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The post-Cold War era, 1989-2001

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A midnight surprise – the U.S. invasion of Panama, Dec. 20, 1989 (public domain)

I. Introduction: New world order?

    • Origins of the crisis
    • A violent and complex invasion
    • Administration rationales and counterpoints
    • Interpreting the invasion: Contrasting views
    • Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, 1992-1994
    • Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, 1994-1995
    • Lessons from Rwanda, 1994-1996
    • Crises in the former Yugoslavia, 1991-1999
    • Operation Provide Comfort and other missions in Iraq, 1991-2003

I.  Introduction:  New world order?

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan (right) share a laugh in Moscow, May 31, 1988 [Gary Hershorn / Reuters]

On a bright spring day in Moscow in 1988, President Ronald Reagan strolled through the Kremlin grounds with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.  Following their walk, Reagan was asked by a reporter if he still considers the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”  Reagan answered, “No.  You’re talking about another time, another era.”[1]  Eight years earlier, Reagan had identified the Soviet Union as the source of “all the unrest” in the world.  Five years past, he had labeled the socialist nation an “evil empire.”[2]

Reagan’s shift in attitude came after witnessing Gorbachev’s democratizing domestic reforms coupled with his persistent efforts to end the Cold War over the previous three years.[3]  Gorbachev was a visionary, intent on establishing not only a new détente with the West, but also an unprecedented era of international cooperation, mutual security, and peace.  He outlined his bold vision for a new world order in an hour-long speech before the UN General Assembly on December 8, 1988, which read in part:

Further world progress is now possible only through the search for a consensus of all mankind, in movement toward a new world order…. The world community must learn to shape and direct the process in such a way as to preserve civilization, to make it safe for all and more pleasant for normal life.  It is a question of cooperation that could be more accurately called “co-creation” and “co-development.”  The formula of development “at another’s expense” is becoming outdated.  In light of present realities, genuine progress by infringing upon the rights and liberties of man and peoples, or at the expense of nature, is impossible….

As you ponder all this, you come to the conclusion that if we wish to take account of the lessons of the past and the realities of the present, if we must reckon with the objective logic of world development, it is necessary to seek – and seek jointly – an approach toward improving the international situation and building a new world.  If that is so, then it is also worth agreeing on the fundamental and truly universal prerequisites and principles for such activities.  It is evident, for example, that force and the threat of force can no longer be, and should not be instruments of foreign policy.

Gorbachev addressing the UN General Assembly, Dec. 8, 1988 [Wiki Commons]

Turning to the U.S. in his speech, Gorbachev proposed that the U.S. and Soviet Union cut their strategic nuclear arsenals by half and begin a “joint effort to put an end to an era of wars, confrontation and regional conflicts, to aggression against nature, to the terror of hunger and poverty as well as to political terrorism.  This is our common goal and we can only reach it together.”  Giving substance to these aspirations, he announced Soviet decisions to withdraw significant numbers of troops and tanks from Eastern European countries, a step toward ending Soviet domination of that region, and to seek a UN-brokered ceasefire in Afghanistan, where Soviet troops had been mired in war for nine years.[4]
It was a remarkable speech, especially as Americans had been conditioned to view the Soviet Union as the graveyard of idealism.  The editors of the New York Times had difficulty describing it:  “Breathtaking.  Risky.  Bold.  Naive.  Diversionary.  Heroic.  All fit.  So sweeping is his agenda that it will require weeks to sort out.  But whatever Mr. Gorbachev’s motives, his ideas merit – indeed, compel – the most serious response from President-elect Bush and other leaders.”[5]
The response from incoming President George H. W. Bush was wait-and-see.  The president’s chief foreign policy advisers, including Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, remained wary of the Soviet Union.  The Pentagon, in its annual report, Soviet Military Power: An Assessment of the Threat, 1988, warned that the Kremlin had not given up its “long standing ambition to become the dominant world power,” nor its “adversarial relationship” with the U.S., nor its dogmatic “Marxist dialectic.”[6]  President Bush put off meeting with Gorbachev for almost a year.

