq until we see how the negotiations develop."(65)

Later interpretations of the Glaspie interview aside, Middle Eastern specialists of the National Security Council and the State and Defense Departments, on receipt of Glaspie's cables, set about to draft a message to be sent by President Bush to Saddam Hussein. People at the NSC and State Department favored a conciliatory message, those in the Defense Department, believing Glaspie had come off weak in her meeting with Saddam, wanted to take a comparatively hard line The people at the NSC and State Department prevailed. Accordingly, Bush's message, dispatched on July 28, while emphasizing that the United States would support its friends of long standing in the region of the Persian Gulf and that the United States had "fundamental concerns about certain Iraqi policies and activities," was conciliatory: "I was pleased to learn of the agreement between Iraq and Kuwait to begin negotiations in Jedda to find a peaceful solution to the current tensions. . . . I also welcome your statement that Iraq desires friendship rather than confrontation with the United States. Let me assure you, as my Ambassador, Senator Dole and others have done, that my Administration continues to desire better relations with Iraq. . . . I completely agree that both our Governments must maintain open channels of communication to avoid misunderstanding and in order to build a more durable foundation for improving our relations."(66) In the words of Leslie Gelb, the presidential missive "lacked even the hints of steel" present in the State Department's cable to Glaspie of July 19, and, "inexplicably, did not mention the 100,000 Iraqi troops [that had been] spotted on the [Iraqi-Kuwaiti] border."(67)

Commenting on Bush's message in 1992, Henry S. Rowen, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs in July of 1990, said, "We were already seeing [Iraqi] troops moving [toward the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier]. We were getting worried, and we were putting up this piece of pap. It was just very weak. We should have been much more threatening." Describing American policy vis-a-vis the government of Saddam Hussein prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait as "a substantial policy and intelligence failure," Rowen told an interviewer in 1992 that a tougher line by the Bush administration might have persuaded Saddam to forego his invasion of Kuwait.(68)

At the same time it was emitting non-threatening signals to the regime in Baghdad via diplomatic channels, the Washington government was displaying its wish to placate Saddam in other ways. The Bush administration registered its objection when, on July 27, the Senate voted, 80-16, to impose economic sanctions against Iraq and to terminate loan guarantees to Iraq. Earlier in the month, while Saddam was stepping up his war of nerves against Kuwait, the administration had pressed for agricultural loans to Iraq and rebuffed efforts by the Departments of Commerce and Defense to restrict the export to Iraq of technologies that might be used for military as well as nonmilitary purposes.(69)

Meanwhile, the deployment of Iraqi forces in the vicinity of the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier continued. Of particular note, Saddam moved forward his artillery, logistical support aircraft, and air force. On the morning of July 28-a few hours before the president dispatched his aforementioned cable of July 28 to Saddam Hussein-CIA director William Webster showed Bush satellite photographs of Iraqi troops transporting ammunition, fuel, and water to points along the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier. Alan Friedman has written, "The infrared photography that Webster put in front of Bush that morning confirmed that this was no routine exercise. Some 35,000 Iraqi troops had massed and were ready to move. Four tank divisions in the same area were being joined by fuel trucks and tank transporters, an ominous sign that they were prepared to travel long distances."(70) On July 30, an analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency in Washington described Saddam's forces in the vicinity of the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier to be "disproportionate to the task at hand, if it is to bluff." If that were true, the only conclusion could be that he "intends to use it," presumably in a thrust across the frontier.(71) In the words of the reporter Tom Matthews, the analyst's "own shop didn't buy" his conclusion. According to Matthews, "Marine Corps officers, scanning satellite photos that showed Iraqi air-defense units, tanks and artillery deployed forward at the Kuwait border, surmised that this could only mean an invasion, but they kept silent because of bureaucratic pressures."(72)

Then, on July 31, 1990, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs John Kelly testified before the aforementioned Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. Later-day critics of Bush's management of policy surmised that Kelly's testimony had constituted another signal to Saddam that the United States was apt to undertake no armed intervention on behalf of Kuwaiti independence and territorial integrity.

