Egomania Case Studies: Saddam HusseinBy
I was in college in 1991 when Saddam Hussein stood up to the West and refused to vacate Kuwait. No one was gullible enough back then to believe that the West really cared about Kuwaiti sovereignty. If the Kuwaitis had been exporting taro and sugar cane instead of oil, Saddam would still be alive and building palaces and lining up mistresses in Kuwait City.
Here’s the remarkable thing about Saddam. He met a bitter end by the Americans, yet he was no stranger to the Americans or their ways. He’d worked with the CIA as far back as 1959 in a failed attempt to assassinate the then Iraqi prime minister Abdul Karim Kassim. The CIA then helped his party get into power in 1963, and thereafter Saddam shacked up with the Americans to insure Iraq was a bastion of anti-communism. When the Shah of Iran was overthrown in an Islamic Revolution in 1979, not only the Americans backed him in his invasion of Iran, but also the Soviets, the Europeans, and the Persian Gulf Arab states.
So, I suppose in some ways, Saddam could be forgiven for later marching into Kuwait and thinking he could get away with it. He had friends in high places, and none of those powerful friends ever accused him of compromising Iranian sovereignty by storming into Iran in 1980 and renaming Iranian provinces. His Western allies didn’t scold him. Quite the opposite. They offered him enough financial assistance to carry on the war for eight years. By 1990, Saddam had some sensible reasons for forging into Kuwait. He claimed the war with Iran had spared Kuwaiti derrieres from Iranian pressure and domination. Besides that, he added, Kuwaiti territory was historically Iraq’s. It was only British control of the region in the 1920’s that had partitioned Kuwait off as a separate nation, stealing what would have been prime Iraqi seafront property. Saddam just couldn’t be absolutely sure the Americans would care if he invaded Kuwait. He was then getting U.S. assistance in the multibillions. He was, officially, a “buddy,” and we tend to cut our buddies a lot more slack when they break the rules.
In this case, Saddam calculated wrong. The U.S. did care. Kuwait had the equivalent number of oil reserves to Iraq, and if Iraq controlled Kuwait, a fifth of the world’s oil would be in Saddam’s hands. Saddam had bullied the wrong nation. He should’ve invaded Zimbabwe instead, removed the mentally demented Robert Mugabe from power, and annexed the tobacco fields. The world wouldn’t have blinked.
I don’t know about you, but if my benefactor who’d put me into power and aided in my subsequent power plays told me to do something, I’d do it. Never mind if that benefactor is hypocritical and corrupt and puts its own citizens’ lives at risk in wars that benefit only a chosen few. Saddam had been in bed with the U.S. for years and knew how the game was played. Perhaps it could be argued that Saddam was in the moral right – that Kuwait was sneaking oil out of Iraq’s reserves by slant drilling on their border or that Kuwait should’ve forgiven a share of the debt Iraq racked up in its war with Iran. In the end, it doesn’t matter who’s right. In the real world, might is right. When the U.S. told him to get out, he should’ve sat down in secret negotiations with the Americans and worked out a face-saving way of extricating himself from the mess he’d started.
[Click the picture to read the rest of this brilliant article]