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Essay/Term paper: Saddam, iraq, and the gulf war

Essay, term paper, research paper:  History

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justifiable or not, is complete madness. It is hell. No matter what the


or what the reason is, war remains mankind"s greatest source of


the plague of mankind, and the plague of this country. Our country


existed for only 200 years, a relatively short time, and already we have


involved in over eleven major wars. Four have been fought this last


years. We are a nation of freedom, but we are also a nation of strong


presence. Our reasons for going to war have differed little from


nations. Political, social, and economic factors working alone or with


other lead us into all of our conflicts. A drive for independence


on the Revolutionary war. A common fear of living in a divided


created the Civil War. The need to bring down an aggressive nation


the United States into the Korean War. And territorial disputes lay


the Mexican-American and American Indian Wars. Like most countries,


United States, at different periods, has been victimized by the dark


of war.

Though reasons (or excuses) the American people have been given

to the

American people to justify military action were given before most

of our

wars, not every war has been popular. Ever since the Revolutionary

War up

until the Vietnam War, and even through to the Gulf War, public

support has

sequentially increased or decreased. For example, less than

half of the early

colonists backed America"s war of independence.1 According

to historians,

more than one third wanted to maintain their status of

colonists.2 During the

Spanish-American War, such a strong anti-war mood

was being expressed by the

American people, the Democratic party made

condemning the war a major part of

their election campaign. More recently,

the Vietnam War divided the nation

like no other conflict had since the

Civil War.

Yet, there have been some wars that have attained much support,

and much has

even given people pride and joy. How ironic, and morbid,

that a war could

give a person feelings of joy or pride. World War I

and World War II were

incredibly popular, since people thought the basis

of democracy was at stake.

During both wars, people were so committed

to winning the war, and had such a

sense of self-sacrifice, our nation

showed incredible unity for such a

diverse country. Support for food

and fuel rationing was overwhelming, high

rates of enlisted volunteers,

purchases of war bonds, and countless other

types of voluntary actions

were characteristic of the times. Most recently,

the Persian Gulf War

showed to be one of this country"s more popular wars,

despite the fact

we, as a land mass, were never directly endangered.

Thousands showed

up for rallies to send off the troops. Tens of thousands of


and families across the nation sent packages of food, clothes,


CDs, suntan oil, and even cosmetics. Some wrote letters to unknown


in the front line, and gave them their best wishes. In fact, most


opinion polls showed that about 90 percent of all Americans approved


the Gulf War. 3

This paper covers in detail the history of Iraq"s involvement

in the events

leading to the war in the Persian Gulf, the involvement

of the United States,

and the main events that took place in Operation

Desert Shield and Desert


For centuries, the Middle East

has been one of the most important, most

argued about, and most fought

over areas of the world. One reason for this is

their strategic location.

Since it lies at what many call the "crossroads of

three continents-"

Europe, Asia and Africa- people of these continents often

had to cross

through the Middle East to establish military and trade routes.

To protect

these routes, other nations took the advantage of conquering and


a nearby Middle Eastern country. An addition to the Middle East


a very strategic area, it is also an area that has been plagued by


and opposition for centuries. Among the most recognized and most


of these is the Arab-Israeli conflict.

On May 14, 1948, an announcement

from Palestine shocked the world. David

BenGurion, leader of the Jewish

forces, announced the establishment of the

nation of Israel. The Jews

had decided to declare their independence before

the UN officially granted

it. By doing this, the Jews were able to postpone

the UN decision to

divide Palestine and had more control over Israel. The

United States

immediately recognized the new state. The Soviet Union and most


UN nations recognized it as well. Just as quickly, the members of the


League declared war on Israel. Armies from six Arab nations marched into



resulting 1948 Arab-Israeli War lasted less than eight months. Even


the combined population of the Arab nations was over four times larger


that of Israel, the Israelis won an astounding victory. In the war,


forces succeeded in capturing some of the land that the UN provided


the Arabs. In January 1949, Israel controlled 30 percent more land that


UN originally assigned to them. Thousands of Arabs that lived on this


became refugees or had to live under Israeli rule. The problem of what


do about these displaced Palestinians has been a weak point to any type


Middle Eastern peace ever since.

