The Twenty-Year War in Iraq

“Why should a single American die for the Emir of Kuwait?” ~ Pat Buchanan The current war in Iraq – now near the end of its seventh year – did not really begin on March 20, 2003, when George W. Bush ordered the United States military to invade Iraq. It actually began twenty years ago on January 17, 1991, when another Bush, George H.W., ordered the United States military to invade Iraq the first time. After getting a green light from the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, who told Saddam Hussein: “We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America,” Hussein invaded Kuwait, on August 2, 1990. But even after John Kelly, the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified to Congress that the “United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the US has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq,” Bush the elder sent 500,000 U.S. troops to that caldron known as the Middle East. After imposing sanctions on Iraq in August, the United Nations in November set a date of midnight on January 16 as the deadline for Iraq to withdraw its troops from Kuwait. Congress – ignoring the Constitution and refusing to issue a declaration of war – issued a resolution authorizing the president to use military force against Iraq, “Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678.” The vote was 52-47 in the Senate and 250-183 in the House. Only two Republicans in the Senate and three in the House voted against the resolution.

When Iraq failed to withdraw its troops from Kuwait by the deadline, the United States commenced bombing as Operation Desert Shield turned into Operation Desert Storm. The 88,500 tons of bombs dropped widely destroyed both military and civilian infrastructure. The U.S. ground assault, Operation Desert Sabre, begin on February 24. A cease-fire was declared four days later. For the United States, there were 148 battle deaths and 145 non-battle deaths. This means that 293 Americans did die for the emir of Kuwait. Among the dead U.S. soldiers were 15 women and 35 killed by “friendly fire.” The first American casualty of the war, LCDR Scott Speicher, was actually the last of the U.S. military dead to be identified, and just a couple of years ago.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers were also killed, plus several thousand Iraqi and Kuwaiti civilians. The current war in Iraq is but a delayed campaign in the war against Iraq. During the intermission there were tensions, threats, missile strikes, enforcement of no-fly zones, bombing raids, brutal sanctions that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, infamously said to be “worth it” by U.S. ambassador to the UN (and later Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright, and a continued presence of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, which inflamed the Muslim world, created terrorists, and led to the attacks of 9/11. So, what should the United States have done when one autocratic Muslim state (Iraq) invaded another autocratic Muslim state (Kuwait)? The answer is the same no matter what country invades, bombs, attacks, or threatens another country – absolutely nothing. It is not the purpose of the U.S. government to be the policeman, security guard, mediator, and babysitter of the world. The preamble to the Constitution mentions providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty “to ourselves and our Posterity,” not to the tired, poor, huddled masses, and wretched refuse on distant shores.

The United States should be a beacon of liberty, leading the world by example, and not intervening or meddling in the affairs of other countries – for any reason. Not isolationism, of course, but in the words of Thomas Jefferson: “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none,” yet doing “what is right, leaving the people of Europe to act their follies and crimes among themselves, while we pursue in good faith the paths of peace and prosperity.”

And as I have maintained over and over again, the U.S. military should be engaged exclusively in defending the United States, not defending other countries, and certainly not attacking, invading, or occupying them. The U.S. military should be limited to defending the United States, securing U.S. borders, guarding U.S. shores, patrolling U.S. coasts, and enforcing no-fly zones over U.S. skies instead of defending, securing, guarding, patrolling, and enforcing in other countries. To do otherwise is to pervert the purpose of the military. The world is full of evil, and conflicts between peoples have existed since the beginning of time. The United States has neither the responsibility nor the resources to resolve every conflict and stamp out all the evil in the world. Any American concerned about oppression, human rights violations, sectarian violence, ill treatment of women, forced labor, child labor, persecution, genocide, famine, natural disasters, or injustice anywhere in the world is perfectly free to contribute his own money to or go and fight on behalf of some particular cause. Just don’t expect U.S. taxpayers to foot the bill for and U.S. soldiers to die for your cause. Freeing Kuwait from Iraq – even if “only” 293 Americans died, even if Saddam Hussein had been deposed, even if it hadn’t resulted in brutal sanctions, even if it hadn’t led to another war, and even if it had ensured the free flow of oil at market prices – was not worth one cent from the U.S. treasury or one drop of blood from an American soldier.