E-Mail and the Gulf War
I have been very disillusioned with the Science for Peace group because there has been a plethora of talk and no action. I hope you can reorient yourselves and set some more practical and realistic objectives. To win the cause, you must convince the public that it is going to cost them much more than it will ever benefit, that those costs will be ones that affect their paychecks, or bills, or taxes directly. As a whole, they do not care about the cost in suffering to the Arabs, or potential environmental castophes, only what affects them and their children directly.
— Bonnie Blackwell, Geology Department, McMaster University, January 8
Presuming that you are concerned to prevent or at least postpone a military conflagration in the Persian Gulf, I would like to urge you to phone or telegraph the US Senate urging that congressional authority be used to prevent the onset of US attack on or soon after January 15, and that economic sanctions be given the chance to force the Iraqi military out of Kuwait and to bring down the Hussein government.
Yesterday, Senator George Mitchell (Democrat, Maine), who wields considerable political power as President of the Senate, gave a speech pointing out that the sanctions were conceived and presented by the Bush administration as the ideal means of dealing with the crisis, that no evidence or argument has been presented to repudiate that policy, that the CIA has presented strong evidence that sanctions are taking effect, and that should violence eventually be necessary, the longer the sanctions are in place, the less potent is the Iraqi defence. There is no need (for) and no advantage to war on Wednesday. A war will destroy Kuwait not save it. A war will destroy the oil production, not save it. A war will destabilize regional security, not save it.
Seeing the US Senate as perhaps the best point of leverage on US military decision, I would urge you to phone* Senator Mitchell’s office to voice your support of him (202-224-5556) and to minority senate leader Robert Dole (202-224-3135) to urge support of Mitchell. Dole is himself a wounded war veteran and might be most responsive to appeals to not unnecessarily and recklessly put US service men and women in jeopardy (I have called both numbers and know that they work and that the call is well received.)
Hopefully many small actions and tears may rise to a flood of such volume (as) to drown the war rhetoric and stall the momentum for war.
— Floyd Rudmin, Queen’s University, January 11
* We do not know how many acted on this advice — Editor
Sunday, January 20, 1991
Dear Science for Peace People:
I have followed the many messages distributed through the E-mail network concerning the Iraqi war.
…Turning to the central question of the present crisis: was war justified on Jan. 15? I respect the honest and heart-felt convictions of those who oppose the Coalition action. But I cannot support a pacifist response to the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. I understand the culpability of those nations — notably the USSR, France, and Kuwait itself; also, undoubtedly, the USA — who contributed to the crisis, by arming and giving financial support to the Iraqi regime. But the clock cannot be turned back. The world faces the threat of Saddam Hussein now, and I believe that he has made war the only option.
Saddam’s threat to the region and the world is appalling. Hussein — virtually single-handedly — is responsible for (i) the savage repression of human rights in Iraq; (ii) perhaps the most barbaric military adventurism of recent decades, in the instigation and prosecution of the insane war with Iran; (iii) the use of chemical warfare against the Kurds; (iv) the invasion of Kuwait itself, an act of conquest and aggression that must be reversed, if international order is to emerge from the post-Cold war era; (v) the cynical and despicable terror attacks on Israel. Does anyone doubt that he would have used chemical and even nuclear weapons in these attacks, had he been able? As with Hitler, Hussein’s own speeches reveal his plans, and naive people of good-will refuse to believe them.
In the past few days, I have heard many well-meaning statements of opposition to the war. Many of these have been made by persons for whom I have the greatest respect, and with whom I have normally stood in solidarity. But I have found the common theme in these statements to be opposition to armed conflict and a complete absence of credible alternative actions. I cannot agree that economic sanctions should have been continued ad infinitum. Such sanctions would have taken years to ‘bite’. Although Iraq was economically crippled by the sanctions, this had no impact at all on Hussein’s determination to remain in Kuwait, and little effect on his preparedness for hostilities.