Angry and humiliated over their

defeat, many Arabs criticized the United

States for recognizing and supporting

Israel during the 1948 war. Thus begins

the conflict. Convinced that

the United States would continue to back and

support Israel, several

Arab nations turned to the Soviet Union for military

and economic aid.

The Soviets agreed and supplied them with weapons and

money. In order

to limit Soviet actions in this region, as well as assist

Israel, the

United States became more allied with Israel and more involved in


East affairs.

When the Arabs raised oil prices in the 1970s, some Middle

Eastern countries

grew quite wealthy. Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait,

which Britain granted

independence in 1961, benefited enormously from

growing oil profits. The

increase in wealth also increased tensions among

the oil-producing nations

themselves. For instance, both Iraq and it"s

neighbor Iran wanted to control

oil shipping in the Persian Gulf. This

rivalry reopened an old Iraqi-Iranian


Since the 1800s, Iraqis

and Iranians had argued and fought over the Shatt

al-Arab waterway on

the northern edge of the Persian Gulf. Important to

trade, the waterway

was essential to the economics of both countries. In

1979, the dispute

got out of hand, and each side threatened the other. On

September 17,

1980, Iraq"s president Saddam Hussein claimed complete control

of the

Shatt al-Arab and ordered all Iranian ships to leave. Five days later,


troops invaded Iran and destroyed key Iranian oil installations. The


counter-attacked, blowing up many Iraqi oil facilities. The eight


war that followed was the bloodiest yet seen in the Middle East. An


one million people were killed in the conflict. Both sides launched


attacks against one another, and both used chemical weapons on the


The Iraq-Iran war left a huge financial burden on Iraq. They had


up the largest military force in the middle east, and had spent a lot


money in the process- much of it borrowed. They spent over five hundred


dollars creating their army and militant arsenal. By 1990, the


was heavily in debt, and Saddam Hussein needed money badly. He wanted


find a way to eliminate Iraq"s debts, expand the country"s economy, and


control of the Persian Gulf, all at once. The strategy he chose to


these goals would soon put his people and the people of many other


into another disastrous war.

Saddam first attempted to raise Iraq"s

income by increasing the price of

oil. Early in 1990, he demanded that

all OPEC members reduce their prices.

But some of the members, notably

Kuwait, refused to raise their prices for

fear of loosing customers.

Without the support of OPEC, he could not raise

his prices, thus he could

not make more money. Saddam became increasingly

angry at Kuwait. He also

wanted to decrease his war debts. He demanded that

Kuwait cancel Iraq"s

debt of billions of dollars. He said the Kuwaitis should

do this in gratitude

to Iraq for stopping the Iranians from overtaking Kuwait

during the war.

The Kuwaitis pointed out that Iran never tried to take

Kuwait. They ignored

Saddam"s demands and told Iraq to pay their debts.

Saddam was now quite

irritated with Kuwait. At an Arab conference, he again

demanded money

from the Kuwaitis. They very bluntly refused. "If they don"t

give it

to me," he told an Arab diplomat, "I"m going to take it from them." 4


he thought about it, Saddam realized that taking over Kuwait would benefit


in a number of ways. It would give them access to the rich Kuwaiti oil


it would get him the money to get Iraq going once again, and it would


his sales of oil. Most importantly to Saddam, it would give him



2:00 A.M. on August 2, 1990, the powerful Iraqi army launched a sudden


massive attack on Kuwait. Thousands of Iraqi soldiers crossed over the


They quickly overtook a small force of Kuwaiti border guards,


only defense. Iraq had penetrated deep into Kuwait, and by


had overtaken the capital, Kuwait City.

This sudden move had definitely

gotten the attention of the world, the

United States in particular. The

US, along with many other nations and the

UN, imposed strong embargoes

on Iraq, and the US even sent the aircraft

carrier USS Independence to

the Gulf. The US, France, and Britain froze all

Iraqi money, so as not

to let Iraq make profits. The Soviet Union enforced

their embargoes on

Iraqi, ironically. Saddam Hussein had not expected such a

huge international

opposition to his actions. Especially from nations like

the US, France,

and the Soviet Union. Leaving Kuwait, he thought, and giving

into the

demands to pull out, would only damage his image further. He was now


as an aggressor, but if he took his troops out, he would been seen as


and cowardly. This is exactly what Saddam did not want.