Soviet tanks withdrawing from Afghanistan, crossing the Hairatan bridge [WIki Commons]

Gorbachev nevertheless pushed on with his peace initiatives, pulling Soviet troops out of Afghanistan, ending Soviet support for Cuban troops in Angola and Ethiopia, and allowing eastern European nations to go their own way.  On November 9, 1989, east and west Berliners spontaneously tore down the Berlin Wall that divided them, symbolically dismantling the Cold War brick by brick.  Bush finally met with Gorbachev in Malta on December 3, 1989.  Following the meeting, Bush sounded upbeat, telling reporters of his hope for “enduring cooperation” between the two superpowers.  “The arms race, mistrust, psychological and ideological struggle, all those should be things of the past.”[7]
That was a good start for remaking the world order.  Yet Bush and his foreign policy team were not interested in limiting U.S. power and influence in the world; quite the opposite.  Rhetoric notwithstanding, the U.S. foreign policy establishment viewed Moscow’s retreat from great power domination as an opportunity to advance U.S. interests and establish the U.S. as the sole superpower in the world.  Less than three weeks after the Malta summit, U.S. forces invaded Panama in a classic “gunboat diplomacy” maneuver, denounced by the UN General Assembly as a “flagrant violation of international law.”[8]
To diffuse the Cold War in Europe, Gorbachev proposed an end to the division between east and west.  Speaking in France in July 1989, he called for a cooperative “commonwealth of sovereign democratic states with a high level of equitable interdependence and easily accessible borders open to the exchange of products, technologies and ideas, and wide-ranging contacts among people.”[9]  Eastern European nations, in other words, would join Western European nations in creating a common European identity and culture, buttressed by open trade and travel.

A mass nonviolent demonstration in East Berlin’s Alexanderplatz, Nov. 4, 1989, one of many leading to a new order in Eastern Europe [Dieter Rulff / AP]

The future of Europe was the central focus of a meeting between Gorbachev and Secretary of State James Baker in Moscow on February 9, 1990.  Gorbachev hoped to see the dissolution of the two Cold War military alliances – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact.  Instead, Baker promised that the U.S. would not take advantage of the revolutions in Eastern Europe to harm Soviet interests, and specifically that NATO would expand “not one inch eastward.”  Gorbachev, in turn, agreed that a unified Germany could join NATO.[10]  Baker’s promise would later be broken, not by President George H. W. Bush, but by his successors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who pushed NATO into Eastern Europe and to the very doorstep of Russia.
As the Cold War wound down, many Americans looked forward to a “peace dividend” – a transfer of funds from military to domestic programs such as health care and education.  The idea was encouraged by former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who testified before Congress on December 13, 1989, that the $300 billion annual Pentagon budget could be safely cut in half over the next decade.  “By such a shift,” said McNamara, “we should be able to enhance global stability, strengthen our own security and, at the same time, produce the resources to support a much-needed restructuring of the economy.”[11]  The New York Times noted the following month, “If relations between the United States and the Soviet Union continue to improve, most Americans expect there will be a peace dividend.”[12]
The White House was quick to throw cold water on such hopes.  President Bush declared in July 1989 that his administration was giving no consideration to major military spending cuts.[13]  Anxious Pentagon officials began searching for new threats to replace the vanishing “communist threat.”  In March 1990, Marine Corps Commander General A. M. Gray told a Congressional committee that the world had become more dangerous in the aftermath of the Cold War.  “The underdeveloped world’s growing dissatisfaction over the gap between rich and poor nations will create a fertile breeding ground for insurgencies,” he said.  “These insurgencies have the potential to jeopardize regional stability and our access to vital economic and military resources.”  Hence, he continued, “we must maintain within our active force structure a credible military power projection capability with the flexibility to respond to conflict across the spectrum of violence throughout the globe.”  Navy Admiral Carlisle Trost reinforced the message by declaring that the world was entering a new “era of violent peace” – a memorable oxymoron – that required the forward deployment of U.S. naval forces.[14]

(L-R) Brent Scowcroft, Dick Cheney, and President George H. W. Bush [Wiki Commons]

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union into Russia and fourteen other republics in December 1991, the U.S. military posture remained in place.  In lieu of the anti-communist mission, U.S. leaders offered a variety of substitutes:  promoting democracy, upholding international law, combating terrorism, curbing drug trafficking, containing “rogue states,” preventing genocide, securing humanitarian relief operations, and protecting U.S. soldiers and citizens abroad.  Espoused idiosyncratically, none of these rationales measured up to the overarching anti-communist ideology that had provided a built-in justification for virtually all U.S. foreign policies over the previous four decades.
Contradictions were also apparent.  For example, thirteen months after undertaking an illegal invasion in Panama, the Bush administration justified its war in the Persian Gulf in the name of upholding international law.  Also, the Panama invasion was justified in part in the name of restoring democracy, while the Persian Gulf War effectively restored the authoritarian rule of Kuwaiti emirs.
One way for U.S. leaders to avoid these messy contradictions was to proclaim, beyond all particulars, that the U.S. must “lead” the world, appealing to American patriotic pride.  As the Clinton administration stated in its 1995 National Security Policy blueprint, “American leadership in the world has never been more important…. Without our active leadership and engagement abroad, threats will fester and our opportunities will narrow.”[15]  According to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, speaking in February 1998, American global leadership meant putting “force behind the diplomacy,” and “if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation.  We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.”[16]