Like Margaret Tutwiler one week before, Kelly emphasized that the United States had no defense treaty relationship with Kuwait or other Persian Gulf countries. The subcommittee chairman, Lee Hamilton, asked the assistant secretary, "If Iraq, for example, charged across the border into Kuwait, for whatever reasons, what would be our position with regard to the use of U.S. forces!" Responded Kelly, "That, Mr. Chairman, is a hypothetical [sic] or a contingency, the kind of which I can't go into. Suffice it to say we would be extremely concerned, but I cannot get into the realm of 'what if' answers." Hamilton: "In that circumstance, it is correct to say, however, that we do not have a treaty commitment which would obligate us to engage U.S. forces?" Kelly: "That is correct."(73) Within minutes, via the BBC World Service, Saddam Hussein listened to an Arabic translation of Kelly's testimony. In the view of John Cooley, the Iraqi president "must have felt . . . Kelly's statements confirmed signals he had already received, or so he believed, from April Glaspie" during his interview with the United States ambassador six days before.(74)

On the next day, August 1, the Bush administration approved the sale of advanced data-transmission devices to Iraq.(75) And on the day after that, August 2, Saddam sent his armed forces across the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier. What followed, to borrow the language of Christopher Ogden, a diplomatic correspondent of Time, was a belated 180-degree shift in United States policy toward Iraq.(76)

Did the Unite States, in fact, emit signals that encouraged Saddam Hussein to believe the North American superpower would not dispatch armed forces to rescue Kuwait in the event Iraq invaded its neighbor! Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh have suspected that it did. They mention the determination of the Washington government over an extended period "to sustain a policy of good relations with a state which, on the most favourable interpretation, was engaged in extortion and [was] in opposition to a number of central US foreign policy goals." The "unfortunate message" so conveyed "was compounded by an insistence that the United States had no position on the particulars of the Iraq-Kuwait dispute." Arguing that Saddam "was certainly sensitive to the possibility of US interference" should he order an invasion of Kuwait, Freedman and Karsh have written that an apparent effort by Saddam to calm the Washington government on the eve of the Iraqi invasion "was rewarded with more evidence of Washington's determination to pursue good relations [with Iraq] than of overt support for Kuwaiti sovereignty beyond general declarations." The outcome! "Saddam encouraged American self-delusion with regard to the crisis blowing over. Consequently, no attempt was made to provide explicit warning of the likely response to an overt act of aggression. As a result, Saddam in the end also deceived himself".(77)

In the view of Jeffrey Record, the Washington government's policy during the decade before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait encouraged Saddam Hussein to believe that he could deal with Kuwait with a free hand. "To put it bluntly," Record has written, "the overall burden of U.S. behavior toward Iraq right up to the invasion, and especially during the period between the end of the Iran-Iraq War and August 2, 1990, was a combination of indifference and appeasement." As for the Saddam-Glaspie interview of July 25, 1990, Record has concluded that "Glaspie's obsequiousness could hardly have alerted Saddam to the possibility that his impending move against Kuwait might elicit any response other than more appeasement. Indeed, in the view of Record, Glaspie flashed a veritable "green light" - gave "the penultimate signal" that Iraq could attack Kuwait with impunity.(78)

Judith Miller and Laurie Mylroie have written, "With an apparent American attempt to gain favor with Baghdad, and assurances that the United States had no security commitment to Kuwait, Saddam Hussein concluded that the way was clear for Iraq to assume the mantle of regional superpower status, to assert its historical claim to Kuwait, and above all to cut the Gordian knot of debt and simmering discontent left by the war with Iran."(79) In the view of Jean Edward Smith, the Bush administration "signaled the go-ahead to Iraq" to invade Kuwait.