On August 7,

1990, President Bush announced that he was ordering troops to

Saudi Arabia.

"This will not stand." He told reporters at a press conference.


will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait." Bush dubbed the


action Desert Shield. He immediately sentd more than 50,000 US


and put an additional 100,000 on hold. Within hours, F-15 fighter


and paratroopers were on their way to the Middle East. Special


planes called AWACs and huge B-52 bombers also arrived

shortly. Countless

other aircraft, carriers, and tanks were sent to the

Middle East.


Arab League had now split into those against Iraq, and those with him.


Bush again demanded Saddam Hussein back out of Kuwait and remove


troops. Saddam refused, and told the world he would never leave Kuwait


the Israelis withdrew from the territories they took in the 1967 and


wars. Western and Arabs officials recognized this announcement as an


by Saddam to lift his image with Arabs, who hated Israel. Saddam felt


linking the Israelis with his invasion of Kuwait would win the support


the Arabs. Most Arab nations, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, dismissed this



August 17, 1990, the Iraqis acted on their plans against the nation of


US, British, and other foreign citizens were not allowed to leave


or Kuwait. An Iraqi spokesperson said that they would "stay as long as


remains threatened with an aggressive war."5 Saddam said he would free


foreigners if the United States got out of Saudi Arabia. Three days later


started moving the citizens into industrial buildings and military sites.


he said, was to discourage the bombing of these areas. This was a


violation of international war law, to take up hostages, but Saddam


the fact that the citizens were hostages, rather they were his



preparing US forces for war against Iraq, President Bush realized the


States could not attack without the UN"s consent. This was a very


topic, as many nations were involved, so their approval was very


Early in November 1990, Bush sent James Baker on a sort of

campaign throughout

Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. His mission was to

gain support for

the Desert Storm effort among these countries. As a result

of the campaign,

the allied nations came up with an ultimatum for Iraq; get

out of Kuwait

by a given date or risk attack by the allies. Baker and the

rest of the

allied countries then went to the UN Security Council, and


their ideas. On November 29, the UN approved Resolution 678. This


an ultimatum for the Iraqis to leave Kuwait by midnight on January 15,



passed by since midnight, and still the Allies did not attack as they


The citizens of countries around the world were wondering if the


was a bluff. Maybe Saddam was right; the US was bluffing, and he


called it. Some people were angry, other relieved. Morning passed into


and many felt that there would be no Gulf War. But then, at about


PM, a bulletin came in from the White House that bombing had started at


that afternoon. The operation had been dubbed Operation Desert Storm.


liberation of Kuwait has begun." 6

Desert Storm was the largest air

assault in history. Its goal was to make it

impossible for Iraq to attack

Saudi Arabia and also weaken their army, in

preparation for a ground

attack. Allied planes were assigned to targets like

Iraqi airfields,

missile sites, troop bunkers, army bases, weapons factories,

and industrial

factories. At the same time, they focused their attacks on


and radar sites to blind the Iraqi army. Biological weapons


chemical labs and other Iraqi targets were destroyed. These were


key strategic sites that had to be eliminated in order to decrease Allied



most of Iraq"s radar warning systems down and the Iraqi air force on


run, Allied bombers and attack planes were free to attack all of their


without fear of being shot down. American bombers flew unchallenged


the sky, devastating targets all over. British tornado jets cruised


over Iraqi airfields, destroying hangars and demolishing runways, making


useless. American warships in the Persian Gulf launched over one hundred


cruise missiles equipped with computerized cameras. These devices


pre-programmed with detailed maps of Iraqi terrain. With adequate yet


accuracy, the missiles found the launch sites, oil refineries, power


and other targets.

It was now Saddam"s turn to act. After labeling Bush

as the "Satan of the

White House,"7 he began his attack on January 18,

1991. His attack shocked

people around the world. Following through on

his promise to strike out

against Israel, he ordered a missile attack

against the Israelis at about

2:00 AM. Detecting the incoming Scuds,

the entire population of Tel-Aviv put

on their gas masks. This was because

of another threat by Saddam that he

would "burn half" of Israel with

chemical weapons. Suddenly, after only 20

minutes after the announcement,

eight Scuds appeared over Israel. Two hit Tel

Aviv, three hit a port

city named Haifa, and the other two landed in open

fields. The Scuds

caused only fifteen injuries and no deaths; they were


inaccurate. Many people around the world were outraged by

this, calling

him a "barbarian" and a "madman."