Suppose we had maintained such santions for another year, or two years. Hussein would have continued to use this time to fortify his military position. By the time that the sanctions caused unacceptable hardship to the Iraqi population (a year? two years?): (i) the destruction of Kuwait and its people would have been completed; (ii) the Iraqi military position would have been stronger — for example, more SCUD warheads would probably have been constructed; (iii) Hussein would have garnered more sympathy and support from many quarters, especially the people of Moslem and Arab nations such as Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, Pakistan, etc. Indeed, his popular support in Iraq itself might have increased, in the face of the ‘common enemy’.
There are absolutely no grounds for optimism that he would have yielded to diplomatic efforts, any more than Hitler had the slightest genuine interest in political negotiations over the status of Austria or Czechoslovakia.
Finally, if the sanctions held to the point of causing intolerable hardship in Iraq, Hussein would then have opened hostilities against the nations enforcing the embargo, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey … and we would then be in the same war — but years later, on Saddam’s timetable, and probably on much less favourable military terms.
The consequences of war can never be predicted with certainty, but we must make real decisions based on judgement of the strategic situation. We have recently heard facile remarks that ‘war can never solve problems.’ But the present war can solve many problems: (i) Hussein’s intolerable reign of terror will come to an end. (ii) The principle of the integrity of nations, against aggression and conquest by powerful neighbours, will be upheld. [I am disturbed by the often-heard comments that Kuwait has, somehow, less right to nationhood because it is … far from a model democracy, selfishly rich, oppressive of its non-Kuwaiti residents, and so on. Are we to prepare an ‘A’ list and a ‘IV list of nations, with the latter ‘fair game’ for predation? Can even Canada stand guiltless of the [kind of] charges levelled against Kuwait? (iii) The awful threat hanging over Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, etc. will be removed.
It is further possible that the war will have beneficial effects beyond our expectations. (i) The example of Coalition action to repel aggression will deter other potential aggressors. (ii) The remarkable new impetus of democracy, which swept Eastern Europe and is now driving progressive change in Africa, may spread to many Arab one-party states, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen … even Iraq. Democracy is the strongest bulwark against regional conflict. (iii) The stage may be set for a comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Many of Israel’s most dangerous enemies (Iraq, Libya, the PLO) will have lost (militarily or politically). The more moderate nations, with which negotiation is possible (Egypt, Saudi Arabia) will have won. Israel’s right to exist and defend itself has, implicitly, now been accepted by Saudi Arabia and even Syria. Israel has also gained great respect for its present restraint. Facing a common enemy has overthrown previous hostility (most dramatically between Syria and the USA). All of these factors will increase the chances for a successful comprehensive international diplomatic solution in the Middle East.
I am also disturbed by the tendency of many opponents of the war to accept, implicitly a ‘moral linkage’ between the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, even while rejecting explicit diplomatic linkage. Ironically, one commentator on the CBC even stressed that Israel attacked first in 1967! (How dare they!) Of course, if Kuwait had taken reasonable action in its own defence (e.g. accepting the sanctioning of a small American ground force) when it was under explicit threat from Iraq in June/July — as Israel defended itself by forestalling an imminent attack in 1967 — we would probably not now be at war. This is not in any way to defend the intransigent Israeli position vis-a-vis the West Bank and Gaza. But it is a wild distortion of reality to admit any comparison between the Kuwait and West Bank occupations. Israel is surrounded by hostile nations whose declared aim is its destruction. If Iraq is now surrounded by hostile nations, this is only because Saddam has created them. And all of these nations are firm that they are opposed to Saddam, not to the existence of Iraq as a nation. Any objective observer would concede that the West Bank, Golan Heights, and Gaza are strategically important to Israel, and could not be surrendered without firm guarantees of national security. No such considerations applied to Kuwait, until Saddam created the present crisis.
Yes, the cost of war will be great. Soldiers and civilians will die. Economies will suffer, and the needs of human developments will languish while resources are poured into the war. And yet, militarily, this may be one of the most effective and least savage conflicts of the century, since the astonishing accuracy of bombing has clearly spared civilian targets. As Saddam refuses to yield, and the Iraqi army fails to depose him, the death toll from attacks against Iraqi troops will mount. (I think that there is some basis for hope that the Iraqi ground forces will disintegrate and run before complete devastation from the air is required.) We all hope that the successful end of the war will come as soon as possible.
