Glaspie Memo Vindicates Her, Shows Saddam’s Thinking

Wikileaks has released the July 25, 1990 cable by US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie in which she reported her meeting with Saddam Hussein over the Kuwait crisis. Saddam had summoned her.

The cable’s text supports Glaspie’s accounts of the meeting and exonerates her from the charges by her political enemies in the US Congress that she inadvertently gave Saddam a green light to invade Kuwait.

She pressed the dictator on the meaning of his troop build-up on the Kuwaiti border, letting him clearly know of American anxieties, speaking of then President George H. W. Bush’s

STRONG DESIRE, SHARED WE ASSUME BY IRAQ, FOR PEACE AND STABILITY IN THE MID EAST. IS IT NOT REASONABLE FOR US TO BE CONCERNED WHEN THE PRESIDENT AND THE FOREIGN MINISTER BOTH SAY PUBLICLY THAT KUWAITI ACTIONS ARE THE EQUIVALENT OF MILITARY AGGRESSION, AND THEN WE LEARN THAT MANY UNITS OF THE REPUBLICAN GUARD HAVE BEEN SENT TO THE BORDER? IS IT NOT REASONABLE FOR US TO ASK, IN THE SPIRIT OF FRIENDSHIP, NOT CONFRONTATION, THE SIMPLE QUESTION: WHAT ARE YOUR INTENTIONS?

Her infamous reference to the US not getting involved in inter-Arab disputes referred to a limited issue, the exact border between Iraq and Kuwait, and could not possibly have been interpreted as permission to invade Kuwait!

The memo does shed light on Saddam Hussein’s paranoid and desperate mind set. He maintained that Iraq was in financial crisis after the Iran-Iraq War, and provoked his translator to tears by saying that stipends for orphans were about to be cut off. He accused the US of conspiring with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates to have them break their petroleum export quotas, set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, so as to keep oil prices low. (Iraq at that time claimed that it lost $1 bn. in revenues for every dollar the price of oil fell as a result of Kuwaiti and other over-production). He also claimed that Iraq had been serving US interests in fighting the war with Iran (1980-1988), since the US public in the aftermath of Vietnam would never have put up with the US military taking 10,000 casualties in a single battle, as the Iraqi soldiers had.

This discourse seems to me to give a clue as to why Saddam was not afraid of a US reprisal for his invasion of Kuwait. He thought the US was paralyzed by the Vietnam Syndrome; and he thought that the US was anyway his enemy by then and attempting to undermine his country’s economy. No wonder he threw caution to the winds and invaded Kuwait a few days later.

In any case, Ms. Glaspie’s detractors owe her an apology.

40 Responses

  1. So you have now accepted the Wikileaks version of Glaspie’s cable as the definitive, true version? Am I to further assume that you believe all of Wikileaks releases, no matter how they may conflict with previously public versions, to be true, accurate, untainted, unedited, unsorted, not altered, not cherry-picked, and not released by a person or entity(ies) with a hidden agenda? If you have any reservations about the accuracy of some Wikileaks releases, how are you differentiating this one into the ‘true’ category? I ask this in the same spirit I would question any news release.

    • As a professional historian, I have to say that your comment makes no sense at all to me. The State Department cable traffic is a primary source, but each document must be weighted in just the way professional historians typically proceed. A cable from Glaspie about her meeting with Saddam is excellent evidence for what she thought about her meeting, and there is no reason to think she was lying about the substance.

      • If I have confused you I must achieved some kind of dubious pinnacle. Perhaps I am the one confused. I was essentially pointing out that Wikileaks is news simply because there is no corroborating document (and I assume there is not, because Wikileaks document was supposedly secret). If there is a public document and Wikileaks version is identical, there is nothing newsworthy to the Wikileaks release. If there was no previous public release of Glaspie’s cable, by what evidence should one totally accept the Wikileaks cable as accurate?

        • Professional historians have to deal with this problem of authenticating texts all the time. We have tools for it. They only take about 8 years to acquire. They are not infallible.