What was worse, it also encouraged the Kuwaitis. In a word, according to Smith, the administration spoke with the proverbial forked tongue. "By saying it would not defend Kuwait, it encouraged Saddam to invade; by stressing its continued support for 'its longstanding friends in the area [of the Persian Gulf],' the Kuwaitis were given no incentive to compromise." By offering encouragement in both Iraq and Kuwait, Smith has concluded, "the United States bears substantial responsibility for what happened," i.e., for the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the resultant Gulf War.(80)

If the ghost of Senator Robert A. Taft, celebrated during the latter 1940s and early 1950s as America's "Mr. Republican," was perchance prowling the corridors of the federal capitol and nearby office buildings in the couple of years after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (particularly on March 20-21, 1991) and overheard assertions (or at least intimations) that the administration of President Bush had blundered by sending what proved to be tragically mistaken signals to the government in Baghdad in the days, indeed months, before August 2, 1990, it seems plausible that he murmured to himself (and to any other congressional ghosts that might have been in his company), "This is nothing less than deja vu. I made identical assertions regarding the Truman administration's management of policy during the time before North Korea's invasion of South Korea of June 25, 1950."

And so he had. On the day after President Harry S. Truman ordered United States air and sea forces to move to the defense of South Korea, whose army was in full retreat before the invading army of communist North Korea, on June 28, 1950, Taft spoke out on the floor of the Senate. Conceding that Americans must give unstinting support to United States forces deployed in defense of South Korea, he contended that a bungling and inconsistent foreign policy by Truman's Democratic administration was largely to blame for what was taking place in Korea. If the Washington government had intended to defend South Korea, he declared, it should not have withdrawn its armed forces from that country in 1948-1949 - and should have given notice of its intent. Had the United States so acted, he maintained, the North Koreans would not have unleashed their attack.(81) In a much-publicized book entitled A Foreign Policy for Americans, published in 1951, the Ohio senator reiterated the points made in the speech of June 28, 1950. He charged that statements by Secretary of State Dean G. Acheson and Senator Tom Connally, Democrat of Texas, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had been "a direct invitation to the North Koreans to attack."(82) In a speech to the Women's National Republican Club in January of 1952, Taft labeled the conflict in Korea the "Truman war," an unnecessary war that would not have come to pass if the Truman administration "had given notice that we were going to do exactly what we did do in the case of aggression."(83) That Truman's alleged mismanagement of policy had brought on the Korean War, of course, was an issue in the electoral campaign of 1952 that resulted in the elevation of General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower to the presidency. It was raised by such Republican spokesmen as Thomas E. Dewey and John Foster Dulles, as well as Eisenhower.(84) Taft's argument is hard to confute.

Clearly, the circumstances and perceptions that resulted in the Bush and Truman wars differed. In the latter 1940s and the first months of 1950, the United States and its allies and friends were locked in a Cold War confrontation with a Soviet empire that was headed by one of the premier butchers of modern times, Joseph Stalin. The most populous country in the world, China, was passing to the rule of Marxist-Leninists, and in 1949 the Soviet Union exploded an atomic weapon. Scores of millions of Americans were certain that communist traitors were "boring from within" to destroy America's traditional society and institutions. Tens of millions of Americans in 1949-50, in truth, suspected that the tide of history was running in favor of Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism, In 1990, the United States was savoring its triumph in the Cold War struggle. The Soviet empire was in the process of falling apart. The fear that China might infect all of East Asia with the poison of Marxism-Leninism had long since passed. The overbearing concerns of Americans in 1990 were that the country was losing is long-vaunted economic vitality, that the federal government was floundering in a sea of debt, that racial and cultural antagonisms threatened to tear the national social fabric asunder.

More to the point perhaps, the administration of Harry Truman, during the years before the Korean War, could scarcely be accused of coddling the tyrant Kim Il-sung. Such a statement could not be made with respect to the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, during the years before the Gulf War, in their relations with the tyrant Saddam Hussein. Prior to North Korea's invasion of South Korea, the United States had no diplomatic intercourse at all with Kim's regime in P'yongyang. The prospect of influencing the behavior of Kim and his henchmen by providing the P'yongyang government with economic and military assistance and professing friendship, one may say with certainty, never crossed the minds of Harry Truman and Dean Acheson. Not so with the likes of Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and James Baker in their approach to Saddam Hussein.

