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Persian Gulf Crisis, 1990-1991: How Saddam Hussein's Greed and Totalitarian
Quest for Power Led to the Invasion of Kuwait, World Conflicts and the
Degredation of Iraq
Joseph Stalin. Fidel Castro. Adolf Hitler. Saddam Hussein. These names
are all those of leaders who have used a totalitarian approach to leading a
nation. Stalin and Hitler ruled in the early to mid-nineteen hundreds. Like
Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein is now. Saddam Hussein belongs to the Baath Party
of Iraq. This party adopts many techniques similar to those used by Stalin and
Hitler. Saddam Hussein conceived a plan to invade Kuwait. It was, perhaps, one
of the worst mistakes he could have made for his own reputation and for his
country. The invasion of Kuwait as well as the world's response to it, the
environmental disaster it caused, and the degradation of Iraq were completely
the fault one man and his government: Saddam Hussein and his Baath Government.
One of Hussein's weaknesses is negotiating. Negotiating in his terms is
to fight it out with as much carnage as possible until his side comes out
"victoriously". Repeatedly, Saddam and his government break international
convention laws. During his war fought with Iran, the Iraqi army used chemical
weapons on the Iranian troops and even on their own Iraqi population. This was
seemingly overlooked by the rest of the world because most nations didn't want
to see the Ayatollah's Islamic revolution rise. Iraq often obtained foreign arms
support from other nations because of this. It wasn't until the invasion of
Kuwait that the rest of the world seemed to realize the danger that Iraq posed
to its own people and to the Arab states surrounding it. Through poor planning,
Saddam Hussein made three major mistakes that enabled an easy defeat of the
The first mistake was that he captured all of Kuwait at the same time,
instead of leaving it as a border dispute. This might have kept it from becoming
an international affair. The second error was that Hussein positioned his
troops too close to the Saudi Arabian border. Because of this, other nations
feared that Saddam's aggression was endless. The third mistake was that Hussein
miscalculated the world's response. He overestimated the Arab "brotherhood" and
by doing so, didn't realize that the rest of the world would try to stop him. He
also overestimated his own country's military power, and believed that he could
annihilate military superpowers like the United States, Britain and France.
Saddam Hussein's ultimate dream was to possess a nuclear bomb. Most of
the world believed that Iraq didn't have the resources and materials to
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seventies, Saddam was determined to hold nuclear capability. He tried again in
1989 to purchase three high-temperature furnaces from a New Jersey company,
claiming that they were to be used for prosthetic limbs for Iran-Iraq war vets.
The deal was called off after the company, Consarc, was warned by the Pentagon.
Despite this, Iraq was still rich with weapons. Between 1975 and 1990,
this Arab nation had spent $65 billion in arms [Macleans, June 3, 1991]. In the
five years before the Kuwait invasion, Iraq was one of the world's largest
purchaser of arms. In those five years, Saddam had bought ten percent of all
weapons sold around the world. By 1990, Hussein's Iraqi army had 5,500 tanks
(mainly Russian), 8000 Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs), thousands of various
missiles (ground-to-air), 70 MiG 23s, 25 MiG 29s and 15 Su 24s [Outlaw State,
Saddam's quest for power by now was almost complete, except for nuclear
capabilities and a naval power. Most of this support of foreign arms came during
the Iran-Iraq war, against the Ayatollah's Islamic revolution. $500 million of
the $65 billion was spent on high-tech equipment purchased from the United
States. It is ironic that some of the missile sites that were set up by the
United States would later become bombing targets during the Gulf War, in 1991.
There were two primary reasons that Saddam Hussein wanted to invade
Kuwait. The first reason was so that Iraq would have a navy and eventually be
classified as a naval superpower because Kuwait situated on the Persian Gulf.
His quest for power would nearly be fulfilled by doing this. Hussein thought
that Iraq would be unstoppable with a navy. The other reason was that the oil
fields could greatly improve the Iraqi economy that had suffered during the
It is at this point that his greed comes into picture. Since most
industry had to be stopped during this war, Saddam had a reason to develop a new
military industry. The citizens were glad to support this because of a strong
sense of nationalism that had developed after an Iranian "defeat." New missiles
were developed including the Scud.
Despite the weapon industry flourishing, the economy became increasingly
worse. Many Iraqis had travelled to Kuwait, which was a country left virtually
unscathed after the Iran-Iraq war. They realized what the Kuwaiti "oil-money"
could buy, for Kuwait had one of the best incomes per capita in the world. Its
major cities were similar to those in North America (such as New York, Los
Angeles and Toronto). A feeling of jealousy arose from this. Kuwaitis were
buying Iraqi land very cheaply because of the crumbling economy. All foreign
purchases of land would soon end.
