Thursday, July 24, 2008
When Saddam Hussein
Met April Glaspie
By Malcom Lagauche
July 23, 2008
Eighteen years ago, the infamous meeting between Saddam Hussein and April Glaspie took place. Most people only recall that April Glaspie, in her ambiguity, may have given Saddam a "green light" to enter Kuwait. But, there was much more to the meeting than this oft-told allegation. Saddam let Glaspie know that he and his government were well aware that the U.S. and Kuwait were attempting to undermine Iraq’s economy. Hindsight shows us today that this meeting dealt with many issues that were involved in the U.S. aggression against Iraq, not just the border problem with Kuwait.
Here is another interesting aspect of this conversation. Today, the U.S. public is complaining about gasoline prices, yet Saddam Hussein told April Glaspie that $25 a barrel was an equitable price and that some of his Arab counterparts wanted to increase the price. In 2003, the U.S. public was told that Iraq had to be invaded to ensure the flow of oil from the Middle East. Just the opposite was true.
Transcript of the meeting between Saddam Hussein and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, July 25, 1990
Saddam Hussein: I have summoned you today to hold comprehensive political discussions with you. This is a message to President Bush.
You know that we did not have relations with the U.S. until 1984 and you know the circumstances and reasons which caused them to be severed. The decision to establish relations with the U.S. was taken in 1980 during the two months prior to the war between us and Iran.
When the war started, and to avoid misinterpretation, we postponed the establishment of relations hoping that the war would end soon.
But because the war lasted for a long time, and to emphasize the fact that we are a nonaligned country, it was important to re-establish relations with the U.S. And we chose to do this in 1984.
It is natural to say that the U.S. is not like Britain, for example, with the latter’s historic relations with Middle Eastern countries, including Iraq. In addition, there were no relations between Iraq and the U.S. between 1967 and 1984. One can conclude it would be difficult for the U.S. to have a full understanding of many matters in Iraq. When relations were re-established, we hoped for a better understanding and for better cooperation because we too do not understand the background of many American decisions.
We dealt with each other during the war and we had dealings on various levels. The most important of these levels were with the foreign ministers.
We had hoped for a better common understanding and a better chance of cooperation to benefit both our peoples and the rest of the Arab nations.
But these better relations have suffered from various rifts. The worst of them was in 1986, only two years after establishing relations, with what was known as Irangate, which happened during the year that Iran occupied the Fao peninsula.
It was natural then to say that old relations and complexity of interests could absorb many mistakes. But when interests are limited and relations are not that old, then there isn’t a deep understanding and mistakes could leave a negative effect. Sometimes the effect of an error can be larger than the error itself.
Despite all of that, we accepted the apology, via his envoy, of the American president regarding Irangate, and we wiped the slate clean. And we shouldn’t unearth the past except, when new events remind us that old mistakes were not just a matter of coincidence.
Our suspicions increased after we liberated the Fao peninsula. The media began to invoke itself in our politics. And our suspicions began to surface anew, because we began to question whether the U.S. felt uneasy with the outcome of the war when we liberated our land.
It was clear to us that certain parties in the United States — and I don’t say the president himself — but certain parties who had links with the intelligence community and with the State Department — and I don’t say the Secretary of State himself — I say that these parties did not like the fact that we liberated our land. Some parties began to prepare studies entitled, "Who will succeed Saddam Hussein?" They began to contact Gulf states and make them fear Iraq, to persuade them not to give Iraq economic aid. And we have evidence of these activities.
Iraq came out of the war burdened with $40 billion debts, excluding the aid given by Arab states, some of whom consider that too to be a debt although they knew — and you knew too — that without Iraq they would not have had these sums and the future of the region would have been entirely different.
We began to face the policy of the drop on the price of oil. Then we saw the United States, which always talks of democracy but which has no time for the other point of view. Then the media campaign against Saddam Hussein was started by the official American media. The United States thought that the situation in Iraq was like Poland, Romania or Czechoslovakia. We were disturbed by this campaign, but we were not disturbed too much because we had hoped that, in a few months, those who are decision makers in America would have a chance to find the facts and see whether this media campaign had had any effect on the lives of Iraqis. We had hoped that soon the American authorities would make the correct decision regarding their relations with Iraq. Those with good relations can sometimes afford to disagree.
But when planned and deliberate policy forces the price of oil down without good commercial reasons, then that means another war against Iraq. Because military war kills people by bleeding them, and economic war kills their humanity by depriving them of their chance to have a good standard of living. As you know, we gave rivers of blood in a war that lasted eight years, but we did not lose our humanity. Iraqis have a right to live proudly. We do not accept that anyone could injure Iraqi pride or the Iraqi right to have high standards of living.
Kuwait and the U.A.E. were at the front of this policy aimed at lowering Iraq’s position and depriving its people of higher economic standards. And you know that our relations with the Emirates and Kuwait had been good. On top of that, while we were busy at war, the state of Kuwait began to expand at the expense of our territory.
You may say this is propaganda, but I would direct you to one document, the Military Patrol Line, which is the borderline endorsed by the Arab League in 1961 for military patrols not to cross the Iraq-Kuwait border.