For the Pentagon, U.S. leadership meant maintaining and enhancing the nation’s preponderant military power, including the ability to fight two regional wars at the same time.  According to the historian Andrew Bacevich, this preponderant power entailed:

(1) positioning U.S. forces in hundreds of bases abroad; (2) partitioning the whole planet into several contiguous regional military commands; (3) conferring security guarantees on dozens of nations, regardless of their ability to defend themselves or the values to which they subscribe; (4) maintaining the capability to project power to the remotest corners of the earth; (5) keeping in instant readiness a “triad” of nuclear strike forces; (6) endlessly searching for “breakthrough technologies” that will eliminate war’s inherent risks and uncertainties; (7) unquestioningly absorbing the costs of maintaining a sprawling national security bureaucracy; (8) turning a blind eye to the corrupting influence of the military-industrial complex; and easily outpacing all other nations, friend and foe alike, in (9) weapons sales and (10) overall military spending.[17]

The Center for Defense Information, a peace-oriented educational organization headed by retired admirals Gene La Rocque and Eugene Carroll, noted in 1998 that “the Pentagon, recent administrations, and Congress continue to support a force structure that is more appropriate to policing the entire world unilaterally than it is to supporting multilateral efforts to restore and maintain peace when conflicts erupt.”[18]

The International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands

Though the U.S. was the sole military superpower in the post-Cold War era, its global leadership was noticeably lacking in important areas.  The U.S. failed to sign an international treaty banning land mines (1997) and eschewed negotiations aimed at limiting small arms trafficking.  The U.S. refused to ratify the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol aimed at combating global warming, and the 1998 Rome Treaty establishing a permanent International Criminal Court.  The court was set up to investigate, prosecute, and try individuals accused of committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.[19] The U.S., in short, was a laggard rather than a leader on arms control and human rights.

The demise of the Soviet Union also led to a new push in Washington for “free market” globalization, an expansion of the corporate capitalist international economy.  In a speech on June 19, 1991, President George H. W. Bush declared that he was “more determined than ever to press for open markets, free and fair trade around the world, and open investment opportunities everywhere.  This isn’t to benefit solely the United States, and yes, we would benefit, but it is to benefit every single country that participates in achieving these goals.”  President Bill Clinton was even more enthusiastic about globalization, assuring Americans in October 1996, “We are building prosperity at home by opening markets abroad.”[20]
This was a dubious proposition when first advanced in the late 19th century and became more so in the late 20th century as big corporations became transnational entities, divesting themselves of loyalty to any one nation.  To be sure, investors reaped rewards from their stock market investments, but many corporations closed productive factories in America and opened new ones in Mexico, India, Taiwan, the Philippines, and other low-wage countries.  U.S. workers still employed found themselves competing with low-paid workers in other parts of the world.  Wages stagnated and inequality increased.  According to the World Inequality Report 2018, “Income inequality in the United States is among the highest of all rich countries…. National income grew by 61% from 1980 to 2014 but the bottom 50% was shut off from it.”[21]

The great irony here is that the expansion of capitalism was deemed an American Cold War victory despite the fact that increased corporate freedom allowed transnational corporations to abandon American communities, move production abroad, reduce wages at home, and resist environmental regulations.  According to the historian Michael Hunt:

By the end of the 1990s, the neoliberal case for globalization had begun to create a backlash in the United States.  The rising chorus of complaints echoed criticism already circulating in the developing world and in Europe.  Potentially catastrophic environmental degradation, the inevitable result of mounting levels of production and trade, threatened human health and welfare.  Lax labor standards allowed multinational corporations to exploit the working poor.  As businesses transferred jobs to low-wage areas overseas, American workers lost their livelihood.  Surging capital flows could capsize national economies.  Widening inequalities spawned political discontent and violence.[22]

The capitalist “shock therapy” applied to Russia was especially debilitating, producing mostly shock and little therapy as state-supported social welfare systems were eviscerated during the 1990s (see Section V).  All in all, notes the historian Odd Arne Westad, “the 1990s was a lost opportunity for international cooperation, particularly to combat disease, poverty and inequality.”[23]