By the end of 1988 Iraq had defaulted on loan payments to the United
States, Canada, Australia and Britain. They were being rejected time after time
for credit. Saddam required a large and quick influx of money. There was only
one way that Hussein thought that this could be accomplished - to invade Kuwait.
2:03 a.m. August 2, 1990 ... Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. A massive
force of 120,000 troops, 1000 tanks, 900 Armoured Personnel Carriers and Mi-24
Hind attack helicopters were used [Beyond the Storm, page 100]. It was all-out
use of military power that showed little mercy. There were many more forces than
were needed to take this small country. The reason for this, (besides Saddam's
power-hungry characteristics), was that the Iraqis were disillusioned after it
took longer than expected to defeat the Iranians. Hussein was basically doing
this to ensure that the Kuwaitis could not resist. Five days before the
invasion, satellite pictures picked up the formations of Iraqi troops.
Foreign officials had been phoning Baghdad asking for an explanation to
this massive deployment of troops. Hussein insisted that it was merely routine
seasonal exercises and he had no intention of invading Kuwait.
Global conflicts had already begun because of this. The United States
Treasury Department ordered a freeze of all Iraqi and Kuwaiti assets in the
United States (which totalled over $30 billion [Times Magazine, Aug. 29, 1990].
Russia not only did the same but cancelled all future arms sales to Iraq. This
greatly put a hole in their income but the decision gained respect from other
leaders world wide. The United States fell under pressure trying to reach other
foreign leaders before Saddam did. Fortunately, President Bush won this race and
received nearly unanimous support from foreign leaders. Soon after, in the early
months of 1991, the new league of nations formed by the United States gave
Saddam Hussein an ultimatum: either get out and have a chance to survive or stay
in and suffer the consequences of war. He chose to stay, thinking that his
country would come out victoriously against the rest of the world. Little did
Saddam know that choosing to stay would cause Iraq to crumble even more and lead
to disastrous effects on the environment.
Then came the hundred hour ground war. This completely annihilated the
Iraqi strategic capabilities, it's missile sites, arms factories and advancing
forces. The allied forces flew approximately 100,000 sorties, that averages out
to one bombing run a minute throughout the whole campaign [Beyond the Storm,
page 91]. This month long air campaign broke up the fighting capability of the
Iraqi forces and their morale. When the air attacks did not cause a Kuwaiti
withdrawal, the ground attack began. By surrounding the Iraqis in the desert,
many surrendered. The ones occupying Kuwait City tried to flee but were gunned
down by allies as they tried to leave the city. It was defeat for the Iraqis.
As some of the Iraqi troops left Kuwait, they torched 600 of Kuwait's
950 oil wells [Outlaw State, page 139]. Black smoke dimmed the sun all the way
to Saudi Arabia and Iran. Black rain fell in the Middle East for months, even
after all the well fires had been put out. Millions of gallons of oil had been
spilled into the Persian Gulf. Wildlife was killed off. Fish died, birds died,
plants died. The oil present in the Gulf was over 250% more than that in Alaska,
years ago [Outlaw State, page 72]. The coastlines were destroyed, covered in
thick black oil. The oil was so concentrated that in some areas of the gulf the
oil was over a meter thick. The coastlines were littered with mines intended to
defend against an attack by the United States Marines that never came. Bodies
littered the streets of Iraq and Kuwait. There was a great rebuilding process
ahead for the Kuwaiti and Iraqi economies.
By invading Kuwait, Saddam had broke promises to three distinct peoples.
To his own people, to his Arab "brothers" and to the rest of the world . He had
promised his citizens of Iraq a better life after the long war with Iran. He had
also promised economic stability. Instead Saddam gave his people unemployment, a
war that destroyed their country, crushed nationalism, and a broken economy. To
his Arab brothers he promised that Iraq would lead them to greatness and develop
a military power that would equal Israel. His military visions led to Arab
attacking Arab on the battlefield. To the world he broke international law after
international law. He repeated himself that he would not invade Kuwait. Many
world leaders believed him and thought of him as a reliable trading partner
until this war.
This proves to many that the Hitlers and Stalins of the world are not
gone from the global scene. Saddam Hussein is a modern day figure modeling these
two. All the negative outcomes of the Persian Gulf crisis were either directly
or indirectly his fault. Unfortunately, Saddam Hussein is still the leader of
the now-crumbled country of Iraq. No doubt he will be looking for another quick-
fix to the economic problems Iraq must currently possess. Hopefully, it is not
the same method he used in the invasion of Kuwait.