As for signals emitted by first the Truman and then the Bush administration regarding the probable response to an invasion of South Korea and Kuwait, respectively, those of the Truman administration were less equivocal, that is, more clearly indicated that the Washington government was apt to make no military response in the event of an invasion of South Korea by North Korea than did those forty years later that it was apt to make no such response in the event of an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Whereas any rational interpreter of signals emitted by governments in 1949-50 could scarcely avoid the conclusion that the United States would not rally to South Korea's defense in the event of an invasion, such an interpreter in 1990 might have had some doubts. For, as noted, the signals of the Bush administration in the weeks and months before August 2, 1990, were mixed-or garbled.

Where each administration went awry -- or, more to the point, blundered -- was in its failure to decide what it should do in the event North Korea invaded South Korea or Iraq invaded Kuwait and then emit signals accordingly. In a word, each violated an ancient maxim of diplomacy that a government should know its own mind and, when circumstances seem to require, make certain that its enemy knows its mind as well. It appears certain that such an approach to policy would have headed off the Korean War and probably the Gulf War. To excuse the Truman and Bush administrations for their blunders regarding Korea and Iraq, respectively, on the ground that Truman was distracted by the "loss" of China to the Maoists, the task of implementing the NATO alliance in Europe, and coping with the rantings of the infamous Senator Joseph R. McCarthy -- and that Bush was distracted by problems and challenges resulting from the the unraveling of the Soviet empire in Europe-is ludicrous. Both Truman and Bush presided over elaborate national security establishments charged with the responsibility of monitoring trouble spots in every corner of the globe and staying particularly alert to situations that, if not properly attended to, might require a response by United States armed forces.

Korea in 1950 and Iraq-Kuwait in 1990 clearly were trouble spots, and in each instance, there was ample reason to suspect that an invasion, by North Korea in 1950 and Iraq in 1990, might take place. What is incredible in retrospect is that neither the Truman nor the Bush administration apparently made anything approximating an in-depth study to determine what it should do in the event the military forces of North Korea in 1950 or those of Iraq in 1990 swarmed over the border of its neighbor to the south. To be sure, military chieftains in the Pentagon weighed possible responses by the United States should North Korea invade South Korea and concluded that an American intervention to rescue South Korea should not take place except in the highly unlikely event that the United Nations could muster some sort of international force and deploy it in Korea before the North Koreans swept over the entire peninsula. But following the withdrawal of the last American combat troops from South Korea in June of 1949, the makers and shakers of policy in the State Department scarcely considered the question of a North Korean invasion of South Korea at all. Or so the documentary record intimates. Shortly before the invasion of South Korea, it is true, those makers and shakers, in conjunction with counterparts in the national military establishment, formulated NSC 68, a document that provided a rationale for an armed intervention on behalf of South Korea. But there is no evidence that the conclusions of NSC 68 informed the administration's policy vis a vis Korea. Then, on June 25, 1950, North Korean forces crashed across the 38th parallel, and, after the fashion of the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, the Truman administration saw the light, and, as "Bob" Taft said, did precisely what it had given every indication it would not do, to wit, dispatched United States forces to rescue the faltering South Koreans.

As for the Bush administration, it apparently gave little if any thought as to how it might respond to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. That it failed to do so almost defies belief. One would think that leaders of the Bush administration might have weighed the question of America's response to an invasion of Kuwait in May of 1990 when Saddam Hussein announced that violation of OPEC oil quotas by Arab states constituted a declaration of war against Iraq. Or when Saddam, on July 17, 1990, declared that the indifference of other Arab states to Iraq's plight was tantamount to stabbing Iraq with a poisoned dagger. Or when Saddam, in the last fortnight of July, deployed powerful forces along the Iraq-Kuwaiti frontier. To be sure, the Bush administration was of the view that Iraq would not undertake a full-dress invasion of Kuwait-reckoned that, at most, the Iraqis might seize part of the Rumaila oil field and Warba and Bubiyan Islands.(85) Still, a full-dress invasion loomed as a possibility, and, in the view of a few observers and analysts, a probability. Like the Truman administration with respect to South Korea, then, the Bush administration did not know its own mind with respect to Kuwait, i.e., had not determined how the United States should respond in the event Saddam ordered his forces seize all of Kuwait.

