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Happy 20th Anniversary to the "End" of the 1991 Gulf War...the War That Never Actually Ended

Five ugly facts you need to know about a not-so-clean and continuing war.

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Two days later, on August 2nd, when Saddam's troops entered Kuwait, he had no reason to believe that the U.S. would come to Kuwait's defense with a half-million troops. Or that when he tried to negotiate a dignified retreat though Arab leaders, the U.S. would refuse to talk as James Ridgeway carefully chronicles in his January 1991 Village Voice articles.

What's not clear to this day is the nature of Bush and Baker's behavior at the time.  The U.S. policy toward Iraq had never been consistent, and in the July 25 meeting, Glaspie reports, Saddam reminds her of U.S. double-dealing, mentioning in particular Irangate, the Reagan administration's sale of weapons to Iran at the same time as it was selling arms and allowing sale of toxic chemicals to Iraq. Did Bush and Baker mean to maintain the friendlier policy toward Iraq and just mismanage, bungling us into war, as Murray Waas argued at the time? Or did they engage in the most Machiavellian of manipulations, using a seasoned and apparently sincere diplomat to say one thing as they were planning another? 

Margaret Thatcher's account in her memoir is that as late as August 2nd, when the two met at a conference in Aspen, Bush was waffling about responding to the Iraqi invasion until she famously said, “This is no time to go wobbly on me, George,”which may or not be so. What's certain is that by Sunday, August 5th,  Bush was in, announcing after a weekend at Camp David,  “This will not stand.”  On August 6th, Cheney received approval from the Saudis for a large U.S. deployment. A wider and more “certain” circle was determined to humiliate Saddam, leaving him, given his psychology, which he had clearly delineated for Glaspie, no choice but to self destruct.   

3. The U.S. Disinformed Congress and the Public to Drum up War Support for an Unpopular War and Bribed and Bamboozled Other Countries 

If the CIA, the Pentagon, and by summer's end the President and Secretary of State  were fixed on a war with Iraq, during the fall of 1990, the American public and Congress were not. To change that, the week after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the Kuwaiti government, disguising itself as "Citizens for a Free Kuwait," hired the global PR firm of Hill & Knowlton to win Americans' hearts and minds.

In charge of the Washington office of Hill & Knowlton was Craig Fuller, a close friend of George H.W. Bush and his chief of staff when he was vice president. For $11.8 million, Fuller and more than 100 H&K executives across the country oversaw the selling of the war.

They organized public rallies, provided pro-war speakers, lobbied politicians, developed and distributed information kits and news releases, including scores of video news releases shown by stations and networks as if they were bona fide journalism and not paid-for propaganda.

H&K's research arm, the Wirthlin Group, conducted daily polls to identify the messages and language that would resonate most with Americans. In the 1992 Emmy award-winning Canadian Broadcasting Corp. documentary To Sell a War, a Wirthlin executive explained that their research had determined the most emotionally moving message to be "Saddam Hussein was a madman who had committed atrocities even against his own people and had tremendous power to do further damage, and he needed to be stopped."

To fit the bill, H&K concocted stories, including one told by a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl named Nayirah, to another H&K concoction, the House Human Rights Caucus looking to pass as a congressional committee. According to the caucus, Nayirah's full name would remain secret in order to deter the Iraqis from punishing her family in occupied Kuwait. The girl wept as she testified before the caucus, apparently still shaken by the atrocity she witnessed as a volunteer in a Kuwait City hospital.

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