Table of Contents

The Gulf War:

Overreaction & Excessiveness

By Hassan A El-Najjar

Amazone Press, 2001

The Root of Subsequent US Invasion of the Middle East

How 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 Brent Scowcroft,[1] memoirs of the Secretary of State James Baker,[2] and the Senate hearings conducted by Senator Sam Nunn.[3] 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 Linkage Impasse 

     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.[4] The initiative was dismissed outright because withdrawal was “conditional.”

     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 territories.[5] 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.[6]

     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 administration.[7] 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 international conference.[8]

     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 process.”[9] 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 destroy Israel=s 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.[10] "If he succeeds, then he will target Israel," Eagleburger added.[11]

     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 adversary."[12]

     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.[13]

       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 government.[14] He said: “for Israel, now is the time to lay aside once and for all the unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel.”[15]

     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.”[16] President 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.”[17]

       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.”[18]

     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 1-202-456-1414."[19] 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 representing Israel.[20]

       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.[21] 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 brought Israel=s 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.[22] 

More Rejected Initiatives 

     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.[23]

     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.[24]

     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.” [25]

     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."[26] 

     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 biological weapons.[27] 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 cold blood.

       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.[28] 

     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.[29] 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.[30] 

     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."[31]

     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.[32] 

     Moreover, President Bush and his advisors expressed their anger against Soviet “Arabists”[33] 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.[34]

     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.[35]

     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."[36] 

The Geneva Meeting 

     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 peacefully.

     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.[37]

       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.[38]

     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."[39]

       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.[40]

     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

“the 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."[41]

     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.[42] 

Democrats 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.[43] 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 administration=s 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.[44] 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.[45]

     On November 12, Senator Patrick Moynihan called upon the administration to have a UN and Congressional approval.

He 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.[46] 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."[47] 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.[48] 

     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 Kuwait.[49] 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.[50]

     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.[51]

     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."[52] But Senator Sam Nunn was the most outspoken member of Congress in opposition to the use of force. 

Sam Nunn[53] 

     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 peace.[54]

By 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.[55]

       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[56] 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 management.[57]

       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.

Dr. 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 produced.[58] 

General 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.[59] 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.[60]

James 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.[61]

Edward 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.[62]

Christine 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.[63] 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.[64]

Phebe 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.[65]

William 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.[66] 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.[67] 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.[68] 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 ordered to.[69]

Only 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.[70] 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.[71] 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.[72] 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 [73] (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.[74]

     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."[75]

     Nunn=s 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.[76]

     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. 

The Bakerian Diplomacy 

     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.[77] 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[78] to pay $17 billion each for war costs.[79] They agreed instantly knowing that much more is going to be paid for a long time to come.[80] 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 November 1990.[81]

     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.[82] In return for the Syrian participation, the Syrian foreign debts were forgiven.[83] 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.[84]

       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.[85]

     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.[86]

       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.[87]

     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.[88]

     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 country=s 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.[89]

As 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 yes vote.[90]

     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.[91]

     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.[92]

       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 Bakerian diplomacy. 


     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. 


1990 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).[93] 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. 182-260).[94] 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 Kuwait” (p.318).

       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.[95] 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. 402-404). 

       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” (p. 411).

       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 force.

       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,[96] 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. Spector.[97] 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.”[98]



[1] Bush and Scowcroft (1998)

[2] Baker (1995).

[3] U.S. Senate (1990).

[4] Cockburn (1991).

[5] Whitaker (1991).

[6] These are the Palestinian territories of Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the Syrian (Golan) Heights, and South Lebanon. 

[7] 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).

[8]. Peres (1993: 56-57).

[9]. WINEP (1988).

[10] “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.

[11] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 323).

[12] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 347).

[13] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 362).

[14] 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.

[15] Baker (1995: 121).

[16] Baker (1995: 122).

[17] Baker (1995: 127).

[18] Baker (1995: 124).

[19] Baker (1995: 131).

[20] 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.

[21] 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.

[22] Baker (1995: 540-541).

[23] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 365).

[24] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 367).

[25] Baker (1995: 292-293).

[26] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 368-69).

[27] Baker (1995: 303).

[28] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 377).

[29] President Bush used Israeli terminology, Temple Mount, in referring to Al-Aqsa Mosque (Bush and Scowcroft, 1998: 378). At least, he could have mentioned the Arab-Islamic name, as well.

[30] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 378).

[31] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 409).

[32] Baker (1955: 347-48).

[33] The term AArabists@ was used by President Bush, Secretary  Baker, and their aids as a way to criticize anyone who sympathizes with Arabs.

[34] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 423-24).

[35] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 440).

[36] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 448).

[37] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 419-20).

[38] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 424).

[39] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 437).

[40] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 437).

[41] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 441-443).

[42] Baker (1995: 356-361).

[43] Baker (1995: 331).

[44] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 389).

[45] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 391).

[46] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 396).

[47] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 429).

[48] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 413).

[49] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 440-41).

[50] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 443, 446).

[51] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 446).

[52] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 446).

[53] 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).

[54] Nunn (1983).

[55] Nunn (1990).

[56] 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, 1990: 82).

[57] Nunn (1990). 

[58] 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). 

[59] General Norman Schwarzkopf was the Commander of Central Command

   (U.S. Senate, 1990: 209). 

[60] 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, 182-260). 

[61] 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. 

[62] Dr. Edward Luttwak was an affiliate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (U.S. Senate, 1990: 304, 315-331). 

[63] 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. 

[64] 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).  

[65] 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).  

[66] 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). 

[67] 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). 

[68] 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). 

[69] 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: 659-680).  

[70] Dr. Henry Kissinger was the Secretary of State during the Nixon and   Ford administrations (U.S. Senate, 1990: 260-303). 

[71] 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.

[72] 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).

[73] Richard (Dick) Cheney was the Secretary of Defense during the Bush     administration (U.S. Senate, 1990: 638-658).

[74] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 426).

[75] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 439).

[76] Grimes and Barry (1997).

[77] Baker (1995: 305).

[78] 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.

[79] Baker (1995: 287-90).

[80] 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.    

[81] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 460-474); Baker (1995: 291).

[82] Bush and Scowcroft (1998: 409-412).

[83] Frontline (1998).

[84] Levrani (1997: 108).

[85] Baker (1995: 284, 372).

[86] Baker (1995: 299).

[87] Baker (1995: 305).

[88] Baker (1995: 309, 323).

[89] Baker (1995: 315, 316).

[90] Baker (1995: 319).

[91] Baker (1995: 317-18).

[92] Baker (1995: 320-21).

[93] U.S. Senate, 1990: 110.

[94] U.S. Senate, 1990: 180.

[95] U.S. Senate, 1990: 379-380.

[96] U.S. Senate, 1990: 459.

[97] U.S. Senate, 1990: 517-518.

[98] U.S. Senate, 1990: 665.


Table of Contents, Gulf War: Overreaction & Excessiveness, By Hassan A El-Najjar