Bob Feldman : Brent Snowcroft and the Roots of the Iraq War

Bush I’s national security advisor Brent Scowcroft. Photo from The Washington Times.

‘Liberating Kuwait’ and targeting Saddam:
years of war against Iraq

By Bob Feldman / The Rag Blog / August 9, 2010

This August marks the twentieth anniversary of the Republican Bush I White House’s August 1990 decision to send U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia and covertly start working for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime in Iraq, under the pretext of “liberating Kuwait.” Yet, according to the 2010 World Almanac, as recently as late 2009, Kuwait was still “ruled by the Sabah dynasty” and “nearly half the population is non-Kuwaiti… and cannot vote.”

Coincidentally, when the Iraqi troops of the now-executed Saddam Hussein marched into Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, a former member of the corporate board of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation’s Santa Fe International U.S. subsidiary — Brent Scowcroft — just happened to be the Bush I White House’s National Security Affairs advisor.

And, according to a Feb. 2, 1991 New York Times article, it was the presentation of Scowcroft — who was also the vice-chairman of Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s Kissinger Associates influence-peddling firm — at a National Security Council meeting on Aug. 3, 1990, “that made clear what the stakes were, crystallized people’s thinking and galvanized support for a strong response” to the Iraqi military occupation of Kuwait.

After learning that Iraq troops had entered Kuwait, Scowcroft “returned to the White House and informed Bush,” according to the 1991 book The Commanders by Bob Woodward. Scowcroft then “called an emergency meeting of the deputies committee by securing video links and chaired it himself from the Situation Room.”

At the emergency meeting, according to The Commanders, Scowcroft “pressed for more action,” proposed that a squadron of 24 Air Force F-15 fighters be offered to Saudi Arabia immediately and “called a National Security Council [NSC] meeting for first thing in the morning.”

The former board member of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation’s Santa Fe International subsidiary then went to sleep in his White House office at 4 a.m., awoke 45 minutes later and “by 5 a.m. was at Bush [I]’s bedroom door” with an executive order to be signed that froze all of Kuwait’s foreign assets — except for the overseas special interests of the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation [KPC].

This executive order insured that little of the Al-Sabah Dynasty’s foreign wealth would end up in the hands of the Iraqi government while Kuwait was occupied, and that the Al-Sabah Dynasty’s KPC would be able to continue its normal commercial operations outside of Kuwait.

After the initial White House National Security Council meeting of Thursday, Aug. 2, 1990, was held, according to The Commanders, “Scowcroft was alarmed” because no immediate military response was agreed upon. A second NSC meeting was therefore held in the White House the following morning, on Friday, Aug. 3. And at this second NSC meeting, according to The Commanders, the following happened:

Scowcroft stated that there had to be two tracks. First, he believed the United States had to be willing to use force. Second, he said that Saddam had to be toppled. That had to be done covertly through the CIA, and be unclear to the world.

Responding immediately to this policy recommendation of the former Kissinger Associates vice-chairman,“Bush ordered the CIA to begin planning for a covert operation that would destabilize the regime and, he hoped, remove Saddam from power,” according to The Commanders.

After Scowcroft’s proposal to respond to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait by sending a few hundred thousand Pentagon troops to Saudi Arabia had been implemented in August and September of 1990, the Emir of Kuwait then visited Bush I in the Oval Office on Friday, Sept. 28, 1990. And, according to Bob Woodward, “Scowcroft joined them for the hour long meeting” and “though the Emir did not directly ask for military intervention to liberate his country, Scowcroft could see that that was his subliminal message.”

Perhaps one reason why Scowcroft was able to detect the Emir of Kuwait’s “subliminal message” that the U.S. military should be used to put the Al-Sabah royal dynasty back in power in Kuwait, was that Scowcroft had apparently received payments from Santa Fe International in 1984, 1985, and 1986 for sitting on its corporate board — after the Al-Sabah Dynasty’s KPC had purchased Santa Fe International in 1981 for $2.5 billion.

According to The Commanders, by Fall 1990 “Scowcroft had become the First Companion and all-purpose playmate to the President on golf, fishing and weekend outings,” and by early October 1990 “Scowcroft told [then-Secretary of Defense] Cheney that Bush wanted a briefing right away on what an offensive against Saddam’s forces in Kuwait might look like.”

