Why some Arab leaders believe what they believe
Journalist, Arnaud de Borchgrave, reports most Arab policy makers believe the U.S. gave Saddam the green light to invade Kuwait in 1990. Nothing could be further from the truth; however, the case can be made that State Department ineptitude made it seem as if the U.S. didn’t care what happened to Kuwait.
On a day in 1990 when Saddam had 300,000 troops and 300 tanks poised on the Kuwaiti border, our ambassador to Iraq had to interrupt her packing for home leave because she was summoned to a meeting at the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. To her surprise, she ended up meeting with someone she had never met before: then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Three questions: Why had our ambassador never met the Iraqi president before? Why, with Saddam’s army poised on the Kuwaiti border, was she going on vacation? More importantly, why would the U.S. send a female ambassador to an Arab country where women are considered lower than whale droppings? Political correctness strikes again.
According to de Borchgrave, our ambassador told Saddam, “Your inter-Arab disputes do not concern the United States, but we strongly believe they should be settled peacefully.” Arab leaders claim Saddam took that to mean he had a free hand in dealing with Kuwait.
Some on the Arab Street are willing to believe the message conveyed by our ambassador’s gender and the wishy-washy statement she made to Saddam, were just diplomatic bungling. But other Arabs believe we lured Saddam into invading Kuwait.
Why? Because they think we wanted an excuse to establish a major military presence smack dab in the middle of the Middle East and its oil riches. Of course, such thinking is just as preposterous as believing the U.S. wanted Saddam to invade Kuwait. But, in politics, perception is reality.
Yet our problems with Iraq and Iran began when President Jimmy Carter pulled the Persian Rug out from under our long-time ally, the Shah of Iran. Granted, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi was, like all of his neighboring rulers, a dictator. But he was a benevolent dictator. He even hired Ross Perot’s computer company to come in and try to set up a social security system for the Iranian people.
When the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations constructed a ring of alliances to “contain” the Soviet Union, Iran was a vital part of that anti-Soviet network. Unfortunately, when the Shah-of-Iran-to-be was a student in Paris, he contracted the royal case of syphilis that would eventually reactivate and take his life.
Enter President Jimmy Carter. Told of the Shah’s social disease, Jimmy the Baptist turned against him. While it was in our national interest to keep the anti-Soviet Shah in power, it was not in our national interest to discard a strategic friend because his loathsome disease offended Carter’s moral sensitivities.
Then, when Carter learned an exiled religious leader was waiting in Paris to replace the Shah, Carter gave orders to withdraw our support for the Shah and to not oppose the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini’s attempts to come to power in Iran. Duh.
But the Muslim Khomeini was not grateful to Jimmy the Baptist. In 1979, Khomeini’s forces overran our embassy and imprisoned 52 American hostages. Under the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, Carter entered into alliances that put the U.S on Saddam’s side during the Iran-Iraq War. Carter also mounted a failed hostage rescue attempt. To show his Islamic contempt for the Christian Carter, the Ayatollah ended the hostages’ 444 days of captivity by releasing them on the day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.
For sure, George Bush, the elder, and Jimmy Carter made diplomatic errors. Carter’s moralizing got us into the Iranian mess and into bed with Saddam. By sending a woman to do what Arabs think is a man’s job, Bush, the elder, sent the wrong message to Saddam about Kuwait.
To paraphrase Paul Harvey: Now you know the “start” of the story.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – novels about terrorist attacks on Colorado’s water supply and on the Panama Canal, respectively.
©2004. William Hamilton.