Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Hit Me Baby, One More Time

Isn't this where we came in?

Iraqis Accuse Kuwait of Stealing Oil
(AP, via Truthout) An excerpt:

"Iraqi legislators accused Kuwait of stealing their oil as well as chipping away at their national territory on the border - allegations similar to those used by Saddam Hussein to justify his invasion of Kuwait that began 15 years ago Tuesday..

'"There have been violations such as digging horizontal oil wells to pump Iraq oil," legislator Jawad al-Maliki, chairman of the parliament's Security and Defense Committee, told the National Assembly on Tuesday....

"In such horizontal wells, instead of drilling straight down, Kuwaitis would drill at an angle either going into subterranean Iraqi territory or sucking oil out of pools from Iraqi territory. He also said Kuwaitis have taken territories up to half a mile inside Iraq."

As the story notes, this is precisely the same thing that Saddam alleged before the first Gulf War -- allegations that happened, by and large, to be true. There was also a huge financial conflict between the two countries: Kuwait had given Saddam some $10 billion during the Iran-Iraq war to help him keep the "Persian horde" (and revolutionary Shiite tide) from sweeping through the region. In those days, Saddam was seen as the bulwark of the Arabs against this threat to their regimes. After the war, the Kuwaiti royals decided that money had been a loan, and they wanted it back; Saddam insisted that it had been a straight-forward payment for services rendered.

All of this -- the oil theft, border encroachments, the debt row -- dovetailed with the long-standing (pre-Saddam) belief among Iraqis that Kuwait was actually part of their national territory, unfairly gouged out by the British colonial map-makers to give their court favorites, the al-Sabahs, a nice accessible oily playground. Of course, the whole region -- including the creation of Iraq itself -- was carved up in similar fashion by a few bureaucrats in London, setting the stage for what will obviously be centuries of rancour and conflict in the region. (The same way the arbitrary, unnatural borderlines throughout much of Africa have led to decades of chaos and war.)

But this is not the place to get into the merits, if any, of these various conflicts. The point is, they existed, and were the root causes of the first Gulf War -- which was itself the spark not only for the second, current war but also for the "war on terror." For it was the installation of American troops on the "sacred" soil of Saudi Arabia that led Osama bin Laden to turn against his former allies and paymasters in the Reagan-Bush administrations, and declare "war" on the United States.

And here's an historical footnote you don't often see -- or rather, you NEVER see it in the mainstream media: another reason for bin Laden's pique is that HE wanted to fight Saddam in Kuwait. Here's how it happened.

Negotiations brokered by the Arab League had come very close to resolving the immediate conflict between Saddam and Kuwait. The talks finally foundered on the Kuwaitis' insistence on getting their $10 billion loan/gift back from Saddam. When a desperate, last-ditch effort by the League was put on the table, with Saddam massing troops on the border, the Kuwaiti royals were unruffled: "We will call in the Americans." (This at a time when Bush officials were testifying under oath before Congress that the US had no obligations or agreement with Kuwait to defend it from attack. This was also the time when Bush's woman in Baghdad, April Glaspie, famously told Saddam that the US would not take sides in this dispute between Arab nations.)

Ah, but you see, there was one other very important connection in the tangled web that led to war: President George H.W. Bush had been a long-time business partner of the Kuwaiti royals, a connection going back 30 years, since the days that his CIA-connected company, Zapata Oil, had drilled Kuwait's first offshore wells. Despite the fact that there was no compelling American interest in jumping into this regional conflict, Bush had no compunction about shedding American blood to protect his partners and his investments.

But how to convince the American people to intervene in a falling out among thugs in the far-off desert? Hit them in the pocketbook, of course. The internal Arab struggle was pitched as a dire threat to the American economy. After the invasion of Kuwait, Cheney solemnly announced that Saddam had massed a huge military force on the Saudi border. In a matter of days, Cheney said, Saddam could seize the Saudi fields and cut off the main U.S. oil supply. Only war would save American jobs.

But it was all a lie. The St. Petersburg Times (Florida) obtained satellite imagery of the Kuwaiti-Saudi border: there were no troop concentrations there, just miles of empty desert. Military intelligence reports confirmed the absence. Yet this phantom border build-up was given as the main reason for ditching negotiations and moving to war. Cheney refused to explain the anomaly.

Then came the atrocity stories. A comely Kuwaiti lass testified before Congress that she had seen Saddam's evil minions ripping innocent babies from hospital incubators. Outraged Congressmen repeatedly cited this abomination in their calls for war. Bush I cried that Saddam was "worse than Hitler." (And given the fact that Bush's father did business with Hitler – even after Germany declared war on America – he perhaps had some unique insights in this regard.)

But the atrocity stories were also a lie, part of a $10 million PR campaign to "sell" the idea of war to the public. The comely lass was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington – where she had safely passed the invasion, having seen neither incubators, dead babies nor a single Iraqi marauder.

Where does Osama come in? After Saddam crossed the border into Kuwait, Osama went to his patrons, the Saudi royals, and offered the services of his CIA-trained army of holy warriors from the Afghan war. Let me fight Saddam and drive him from Kuwait, Osama said. But the Saudis and Kuwaitis refused. They preferred the services of a more powerful warlord: George Bush, who used U.S. forces as his own private militia to bail out his royal business partners. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now we see that -- surprise, surprise! -- the same old national interests and concerns and conflicts have re-emerged in the "new" government of Iraq. Doubtless in good time the new government of Iraq -- of whatever political or religious stripe -- will the feel the pressing need to acquire weapons of mass destruction to defend itself from outside threats and assert its importance in the region. And the whole ungodly bloody mess can start anew.

History doesn't just repeat itself: it comes back up again and again, like a bad case of botulism from gobbling raw meat.