On Oct. 11, 1990, the Pentagon plans to launch a military offensive against Iraq were given to Bush [I]. And, at a 3:30 afternoon meeting on Oct. 29, 1990, Bush met with [then-Secretary of State James] Baker, Cheney, Scowcroft, and [then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin] Powell in the White House Situation Room where, according to The Commanders, “Bush and Scowcroft seemed primed to go ahead with the development of the offensive option.”

The Commanders also indicated that by Dec. 17, 1990, Scowcroft was eager to begin the bombing blitz of Iraq, despite all the subsequent pre-Jan. 16, 1991 Bush [I] Administration talk of how eager it was to have its then-Secretary of State Baker talk face-to-face with the Iraqi foreign minister, in order to avert a war:

It was obvious to [then-Congressional Representative] Aspin that Scowcroft had lost his patience with diplomacy… Saddam was jerking everyone around. There was no reason to deal with him, Scowcroft said. War would take less time… Scowcroft said. He was now convinced that war would be a two-to-three week solution…

That same week in December 1990, Scowcroft told Saudi Arabia’s then-Ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, that “Basically the President had made up his mind” and that the diplomatic efforts to avoid war undertaken by the Bush Administration were “all exercises.”

Nearly a month later, on Jan. 16, 1991, the bombing of Iraq was begun by the U.S. government and, according to The Commanders, about 20 Tomahawk missiles “were preprogrammed to hit Saddam’s presidential palace, the main telephone exchange and Baghdad’s electrical power-generating station” — in the name of “liberating Kuwait.”

And around 100,000 people in Iraq were apparently killed by the U.S. War Machine during the first few months of its 20-year war against Iraq in early 1991. In addition, at least 849 U.S. troops were either killed or wounded during the first few months of Gulf War I.

During the next 10 years more than 9,600 of the U.S. soldiers involved in the first Gulf War, who “were often required to enter radioactive battlefields unprotected and were never warned of the dangers of Depleted Uranium” weapons, reportedly also died, according to Project Censored’s Censored 2004 book. Another 1.5 million people in Iraq, more than half of them children under the age of five, also died during the next 10 years as a result of the economic sanctions that the U.S. government imposed on people in Iraq, as part of its continuing economic warfare against Iraq.

Meanwhile, in “liberated” Kuwait, after the Al-Sabah Dynasty was restored to power there, its government executed or tortured hundreds of its political opponents and began to violate the human rights of Palestinians living in Kuwait in the early 1990s. And in 1997, the Al-Sabah Dynasty’s KPC earned an additional $997.5 million by selling 35 million shares of the common stock of its Santa Fe International subsidiary on the global stock markets, while still keeping a controlling 69 percent of all Santa Fe International common stock in KPC hands.

Then, in 2000, the KPC’s wholly-owned SFIC Holdings (Cayman) Inc. sold another 30 million shares of its Santa Fe International common stock for big money, reducing KPC’s holdings of Santa Fe International’s stock to 39 percent. Yet that same year KPC was still given $15.9 billion by the United Nations for alleged “damages” related to the 1990 Iraq’s military occupation of Kuwait.

And in September 2001 , KPC’s Santa Fe International subsidiary agreed to merge, in a $3 billion stock swap, with Global Marine, to create the world’s second-largest offshore drilling contractor, GlobalSantaFe — with the KPC owning 18 percent of GlobalSantaFe’s stock in early 2002.

But after GlobalSantaFe repurchased 43.5 million shares of the GlobalSantaFe stock owned by KPC’s SFIC Holdings subsidiary for $799.5 million in 2005, the percentage of GlobalSantaFe stock owned by the Al-Sabah Dynasty’s KPC was reduced to around 8 percent. And two years later, KPC’s GlobalSantaFe (through another merger) became part of the Transocean offshore drilling contractor that owned the Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling rig that BP leased — which has recently created a lot of environmental destruction after it exploded, killed some oil industry workers, and began spilling a lot of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Meanwhile, in March 2003, the neo-con Republican Bush II Administration (with the support of AIPAC and other pro-Israeli government lobbying organizations in the United States) escalated the U.S. government’s war against people in Iraq.

And since the U.S. War Machine began bombing and occupying Iraq again in a big way in March 2003, about 1 million more Iraqis have been killed, along with at least 4,732 more U.S. troops — including at least 413 more U.S. soldiers from Texas killed in Iraq since March 2003. In addition, at least 31,882 more U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq since March 2003 — including at least 3,059 more U.S. soldiers from Texas wounded in Iraq since March 2003.