      • Professor Cole,

        You may think this question is sarcasm in light of my relatively critical comment below but I am sincere: I am very interested in learning more about historians’ methods and analysis (e.g., “each document must be weighted in just the way professional historians typically proceed.”) Can you recommend any books or perhaps introductory classes that I might access in order to begin to educate myself better? I’m not sure that graduate school is a realistic possibility for me. Thank you.

        • E.H. Carr, “What is History?” is a good place to start. And Eric Hobsbawn, “On History.” But the best thing is to read a good historian, follow the footnotes, and follow the reasoning and the way the documents are used, the care taken to situate them and their author, to weight them against other accounts, etc.

        • Thanks Professor Cole. I will look into these books. Are there any historians you would recommend on either the ancients or on something in the period of 1850-1950?

    • Why not read the transcript of the meeting.

      link to chss.montclair.edu

      It was not just Glaspie that gave the green light for Iraq’s attack on Kuwait. Secretary of State James Baker, Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly, State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutwiler and many more stated the same.

      But here’s the twist four years after the 1st Gulf War Tarik Aziz in an interview said Iraq never thought the US was them the green light because they knew it was a trap.

      Kuwait was the bait.

  2. Sounds vague to me.

    Ms. Glaspie was appointed ambassador very late in the US/Saddam game, I think first to somehow mop up or validate the disaster the Reagan/Bush Sr. administration had just perpetrated on Iraq, and secondly to serve as a scapegoat. She was basically handed a steaming pile of cr_p, and seems on the surface to be a poor choice to handle such a situation. There is a clear picture that the Reagan/Bush Sr. policy was to simply destroy Iraq (or Muslim controlled oil?) by any means- first by starting and escalating a terrifying regional war, then by crushing Iraq economically during the desperate post war period, and then refusing to warn against, in no uncertain terms, the invasion of Kuwait (planned in order to bolster Iraq’s oil market and stop slant drilling), and ultimately by direct attack.

    This is no defense of Saddam, only recognition that he was Reagan and Bush Sr.’s ally, or at least their useful proxy, whom they then used to rationalize destroying an entire country. Bush jr. simply continued his father’s policy on a more ambitious scale (although interesting to note that support for Iraq during the war started under Carter/Brzezinsky, a fact later exploited by Haig in escalating the war).

    Upon finally seeing (about ten years ago) the C-SPAN video of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioning Ms. Glaspie, it seemed she was providing only the most vague, indeterminate answers. Annoyingly so, as if to just get through the hearing; it reminded me of the Watergate hearings. I can only wonder if she was forced into a huge cover up for her bosses (or someone), and I think she was scapegoated. The Wikileaks cable just demonstrates what she testified at the time- she did not provide a green light, but she also did not provide a red light, and that has always been the criticism against her. In the world of diplomacy, her ambiguous statement to Saddam regarding Kuwait (similar in nature to her communication with Saddam?) seemed just enough of a slap on the wrist to allow Bush Sr. plausible deniability later. What is clear is what she did not state she told Saddam in this cable- “if you cross one boot into Kuwait we will bomb you to pieces”, though that is exactly what Bush Sr. knew to be true, and perhaps why he had such a keen interest in updates about Saddam- not to prevent anything, rather to predict when there would be adequate justification for an attack. Glaspie’s message to Saddam as described in the Wikileak cable was non-existent, only offering a vague question, which Saddam intended to answer only by invading. Glaspie had the unfortunate circumstance of being unable to substantiate claims about what she told Saddam, she seemed to have differing descriptions at different times, and has backtracked, such as in her opinion of the Diane Sawyer piece, which, all combined, has led some to question her credibility. Also interesting to note her apparent duties in several countries just prior to genocides or wars. Which all begs the question- what is the true story of this mysterious woman?

    link to kadaitcha.com

    …”When I interviewed Haig several years ago, I asked him if he was troubled by the pattern of deceit that had become the norm among international players in the 1980s. “Oh, no, no, no, no,” he boomed, shaking his head. “On that kind of thing? No. Come on. Jesus! God! You know, you’d better get out and read Machiavelli or somebody else because I think you’re living in a dream world! People do what their national interest tells them to do and if it means lying to a friendly nation, they’re going to lie through their teeth.”…

    link to ajr.org

    link to youtube.com

    link to en.wikipedia.org

    link to babel.hathitrust.org

    possible 2008 interview of Glaspie in Lebanese newspaper:
    link to drugaddict.livejournal.com

    link to informationclearinghouse.info

    link to fas.org

    • Was the concern of Reagan/Bush really oil or was the concern really, fomented by the Israel lobby, that a strong Iraq could pose some kind of threat to Israel. See Osirak, 1981.

