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Iraq Timeline Part VI: "The Invasion of Kuwait"


1990 AD Saddam Hussein, who has steeped his country in severe economic debt in order to pay for the war against Iran, accuses Kuwait of flooding the world market with oil, creating negative economic consequences for Iraq. Saddam also demands that Kuwait waive the large debt that Iraq owes them-a proposal which the Kuwaiti government promptly rejects. April Glaspie, the United States Ambassador to Iraq, tells Saddam Hussein that "we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait" (though she does encourage a diplomatic resolution) [6]. Iraqi officials interpret these statements as a signal that the U.S. will not get involved if the economic feud with Kuwait causes a war. Based on this interpretation, Saddam, hoping to free himself of debt and acquire water ports and additional oil resources, invades and conquers Kuwait. His soldiers initiate a series of mass slaughters and gang rapes of Kuwaiti civilians, sparking the outrage of the international community. Though he does commit these atrocities against Kuwaitis, many other stories are exaggerated by the international press. A story that Iraqi soldiers are removing babies from Kuwaiti hospitals and leaving them to die on hospital floors is reported by the press and believed by both politicians and human rights groups (like Amnesty International) but later proves to be a fabricated event. [7] 1991 AD George Bush Sr. assembles a large multinational force to liberate Kuwait from the Iraqi military occupation. According to Sandra Mackey, Bush succeeds in a "dazzling campaign of diplomacy [collecting] over thirty nations into a grand coalition to confront Iraqi aggression under the principles codified in the United Nations Charter." [8] U.S. forces launch an air and ground campaign against Iraq with two military objectives: expelling Iraqi forces from Kuwait and the destruction of Hussein''s Republican guards. Iraqi troops, demoralized by the oppression of the regime, retreat and surrender in large numbers. In a public address, Bush urges Iraqis to rise up in rebellion against Saddam''s regime. The $60 billion dollar U.S. led campaign is a quick and decisive victory, lasting only six weeks. In March of the same year, Shia groups in the south of Iraq begin to rebel against Saddam. In the north, a Kurdish rebellion is also initiated. Despite the fact that the Bush administration encourages the rebellion, he does not militarily support the uprisings. In fact, U.S. forces hinder the revolt''s efforts in several intentional and unintentional ways. "When the rebels in the river town of Nassariyah broke into an Iraqi army barracks to seize desperately needed guns and ammunition, the Americans in control of southern Iraq stop them. At the same time, U.S. army units throughout the zone of occupation in southern Iraq systematically blew up Hussein''s captured weapons stores and communications equipment rather than turning them over to the Shia insurgents." [9] The U.S., more afraid of a Shia-led Iraqi government than one led by Saddam, chooses not to aid the rebels. Israel, the U.S. strategic ally in the Middle East, also voices its opposition to regime change, despite the fact that Saddam has launched missiles into Tel Aviv. Nevertheless, even without assistance from the U.S., most expect the rebellions to be successful. Saddam''s military is weak and disloyal. His infrastructure is also being attacked on two fronts: the Kurdish North and the Shia South. It comes as a shock when both rebellions are crushed, resulting in the mass slaughter of many Iraqis, as well as the mass exodus of fifty thousand Kurds. Many Iraqis become resentful that the U.S. administration is unwilling to aid them in their revolt, despite Bush''s public endorsement of Iraqi civil war. Though the U.S. wins a military victory with "Operation Desert Storm," a huge humanitarian crisis is left in its wake. As economic sanctions begin to create additional suffering, more and more commentators in the Arab world begin to blame the U.S., at least in part, for the problems in Iraq. In response to the Shia uprising, Saddam Hussein expands a campaign to divert the water flowing into the southern marshes from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Historically, the marshes have been used as an labyrinthine escape route for southern rebels. The Ma''adan ("Marsh Arabs") who rely on this ecosystem for survival are put in serious jeopardy by Saddam''s actions, and the environmental consequences are also dire-the destruction of the marshland ecosystem, along with its native plants and wildlife, is described by the U.N. as the "environmental crime of the century." Saddam initiates a genocidal campaign against the Ma''dan, causing thousands to leave the country.

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