I believe that I continue to support the principles of Science for Peace. I sincerely hope that the organization does not now adopt an unrealistic policy of absolute pacifism in the face of aggression; if it did so, I could no longer remain a member.
— David Josephy, University of Guelph, January 20
From the ‘Origins and Focus’ of Science for Peace, from our most recently published brochure, re David Josephy’s letter of January 20
Science for Peace … (is) concerned with preventing mass military destruction whether by accident or design, and also with averting global starvation, poverty, and environmental disaster.
With this in mind, it is not easy to see how Science for Peace could take any position other than that of seeking every possible means to avert the Gulf War, seeing that modern wars never mean just clashes between professional militaries, but inevitably damage innocent civilians of all ages, cause starvation, increase poverty and produce environmental disasters. As for the notion of Science for Peace adopting an ‘unrealistic policy of absolute pacifism in the face of aggression’, it is pretty clear that a majority of members would not endorse such a position. It seems more likely that most would accept the necessity of military action in defense of Canada and also would be willing for our forces to contribute to a United Nations peacekeeping force — duly constituted, and operating more or less in the ‘old way’ to help separate warring states and maintain ceasefires and the security of state boundaries.
As for ‘pacifism’, Webster’s defines it as: ‘opposition to war or violence of any kind’ or ‘the principle or policy of establishing and maintaining universal peace or such relations among nations that all differences may be adjusted without recourse to war.’ Thus, while absolute pacifism in the face of aggression may not be acceptable to many in Science for Peace, pacifism as construed in the broader sense, and as an ideal towards which all should strive, would surely fit our definition of our organization and its hopes for the world.
— Editor, Science for Peace
The only reasonable argument in favour of the war is that there is no reasonable alternative. This is the position taken by David Josephy in the message that you circulated.
Although the message was eloquent and well thought out, I cannot accept the assumption that there were no other alternatives. Two reasonable alternatives, one from Paul Nitze, the other a reported plan of some Arab states, were reported on in the last issue of the Manchester Guardian that appeared before the war started.
The fact is that the question of whether or not war was necessary at this time is a difficult one about which one can have a reasoned debate. The more important problem is why this difficult decision could be made by the leader of one country with less than 6% of the world’s population.
— David Parnas, Queen’s University, January 21
To David Parnas:
I greatly appreciated David Josephy’s letter and your reply. The necessity of the war is an impossible question to ask or to answer in times of censorship and chaos, and I am a bit shocked by the hubris of all who say that they know the answer. History ill judge, and different historians will have different arguments — but what is clear is that not enough was done over the last ten years to prevent it. Where were we when France sold Iraq Mirages and reactors, Germany sold chemicals, Canada and the US sold arms, to make Iraq the fifth largest military power in the world — a threat to many, and a disaster to Iranians, Kurds, and now raining missiles down on Israel?
Where were we when last September the Israelis begged the Americans for Patriot anti-missile missiles, only to be told that they could not have them then, as it would offend the other members of the ‘coalition’? Peacemaking starts long before war erupts, and is least effective after hostilities have been allowed to begin.
— Michael Steinitz, St. Francis Xavier University, N.S., January 21
Michael Steinitz claims that the US denied Israel Patriot missiles. My understanding is that Israel had them before the war broke out but had not trained people to use them. In fact, the Patriot is of limited value because each launcher can only protect a rather small area (70 km maximum radius) and Iraq could select alternative targets for its terrorist attacks. The situation in Saudi Arabia is different because there are specific facilities that are considered vulnerable and Patriot missiles can be stationed at those facilities.