“Non-Violence,” a sculpture by Karl Fredrik Reutersward outside United Nations headquarters in New York City [UN]

Mikhail’s Gorbachev’s vision of a more cooperative and peaceful world order gradually receded from view during the post-Cold War period.  In its place, U.S. leaders advanced the idea of an American-led world order.  On January 16, 1991, the eve of the Persian Gulf War, President George H. W. Bush announced to the American people, “We have before us the opportunity to forge for ourselves and for future generations a new world order, a world where the rule of law, not the law of the jungle, governs the conduct of nations.  When we are successful – and we will be – we have a real chance at this new world order, an order in which a credible United Nations can use its peacekeeping role to fulfill the promise and vision of the U.N.’s founders.”[24]
Except that the UN’s founders did not envision war as the solution to global crises; nor did they envision one nation leading the world.  Rather, the original, hopeful mission of the UN – “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” – closely corresponded to Gorbachev’s vision of global cooperation and mutual security.[25]  The tragedy of American foreign policy was that U.S. leaders pursued a self-serving mission at odds with this worthy vision, pretending all the while that U.S. hegemony would lead to it.
*          *          *          *          *

II.  The Panama invasion

A US Army M113 tank finds a parking spot in downtown Panama City, Dec. 21, 1989 [J. Elliot, US Dept. of Defense]

The surprise invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989, dubbed “Operation Just Cause,” was the largest U.S. military operation since the Vietnam War.  Utilizing sophisticated bombers, helicopter gunships, and tanks, some 26,000 U.S. troops attacked selected targets, including those in densely packed urban centers, in an effort to topple and capture General Manuel Noriega.  The “shock and awe” strategy was a military success and a humanitarian disaster, as hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands were left homeless.  An easy victory on the surface, “Operation Just Cause” provided U.S. policymakers with a false sense of confidence and optimism that paved the path for future interventions.

Origins of the crisis

Manuel Noriega’s relationship with the United States began in the 1950s.  As a young recruit and officer in the Panama National Guard, he provided information about left-leaning military officers and Panamanian communists to U.S. intelligence agencies.  Noriega attended the U.S. Army School of the Americas in the Canal Zone, a training ground for numerous authoritarian leaders in Latin America.  He began receiving payments from the U.S. Army in 1955, and from the CIA in 1971.  He remained on the CIA payroll until 1986.[26]  As head of Panamanian military intelligence, Noriega vaulted to the command of the National Guard and, through skillful in-fighting, to the control of his country in 1983, two years after the controversial death of his mentor, General Omar Torrijos, who had effectively ruled the country for twenty-one years.

Better times: Gen. Manuel Noriega flanked by Miss USA, Christy Fichtner, and Miss Panama, Gilda Garcia López, in Panama City, 1986 [The Guardian]

Noriega offered his services to the Reagan administration, becoming an intermediary in the CIA’s covert operations in Nicaragua and the U.S.-backed counterinsurgency war in El Salvador.  U.S. payments to Noriega reached a high in 1985, with the Army providing $76,039, and the CIA dispensing an undisclosed additional amount.[27]  The general, however, also pursued his own agenda, establishing relationships and doing business with Cuba, Libya, and the Medellín cartel in Colombia.  Although U.S. officials were aware of his various dealings, he had powerful allies in Washington, especially William Casey, head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).  Hardliners within the Ronald Reagan administration viewed Noriega as an asset in the struggle against “communist tyranny” in Central America.
Noriega’s drug running was known to U.S. officials as far back as Richard Nixon’s presidency.  In 1979, Dade County, Florida authorities planned to arrest Noriega upon his arrival in Miami, but a State Department official intervened to prevent the CIA’s asset from being placed in handcuffs.  The Reagan administration continued to deflect investigations into Noriega’s drug-running.  In May 1986, the director of the Drug Enforcement Agency, John C. Lawn, sent a fawning letter to the “Esteemed General,” writing, “I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my profound appreciation for the vigorous policy against drug trafficking that you have adopted.”[28]
Noriega’s political fortunes shifted abruptly in June 1987.  A disgruntled Panamanian officer, Colonel Roberto Díaz Herrera, publicly accused Noriega of drug trafficking and of murdering a prominent critic, Hugo Spadafora.  The investigative journalist Seymour Hersh repeated these allegations in the New York Times.  Unnamed U.S. officials told Hersh that they “had overlooked General Noriega’s illegal activities because of his cooperation with American intelligence and his willingness to permit the American military extensive leeway to operate in Panama.”  Hersh’s exposés enabled long-time critics of Noriega, including Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, to build a bipartisan consensus against him in Congress.[29]
On June 27, the U.S. Senate passed a non-binding, “sense of the Senate” resolution calling for Noriega to step down.  Noting that there were 9,000 American military personnel currently stationed in Panama, the resolution identified the Panama Canal as a primary security interest, demanded that the Panamanian government move toward “genuine democracy with guarantees of freedom of speech, press, and assembly,” and called for an independent investigation of narcotics trafficking and money laundering charges against Noriega.  In commenting on the resolution, however, Senator Helms and his fellow conservatives revealed their main gripe:  “Noriega’s open display of intimacy” with Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega and his alleged ties to Fidel Castro.  In their eyes, Noriega had to be removed not because of authoritarianism or drug-dealing, but because he had abandoned the rightist crusade against communism and apparently embraced the left.[30]  More accurately, Noriega played all sides in the right-left Cold War struggle.