Yet 20 years after Scowcroft apparently recommended that the CIA be authorized to begin planning for a covert operation, “which would be unclear to the world,” that would destabilize the Baath regime in Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power — in violation of international law and the United Nations Charter — as part of the U.S. government’s effort to “liberate Kuwait,” most people in Kuwait still do not have full democratic rights.

Amnesty USA’s 2010 Annual Report For Kuwait, observed that “formal political parties remained banned” and “critics of the government and ruling family were harassed” in Kuwait in 2009. And as Priyanka Motaparthy of Human Rights Watch noted in a recent July 21, 2010 Foreign Policy Focus article:

Last month, prosecutors began the trial of Mohammad al-Jasim, a journalist accused of endangering national security. Jasim, trained as a lawyer, is one of the government’s most vocal critics and has faced more than 20 separate charges for libel and slander of government officials based on his writings and public statements…

Based on the government’s most recent charges, which elevate charges to national security offenses, Jasim spent 49 days in pretrial detention, including a brief stay in a military hospital following a weeklong hunger strike, before he was released on bail. At his trial, which resumes in September, he will be forced to defend himself from charges that he was “instigating to overthrow the regime” and attempting to “dismantle the foundations of Kuwaiti society.”

These accusations initially stemmed from 32 entries on his well-known Arabic-language blog Mizan, where Jasim has lambasted the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of the government and called for Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah to follow through on his promises of democratic reform… Following calls for his release in the local media and demonstrations by activists, the government issued a gag order prohibiting the press from covering his trial. Although Jasim has since been released from detention on bail, the ban on media coverage continues.

…While members of parliament and civil society groups are pushing for further change, Kuwait’s emir and key members of his family still hold the power to block any reforms.

Jasim’s prosecution is part of a steady encroachment over the past year on Kuwaitis’ freedom of expression, the right to assemble peacefully, and the right to criticize public officials’ performance. In October 2009, prosecutors charged two members of parliament with slander — the first for criticizing the prime minister, a member of the ruling family, and the second for accusing the health minister of corruption. Each was convicted and fined more than $10,000…

In March, the government arrested and deported virtually overnight more than 30 Egyptian nationals who supported former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed El-Baradei, an advocate of political reform in Egypt and possible presidential candidate. The Egyptians, many of whom were longtime residents in Kuwait, had simply organized a meeting to discuss his campaign…

Khalid al-Fadhala, the head of Kuwait’s National Democratic Alliance… was also recently prosecuted for criminal libel and slander of the country’s prime minister based on comments he made during a public rally accusing the prime minister of money laundering…

“…Kuwait’s activists and media remain under threat. When it comes to freedom of the press, and its approach to human rights more broadly, too many Kuwaiti decision-makers focus on superficial attempts to polish their country’s reputation abroad, while ignoring vital legal protections. When challenged, the government falls back on arguments of state sovereignty, essentially ordering international actors to mind their own business…

But the government remains skittish and highly sensitive to criticism, whether from foreign governments, international actors, or local activists and writers. As Jasim’s case demonstrates, these individuals have borne the brunt of its response, including aggressive criminal prosecutions for slander and defamation directed at those who comment on the work of government officials, crackdowns on public gatherings, and gag orders on the local media…

Scowcroft, meanwhile, has, in recent years, been a “principal member”/president of The Scowcroft Group influence-peddling firm, “whose principals and network of consultants reach into government and businesses worldwide” and whose clients include “industry leaders in the telecommunications, insurance, aeronautics, energy, and financial products sectors; foreign direct investors in the electronics, utilities, energy and food industries; and investors in the fixed income, equities, and commodities markets around world,” according to The Scowcroft Group’s website.

And, coincidentally, another “principal member” in Scowcroft’s firm is former CIA Deputy Director for Operations James L. Pavitt, who “managed more than one-third of the CIA’s globally deployed personnel and nearly half of the CIA’s multi-billion-dollar budget,” “spent many years abroad as a member of the Clandestine Service,” “served as Senior Intelligence Advisor to President George H.W. Bush as a member of the National Security Council team from 1990 to 1993,” and “as head of America’s Clandestine Services… led the CIA’s operational response to… September 11, 2001,” according to The Scowcroft Group’s website.

[Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based writer-activist and a former member of the Columbia SDS Steering Committee of the late 1960s.]

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