But go and look for yourselves. You will see the Kuwaiti border patrols, the Kuwaiti farms, the Kuwaiti oil installations — all built as closely as possible to this line to establish that land as Kuwaiti territory.
Since then, the Kuwaiti government has been stable while the Iraqi government has undergone many changes. Even after 1968 and for 10 years afterwards, we were too busy with our own problems. First in the north then the 1973 war, and other problems. Then came the war with Iran which started 10 years ago.
We believe that the United States must understand that people who live in luxury and economic security can reach an understanding with the United States on what are legitimately joint interests. But the starved and the economically deprived cannot reach the same understanding.
We do not accept threats from anyone because we do not threaten anyone. But we say clearly that we hope that the U.S. will not entertain too many illusions and will seek new friends rather than increase the number of its enemies.
I have read the American statements speaking of friends in the area. Of course, it is the right of everyone to choose their friends. We can have no objections. But you know you are not the ones who protected our friends during the war with Iran. I assure you, had the Iranians overrun the region, the American troops would not have stopped them, except by the use of nuclear weapons.
I do not belittle you. But I hold this view by looking at the geography and nature of American society into account. Yours is a society which cannot accept 10,000 deaths in one battle.
You know that Iran agreed to the cease-fire not because the United States had bombed one of the oil platforms after the liberation of the Fao. Is this Iraq’s reward for its role in securing the stability of the region and for protecting it from an unknown flood?
So what can it mean when America says it will not protect its friends? It can only mean prejudice against Iraq. This stance, plus maneuvers and statements which have been made, has encouraged the U.A.E. and Kuwait to disregard Iraqi rights.
I say to you clearly that Iraq’s rights, which are mentioned in the memorandum, we will take one by one. That might not happen now or after a month or after one year, but we will take it all. We are not the kind of people who will relinquish our rights. There is no historic right, or legitimacy, or need, for the U.A.E. and Kuwait to deprive us of our rights. If they are needy, we too are needy.
The United States wants to secure the flow of oil. This is understandable and known. But it must not deploy methods which the United States says it disapproves of; flexing muscles and pressure.
If you use pressure, we will deploy pressure and force. We know that you can harm us although we do not threaten you. But we too can harm you. Everyone can cause harm according to their ability and their size. We cannot come all the way to you in the United States, but individual Arabs may reach you.
You can come to Iraq with aircraft and missiles, but do not push us to the point where we cease to care. And when we feel that you want to injure our pride and take away the Iraqis’ chance of a high standard of living, then we will cease to care and death will be the choice for us. Then we would not care if you fired 100 missiles for each missile we fired. Because without pride, life would have no value.
It is not reasonable to ask our people to bleed rivers of blood for eight years then to tell them, "Now you have to accept aggression from Kuwait, the U.A.E., or from the U.S. or Israel."
We do not put all these countries in the same boat. First, we are hurt and upset that such disagreement is taking place between us and Kuwait and the U.A.E. The solution must be found within an Arab framework and through direct bilateral relations. We do not place America among the enemies. We place it where we want our friends to be and we try to befriends. But repeated American statements last year made it apparent that America did not regard us as friends.
When we seek friendship, we want pride, liberty and our right to choose. We want to deal according to our status as we deal with the others according to their status.
We consider the others’ interests while we look after our own. And we expect the others to consider our interests while they are dealing with their own. What does it mean when the Zionist war minister is summoned to the United States now? What do they mean, these fiery statements coming out of Israel during the past few days and the talk of war being expected now more than at any other time?
I do not believe that anyone would lose by making friends with Iraq. In my opinion, the American president has not made mistakes regarding the Arabs, although his decision to freeze dialogue with the PLO was wrong. But it appears that this decision was made to appease the Zionist lobby or a piece of strategy to cool the Zionist anger, before trying again. I hope that our latter conclusion is the correct one. But we will carry on saying it was the wrong decision.
You are appeasing the usurper in so many ways: economically, politically and militarily as well as in the media. When will the time come when, for every three appeasements to the usurper, you praise the Arabs just once?
April Glaspie: I thank you, Mr. President, and I as a great pleasure for a diplomat to meet and talk directly with the President. But with your permission, I will comment on two points. You spoke of friendship and I believe it was clear from the letters sent by our president to you on the occasion of your National Day that he emphasizes …
Saddam Hussein: He was kind and his expressions met with our regard and respect.
April Glaspie: As you know, he directed the United States administration to reject the suggestion of implementing trade sanctions.
Saddam Hussein: There is nothing for us to buy from America. Only wheat. Because every time we want to buy something, they say it is forbidden. I am afraid that one day you will say, "You are going to make gunpowder out of wheat."
April Glaspie: I have a direct instruction from the president to seek better relations with Iraq.
Saddam Hussein: But how? We too have this desire. But matters are running contrary to this desire.
April Glaspie: This is less likely to happen the more we talk. For example, you mentioned the issue of the article published by the American Information Agency and that was sad. And a formal apology was presented.
Saddam Hussein: Your stance is generous. We are Arabs. It is enough for us that someone says, "I am sorry. I made a mistake." Then we carry on. but the media campaign continued. And it is full of stories. If the stories were true, no one would get upset. But we understand from its continuation that there is a determination.