Time magazine, March 7, 1988

Noriega’s woes in the United States continued to mount.  In February 1988, grand juries in Miami and Tampa indicted him on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.  Soon after, Panamanian President Eric Arturo Delvalle called for Noriega’s removal as head of the armed forces.  Instead, in deference to Noriega, the Panamanian Legislative Assembly voted to remove Delvalle from office, replacing him with Education Minister Manuel Solis Palma.

On March 16, a faction of the Panamanian Defense Force (PDF) attempted a coup.  Noriega suppressed it and declared a national emergency.  Suspecting U.S. foul play, Noriega imposed travel restrictions on Americans outside the Canal Zone and instituted roadblocks and searches.  The Reagan administration’s response was Operation PRAYER BOOK.  Directed by General Fred Woerner, commander of the Southern Command, the operation made preparations for offensive military action against the PDF coupled with measures to protect U.S. citizens in the Canal Zone and Panama proper.[31]
In April 1988, President Ronald Reagan increased the pressure on Noriega by imposing economic sanctions.  Invoking the National Emergencies Act, he issued an executive order that immediately prohibited the payment or transfer of any funds, credits, or financial assets to the Noriega government from the United States.[32]  Some Treasury Department officials opposed this move, fearing potential economic dislocations that could worsen the U.S. position on the isthmus.  Critics also surmised that the sanctions would harm ordinary Panamanians while Noriega and his cronies avoided the worst effects.  The sanctions, in fact, accomplished what the critics feared.  Between February and June 1988, the country’s economic activity dropped by fifty percent while unemployment reached an astounding forty percent.  As one anonymous and frustrated U.S. official mused, “We have ruined a capitalist economy, weakened the pro-American middle class, and created the conditions for growing communist influence.  You’ve got to give yourself credit; that’s a hell of an achievement for diplomacy.”[33]
In May 1988, the Reagan White House attempted to negotiate a deal with Noriega, offering to drop drug charges in exchange for his departure from Panama and safe passage to Spain.  When Noriega refused the offer, the Reagan administration presented to key Congressional intelligence committees a covert action plan to oust Noriega.[34]  The committees rejected the plan, however, as the administration could not guarantee that Noriega would not be killed during a coup.  (A 1976 executive order banned political assassinations.)

Vice President Bush meeting with Noriega in 1983, when Noriega was on the CIA payroll [Sygma-Corbis]

During the fall 1988 presidential election campaign, senior administration officials placed plans to remove Noriega on hold.  White House officials told General Woerner, both in person and over the phone, to keep Panama off the front pages.[35]  The reason was that Vice President George H. W. Bush was being hounded by reports of pampering Noriega during his stint as CIA director in 1976.  According to the New York Times (September 28, 1988):

Throughout the 1988 Presidential campaign and again in the televised debate Sunday [Sept. 25], opponents of Vice President Bush have invoked the name of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, the Panamanian ruler, as shorthand for questioning Mr. Bush’s judgment.  The Panamanian leader has been indicted on drug charges in the United States and accused of other illegal actions, and critics have argued that … Mr. Bush, who was Director of Central Intelligence in 1976, had material that should have prompted him to play a more active role in limiting this country’s dealings with the Panamanian.

Bush vigorously defended his innocence, asserting that he had seen no “hard evidence” of Noriega’s drug trafficking until two Federal grand juries in Florida indicted Noriega in early 1988.  Bush also claimed that he had never met Noriega, which photo evidence later contradicted.[36]

Lead-up to the invasion

Bloodied VP candidate Guillermo Ford fends off an attacker. Newsweek (May 22, 1989) asks, “Will the U.S. Intervene?”

