from the book
The CIAs Greatest Hits
by Mark Zepezauer
The Gulf War of early 1991 didn't change
much. Our old buddy, the despotic Emir of Kuwait, is back on his
throne. Our former buddy, Saddam Hussein, while knocked down a
peg or two, is still in power and as brutal as ever. Hundreds
of thousands of Iraqis are dead, hundreds of US veterans are suffering
from a mysterious disease, and the Persian Gulf has been ravaged
by the largest oil spill in history. The question naturally arises,
could any of this have been avoided?
The whole dispute started because Kuwait
was slant-drilling. Using equipment bought from National Security
Council chief Brent Scowcroft's old company, Kuwait was pumping
out some $14-billion worth of oil from underneath Iraqi territory.
Even the territory they were drilling from had originally been
Iraq's. Slant-drilling is enough to get you shot in Texas, and
it's certainly enough to start a war in the Mideast.
Even so, this dispute could have been
negotiated. But it's hard to avoid a war when what you're actually
doing is trying to provoke a war.
The most famous example of that is the
meeting between Saddam and the US Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie,
five days before Iraq invaded Kuwait. As CIA satellite photos
showed an Iraqi invasion force massing on the Kuwaiti border,
Glaspie told Hussein that "the US takes no position"
on Iraq's dispute with Kuwait.
A few days later, during last-minute negotiations,
Kuwait's foreign minister said: "We are not going to respond
to [Iraq]....If they don't like it, let them occupy our territory....We
are going to bring in the Americans." The US reportedly encouraged
Pitting the two countries against each
other was nothing new. Back in 1989, CIA Director William Webster
advised Kuwait's security chief to "take advantage of the
deteriorating economic situation in Iraq to put pressure on Iraq.''
At the same time, a CIA-linked think tank was advising Saddam
to put pressure on the Kuwaitis.
A month earlier, the Bush administration
issued a secret directive that called for greater economic cooperation
with Iraq. This ultimately resulted in billions of dollars of
illegal arms sales to Saddam.
The Gulf War further destabilized the
region and made Kuwait more dependent on us. US oil companies
can now exert more control over oil prices (and thus boost their
profits). The US military got an excuse to build more bases in
the region (which Saudi Arabia, for one, didn't want) and the
war also helped justify the "need" to continue exorbitant
levels of military spending. Finally, it sent a message to Third
World leaders about what they could expect if they dared to step
out of line.