As for the emission of signals to instruct a potential enemy on how a government is apt to respond to certain events, say, an invasion by an enemy of the territory of a friendly state, a government obviously must exercise caution. In 1949-50, a clear signal by the United States that it would move to the defense of South Korea in the event the North Koreans stormed over the parallel might have prompted the irascible Syngman Rhee to provoke an invasion from the north in the hope that the United States would enter the resultant conflict and, after halting the North Korean advance, drive the North Koreans northward to the Yalu and Tumen Rivers and unite the two halves of Korea under Rhee's regime in Seoul. Regarding Kuwait, the Bush administration obviously was reluctant to encourage the Kuwaitis to refuse any sort of compromise with the Iraqis by drawing a line in the sand at the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier and letting Saddam Hussein know that if his forces crossed the line they would have to fight Americans.

Alas, by failing to emit signals that it was apt to go to war, or would at least seriously consider going to war, in the event of a North Korean invasion of South Korea in 1949-50 or an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, the Washington government probably encouraged invasions that resulted in horrendous wars (in the case of Korea, one that was responsible for the deaths of approximately two million people, more than fifty thousand of them Americans).(86) As already stated, had the Washington government emitted signals indicating that it would do precisely the opposite-had it drawn a line at the 38th parallel in 1949-50 and along the Iraqi-Kuwaiti frontier in 1990-it almost certainly would have headed off the Korean War and Gulf War, respectively.

As for the Bush administration, it might have pondered the circumstances and perceptions that had prompted the Korean tragedy forty years before and learned from the errors of the Truman administration. Of course, Saddam Hussein might have consulted the same piece of history and recognized that the Washington government does not always know its own mind and, indeed, sometimes makes a precisely opposite response to that which it has led everyone (including, perhaps, itself) to expect. All of which may tend to prove another time-worn platitute, if not maxim, that nobody learns anything from history except that nobody learns anything from history.(87)

Notes

1. New York Times, August 2, 1990, pp. A1 and A6. See also Thomas B. Allen, F. Clifton Berry, and Norman Polmar, War in the Gulf (Atlanta: Turner Publishing, Incorporated, 1991), 65-70, and Otto Friedrich (editor), Desert Storm: The War in the Persian Gulf(Boston et al,: Little Brown and Company, 1991), 9-11.

2. New York Times, August 3, 1990, pp. A1 and A8. See also Jean Edward Smith, George Bush's War (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1992), 63-68.

3. "Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the Persian Gulf Crisis and the Federal Budget Deficit," September 11, 1990, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, George Bush, 1990, Book II (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1991), 1221; New York Times, September 12, 1990, pp. A1, A20, A21.

4. For the texts of resolutions pertaining to the Iraqi conquest of Kuwait that were adopted by the Security Council of the UN prior to Bush's speech, see Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, The Gulf War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (New York: Times Books, 1991), 137-43.

5. See report by Elaine Sciolino and Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, September 23, 1990, pp. 1 and 18.

6. New York Times, October 16, 1992, p. A15.

7. Smith, George Bush's War, 34.

8. Murray Waas and Craig Unger, "In the Loop: Bush's Secret Mission," New Yorker, LXVIII [68], 82.

9. Ibid.

10. Ibid., 82.

11. Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 26.

12. Ibid., 26-27.

13. Alan Friedman, Spider's Web: The Secret History of How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq (New York et al.: Bantam Books, 1993), 148-50.

14. Waas and Unger, "In the Loop," 83; Smith, George Bush's War, 45; Friedman, Spider's Web, 157.

15. Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 36.

16. U.S. Congress, United States-Iraqi Relations, 38-39; Friedrich, Desert Storm, 18; Allen et al., War in the Gulf, 60.

17. Waas and Unger, "In the Loop," 83.

18. Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 33-34; Friedman, Spider's Web, 158-59; Efraim Karsh and Inari Rautsi, Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography (New York et al.: The Free Press, 1991), 207-09.