— David Parnas, Queen’s University, January 22
It is my understanding that the Israelis received one battery and that their personnel were in Texas on a protracted training program to learn to use them. One battery is clearly inadequate, as you indicated. It may be expensive, but in a country the size of Cape Breton one could protect a fair segment of the populace. A 70 km radius seems very large to me, in fact, and would extend over all of Tel Aviv and large parts of the West Bank if it were true. The radius protected is probably much smaller, but some protection can certainly be achieved. It is certainly not very effective, as we learned last night, but may be expected to work some of the time in the future.
— Michael Steinitz, St. Francis Xavier University, NS., January 23
Here are my views on the suggestions of diplomatic alternatives to the war, as raised by David Parnas in his recent letter …
I accept your correction, pointing out that Science for Peace has not made a formal public statement of opposition to the war. Nevertheless, it seems clear (from the many e-mail articles) that the sense of the executive is strongly ‘anti-war’. I have had several replies to my letter, from other members of Science for Peace, who had the same impression.
Of course, none of us is ‘pro-war’ — but the question is not ‘war or peace’. War began when Saddam annexed Kuwait. The question is how the international community should respond to the war which Saddam started.
I have now looked at the articles you referred to as ‘reasonable alternatives’ to war. These are (1) the plan suggested by Paul Nitze and Michael Stafford in the Washington Post, reprinted in the Guardian Weekly (Jan. 13, page 17; the ‘N-S plan’), and (2) the ‘Arab proposal’ reported on p. 18 of the same issue. I want to discuss these plans carefully, since, as you and I both agree, the critical issue is: what alternative existed to the war on Iraq?
(1) The ‘N-S plan’. I am rather surprised that you raised this plan as an alternative to war. The authors state (my emphasis added):
‘We are rushing headlong into all-out war … There is an alternative … Continued reliance on the UN embargo — possibly augmented by air strikes_promises a much more favourable result … Over the next 6 to 12 months, it may become evident that a blockade by itself will not do the job. In that case, we would favour supplementing the naval blockage with selected _but powerful air strikes … modern air-delivery systems can inflict great damage on the Iraqi war machine and the economy. Combined with the naval blockade, a well-directed air assault could force iraqi capitulation, and if, over months, it did not achieve its goal, there remains the possibility of a later ground attack against greatly weakened Iraqi forces.’
In my view, this ‘N-S plan’ is essentially the strategy which Bush and Schwartzkopf implemented last week, and continue to follow: embargo, air strikes, but no ground war unless unavoidable. The only real difference is that N-S suggests giving Sad-dam 6 to 12 months more time to consider withdrawal; this is a difference in timing, rather than a difference in policy.
(2) The ‘Arab’ solution. This is much less well defined. The article is a long report on various plans which had been floated by ‘various groups of nations involved in the crisis’ … the sources are all anonymous. The journalist, T. Robertson calls it ‘an intricate diplomatic puzzle.’ The essence seems to be ‘to restore Kuwait’s sovereignty in exchange for guarantees that Kuwait and the international community would later address Iraq’s pre-invasion grievances. The sources warned, however, that the complexity of such a formula, coupled with the unpredictable behaviour of Iraq’s leadership, makes this scenario tenuous at best.’ (My emphasis added.)
What is wrong with this approach? Everything. First, the plan’s very authors describe it as ‘tenuous at best’. Second, the plan sets the awful precedent of rewarding Saddam for his invasion of Kuwait, by allowing him to negotiate from a position of strength, and, implicitly, forcing Kuwait to make territorial and economic concessions. Third, the plan naively implies that an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would restore the ‘status quo ante’; it ignores the consequences of Saddam’s brutal regime of murder and looting of Kuwait. International order is weakened if such crimes go unpunished — even rewarded. How could Kuwait agree to such a proposal, which forces Kuwait to negotiate on its knees, and leaves the Iraqi threat in place? So, finally, the greatest failing of this plan is that both Iran and Kuwait have repeatedly and categorially rejected such ‘solutions’ for the past six months.
(It is also interesting to read, in this report, that (despite claims of USA intransigence): ‘In Washington, a senior administration official, asked about the diplomatic efforts, said Bush’s position, public and private, continues to be “If you want to try to settle this peacefully, have at it.” … any proposal that is acceptable to the Kuwaitis … is ‘almost certainly’ going to be acceptable to the US, if not publicly embraced.’
