Twenty-six years ago on this date, September 11, 1990, George Bush spoke to the Congress and the world. In his speech, George Bush declared a “new world order” as he prepared for war. (transcript, video)
FIRST NEW WORLD ORDER SPEECH
We gather tonight, witness to events in the Persian Gulf as significant as they are tragic. In the early morning hours of August 2nd, following negotiations and promises by Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein not to use force, a powerful Iraqi army invaded its trusting and much weaker neighbor, Kuwait…
Once again, Americans have stepped forward to share a tearful good-bye with their families before leaving for a strange and distant shore. At this very moment, they serve together with Arabs, Europeans, Asians and Africans in defense of principle and the dream of a new world order. That’s why they sweat and toil in the sand and the heat and the sun.
The George Bush vision of a “new world order” would be reiterated in other speeches over the period.
IMPENDING IRAQ WAR
This story of terrorism and endless war begins a few days before the first major “new world order” speech by George Bush — on August 2, 1990, the day the “president” of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, invaded Kuwait and took the entire country. Now, 26 years later, we live in a very different world — a “new world order” perhaps — and the war has never ended.
From shortly after World War II, the world broke up into two camps, the “free” world led by the United States and the “communist” world led by the Soviet Union. The international duopoly of power provided a tense atmosphere of brinkmanship through the massive build up of nuclear weapons. The threat of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD) prevented major hostilities from breaking out — thus the period became known as the Cold War. But this all was changing now.
November 9, 1989, less than a year before the Kuwait invasion, the Berlin Wall that separated the German capitol city into East and West was dismantled, symbolically ending the Cold War and signifying the “defeat” of the Soviet empire.
THE PRIOR IRAQ SITUATION
From 1980 through 1988, a war raged between Iraq and Iran, where some two million people were killed. Iraq started the war, but American allies supplied Iraq with weapons. At the same time, an illegal operation by Ronald Reagan provided arms to Iran in exchange for hostages. Literally, the United States was arming both sides to keep the bloodbath going and to reduce the capabilities of both nations at the same time.
Once the two nations finally ended the war, Iraq owed Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for their assistance. Iraq asked for forgiveness to prevent national bankruptcy, but Kuwait would not budge. Rather, Kuwait used slant drilling techniques to seize oil reserves from the Iraq side of the border, even though the oil fields themselves were contested. Iraq complained but nothing was done. Iraq turned to its ally the United States about action in the oil fields. The response was ambivalent at best, and promotional at worst.
On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Rather than just take the disputed territory and try to stop the slant drilling, Saddam Hussein took the entire nation.
FALSE ATROCITIES IN THE RUN-UP
Immediately, a Kuwaiti ambassador to the United Nations produced a long numbered list of atrocities committed by the invading Iraqi army. At numbers 19 and 20, the ambassador described hospitals “robbed of their medicines” and cleared of “all patients.”
Eventually, the list of charges morphed into claims that Iraq soldiers were killing babies — taking them out of incubators and leaving them on the floor. By October, Nayirah testified to Congress about terrible things. Her last name was kept secret supposedly for her own protection.
Nayirah was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US and a member of the long ruling al-Sabah family. She was making up a story to sell the war, but nobody bothered to ask. Long after the fact, in 1992, The New York Times (NYT) reported:
How did the girl’s testimony come about? It was arranged by the big public relations firm of Hill & Knowlton on behalf of a client, the Kuwaiti-sponsored Citizens for a Free Kuwait, which was then pressing Congress for military intervention. Mr. [California Democratic Representative Tom] Lantos knew the girl’s identity but concealed it from the public and from the other caucus co-chairman, Representative John E. Porter of Illinois…
Mr. Lantos and Mr. Porter headed the Congressional Human Rights Foundation. It rents space in Hill & Knowlton’s Washington headquarters at a reduced rate. The same Citizens for a Free Kuwait that produced the mysterious Nayirah also gave $50,000 to the foundation sometime after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The foundation has financed caucus travel, including trips by Mr. Lantos and his wife.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigated the ‘incubator babies’ story and found it to be false [PDF].
Based on its own exhaustive investigations conducted in Kuwait, other parts of the Middle East, Britain and the United States, Middle East Watch concludes that it has found no basis to the allegation that Iraqi troops took babies from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals, causing them to die. Testimony taken by Middle East Watch after the liberation of Kuwait, from Kuwaiti doctors, nurses and administrators is clear and consistent in refuting the charge. Careful examination of hospital and cemetery records produced the same results.
