The First Bush Invasion
I’ll start this story in 1990. Saddam Hussein has invaded Kuwait after soaking up a decade of U.S. military funding to support his war against Iran.
The Iran war was politically beneficial to the U.S. It would weaken the new government that had come to power as a result of the revolution against the U.S-.backed Shah and ushered away his notoriously brutal secret police. In invading that country, Saddam had impressed the Americans.
Kuwait was different; it served as an important piece of the U.S. geopolitical strategy in the region. An Iraqi invasion there was unacceptable, so the U.S. intervened against its former ally, cloaked their military self-interest in a moral outrage that had not been afforded to Saddam when his Iran invasion killed 1 million people.
In the U.S. we call this the Gulf War, or Operation Desert Storm. Iraqis call it "the first Bush invasion."
George H.W. Bush was the president, and had been the vice president throughout the 1980's during the Iran war. In those years, U.S. companies helped arm Saddam. One was Alcolac, whose Baltimore factory processed 1 million pounds of thiodiglycol and shipped it to the Iraqi dictator through a series of shell companies. According to court records, the chemicals "were processed to manufacture mustard gas used to attack the Kurds" in the infamous 1988 Halabja massacre.
In 1989, Alcolac plead guilty to a single count of violating export laws and was fined. No one from the company went to prison.
Fast forward a few years. Saddam's military is retreating from Kuwait amidst a U.S.-led military intervention, and his soldiers are deserting en masse - something President Bush had urged them to do. As these soldiers retreated towards Basra, the U.S. dropped incendiary and cluster bombs on them, leaving thousands of charred bodies and melted, unidentifiable remains scattered on what became known as the "Highway of Death.”
Tens of thousands of these retreating soldiers made it to Basra. A week later, they launched a revolt against Saddam, just as President Bush had suggested. A Kurdish revolt swept the north of the country.
The rebels appealed to the U.S. for support, but it was refused. President Bush and his government feared that the southern rebels aligned too closely with Iran. They were to die as props in the new American grand strategy, and their struggle for freedom was to be discarded after its benefits to these ends expired.
The U.S. stood by as Saddam's forces crushed the uprising, killing countless people. At one point, Iraqi helicopters poured kerosene on refugees fleeing the city and then lit them on fire. The U.S., who had so quickly come to the aid of Kuwait, did nothing.
Emboldened by his brutal success in Basra, Saddam then moved to crush the uprising in the north. The U.S., who so indignantly cried foul a decade later over Saddam's use of poison gas in Halabja - gas made with materials sent to him from the Baltimore Alcolac factory - again did nothing.
Two million Kurds fled to the mountains, many of whom were killed by landmines along the way. Tens of thousands are thought to have died.
The country had not recovered by the time Bush's son, his administration filled with his father's strategists and imperial ideologues, returned to continue the destruction of the country.
Rot in hell, Bush. Your sons as well.