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.