BUILDING THE COALITION
With a fresh and obvious aggression, the United Nations acted to condemn the takeover of Kuwait. The United Nations Security Council determines matters of sanctions and war. The council has five permanent members and 10 additional rotating members.
August 2, the Security Council immediately passed Resolution 660 with 14 votes condemning the invasion and demanding “that Iraq withdraw immediately and unconditionally all its forces” from Kuwait. Many more resolutions were passed in the coming weeks.
It became the task mostly of Secretary of State James A. Baker III to build a coalition for war.
The United States, especially Secretary of State James Baker, assembled a coalition of forces to join it in opposing Iraq, consisting of soldiers from 34 countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Honduras, Italy, Kuwait, Morocco, The Netherlands, Niger, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States itself. US troops represented 74% of 660,000 troops in the theater of war. Many of the coalition forces were reluctant to join; some felt that the war was an internal Arab affair; others feared increasing American influence in Kuwait. In the end, many nations were persuaded by offers of economic aid or debt forgiveness.
For example, NYT reported that Egypt was forgiven 20 billion dollars, “partly in thanks for the support it gave” in The Gulf War. Even long-time national “enemy” Syria got into the act, becoming fast friends with United States allies and taking “$2.5 billion in assistance from the gulf states and Japan.”
Lithuania was a free nation in 1940 when Soviet Russia marched in and took control of it and two other Baltic states. With the international political situation changing fast, Lithuania re-asserted its independence.
Just a few days before the Iraq deadline, Russia invaded Lithuania. George Bush declared that there was “no justification” for the invasion, that the invasion “could not help but affect our relationship,” then kindly offered only his “thoughts and prayers.” There was little talk about protecting the small nation from Soviet aggression despite the fact that United States policy for 50 years was to consider Lithuania independent. After all, Russia was on board with the impending deadline for Iraq.
Then, there was Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration claimed that Iraqi troops were amassing at the Arabian border, ready to invade and take over the oil fields.
Citing top-secret satellite images, Pentagon officials estimated in mid-September [of 1990] that up to 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks stood on the border, threatening the key US oil supplier.”
Actual satellite images revealed something else:
Two Soviet satellite photos obtained by the St. Petersburg Times raised questions about such a buildup of Iraqi troops. Neither the CIA nor the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency viewed an Iraqi attack on Saudi Arabia as probable.
Saudi Arabia permitted a massive United States force onto its land to prepare for the war deadline.
For all of the diplomacy, the United Nations issued a reward. November 29, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 678 with 12 of 15 possible votes which “Authorize[d] Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements [all of the earlier resolutions], to use all necessary means to uphold and implement [Resolution] 660 (1990) and all subsequent resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area.”
As the January 15, 1991, deadline approached, Congress was pressed to take action. On January 12, after much debate, both houses passed a bill, the Authorization to Use Military Force Against Iraq Resolution (“1991 AUMF”).
Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. The Senate was split 56-44 and the House was split 270-164 plus one independent Bernie Sanders. In the Senate, 41 Republicans were joined by ten Democrats to pass the resolution by a slim 52-47 margin. In the House, 164 Republicans and 86 Democrats passed it by a wide margin of 250-183.
THE “PERSIAN GULF WAR” AND THE “NEW WORLD ORDER” BEGIN
January 16, 1991, upon the deadline bombing began. Those who had any doubts about the deadline saw the answer. Force would be used. The night sky lit up with bombings and missile shots. Operation Desert Storm was underway.
That night, George Bush appeared on TV for an Oval Office speech. George Bush announced the bombing campaign. He also mentioned his “new world order” a second time — repeating the term over and over. Later, on January 29, his State of the Union address promoted the “new world order” a third time:
What is at stake is more than one small country. It is a big idea — a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind — peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law.
The actual decision to go to war for his new world order seemed to be made in October by a small group including George Bush and key advisors. As author Theodore H. Draper described it:
On October 25, 1990, just before President Bush made his critical decision to double the American force in Saudi Arabia, CIA Director William H. Webster told the National Council on World Affairs Organization in Washington that sanctions were working so well that they had cut off 98 percent of Iraq’s oil exports and perhaps as much as 95 percent of its imports. Outside the administration, much military and civilian opinion disliked the “military option.”