  3. Ҧ4. SADDAM, WHOSE MANNER WAS CORDIAL,
    REASONABLE AND EVEN WARM THROUGHOUT THE ENSUING
    TWO HOURS, SAID HE WISHED THE AMBASSADOR TO
    CONVEY A MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT BUSH. SADDAM
    THEN RECALLED IN DETAIL THE HISTORY OF IRAQ’S
    DECISION TO REESTABLISH DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS
    AND ITS POSTPONING IMPLEMENTATION OF THAT
    DECISION AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR, RATHER THAN BE
    THOUGHT WEAK AND NEEDY. HE THEN SPOKE ABOUT THE
    MANY “BLOWS” OUR RELATIONS HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO
    SINCE 1984, CHIEF AMONG THEM IRANGATE. IT WAS
    AFTER THE FAW VICTORY, SADDAM SAID, THAT IRAQI
    MISAPPREHENSIONS ABOUT USG PURPOSES BEGAN TO
    SURFACE AGAIN, I.E., SUSPICIONS THAT THE U.S. WAS
    NOT HAPPY TO SEE THE WAR END.”

    I guess the Irangate revelations pissed him off heaps too. Knowing that both Iran and Iraq had been played the fool while the US and Israel sold both sides weapons and provided intel to keep them fighting and killing each other so than no side could ‘win’.
    When you look at many of the cables much is about highlighting regional instability – in fact upping the instability while the USG pimps for weapons contracts and ‘security assistance’. Perhaps this is at the heart of the problems that beset American society. So dependent upon weapons and killing machines to keep the economy going. And politicians so wedded to these industries to maintain their local base of support. Simplistic maybe but pernicious on the body politic.

  4. What about the reporting by the St. Petersburg Times about commercial Russian satellite photos of the region, photos that showed there was no military buildup and that Bush Sr. overexaggerated the actual threat from Saddam?
    link to csmonitor.com

    link to zcommunications.org

    Quoting from the Znet article:
    “leven years ago, during the lead-up to the Gulf War, photos from a Soviet satellite indicated that the Bush-Quayle administration was lying when it claimed that at least 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks were in Kuwait by the second week of September 1990. Much of the initial public rationale for a U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf that fall was based on the claim that those troops represented an imminent threat to invade Saudi Arabia (at a time when more than 100,000 U.S. soldiers were already stationed in that country).

    After purchasing photos of the region from a Soviet commercial satellite agency, the St. Petersburg Times published a front-page article on January 6, 1991—more than a week before the Gulf War began—reporting that “Soviet satellite photos of Kuwait taken five weeks after the Iraqi invasion suggest the Bush administration might have exaggerated the scope of Iraq’s military threat to Saudi Arabia at the time.” Analysis of the photos indicated that the actual Iraqi troop strength in Kuwait was perhaps 25 percent of the figure that the White House had trumpeted while building its war agenda.

    The St. Petersburg Times reporting on the satellite photos got little play in the national media. (Similar information had gotten only a few drops of ink in autumn 1990 without gaining any prominent media attention.)”

  5. I agree with those who suggest that Glaspie’s CYA cable is not to be taken seriously. If her vague comment about not being concerned about the dispute around the Iraq-Kuwait border is not sufficient, do remember that Saddam also complained about Kuwait’s slant drilling into Iraqi oil fields and other issues. Glaspie quite definitely gave Saddam the specific idea that the US had no problem with however he wanted to do to address his complaints against Kuwait.

    People need to stop assuming that every word in a State Department cable released by Wikileaks is necessarily true. They’re not – they’re just as much lying and deluded as the statements issued by the US government to the population.

