April in July

On July 25, 1990, eight days before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, a quiet, largely unreported meeting took place between Saddam Hussein and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie at the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, which has since been destroyed by the war. The transcript of this meeting is as follows:

U.S. Ambassador Glaspie:

"I have direct instructions from President Bush to improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait. (pause) As you know, I have lived here for years and admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. We know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. (pause) We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your other threats against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship - not confrontation - regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait's borders?"

Saddam Hussein:

"As you know, for years now I have made every effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait. There is to be a meeting in two days; I am prepared to give negotiations only this one more brief chance. (pause) When we [the Iraqis] meet [with the Kuwaitis] and we see there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death."

U.S. Ambassador Glaspie:

"What solutions would be acceptable?"

Saddam Hussein:

"If we could keep the whole of the Shatt al Arab - our strategic goal in our war with Iran - we will make concessions (to the Kuwaitis). But, if we are forced to choose between keeping half of the Shatt and the whole of Iraq (which, in Saddam's view, includes Kuwait) then we will give up all of the Shatt to defend our claims on Kuwait to keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be. (pause) What is the United States' opinion on this?"

(Pause, then Ambassador Glaspie speaks carefully)

U.S. Ambassador Glaspie:

"We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960's that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America."

(Saddam smiles.)

The Green Light and the Limosine

At a Washington press conference called the next day, State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler was asked by journalists:

"Has the United States sent any type of diplomatic message to the Iraqis about putting 30,000 troops on the border with Kuwait? Has there been any type of protest communicated from the United States government?"

to which she responded:

"I'm entirely unaware of any such protest."

On July 31st, two days before the Iraqi invasion, John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs, testified to Congress that the

"United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the U.S. has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq."

Eight days later, on August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein's massed troops invaded and occupied Kuwait (ironically, this was done in a method historically similar to the American anexation of Texas). One month later in Baghdad, British journalists obtained the tape and transcript of the Hussein-Glaspie meeting on July 25, 1990. In order to verify this astounding information, they attempted to confront Ms. Glaspie as she was leaving the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Journalist 1:

"Are the transcripts (holding them up) correct, Madam Ambassador?"

(Ambassador Glaspie does not respond)

Journalist 2:

"You knew Saddam was going to invade (Kuwait), but you didn't warn him not to. You didn't tell him America would defend Kuwait. You told him the oppose - that America was not associated with Kuwait."

Journalist 1:

"You encouraged this aggression - his invasion. What were you thinking?"

U.S. Ambassador Glaspie:

"Obviously, I didn't think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take ALL of Kuwait."

Journalist 1:

"You thought he was just going to take SOME of it? But how COULD YOU?! Saddam told you that, if negotiations failed, he would give up his Iran (Shatt al Arab Waterway) goal for the "WHOLE of Iraq, in the shape we wish it to be." You KNOW that includes Kuwait, which the Iraqis have always viewed as an historic part of their country!"

(Ambassador Glaspie says nothing, pushing past the two journalists to leave)

"America green-lighted the invasion. At a minimum, you admit signalling Saddam that some aggression was okay - that the U.S. would not oppose a grab of the al-Rumalya oil field, the disputed border strip and the Gulf Islands (including Bubiyan) - territories claimed by Iraq?"

(Again, Ambassador Glaspie says nothing as a limousine door closes behind her and the car drives off.)

Ross Perot gets to The National Honor

Two years later, during NBC News Decision '92's 3rd round of The Presidential Debate, 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot was quoted as saying:

"...we told him he could take the northern part of Kuwait; and when he took the whole thing we went nuts. And if we didn't tell him that, why won't we even let the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee see the written instructions for Ambassador Glaspie? - "

At this point, he was interrupted by former president George Bush who yelled:

"I've got to reply on that. That gets to the National Honour!... That is absolutely absurd!"

Later on in the debate, President Bill Clinton stated:

"...Several government departments, several, had information that he was converting our aid to military purposes and trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, but in late '89 the President signed a secret policy saying we were going to continue to try to improve relations with him, and we sent him some sort of communication on the eve of his invasion of Kuwait that we still wanted better relations..."

On August 23rd, Iraq offered to withdraw in return for the lifting of economic sanctions, guaranteed access to the Gulf, and full control of the Rumalyah oil field. The proposal was not accepted. In late February, the Soviets negotiated a peace proposal involving a three-week withdrawal period on the part of the Iraqis, in exchange for removal of the sanctions. George Bush did not accept.

It soon became reported in American newspapers, magazines, and television media that the Iraqis had the world's fourth-largest army with estimates of up to a million soldiers, including the battle-hardened elite republican guard. Later, it was estimates were reduced to 2-3 hundred thousand Iraqi soldiers. By the end of the war, this number was further reduced to a hundred-thousand untrained troops, most of whom were forced to maintain their positions. This is ironic, considering that in the fall of 1990, after the start of the war, Canadian military analyst Gwynne Dyer remarked that "Saddam Hussein was not a problem that kept anybody awake in July." Three successive American administrations did nothing from 1980 to 1988, when Saddam Hussein was responsible for killing over 150,000 Iranians and 13,000 of his own civilians including approximately 4,000 unarmed Kurds.

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