The principal impetus for war seems to have come from President Bush, mainly abetted by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, Vice-President Dan Quayle, and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft. It was a peculiarly presidential war, whose political effect depended largely on whether it could be fought speedily and with minimal casualties on the American side.
The official State Department version indicates that the decision was made by October 30 too.
By October 30, the Bush administration made a decision to push Iraq out of Kuwait by force if necessary. Bush increased the U.S. force presence and petitioned the United Nations for authorization to use force.
WEEKS OF AIR WAR
The Pentagon reports from 1991 estimate that 1,200 U.S. aircraft participated in Desert Storm, flying 69,406 sorties across a nearly 40-day period that saw strikes against Iraqi military infrastructure, defenses and missile launch sites. Roughly 60,830 airmen from all components of the service participated in the operation.
THE 100 HOUR GROUND WAR
On February 24, 1991, the troops in Saudi Arabia invaded Iraq for the ground war, going around the fortified areas near Kuwait through the desert where the Iraq military was supposedly amassing on the border to invade Saudi Arabia. United States forces destroyed the legendary “fourth largest army in the world,” systematically killing everything that moved or even stood still on what later became known as the “highway of death.” In just 100 hours, it was over.
On April 6, 1991, the war was won. Iraq’s forces left a huge mess of oil well fires and spills, but victory was overwhelming. We were told that American casualties were very low with 145 battle deaths, 147 non-battle deaths, and 467 wounded in action. “Vietnam syndrome” was over too, as George Bush declared in March at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) — the notorious Koch brothers organization.
AFTERMATH OF THE OFFICIAL WAR
In reality, only the official United Nations war mission was finished — the war went on. While leaving Saddam Hussein in power over Iraq, the United Nations sanctions against the nation continued. These sanctions remained through to the next major Iraq invasion in 2003.
George Bush with the UK and France also instituted two large and controversial “no fly zones” over Iraq [PDF], a continuing war action that was not specifically authorized by the United Nations.
With the economy stuck in a “jobless recovery,” the people were agitating for change in the United States. George Bush slipped from the highest popularity rating ever to 29 percent. The Democratic Party offered Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton into the mix, while independent billionaire H. Ross Perot tapped into the people’s outrage and decided to run too. Ross Perot had a radical attitude, but his policy suggestions where squarely in the moderate range.
As it turned out, Ross Perot received a whopping 19 percent of the vote — the highest number for an independent candidate since Teddy Roosevelt ran in the Bull Moose Party in 1912.
The press made lemonade out of Ross Perot’s extraordinary showing, claiming falsely that Ross Perot was a spoiler in an election that should have been won by George Bush, and using this claim to discourage “third party” support. This myth or fabrication (and so many others) continues to be perpetuated in the echo chamber with little challenge today.
GENERAL POLICY OF WAR AND ANOTHER WAR LEFT BEHIND
George Bush provided the new administration with two presents. First, in spring of 1992, a new official policy document called the “Defense Planning Guidance” was written declaring that the United States would become the sole superpower handling the military needs of the world. The document offered preemptive wars to eliminate “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs). NYT reported:
“The U.S. may be faced with the question of whether to take military steps to prevent the development or use of weapons of mass destruction,” it states, noting that those steps could include pre-empting an impending attack with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons or “punishing the attackers or threatening punishment of aggressors through a variety of means,” including attacks on the plants that manufacture such weapons.
Second, in the lame-duck period after the election, George Bush invaded Somalia with no exit plan. The new administration of Bill Clinton was left to figure it out. The result was great humiliation and a movie “Blackhawk Down.”
THE COST OF WAR AND SANCTIONS
“Praise be to Allah” began a manifesto by Osama Bin Ladin in 1996. Osama was a member of the ruling family of American ally Saudi Arabia. Osama had worked with the United States to fight against Soviet Russia in Afghanistan. But now, Osama was outraged by American troops in the holy land of Saudi Arabia and the economic sanctions. He called for his own version of ‘any means necessary’ to fight back:
My Muslim Brothers of the world: Your brothers in land of the two holiest sites and Palestine are calling upon you for help and asking you to take part in fighting against the enemy, your enemy; the Israelis and Americans. They are asking you to do whatever you can within one’s own means and ability, to expel the humiliate and defeat the enemy out of the sanctities of Islam.