    • I agree. What has struck me about this entire Wikileaks story is the unprofessionalism of our journalist/media class. They don’t do shit. They don’t ask questions, they don’t dive deeper, they don’t look up discrepancies, they’re completely and utterly un-curious. I’ve seen paraplegic patients with more activity than our media class. As the RT interview above reveals, governments know very well about these whistleblowing organizations and may plant misinformation to be leaked and uncritically accepted as truth.

  6. Just don’t see how you can read the text as exoneration of the Bush Administration and Glaspie. the border dispute was the ostensible casus belli, or at least one of them, and we proclaimed no interest in it whatsoever.

    There’s no message indicating any potential consequences to Iraq for military action. In this situation, with troops massed on the border, diplomacy calls for much more forceful language if the state in question intends to respond militarily. Nowhere in the cable does Glaspie deliver any message along the lines of “the U.S. considers the territorial integrity of Kuwait to be a vital American interest and we will take any necessary action to secure that integrity.” Quite the opposite. On the pretextual question of the border, we take no position.

    I think Glenn Greenwald’s take today is closer to the truth than yours or El Pais. It was a green light. No apologies necessary. It’s certainly not a clear exoneration.

    What’s particularly outrageous about Glaspie’s comment on the border is that after Iraq invaded, Bush deliberately ignored Soviet efforts to negotiate a withdrawal linked to a settlement of the border dispute, efforts that contemporaneous news accounts suggested may have had some possibility for success. Obviously, “negotiating” a border dispute while occupying the other party to the dispute is a disgraceful violation of the UN charter. But the Bush Administration refused even to pursue it as a resolution to the conflict, pushing forward with a military attack, even though the action might have been avoided through a forced resolution of an issue on which the US months earlier professed no interest at all.

    The results — hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, the beginning of the catastrophic degradation of the Iraqi economy and public health systems, continued US military presence in Saudi Arabia, which became a favored cause of Al-Qaeda, the patriotic usurpation of expected reordering of domestic fiscal priorities post-Cold War, etc. — were absolutely terrible for both Americans and the Middle East.

    • Not having a position on whether the border line is 20 miles to the east or not is not the same as not having a position on whether Iraq gobbles up Kuwait. And, no, the border issue was not the casus belli, it was oil issues.

      • Professor Cole,

        I’m not so sure. Having read the cable (although I am not an expert), it seems that Saddam was very clear that invasion was a very real possibility. Ambassador Glaspie did ask forthrightly “QUESTION: WHAT ARE YOUR INTENTIONS?” but Saddam deflected the question, saying that he’s tried everything to diffuse the situation. Saddam’s response to the situation in his country, as you say, provoking his translator to tears by saying that stipends for orphans were about to be cut off. He never answered the question. If you’ll forgive the drama, all devils have cunning.

        Perhaps he interpreted (misinterpreted?) Ambassador Glaspie asking about the border dispute as her way of asking in a more round-about, diplomatic way if Saddam intended to change the borders—through invasion. Her response was not sufficiently negative that perhaps he took it as a green light?

        Thank you,
        Peter

  7. Juan,

    I really don’t see how you conclude from this cable that Saddam was “paranoid” and “desperate.” The grievances he mentions are pretty legitimate, he is obviously interested in reaching a negotiated settlement, and even the US diplomatic cables describe him as “reasonable.”

    Maybe the blame rests on those “certain circles” in the United States that refused to compromise in the situation.

  8. Just as interesting, and a vindication of Glaspie, is what Glaspie’s deputy, Joe Wilson had to say-
    link to globetrotter.berkeley.edu

    Author Elaine Sciolino:
    link to booknotes.org

    SCIOLINO:Well, Ambassador Glaspie is a first-class diplomat. She’s a first-class Arabist. She was the first woman in the foreign service to be named ambassador to an Arab country, and she’s extraordinary. She’s had an extraordinary career. She’s been in the foreign service for more than 25 years, and I hope she will go down in history as a fine diplomat and not someone who, in a two-hour meeting with the Iraqi president, perhaps was not as tough as she could have been.