April Glaspie: I saw the Diane Sawyer program on ABC. And what happened in that program was cheap and unjust. And this is a real picture of what happens in the American media; even to American politicians themselves. These are the methods the Western media employs. I am pleased that you add your voice to the diplomats who stand up to the media. Because your appearance in the media, even for five minutes, would help us to make the American people understand Iraq. This would increase mutual understanding. If the American president had control of the media, his job would be much easier.
Mr. President, not only do I want to say that President Bush wanted better and deeper relations with Iraq, but he also wants an Iraqi contribution to peace and prosperity in the Middle East. President Bush is an intelligent man. He is not going to declare an economic war against Iraq.
You are right. It is true what you say that we do not want higher prices for oil. But I would ask you to examine the possibility of not charging too high a price for oil.
Saddam Hussein: We do not want too high prices for oil. And I remind you that in 1974 I gave Tariq Aziz the idea for an article he wrote which criticized the policy of keeping oil prices high. It was the first Arab article which expressed this view.
Tariq Aziz: Our policy in OPEC opposes sudden jumps in oil prices.
Saddam Hussein: Twenty-five dollars a barrel is not a high price.
April Glaspie: We have many Americans who would like to see the price go above $25 because they come from oil-producing states.
Saddam Hussein: The price at one stage had dropped to $12 a barrel and a reduction in the modest Iraqi budget of $6 billion to $7 billion is a disaster.
April Glaspie: I think I understand this. I have lived here for years. I admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country. I know you need funds. We understand that and our opinion is that you should have this opportunity to rebuild your country. But we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.
I was in the American Embassy in Kuwait during the late 60s. The instruction we had during this period was that we should express no opinion on this issue and that the issue is not associated with America. James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction. We hope you can solve this problem using any suitable methods via Klibi or via President Mubarak. All that we hope is that these issues are resolved quickly. With regard to all of this, can I ask you to see how the issue appears to us?
My assessment after 25 years’ service in this area is that your objective must have strong backing from your Arab brothers. I now speak of oil. But you, Mr. President, have fought through a horrific and painful war. Frankly, we can only see that you have deployed massive troops in the south. Normally that would not be any of our business. But when we read the details in the two letters of the foreign minister, then when we see the Iraqi point of view that the measures taken by the U.A.E. and Kuwaitis is, in the final analysis, parallel to military aggression against Iraq, then it would be reasonable for me to be concerned. And for this reason, I received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship, not in the spirit of confrontation, regarding your intentions.
I simply describe the concern of my government. And I do not mean that the situation is a simple situation. But our concern is a simple one.
Saddam Hussein: We do not ask people not to be concerned when peace is at issue. This is a noble human feeling which we all feel. It is natural for you as a superpower to be concerned. But what we ask is not to express your concern in a way that would make an aggressor believe that he is getting support for his aggression.
We want to find a just solution which will give us our rights but not deprive others of their rights. But at the same time, we want the others to know that our patience is running out regarding their action, which is harming even the milk our children drink, and the pensions of the widow who lost her husband during the war, and the pensions of the orphans who lost their parents.
As a country, we have the right to prosper. We lost so many opportunities, and the others should value the Iraqi role in their protection. Even this Iraqi (the president points to the interpreter) feels bitter like all other Iraqis. We are not aggressors, but we do not accept aggression either. We sent them envoys and handwritten letters. We tried everything. We asked the Servant of the Two Shrines, King Fahd, to hold a four-member summit, but he suggested a meeting between the oil ministers. We agreed. And as you know, the meeting took place in Jidda. They reached an agreement which did not express what we wanted, but we agreed.
Only two days after the meeting, the Kuwaiti oil minister made a statement that contradicted the agreement. We also discussed the issue during the Baghdad summit. I told the Arab kings and presidents that some brothers are fighting an economic war against us. And that not all wars use weapons and we regard this kind of war as a military action against us. Because if the capability of our army is lowered then, if Iran renewed the war, it could achieve goals which it could not achieve before. And if we lowered the standard of our defenses, then this could encourage Israel to attack us. I said that before the Arab kings and presidents. Only I did not mention Kuwait and the U.A.E. by name, because they were my guests.
Before this, I had sent them envoys reminding them that our war had included their defense. Therefore, the aid they gave us should not be regarded as a debt. We did no more than the United States would have done against someone who attacked its interests.
I talked about the same thing with a number of other Arab states. I explained the situation to brother King Fahd a few times by sending envoys and on the telephone. I talked with brother King Hussein and with Sheik Zaid after the conclusion of the summit. I walked with the Sheik to the plane when he was leaving Mosul. He told me, "Just wait until I get home." But after he had reached his destination, the statements that came from there were very bad — not from him, but from his minister of oil.
Also after the Jidda agreement, we received some intelligence that they were talking of sticking to the agreement for two months only. Then they would change their policy. Now tell us, if the American president found himself in this situation, what would he do? I said it was very difficult for me to talk about these issues in public. But we must tell the Iraqi people who face economic difficulties who was responsible for that.
Links to this post: