The Ages Old Persian Gulf Problems
“There is every indication that the gang of eight running US war policy gave little thought to the aftermath of there carpet-bombing of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure and are now praying Iraq will escape Lebanonization. But if the decades-old Iraq-Kuwait dispute is any guide, imposed settlements do not bring peace to the Middle East. They plant the seeds of future wars” (“No War, No Peace” pp435-436). Wars in the Persian Gulf area can be traced back to the contentions caused by the end of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century which escalated as oil usage boomed and individual countries fought over rights to oil fields in unresolved border areas (Paul Rogers; “The Economist” p44). Iraq’s role in the gulf war began as a country fighting for oil rights, and defense against aggressors like Iran and Kuwait who were supporting dissensions within Iraq, and forcing oil prices down thus hurting Iraq’s economy. Once Iraq was well organized and supplied with US military weapons they were condoned and punished for taking matters into there own hands. Contentions with other Middle East countries, continued disputes over oil rights in the Persian Gulf area, and the possible justification of Iraqi aggressions, bring up moral and ethical questions of US involvement in the Gulf wars through violent methods, and the forcefulness of US policing policies, in general.
If it is true that a ‘just violence’ is the only way to throw off an ‘unjust violence,’ and that the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was unjust then the US leading a campaign against Iraq to free Kuwait must be justified, right? Many war advocates state that there are times when war is inevitable and necessary, and that the golf war was one such case. Kuwait was freed from whom President George Bush repeatedly gave the label of a modern day Hitler, while claiming to have undone the Vietnam war (Nomi Morris p30).
Saddam Hussein claimed Iraq “had been invited into Kuwait by pro-Iraqi “Provisional free Kuwaiti Government” that . . . [had] broadcasting from Kuwait City” (Paul Rogers). Iraq was suffering from the eight years of war debts created from the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. These debts along with Kuwait’s continued over production of oil — despite its OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) oil quotas and plans from the UAE (United Arab Emirates) to rase oil prices — dropped oil prices by more then 20 percent, and other past contentions between the two countries, lead Saddam to believe that Iraq was falling victim to conspiracy and economic aggressions (Paul Rogers). Saddam had even at one point stated “if words fail to protect Iraqis, something must be done to return things to their natural course,” and after invading Kuwait he insisted he would only remain until a Pro-Iraqi government was in place (Paul Rogers). Saddam was doing what he felt was best to insure the future of his country’s existence, and all the US truly had to fear were higher oil prices.
Supporters of US involvement in the Gulf have clammed that not only would Saddam’s actions cause higher oil prices, but could create an economic disaster. If Iraq were to monopolize the area’s oil production and hold out on the US, the US would no longer be able to function. The trucking industry would halt, air travel would be cut off, and the result would be the complete break down of the US economy. Saddam might have set Kuwaiti oil fields on fire and left them to burn, and with nobody there to put them out it would have caused a world wide ecological disaster.
Even if Saddam had monopolized the oil industry, he would have used his position to rase oil prices in order to pay off Iraq debts from the oil revenues. If he had cut off oil supply to the US, the US would still have oil available from the US oil industry (Utah is self sufficient in oil production, and at times exports oil to other states), and even though prices would rise and future availability would be in question, it would still give the US the time and incentive to convert to more easily obtained and economically save fuels. Saddam also refrained from lighting the oil fields on fire until he was force to retreat which can be seen as a last effort to rase oil prices as it would take time to put out all the fires and rebuild the oil fields. Iraqi solders had set 150 of the 950 oil wells ablaze upon entry into Kuwait, but could have been done just as inadvertently as the 30 oil wells set of by US air attacks (Paul Rogers).
Many stated that the US was wasting money in Desert Shield, and should hurry up and finish the job. The Bush administration was listening as they were in and out of the Middle East in fewer then six months. The shortness of the war was attributed to its efficiency. The US and the UN had already placed economic embargoes on Iraq, but many stated that the embargoes were very expensive to the US and were accomplishing nothing. Saddam managed to keep himself and his important officials fed, while Iraqi civilians went hungry. There were also reports of Kuwaiti’s being beaten, and raped, along with other horrifying stories of Iraqi disregard for Kuwaiti civilians.