    What we have to remember about her performance in the two hour meeting she had with Saddam just eight days before his invasion of Kuwait is that she was carrying out a policy. She was given strict orders about what American policy was. Now, it’s a policy she believed in, but it was a very weak policy. She went in to see Saddam Hussein with no fresh instructions from Washington. She didn’t know she was going to see him. She had no notetaker with her. She listened to his message to the president, and she told him what American policy was. Now, could she have been tougher? She absolutely could have been tougher. I wish she had been as tough as she had told Congress that she had been. I agonized over whether to run the Iraqi version of her meeting with Saddam Hussein because there was a discrepancy between what the Iraqi version said and what she said she said to him when she testified before Congress. But, in the end, I decided to run with Iraqi transcript and now if you look at her minutes of the meeting that she reported back to the State Department, they pretty much dovetail with the Iraqi version of that meeting.

    LAMB: What did you think when you saw that she said [the Diane Sawyer interview] was cheap and unjust?

    SCIOLINO: Well, all journalists — and you know this — don’t like it when our work is criticized, and we especially don’t like it when an ambassador tells this to a head state. We have a free press here, and I think we have a pretty good press. It bothered me tremendously because when I wrote a story for the New York Times Sunday magazine five, six years ago on Saddam Hussein that went against the grain, I was criticized as well, and I was criticized by people in the State Department for being unfair to Saddam.

    LAMB: Let me read on. “It is a true picture of what happens in the American media even to American politicians, themselves. These are the methods that the Western media employs. I am pleased that you add your voice to the diplomats who stand up to the media.” Again, what do you think of April Glaspie saying those things?

    SCIOLINO: Well, this is the Iraqi translation of what she said and it may be slightly off, but what I would like to add is that April Glaspie was questioned at length about just this thought and these phrases when she went before Congress. She was questioned both by the Senate and by the House. What she said to both the Senate and the House is that she was misquoted in the Iraqi version, that what she really had said was that it was a fabrication and that she had told Saddam Hussein that what she was complaining about was his editing of the Diane Sawyer program, that when the Diane Sawyer interviewed aired on Iraqi television, that it was unfairly edited and that this was cheap and unjust. But what we’ve learned since from her transcript, her own minutes of the meeting to the State Department, is that, indeed, in those minutes she does say that the Diane Sawyer program was cheap and unjust — not Saddam’s editing of it.

    interesting timelime:
    link to historycommons.org

    Also, what ever happened to the supposed documents recovered by Saddam in Kuwait showing that Kuwait was working with the CIA to undermine Iraq? Was that just more of Saddam’s huge volume of propaganda?

  9. “, and I was criticized by people in the State Department for being unfair to Saddam.”

    Why does this sound so UNbelievable? Because having read “1984″ clears up a lot of things regarding Bush Forcrime Policy.

  10. Glaspie’s infamous conversation with Saddam reminds me of what happened in 1949, when Dean Acheson announced that the “US Defense Perimeter” included Japan, but not Korea. The next summer North Korea invaded South Korea. So why didn’t Truman have to bear the full consequences of that blunder? Because he simply, suddenly acted as though South Korea HAD always been part of this elastic defense perimeter and sent in troops, which would have made it unpatriotic for anyone to ask too many questions.

    The real problem is, America can try to impose rational restraints on its own actions, but as soon as it sees some unpleasant consequence from this, the ignorant and paranoid public freaks out and demands action regardless of the cost. So no one can ever really be sure where our government stands on anything until it happens.

  11. Gen. Hugh Shelton was on Charlie Rose the other nite, unchallenged by the PBS elitist when Shelton lied that all US intelligence agencies said Saddam had WMDs. In fact, the SD’s own intelligence branch denied it. Shame on imperialist
    militarists.

  12. The thing is Saddam was a fool and the US would have known this and acted accordingly in what they thought was their interest. Bastards all of them.

  13. I went through the cable too. I found it very interesting but for other reasons.

    For those who would like to think American objectives towards Democracy in the Middle East are honorable, I defy anyone to find anything here that isn’t about money and oil. Anything.

    I find the length and detail interesting. I haven’t seen too many cables to compare, but it seems she is a serious public servant carefully documenting what she observed and covering her @ss. It seems she feels her meeting with Sadam was important.