I welcome your reactions to my analysis of these dipolomatic scenarios. I continue to doubt that they offered any reasonable alternative to the terrible outbreak of war.
David Josephy, University of Guelph, January 22, 1991
To David Josephy: I think it is quite obvious that the position of Science for Peace should be that no reasonable alternative exist before we turn to war to resolve a dispute. It seems an appropriate use of our fora to carry on a discussion of whether or not an alternative to the horrors of war existed, but went untried. It is quite predictable that those who do not like the present policy will be the first to use these fora. The reaction of those holding your position to the statements of those who feel differently is an essential part of our debate. The reason that you felt a bias in the first messages is that you, and those who feel as you do, were not driven to express your views until other views had been expressed. We need this discussion before Science ofor Peace takes an official decision and you are playng an important role in our deliberation. You should remember that all executive and board meetings are open and that your organization will take more effective actions if more of our members participate. In my role as this year’s President, I want your participation.
It happens that my personal opinions are different from yours. My years of working within the US military establishment give me quite a sceptical view of their trustworthiness and great doubt about information that I get from them. I think that the situation in Kuwait has been painted in quite a misleading light because powerful forces in the US wanted to attack Iraq long before Iraq invaded Kuwait. Having, at times in my life, worked for both the CIA (very briefly) and the DoD I have the greatest respect for their skills and ability to make quite devious plans. This may explain why you and I view this situation so differently.
I watch in shocked amazement as commentator after commentator equates the incredibly strict sanctions against Iraq with the appeasement of Hitler. It is by this rhetoric that people talk as if the choice were between appeasement and war. I listen in puzzlement as people claim that if Iraq were to withdraw from Kuwait with the promise of a conference or a just settlement of some dispute that it would have gained from its criminal invasion. That action has cost Iraq far more than it has won. It is now unable to sell its oil, it can no longer buy weapons, the countries that used to support it will never do so again. Its economy is falling apart and nobody will help it to get back together until its internal system has changed drastically. It will be a pariah in the international community until its system of government changes. Even without this war, Iraq has not gained by its aggression. Without the war, Saddam would have lost face. With the war he has become a hero in the minds of many Arabs in and out of Kuwait. By creating the false impression that if a Peace Conference for Palestine is held, it is a victory for Saddam, the propaganda machine has created the impression that we must chose between rewarding Saddam and going to war. That’s not clearly true.
My reading of the Nitze plan was quite different from yours. As I read it, their article was a warning against just what is happening now and a plan for a far less destructive approach. I was not convinced by the N-S article for several reasons, but I do think that it was one of the many alternatives to war that had not been explored. The Arab plan was another alternative that could not be explored because of the premature recourse to all-out force.
I have others that I like better. The statement by Bush that you quoted is one example of the cleverness that so dismays me. Bush was willing to consider any plan acceptable to the Kuwaiti Emir but he said ‘Kuwaitis’. He knew that the government in exile would not agree to anything of the sort, but none of us knows what the Kuwaiti people would want if given a choice. Bush has denied them any voice in their own future. I suspect that they would prefer many things to the sounds and fears of war.
I believe that all of us in Science for Peace share two opinions. The first is that Iraq must not gain from its invasion of Kuwait. The second is that war should be the absolute last resort. However, I think that we need to think very hard about what would constitute ‘gain’ and whether there were alternatives. I believe that there were quite reasonable alternatives that were blocked by the Bush administration and that these involved no real gain for Iraq. I also believe that war was Saddam Hussein’s best chance for survival and gain. I look forward to hearing more of your views.