19. Smith, George Bush's War, 45-46.

20. Ibid., 46-47; Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 32; Friedman, Spider's Web, 159; New York Times, April 3, 1990, pp. A1 and A8. For the text of Saddam's speech of April 1, 1990, see Ofra Bengio (editor), Saddam Speaks on the Gulf Crisis: A Collection of Documents (Tel-Aviv: Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, 1992), 50-61. Translated from Arabic, the quotation from Saddam's speech varies slightly in each of the sources.

21. Friedman, Spider's Web, 167-68.

22. Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 36-37; Friedman, Spider's Web, 161-62.

23. Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 37; Friedman, Spider's Web, 159-60; Smith, George Bush's War, 48; Allen et al., War in the Gulf, 61; Friedrich, Desert Storm, 19-20. For a transcript of Saddam's meeting with the senators, see Bengio, Saddam Speaks on the Gulf: Crisis, 61-84.

24. Smith, George Bush's War, 48-49; Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 37.

25. Friedman, Spider's Web, 160-61.

26. Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 39; Jeffrey Record, Hollow, Victory: A Contrary View of the Gulf War (Washington et al.: Brassey's [US], 1993), 18-20.

27. Smith, George Bush's War, 40.

28. Ibid., 37-38.

29. Ibid., 49; Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 45-46. For the texts of Saddam's speeches to the ACC summit of February 24, 1990, and the Arab summit of May 28, 1990, see Bengio, Saddam Speaks on the Gulf Crisis, 37-49 and 84-98.

30. Smith, George Bush's War, 50-51; Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 48-49; New York Times, July 19, 1990, p. A25, and July 20, 1990, p. A12.

31. "Saddam's Gulf of threats," Economist, CCCXVI, 7664, July 21, 1990, 37; Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 47-48; Smith, George Bush's War, 50.

32. Washington Post, July 19, 1990, p. A25.

33. Ibid., July 20, 1990, p. A12.

34. Smith, George Bush's War, 52.

35. Ibid.; Washington Post, July 20, 1990, p. A12.

36. Washington Post, July 20, 1990, p. A12.

37. Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 51.

38. Leslie H. Gelb, "Mr. Bush's Fateful Blunder," New York Times, July 17, 1991, p. A21, and Michael R. Gordon, "Pentagon Objected to Bush's Prewar Message to Iraq," Ibid., October 25, 1992, I, p. 14.

39. Smith, George Bush's War, 52; Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 51.

40. New York Times, July 25, 1990, pp. A1 and A8; Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 51; Smith, George Bush's War, 52-53.

41. Washington Post, July 25, 1990, p. A17.

42. New York Times, September 23, 1990, p. A18. A complete transcript of the meeting appears in Sifry and Cerf, The Gulf War Reader, 122-33. Included in the latter transcript are only a few nondescript passages that do not appear in the version published in The New York Times.

43. Russell Watson et al., "Was Ambassador Glaspie Too Gentle With Saddam?," Newsweek, CXVII,

44. Christopher Ogden, "In from the Cold," Time, CXXXVII, 13, April 1, 1991, 36. See also U.S. Congress, United States-Iraqi Relations, 11-12; New York Timer, March 21, 1991, pp. A1 and A15, and March 22, 1991, pp. A1 and A9; Washington Post, March 21, 1991, pp. A23 and A24; Watson, et al., "Was Ambassador Glaspie Too Gentle With Saddam!"; and an editorial in New York Times, March 23, 1991, p. 22. Inasmuch as Glaspie's appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on March 20, 1990, was in the nature of "an informal conversation" between Glaspie and the senators, no official record of the proceeding was made.