    You claim in your post that his views are based on instability. I’m not convinced. He seems to be looking at high bills due to buying military hardware for a war and the low cost of oil. He seems to want to catch a break from other Middle East oil sheiks who are doing US bidding that in effect keeps him from making money to pay his bills. To his local supporters it looks like his American buddies have used him and now he’s being played as a dupe. Now he’s starting to look bad and he will need to react to save face if nothing changes.

    She replies, you have some friends in some parts of American government. Don’t risk it all by doing something stupid.

    It would seem to me:
    1) She felt she was dealing with a rational actor. Furthermore she seems to be communicating with someone who she feels understands nuance.
    2) By the amount of detail she provided she wasn’t surprised when she heard about the invasion. She understood Saddam’s threat to include violence to other countries.

    Is this document true? Probably some of the more truthful stuff available to us today.It seems “messy” enough to me to not have been too heavily edited for public consumption to serve someone’s particular interests.

    The guy who looks bad to me is Bush Sr. After receiving this information he was just waiting for a war after selling out his Iraq connections. There was no surprise at all.

    All of this would justify his actions for the invasion that would follow.

    Thanks for calling attention to these particular cables. There’s a lot there and the distribution channels are literally all over the world. It’s actually pretty cool seeing what information various leaders had available when making their various decisions.

    • Excellent post, except for a few things.

      1. “All of this would justify his actions for the invasion that would follow.”

      Who are you referring to by “his”?

      2. More importantly: “She replies, you have some friends in some parts of American government. Don’t risk it all by doing something stupid.”

      I don’t see a basis in the cable for these inferences or for linking these two ideas. What’s your basis?

  14. the french have a word -arnaque-
    roughly translated it means a trick,
    a swindle, a con a trap even

    that’s what we have here
    [prelude to iraqi invasion]

    and if you think back
    this is when things
    took a wrong turn
    in so many ways

    as such
    april glaspie
    plays a role

    well acted
    i might add

    tragic
    none the less

  15. April Glaspie was had for a sucker, and hung out to dry after she said what she did.
    It has always been my belief that Saddam had very good reasons for attacking and occupying North Kuwait and Bubiyan island, but after the ruling family in Kuwait, the Al-Sabahs, scuttled away to Saudi, the way was open, and he took it, and went all the way. I don’t believe he ever made the slightest threat towards Saudi Arabia.
    American Hero, by James Ellroy, put a fictional story behind the facts, but is the best exposition I have seen of what really happened. The book seems to have disappeared altogether.
    This was the first US war where they actually got equity-holders like Saudi to stump up money to pay for it all. It was like a Hollywood producer going around raising money

    • Richard,

      Do you think that Saddam intended to retain control over all of Kuwait? I don’t. If you enter a conflict, it is sometimes better to vanquish the opponent in order to be in a better position to negotiate the peace. There is evidence that was Saddam’s plan: note the Russian offer for a brokered solution, which was ignored by the United States.

  16. I don’t think the US cared who controlled Kuwaiti oil – the only use the locals had for the oil was to sell it on the world market at the going price.

    Recall that John Kelly, assistant secretary of state for Middle East affairs, testified before congress a few days after the Glaspie-Saddam meeting, and three days before the invasion:

    [in the event of an Iraqi invasion],”Is it correct to say that we [USA] have no treaty, no commitment, which would oblige us to use American forces?”

    John Kelly, “That’s exactly right.”

    The Iraqi army is sitting on the Kuwaiti border and everyone in the US State Department is saying, “It doesn’t concern us.”

    Also, recall that Bush I had no immediate reaction to the invasion. He didn’t address the nation for six days, on August 8, 1990.

    One of the more interesting aspects concerning this invasion was the PR campaign mounted convince the American public that soldiers should spill blood to save an oligarchy. Bush & Company floundered for almost two months to find a reason (James Baker, “It’s about jobs”, didn’t fly) until the New York Times did a survey, in October 1990, which showed that the only reason Americans would support attacking Saddam, and only 52%, was if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. WMD has been a propaganda tool ever since.