— David Parnas, Queen’s University, January 23, 1991
I understand your concern at the direction events are taking. We in the ad hoc ‘peace’ group here at Brock are also worried that some actions may prove divisive. But we feel that something must be done. Is this the crisis that merits Canada’s combat involvement for the first time since the Korean war? Is this the crisis that merits losing Canada’s reputation for peacekeeping as opposed to ‘peacemaking’? Is this not the first opportunity, now alas lost, to show that if everyone agrees upon sanctions a military action can be reversed? Of course we did not expect that Saddam would withdraw within the first few months. But over the same period of time that Ian Smith in Rhodesia was allowed, the losses to Iraq in terms of oil revenue alone would have been massive. If Saddam had not found a way out would he not have stood a chance of being deposed? And currently, in some quarters, he is a hero.
Specific points: Cancellation of the Air Farce, if done out of sensibility, should have been announced as such. But are Mulroney and Clark now to be immune from criticism? How, in any case, do we justify cancellation of the House?
Secondly, does the world face a threat from Sad-dam’s forces? The population of Iraq is less than that of Canada. All possible troops have been called up. When the B-52s go over Kuwait and its borders, many of the bombs are falling on those we would consider children, probably 14-15 year-olds. Some of those dropping bombs are not much older. They have not even been trained to resist brutality upon capture. How far could Saddam go? He could not even get very far in Iran. Hardly analogous to Europe in 1939. His barbarism is not a reason for going to war. Pinochet has fallen (I think) from power in Chile. He had colleagues of a Chilean colleague of mine beaten to death wrapped in barbed wire. Did this country consider war with Chile? Pol Pot may or may not have fallen from power in Cambodia. Members of the so-called coalition continue to support the Khmer Rouge — containing groups in Cambodia against the Vietnamese puppet regime. Indonesia continues to occupy west Iran. Are we going to expel them? Our choice of Saddam, Iraq and Kuwait is clearly geopolitical in origin. The USSR has chosen this moment to start killing people in Lithuania and Latvia, two other illegally occupied countries. Are we going there next?
Thirdly — Kuwait’s national status is not as secure as that of some other nations. There are A,B,C, etc., nations. Our own nation is unlikely to survive in its present form over the next ten years. Kuwait was set up when Iraq was invented by the British to counterbalance the situation in a rich area of the Gulf. It was part of Irak-Arabi which was all under the Ottoman empire. It was claimed by Iraq from the beginning and defended by the presence of UK troops. It is not a democracy.
Finally — the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza strip by Israel cannot be ignored. The circumstances of the occupation may be different but there is an occupation and an illegal one. It is a source of tension in the Middle East and any long-term solution must include solution of the West Bank/Gaza status. What possible outcomes of the present crisis that are creative and just can be foreseen? All other consequences seem to me to be likely to be destablizing and negative in the long run.
— Peter Nicholls, Brock University, January 22, 1991
Now that war has started, it is probably unrealistic to think that doves can have much influence on the way it is conducted. Is it not time to begin to plan for and focus on what should be our policy and plans for the postwar period? What concrete acts can be taken now? I can make a few small suggestions.
Ask your local newspapers and radio stations to give a sample of editorial comment from sources in the Islamic world. I think it is important for us all to know how it looks from the other side of the fence. Quite apart from the potential terrorists, there are a lot of sad and embittered people out there whose view of the world is very different from ours. These are the people we will have to live with for the next generation and their concerns will have to be addressed if there is ever going to be a rapprochement with the West.
Write to all your colleagues in Islamic countries. Moderates and internationalists will be under pressure from the fundamentalist side. They need your support. Tell them how it actually is here, the level of sadness and discouragement about the war. The level of opposition. Madness has prevailed again, but the forces for peace must not lose touch with one another.
What should our plan be for afterwards? Again, no wisdom, just a plea for ideas:
Throw out the governments who allowed widely supported UN sanctions to be turned into a licence for war.
Promote a post-war regional settlement which addresses the needs of everyone in the region, including the Palestinians and the other poor and dispossesed people Yes, this will likely mean putting pressure on the conservative Israeli government.
Do whatever little we outsiders can do to encourage independent representative democratic governments among the Arab nations of the area. The main thing here is to keep the Western nationals from interfering with internal processes. People have to have time to build their own institutions. Mistakes will be made. But, in the end, the best guarantee of stability and economic progress is locally made institutions. We don’t need client states.
