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[casi] article: The lies we are told about Iraq

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The Lies We Are Told About Iraq

Pentagon propaganda got us into the first Gulf War. Will we be fooled a second

By Victor Marshall
Victor Marshall, a research fellow at the Independent Institute, a public
policy group, is the author of "To Have and Have Not: Southeast Asian Raw
Materials and the Origins of the Pacific War."
January 5 2003
OAKLAND -- The Bush administration's confrontation with Iraq is as much a
contest of credibility as it is of military force. Washington claims that
Baghdad harbors ambitions of aggression, continues to develop and stockpile
weapons of mass destruction and maintains ties to Al Qaeda. Lacking solid
evidence, the public must weigh Saddam Hussein's penchant for lies against the
administration's own record. Based on recent history, that's not an easy
The first Bush administration, which featured Dick Cheney, Paul D. Wolfowitz
and Colin L. Powell at the Pentagon, systematically misrepresented the cause
of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, the nature of Iraq's conduct in Kuwait and the
cost of the Persian Gulf War. Like the second Bush administration, it
cynically used the confrontation to justify a more expansive and militaristic
foreign policy in the post-Vietnam era.
When Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, the first President Bush
likened it to Nazi Germany's occupation of the Rhineland. "If history teaches
us anything, it is that we must resist aggression or it will destroy our
freedoms," he declared. The administration leaked reports that tens of
thousands of Iraqi troops were massing on the border of Saudi Arabia in
preparation for an invasion of the world's major oil fields. The globe's
industrial economies would be held hostage if Iraq succeeded.
The reality was different. Two Soviet satellite photos obtained by the St.
Petersburg Times raised questions about such a buildup of Iraqi troops.
Neither the CIA nor the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency viewed an Iraqi
attack on Saudi Arabia as probable. The administration's estimate of Iraqi
troop strength was also grossly exaggerated. After the war, Newsday's Susan
Sachs called Iraq the "phantom enemy": "The bulk of the mighty Iraqi army,
said to number more than 500,000 in Kuwait and southern Iraq, couldn't be
Students of the Gulf War largely agree that Hussein's invasion of Kuwait was
primarily motivated by specific historical grievances, not by Hitler-style
ambitions. Like most Iraqi rulers before him, Hussein refused to accept
borders drawn by Britain after World War I that virtually cut Iraq off from
the Gulf. Iraq also chafed at Kuwait's demand that Iraq repay loans made to it
during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Administration officials seemed to understand all this. In July 1990, U.S.
Ambassador to Baghdad April Glaspie told Hussein that Washington had "no
opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait," a
statement she later regretted.
The National Security Council's first meeting after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait
was equally low key. As one participant reportedly put it, the attitude was,
"Hey, too bad about Kuwait, but it's just a gas station -- and who cares
whether the sign says Sinclair or Exxon?"
But administration hawks, led by Cheney, saw a huge opportunity to capitalize
on Iraq's move against Kuwait. The elder Bush publicly pronounced, "a line has
been drawn in the sand," and he called for a "new world order ... free from
the threat of terror." His unstated premise, as noted by National Security
Advisor Brent Scowcroft, was that the United States "henceforth would be
obligated to lead the world community to an unprecedented degree" as it
attempted "to pursue our national interests."
The administration realized that a peaceful solution to the crisis would
undercut its grand ambitions. The White House torpedoed diplomatic initiatives
to end the crisis, including a compromise, crafted by Arab leaders, to let
Iraq annex a small slice of Kuwait and withdraw. To justify war with Hussein,
the Bush administration condoned a propaganda campaign on Iraqi atrocities in
Kuwait. Americans were riveted by a 15-year-old Kuwaiti so-called refugee's
eyewitness accounts of Iraqi soldiers yanking newborn babies out of hospital
incubators in Kuwait, leaving them on a cold floor to die.
The public didn't know that the eyewitness was the daughter of Kuwait's
ambassador to the United States, and that her congressional testimony was
reportedly arranged by public relations firm Hill & Knowlton and paid for by
Kuwait as part of its campaign to bring the United States into war.
To this day, most people regard Operation Desert Storm as remarkably clean,
marked by the expert use of precision weapons to minimize "collateral damage."
While American TV repeatedly broadcast pictures of cruise missiles homing in
on their targets, the Pentagon quietly went about a campaign of carpet
bombing. Of the 142,000 tons of bombs dropped on Iraq and Kuwait in 43 days,
only about 8% were of the "smart" variety.
The indiscriminate targeting of Iraq's civilian infrastructure left the
country in ruins. A United Nations mission in March 1991 described the allied
bombing of Iraq as "near apocalyptic" and said it threatened to reduce "a
rather highly urbanized and mechanized society ... to a preindustrial age."
Officially, the U.S. military listed only 79 American soldiers killed in
action, plus 59 members of allied forces.
A subsequent demographic study by the U.S. Census Bureau concluded that Iraq
probably suffered 145,000 dead -- 40,000 military and 5,000 civilian deaths
during the war and 100,000 postwar deaths because of violence and health
conditions. The war also produced more than 5 million refugees. Subsequent
sanctions were estimated to have killed more than half a million Iraqi
children, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and other
international bodies.
The Gulf War amply demonstrated the merit of two adages: "War is hell" and
"Truth is the first casualty." To date, nothing suggests that a second Gulf
War would prove any less costly to truth or humans.[1]

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