    In 1990, Hill & Knowlton, the PR firm, was headed by Craig Fuller, Bush I’s former chief of staff when Bush I was vice-president (recall the Kuwati woman testifying before congress about the babies being killed in Kuwait – turned out she was the Kuwati ambassador’s daughter and had not been in Kuwait). Victoria Clark was the manager of the D.C. office for Hill & Knowlton – yep, the same Victoria Clark that was Rumsfeld’s spokesperson for the 2003 invasion of Iraq and she also organized the embedded media pools which controlled info the public received about the second war with Saddam

  17. I generally enjoy your blog posts, and read your blog regularly, however every once in a while you’ll write something that I just can’t understand coming from you. Usually it’s something supportive about Obama (which really from your position on middle eastern affairs makes absolutely no sense whatsoever – think Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, etc…).

    Now, though, you write this. As another has said, this information has been out in the open for years. You write an article claiming that this old information purportedly “exonerates [Glaspie] from the charges by her political enemies in the US Congress that she inadvertently gave Saddam a green light to invade Kuwait.”

    Yet the case against Glaspie has NEVER been that she gave an EXPLICIT “green light” to Saddam to invade Kuwait, but rather that her indifference on the matter was interpreted by Saddam as “good enough”. Nobody has accused Glaspie of giving Saddam “permission” to invade Kuwait. This entire article, based on years old information, is completely misguided.

    I’m no defender of Saddam, but I am a defender of accurate and factual reporting on historical events. Your assertion that Saddam was “paranoid and desperate” and your implication that Iraq WASN’T in financial crisis is absurd. It is a fact that at the conclusion of the war Iraq had around $130 billion in international debt excluding interest. To portray that as simply an assertion of Saddam’s is dishonest.

    I’m so sick of people painting this as such a black-and-white issue, and you should know better, Juan. The disputes between Iraq and Kuwait were not solely the fault of Iraq, even less so the fault of Saddam’s “paranoia”.

    At the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq WAS in serious financial trouble. Kuwait WAS exploiting the situation by over-producing oil in order to hold down Iraq’s economy. There WAS a legitimate border dispute between Iraq and Kuwait regarding slant drilling to be investigated. These disputes between the two states were exploited by the Ba’ath administration as a pretext for invasion, probably due to the economic pressure it was under (NOT “Saddam’s paranoia”). This was done following consultation with Glaspie, who never offered a concrete position on the matter. BOTH states are responsible for exploiting the situation to their benefit, which culminated in the invasion of Kuwait.

    Kuwait isn’t simply the helpless victim as it was portrayed when the US exploited the situation in the exact same way, leading to the Gulf War. Its actions towards Iraq contributed to the lead up to the invasion.

    A responsible historian would portray this event in its totality, including the actions of both sides which led up to the invasion. A responsible historian would identify where both legitimate grievences lie and where states are exploiting the situation to further their own interests. A responsible historian wouldn’t paint this in such a storybook manner, as you have here, with Saddam being the evil, “paranoid” mustache-twirling villain and Kuwait the helpless damsel in distress.

    I would obviously be interested in hearing your response, or your justification for either this article or for your portrayal of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in general. I’m not trying to attack you but it’s just really disappointing when someone I hold in such high regard writes something as inaccurate and low quality as this. As I said before, I just can’t understand it.

    • I agree with these sentiments regarding Juan. He seems to reflexively demonize Muslim leaders or Muslim groups that are nationalistic or otherwise promote group identities.

  18. Too bad Saddam isn’t hear to tell his side of the Story. Let’s see, where did Saddam end up? Oh, that’s right he was hung in a (miss)handled tortuous display under the Liberator’s Occupation. Life in prison would have preserved a primary source!

  19. Another thing I learned and was surprised by in these cables was the implication that the United States was already applying heavy trade sanctions against Iraq even before the 1991 invasion of Kuwait.

  20. Theres was an interesting interview here with tariq azziz, he claims that there was no mixed signals, and that it was clear that the US would not have liked an invasion of kuwait.

    link to pbs.org

  21. Once again, I’m amazed at how this is being reported as if it were something new. This cable has been available on the Web for quite some time.

    If Wikileaks published a copy of the Magna Carta, would you report it as if it were news?

    The Saddam/Glaspie document is (and has been) here for some time: link to margaretthatcher.org

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