Many people were surprised that Israel

did not retaliate against Iraq, as

they are know for their quick counterattacks.

They held back at the request

of President Bush. He feared that if the

Israelis joined the Allied effort,

many of the Arab nations would quit.

He compromised by promising to hunt down

the Scud launchers in Iraq.

He also promised to protect Israel from further

Scud attacks by use of

the Patriot missiles.

Meanwhile, the Allies continued their strategic

bombings at the rate of

thousands per day. Allied warplanes destroyed

bridges, airfields, and

military centers. Iraq"s two nuclear power plants

were leveled. By early

February 1991, the 4.5 million people of Baghdad

had almost no electricity of

running water. Hundreds of Iraqi tanks had

become charred, smashed hunks of

metal scattered around the desert. Most

of Iraq"s military and industrial

buildings were demolished. Tens of

thousands of Iraqi military personnel were

dead, while Allied fatalities

numbered less than one hundred. Still, Saddam

refused to surrender.


February 22, President Bush delivered a warning to the Iraqi dictator.


had to begin withdrawing from Kuwait by the 22nd, or face the ground


the Allies were preparing for. To nobody"s surprise, Saddam again


the warning. The ground attack started at 8:00 PM on February 22,


Bush determined that Iraq did not meet the conditions, and asked


Normal Schwartzkopf to "use all forces available, including ground


to eject the Iraqi army out of Kuwait." The overall plan of the


attack was to move troops northward into southern Iraq and cut off


from the rest of Iraq. Then the Allies would focus on defeating Iraqi


in Kuwait. For weeks the Allied commanders had kept their troops


in the Saudi desert just north of Kuwait. But at the last minute,


Allies shifted their forces to the west, south of Iraq. The Iraqis were


aware of these changes. They did not have informative aircraft surveying


Allied movements. General Schwarzkopf also stationed eighteen thousand


Marines in plain sight in the Persian Gulf near the Kuwaiti coast.


there would be an amphibious assault, the Iraqis pulled thousands

of troops

out of the desert and put them near the coast. They were taken

completely by

surprise when the huge mass of the Allied assault penetrated

northward into

Iraq. At the same time, farther west, French and American

troops sneaked

across southern and central Iraq. They were trapped.


the other troops were invading Iraq, a combined force of Americans,


Egyptians, and Syrians launched an assault into southern Kuwait.


of tanks moved in and opened fire on Iraqi desert positions. Over


thousand troops followed. Most of the Iraqis in the desert along the


border were already wiped out from weeks of bombing raids. Day


day, hour after hour air attacks pounded Iraqi bunkers and trenches. It


a living hell for those soldiers. And they knew they were defeated. All


wanted to do was to go home- the war did not matter any longer. As a


the invasion of Kuwait was a success, and thousands of Iraqi soldiers


to surrender rather than face certain death. All that was left now


clean up. Allies went on a search and kill mission to rid Kuwait of what


left of the Iraqi soldiers.

The next day, newspapers around the world

had the this on their headline in

big, bold lettering: "KUWAIT FREED!

War is over."

War in the end, seems to be a glorious thing. Especially

in this Gulf War.

Clearly you had the aggressor, the bad guy, Saddam

Hussein, and the good guy,

George Bush. Things turned out like something

out of a movie; the good guy

wins easily, the bad guy looses with disgrace.

Certainly it felt like a movie

to us all, with the extensive press coverage

and abundance of video captured.

In this I feel we have taken war in

the wrong way. War is not something to be

looked at as great, or for

that matter funny. I remember the various video

shots of missiles destructing

buildings, night vision video of bewildered

Iraqi soldiers falling over

in death from an enemy they cannot even see or

hear... It makes me cringe

to think that these images are shown for our

amusement, not for us to

see the cruelty of war. It is true that Saddam is in

fact a madman, but

this does not label every single Iraqi citizen, or soldier

as one. We

look at gruesome footage of a charred Iraqi body, frozen while


up in his burnt truck- and we laugh. I think we have to rethink


what we fought this war for, was it worth the death on both sides,


why we put such a low humanitarian priority on the lives of our





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