Strengthen the UN. It was misused this time after what many of us saw as a promising start. Let us not abandon it; let us learn to use it.
Work to prevent or moderate the inevitable new arms race in the area.
Let us see if we can develop a program and some plans for action. Peace.
— Michael Wortis, Simon Fraser University, January 22, 1991
Thanks for transmitting my earlier letters, and forwarding various replies. It is very useful to have this vigorous debate. Here are my thoughts this morning …
Today mirabile dictu, I am going to do an experiment, rather than spend the entire day on E-mail. Nevertheless, I wanted to take a moment to address some of Peter Nicholls’ points.
[I am (as you might suspect) taking (to some extent) a ‘devil’s advocate’ approach, so as to force us all (including myself) to think things through very carefully. (That was a ‘disclaimer!)1
Peter Nicholls compares the time allowed for sanctions to Ian Smith versus Saddam. I think this overlooks important differences. It’s a matter of personal judgement, but I find it hard to think of Ian Smith and Saddam Hussein in anything like the same terms. Perhaps this is just cultural/racist bias. But S. Rhodesia was some kind of democracy, although, obviously, a racist one. (History shows that a peaceful transition to majority rule was, in the event, possible … and sanctions may not have been decisive in achieving it.) Did S. Rhodesia pose the sort of horrible threat to its neighbours that Iraq does? Last night’s tragic attack on Tel Aviv is one more piece of evidence, as if it were needed. Certainly, I agree that sanctions are in no way appeasement. But could sanctions have worked to get the Iraqis out of Kuwait? Or would they have slowly crumbled under economic considerations, sympathy for starving civilians in Iraq, smuggling … Look at how quickly relations with China have (almost) resumed pre-Tien-an-Mien ‘status quo’ status … China, too was a ‘pariah’ nation … a year ago!
Re the CBC cuts: it seems like the schedule is now more or less back to normal, after the initial reaction which was, perhaps, an over-reaction. Still, I view the CBC as having acted in good faith, not out of sinister motivations. They have given plenty of coverage to the anti-war position.
Yes, we did not intervene in Chile or Cambodia, and will not (militarily, anyway in the Baltic states. (i) Past inaction proves hypocrisy, but does not necessarily mean that present action is wrong. (ii) Obviously, one should not intervene militarily unless one has a chance of winning militarily, without causing WWIII. So, is it not beside the point that we are not ‘bombing Moscow to get the Russians out of Latvia.?’ Additionally, of course (although one may object to this judgement) the West regards Gorbachev as amenable to diplomatic and economic pressure, in a way which Saddam Hussein appears not to be.
Peter, you say that there are ‘A,B, and C’ nations. How can we hold such a position without openly inviting the conquest and annexation of those unfortunates on the ‘C’ list? Is not freedom of nations from invasion a general principle of international order, to be upheld in all cases?
Many people have said that Canada would do better to take a peace-keeper position. I think that I agree. Canada’s military contribution is negligible anyway … it would have been better to take a position like the USSR: moral support, but not military involvement. Of course, this is a very important debate in Canada … but my thoughts have been concentrated on the global situation — the over-riding question being the Coalition strategy, sanctions vs. war.
I look forward to more comments from many directions!
— David Josephy, University of Guelph, January 23, 1991
I suspect that the major purpose of this war is nuclear non-proliferation.
At a conference last June at UCLA’s center for Strategic and International Affairs, sponsored by Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore Labs, one session was spent on Iraq. The weapons labs’ intelligence people informed us of the inability of the US to stop Iraq’s development of nuclear weapons and of the dire consequences of that inability.
US military and strategic planning journals in 1985, 1986, 1987 have considerable discussion of the scenario that has happened, Iran or Iraq invading the Gulf oil states. The US created 5 light infantry divisions supposedly for that purpose, to be able to place division strength forces in the Gulf in 48 hours to pre-empt an attack. (Needless to say, no preemptive light divisions were sent.)