45. Watson et al., "Was Ambassador Glaspie Too Gentle With Saddam?"; New York Times, March 21, 1991, pp. A1 and A15.

46. New York Times, March 21, 1991, p. A1.

47. Ibid., p. A15; Washington Post, March 21, 1991, p. A24.

48. Washington Post, March 21, 1991, p. A23.

49. U.S. Congress, United States-Iraqi Relations, 8.

50. Ibid., 9.

51. Ibid., 13.

52. Ibid., 15.

53. New York Times, March 22, 1991, pp. A1 and A9. See also U.S. Congress, United States-Iraqi Relations, 35-37.

54. New York Timer, March 21, 1991, pp. A1 and A15; Ogden, "In from the Cold"; Watson et al., "Was Ambassador Glaspie Too Gentle With Saddam!"

55. Watson et al., "Was Ambassador Glaspie Too Gentle With Saddam!" 56. New York Times, March 22, 1991, p. A9.

57. Ogden, "In from the Cold"; Watson et al., "Was Ambassador Glaspie Too Gentle With Saddam"

58. Washington Post, July 12, 1991, pp. A1 and A26, and July 13, 1991, pp. A1 and A14; New York Times, July 13, 1991, pp. 1 and 4. See also Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1991, pp. A9 and A10, and International Herald Tribune (Paris), July 13-14, 1991, p. 2.

59. Washington Post, July 12, 1881, p. A26.

60. Washington Post, July 13, 1991, p. A14.

61. New York Times, July 13, 1991, p. 4.

62. Gelb, "Mr. Bush's Fateful Blunder," Ibid., July 17, 1991, p. A21.

63. Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1991, p. 10.

64. New York Times, July 13, 1991, pp. 1 and 4. The quotations appear in Sciolino's report and the excerpts from Glaspie's cable of July 25, 1990.

65. Ibid., October 25, 1992, I, p. 14.

66. Ibid.; Smith, George Bush's War, 58.

67. Gelb, "Bush's Fateful Blunder."

68. New York Times, October 25, 1992, I, p. 14.

69. Smith, George Bush's War, 59; Waas and Unger, "In the Loop," 83.

70. Friedman, Spider's Web, 166.

71. Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf War, 57.

72. Matthews, "The Path to War," Newsweek Commemorative Edition, America at War: From the Frenzied Buildup to the Joyous Homecoming (New York: Newsweek, Incorporated, 1991), 37.

73. U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, 101 Cong., 2 Sess., Developments in the Middle East, July 1990, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, July 31, 1990, 14; U.S. Congress, United States-Iraqi Relations, 8-9.

74. John K. Cooley, Payback: America's Long War in the Middle East (Washington et al: Brasseys (US), Inc., 1991), 188.

75. Ibid., 187.

76. Ogden, "How the U.S. Got into This War," 14.

77. Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 63.

78. Record, Hollow Victory, 24, 32.

79. Miller and Mylroie, Saddam Hussein and the Crisis in the Gulf(New York: Times Books, 1990), 190.

80. Smith, George Bush's War, 60, 62.

81. U.S. Congress, Congressional Record, 81 Cong., 2 Sess., Vol. 96, Pt. 7. 9319-22.

82. (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company), 103-06.

83. New York Timer, January 27, 1952, pp. 1 and 42; Newsweek, XXIX, 5, February 4, 1952, 20.

84. See Ronald J. Caridi, The Korean War and American Politics: The Republican Party as a Case Study (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1968), 226-227.

85. Freedman and Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 57.

86. The figure of approximately two million deaths as a result of the Korean War appears in J. David Singer and Melvin Small, The Wages of War, 1916-1965: A Statistical Handbook (New York: Wiley, 1972), 68-69. An editorial in the Korea Times (Seoul) on June 26, 1990, estimated that three million military-naval personnel and civilians died as a result of the war. As for American deaths, 33,629 Americans died in combat during the Korean War, another 20,617 of other causes [U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1955 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1955), 227.]

87. In the preface to Heartbreak Hod: A Fantasia in e Russian Manner on English Themes, published in 1919, George Bernard Shaw wrote, "Alas! Hegel was right when he said that we learn from history that men never learn anything from history." He was referring to a statement by George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, in the introduction to The Philosophy of History, first presented in lecture form in 1822-1823. According to Hegel, "Peoples and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it."

 

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