The Hidden History of the Iraq War

By Greer, Edward | Monthly Review, May 1991 | Go to article overview
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The Hidden History of the Iraq War

Greer, Edward, Monthly Review

We do not ordinarily publish extensive notes to articles, but because of their importance we have included footnotes to this Review of the Month by Edward Greer, who has a private civil litigation practice in Brookline, Mass., and is the author of Big Steel.- Black Politics and Corporate Pouwr in Gayy, Indiana (Monthly Review, 1979). He acknowledges the help of his editorial assistant, Stephen E. Slaner. -The Editors

Since Operation Desert Storm is over, it is safe to assume that President Bush achieved his war aims. With the help of hindsight, we can infer what those aims actually were. A close look at the historical record reveals how cynically Bush deceived the American people.

It is telling that the hostilities were not ended until after the four-day ground war was launched and carried through until its objectives were attained. Up to that point, the president simply ignored the offers by the Iraqis to surrender Kuwait so long as their army could be spared annihilation.'

Just prior to and during the ground war, the U.S. Command made it clear that it would not permit the Iraqis to carry out an orderly retreat, and that they would be killed regardless.[2]

The latter two days of the ground war amounted to a straightforward slaughter of fleeing Iraqi ground units. In this final period, much of the remaining Iraqi military equipment was destroyed; and tens of thousands of half-starving and totally defeated soldiers were murdered as they attempted to flee Kuwait.

In total, according to General Norman Schwarzkopf-. "I would estimate, purely an estimate, that we easily killed more than 100,000 [Iraqi soldiers].,,6 Had the United States continued even another day, "it was literally about to become the battle of Cannae, a battle of annihilation."'

We can reasonably infer, therefore, that one of the American war aims was the physical destruction of the Iraqi military capacity. In addition to the pulverization of Iraq's military equipment and military forces, there were other war objectives which had been achieved even prior to sending in the ground forces against an already defeated foe.

In particular, these objectives-achieved almost immediately by the air war-encompassed the physical destruction of the entire economy of Iraq and all of its accumulated resources.[9] As Bernard Debusmann of Reuters reported shortly after leaving Baghdad on February 8: Despite eight years of war with Iran, many citizens believed their country was on the way to a bright future. Within four hours, between 2:30 A.M. and dawn Jan 17, these hopes were shattered. By the time Baghdad's citizens emerged from their air raid shelters, in dazed disbelief at the scale and ferocity of the attack, Iraq had virtually ceased to exist as a modern state. The lights went out minutes after the first missile slammed into the capital's main power plant. The telephones went dead all over the country. Water stopped running. [10]

Thus, the population of Iraq has been reduced to imminent starvation. There is a serious possibility of mass death through widespread disease; and there are no apparent means for the Iraqi people to rebuild their society. The United

Nations Report states:

The recent conflict has wrought near-apocalyptic results upon the infrastructure of what had been ... a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society. Now, most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous. Ira has, for some time to come, been relegated to a pre-industrial age, but with all the disabilities of post-industrial dependence on an intensive use of energy and technology.[12]

The final blow, insisted upon as a "peace term" at the United Nations, [13] is for reparations for the war costs to be paid off by seizure of the nation's only remaining resource: its oil reserves and production. [14] With a maximum of $15 billion in annual oil revenues, and a debt from before the war of $70 billion [15] (which was part of Hussein's motive in invading Kuwait), and damage to neighboring countries in the tens of billions, it would appear to be a full generation before Iraqis [16] will be able to reconstruct their society.

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