By most accounts, the US gave permission to Iraq to invade Kuwait, or at least had the opportunity to warn Iraq away from such an action and did not issue that warning.
In President Bush’s first post-attack news conference, the first target of destruction that he mentioned was Iraq’s nuclear facilities. At Bush’s most recent conference yesterday, he again mentioned first and with most stress the fact that Iraq’s nuclear capability has been destroyed.
I agee that there may be a host of contributing factors, but nuclear non- proliferation is in there as a high priority, of that I am sure.
I might mention one other thing I learned this summer from the Weapon’s Lab people, that the one sure historical lesson in nuclear weapons development is that if any nation is threatened by nuclear weapons it is for sure that it will acquire nuclear weapons. Thus, the USSR acquired them, and China, and India, and Pakistan, and eventually an Arab counter-part to Israel. I would worry now about the scenario of disorganization, instability, and impoverishment in the USSR resulting in the illicit sale of nuclear weapons to whomever has the money to buy them.
— Floyd Rudmin, Queen’s University, January 24, 1991
I greatly appreciated David Parnas’ “Images of War.” I do feel that some of the images need comments, and further questioning, and these follow. I have kept those of his paragraphs on which I wished to comment, and enclosed my comments between groups of three asterisks (*** comment ***).
‘At a basketball game in the Southern US, play is interrupted by the annoucement that the ‘Liberation of Kuwait’ has begun. Both the players and the audience cheer and dance.’ *** Was our attitude as cynical when Canadian troops began the liberation of Holland, or are we so cynical that we would make an equivalence between whatever failings the prewar Dutch government had and the oppression the Dutch suffered under the Germans? ***
‘In his home country, poor people, people who were not able to leave, cower in fear as they hear aircraft and bombs exploding. They have heard that the ‘liberation’ of their land has begun but, never having been free, they can’t imagine what it means. They just wish that the frightening noises would stop.’ * The judgement that Kuwaitis have never been free is an incredible statement, no matter how awful their government may have been, if it is made in an effort to equate their lack of freedom before and after the invasion, or to equate their lack of freedom with that suffered by the people of Iraq.*
‘Thousands of tons of munitions explode on Kuwait and Iraq. People wait and try to live normally, knowing that they have absolutely no voice in what happens to them. Nobody ever asked them what they wanted.’ *** At some level all governments govern with the consent of the governed, even if that consent is at the point of a gun. ***
‘President Bush says that he will not compromise Saddam Hussein. Saddam Hussein says that he will not compromise with the Satan in the White House. Both men eat a good dinner in safe surroundings.’ *** It is a monstrous calumny to make a moral equivalence between these two, no matter how much one dislikes Bush. ***
‘A local religious leader appeals to his congregation to “live with normalcy” thereby denying victory to the enemy.’ *** And a local religious leader in Alberta calls for a ‘holy war’ against the United States.
‘In Palestinian camps, parents who have never known normalcy hope that a heroic saviour will let their children live normal lives. We who have ignored their suffering for 40 years shake our heads in disbelief and disapproval.’ *** But the ‘heroic savior’ is one of those politicians most responsible for denying them ‘normalcy’ and we acquiesce in his propaganda, making him a ‘saviour’. ***
— Michael Steinitz, St. Francis Xavier University, January 29, 1991
I very much appreciate Michael Steinitz’s comments on my attempt to communicate my own feelings about this war. There are only two points that
I want to emphasize in response.
I know from my time in Holland that the Dutch felt that the government before the invasion was one that they had chosen and wanted. On the other hand I know that the government of Kuwait was not freely chosen and that many Kuwaitis had pictures of Saddam Hussein in their homes. I simply believe that those people should be given a chance to chose their government and they have not had that chance. We have had a chance to chose our leaders and form of government. Why shouldn’t they?
I was not saying that Saddam Hussein is a saviour for the Palestinians, on the contrary. However, I do understand why, in their desparation, they grab at straws and try to view him that way. When people lose hope they will turn anywhere for help.
— David Parnas, Queen’s University, January 29, 1991