There was another way as there is always the option of nonviolent resistance. Iraq was already in a starvation situation because of the Iraq-Iran war. “Iraq is one of the world’s largest oil producers and it loses huge amounts of money if oil exports are prohibited . . . Iraq would lose so much money every day the embargo remained in effect that it was in the interest of Iraq to get these questions solved quickly (Rolf Ekéus pg. 4).” Saddam had invaded Kuwait in August of 1990, but by February 1991 the US had made up its mind to use military force against Iraq. This gave the embargo against Iraq fewer then six months. Saddam didn’t have enough time to even think about the effect of the embargo. Gandhi, and other such nonviolence advocate would argue that six months is barley enough time to make the advisory realize you’re serious. Tomas Jefferson would likely be seen as an advocate of US involvement to forcefully eradicate Kuwait’s oppressor, but would more likely condone the Bush administration for being hasty in going to war. Jefferson, and other New England colonist had searched out other alternatives before declaring war. The US today spends resources to enforce an arms embargo against Iraq thus the US should have been able to continue the original embargo that may have produced better results with less cost to the US monetarily and in human costs. Many of the stories about Iraqi brutality in Kuwait were unfounded, and it would appear as though the US was responsible for more civilian deaths then was Iraq as, according to US military reports, only hundreds of Kuwaiti’s lost there lives compared to estimates of up to 100,000 Iraqi solders killed (Paul Rogers). One such case of excessive US brutality “on February 26, Saddam Hussein broadcasted an order for immediate and total withdrawal from Kuwait. This flight was chaotic and disorganized. Large convoys of army vehicles and commandeered civilian vehicles clogged the two highways into Iraq. These were caught in intense air attacks–U.S. airmen called it a “turkey shoot”–that caused enormous casualties” (Paul Rogers 1991). “It has become more and more apparent that what was viewed as a near perfect victory in February 1991, created many loose ends – both in the Middle East and in the United States” (Nomi Morris p30). The US still today spends resources to enforce an arms embargo against Iraq, and thus it seems they should have been able to continue the original embargo. An embargo that may have produced better results where the war has merely created more problems. Why didn’t we continue the embargo? Could it have something to do with Bush administrations idea of a ‘New world Order’ which would turn the US into the police department of the UN? Some reports have speculated that Saddam was undoubtably prone to an internal coup against him, but he still remains in power to this day.
The Golf war was considered to be a very precisely planed and executed operation which minimized casualties on all sides. The use of ‘Smart Bombs’ supposedly helped to accomplish this task. “Even through phrases such as “surgical strikes” and “pinpoint accuracy” are exaggerations, it is beyond doubt that laser-guided missiles and Tomahawk cruise missiles, for example, are much more accurate than the gravity bombs dropped from American B-29’s and British Lancasters in World War II . . . a quantum leap in precision has increased the capacity of weapons to strike military targets and minimize indirect damage to civilians” (Steven J. Pope p10). This 6-week war caused 148 US casualties, and left more then 350 wounded. Iraqi casualties are unknown with estimates ranging from 1,500 to 100,000 (Chuck Myers), but what such reports fail to recognize is the aftermath of this war.
The military misled the public. The US government has since handed out $110 million to many of the 30,000 soldiers who have sought help for Gulf War syndrome. Success rates for cruise missiles were based on the percent that were successfully launched (about 98%) rather then the meager 40% that hit their targets. These ‘Smart Bombs’ only account for less then 10% of the total munitions tonnage dropped on Iraq, but represent more than 80% of total munitions cost(Steven J. Pope p10). “Malnutrition has claimed the lives of more than 500,000 [Iraqi] children since the Gulf War ended” (Nomi Morris p30). With these and other postwar questions, the American people must be force to reconsider the human cost of a war that has left so many loss ends.
Violent means of protest and forceful changes are merely means that lead to the necessity for nonviolent ends; otherwise the violence continues, or loss ends are left open. Gandhi and King would likely agree that without the finalization of nonviolent peace talks, wars would never truly be resolved, and contentions would remain. The Gulf war has unnecessarily caused a very substantial human cost for the US, and possibly not saved a single life of any Iraqi, or Kuwaiti when compared with an embargo upon Iraq that what might have been much more finalizing even though it would have needed more time; however, the gulf “has been on simmer for five years” (Nomi Morris p30). The US over the decades has been hypocritical with Iraq as the US has, in the past, supported Iraq with arms to help secure oil in the middle east for future US needs; however, once Iraq gets organized enough to use these weapons, and finds a necessity to take matters into its own hands (as the US did in Iraq, has done many times before, and continues to do today), the US slaps Iraq on the hand and forces Iraq to put their annoyances back. The US has not properly dealt with Middle East policy, and hopefully has learned that violent force in the Middle East will not fix age-old problems.
Morris, Nomi. “Echos of Desert Storm.” Maclean’s. 16 Sep. 1996: v109, n38, p30(1).
Myers, Chuck. “Gulf War at a Glance.” Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service. 16 Jan. 1996: p116K8307.
Pope, Steven J. “You Can’t Keep a Good Theory Down.” Commonweal. 12 Feb. 1993: 9-12.
“Sharper Lines in Arabia’s Sands.” The Economist. 21 Jan. 1989: v310, n7586, p44(1).
“No War, No Peace.” The Nation. 8 Apr. 1991: 435-436.
Ekéus, Rolf. Interview. America. 14 Aug. 1993: 4-5.