The toll of the Persian Gulf War was much higher than many were led to believe. While the ‘incubator babies’ story leading up to the war was entirely fabricated, real people and real babies were killed in massive numbers as a result of the war.
A report after “The Gulf War” indicated that over half a million children died as a result of the war and the sanctions. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said “the price was worth it” … Department of Veterans Affairs later determined that over 8,000 U.S. service members died by 2002 as a result of duties in the Iraq theater.
The International War Crimes Tribunal headed by former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark convened to assemble “A Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq to the Commission of Inquiry for the International War Crimes Tribunal” and presented its charges and findings in New York City early in 1992.
The report provided detailed information to support eleven claims including a “pattern of conduct … intended to lead Iraq into provocations” before the invasion of Kuwait. Regardless of these findings, the war continued.
NEW ADMINISTRATION, SAME WAR
By the early summer of 1993, Bill Clinton was already back in Iraq, issuing bombing raids in “retaliation” for an alleged conspiracy to assassinate George Bush while he was visiting Kuwait. Conversations turned to fears of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and the pre-emptive policies laid out in the George Bush guidance.
Throughout the Bill Clinton years, the sanctions and no-fly zone continued as the occasional bombings occurred. United Nations observers forced a regime of inspections to watch for WMDs — a term that became well known in the public consciousness.
No WMDs of any significance ever existed. The idea that WMDs would exist after none were used in the 1991 campaign was absurd. The idea that WMDs would exist after the massive bombing campaign caused so much destruction was absurd. Everyone should have known. Yet, so many powerful and informed people claimed that they were concerned about WMDs.
Meanwhile, George Bush was off joining Carlyle Group, a large, well-connected private investment company specializing in weapons manufacturing. The Carlyle Group was created by former Ronald Reagan Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and included George Bush’s Secretary of State James Baker as a partner.
On Halloween in 1998, Bill Clinton signed a Republican-introduced bill to increase the power of the administration to act against Iraq, the Iraq Liberation Act. This law supported funding and efforts for ‘regime change’ and was used later by George W. Bush to justify the major 2003 escalation.
During the 1998 mid-term elections, the impending impeachment of Bill Clinton became a major political issue. The issue did poorly at the polls as the Democrats picked up four seats in the House — a rare occurrence for a sixth-year presidential party.
Nevertheless, on December 19, 1998, Democrat Bill Clinton was impeached by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on charges of covering up “sexual relations” with an intern through perjury and obstruction of justice. The impeachment vote went down mostly on partisan lines. Two of four articles passed even though everyone knew that there would not be enough votes in the Senate to remove Bill Clinton from office.
Three days earlier, Bill Clinton embarked upon a particularly aggressive four-day bombing campaign against Iraq called Operation Desert Fox, claiming authority under United Nations resolutions and the Iraq Liberation Act.
Most notably, Bill Clinton exercised the military force of NATO for the first time ever in the Yugoslav wars and in the 1999 war in Kosovo — actions that seemed to come straight out of the George Bush Defense Planning Guidance policy.
THE 2000 ELECTION
In 2000, George W. Bush, the son of the earlier one-term president ran for election against Vice President Al Gore. While the media did not give it much attention, candidate George W. Bush seemed determined to go back into Iraq. The writing was on the wall.
He was armed with a group of good friends from a think-tank called Project For the New American Century (PNAC). In September, this group wrote up a major white paper expanding upon the earlier official Defense Planning Guidance and calling for increased military spending to insure the ability of the United States to support three major wars at the same time. The document [PDF] listed specific nations including Iraq.
On election day, the winner of the election was called: Al Gore. But then funny things began to happen. The election was disputed and recounts were demanded. First, the Florida Secretary of State under brother Jeb Bush stopped the vote count. Later, a 5-4 partisan divided Supreme Court stopped the vote count again and ultimately declared George W. Bush president.
George W. Bush took office on a gloomy day. Protests in Washington DC were large and loud. With the crowd of protesters larger than the crowd assembled for the inaugural celebration, TV coverage could not be avoided.
Then, on September 11, 2001, eleven years after his father declared the “new world order,” everything changed. As they say, the rest is history.