After winning the election in November 1988, Bush renewed his predecessor’s commitment to Noriega’s removal.  Noriega’s blatant political manipulation of Panamanian elections in May 1989 helped seal his fate.  When it appeared that anti-Noriega candidates – Guillermo Endara for president, and Ricardo Arias Calderón and Billy Ford for vice-presidents – would defeat Noriega’s hand-picked crony, Carlos Duque, Noriega manipulated the election to ensure Duque’s victory.  In the days after the election, Noriega’s allies, the so-called “Dignity Battalions,” savagely beat the opposing candidates.  A bloodied picture of Billy Ford appeared on the cover of Newsweek.

Yet Noriega was not the only one to manipulate the election.  In June 1989, U.S. news outlets learned that President Bush had signed a directive in February 1989 which provided the CIA with $10 million to fund opposition candidates and undermine Noriega through covert activities.  House and Senate intelligence committees, both led by Democrats, had approved the covert funding.  Administration officials claimed that the interference in Panamanian elections was justified in order to “level the playing field.”[37]

President Bush condemned Noriega’s election fraud and violence and doubled down on efforts to topple him.  Military operations now became front and center.  According to a history of “Operation Just Cause” by the Army Heritage and Education Center:

Operation Just Cause was initially planned as a gradual buildup of combat troops from the United States. The plan was significantly modified in early 1989 after Noriega increased attempts to intimidate American civilians and soldiers and after he orchestrated assaults against newly elected anti-Noriega candidates…. Code-named “Sand Fleas,” these training exercises represented deliberate demonstrations of force aimed at securing American facilities.  Since many of these facilities needed to be secured or were used as staging areas for the invasion, troops were familiar with their targets.  Furthermore, the exercises were run with such frequency that the enemy became desensitized to rapid movements of troops, thus helping to maintain the element of surprise crucial to success.[38]

The “Sand Fleas” training operations were designed to pressure Noriega to step down and, if he did not, to prepare U.S. troops for a military takeover.  Aggressive U.S. maneuvers served as a trial run to see how the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF) would potentially respond to a U.S. invasion.  The PDF, which combined the functions of police and military, was  hardly a match for the U.S.  It numbered about 14,000 men, “of whom at least 4,000 were well-trained and equipped for combat,” according to U.S. military historian Ronald H. Cole.[39]

Ten-mile wide Panama Canal Zone bordered by U.S. military bases (click to enlarge)

Another U.S. tactic designed to rattle Noriega and keep the PDF off-balance was to send messages to PDF personnel publicly and privately.  These messages essentially warned PDF members not to interfere “with our treaty rights and interests,” for “it will be the PDF that will suffer the consequences.”  As Secretary of State James Baker later admitted, “In truth, we were doing our best to foment a coup.  The policy we were pursuing was steadily increasing pressure across the board. The message to be conveyed at every level was simple: either the Panamanian Defense Forces took Noriega out, or we might.”[40]

On October 3, 1989, Moises Giroldi, an officer in the Panamanian National Guard, launched a coup against Noriega.  Several days before, Giroldi and his wife had discussed with CIA agents in Panama City the possibility of receiving U.S. support for the coup.  However, the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, General Maxwell Thurman, appointed by Bush the previous month, was uncertain as to whether the coup would succeed or even if it was genuine, and thus offered no support.  General Thurman was nonetheless intent on toppling Noriega.  According to a U.S. Army biography, he put off retirement in order lead “the effort to oust General Manuel Noriega’s regime” and “was widely credited with persuading the Pentagon leadership and the Bush administration to use military force against Noriega’s regime.”[41]
On the day of the coup, U.S. troops patrolled several highways but did not block a key artery, thus allowing Noriega loyalists to crush the coup.  Giroldi and other coup leaders were executed.  In the U.S., expectations that the Bush administration would assist Noriega’s ouster led Senator Helms to label the Bush team “a bunch of Keystone Kops.”  Newsweek lampooned the affair as “amateur hour.”  Representative Dave McCurdy of Oklahoma suggested that Bush was rendered incapable by the “wimp factor.”[42]

Noriega was popular in poor neighborhoods such as El Chorrillo where he dedicated a new housing project in 1989 [John Hopper, AP / The Guardian]

This was hardly the case.  Bush was patiently laying the groundwork for Noriega’s ouster.  According to Lt. Col. Lyle M. Koenig, “Contingency plans and months of rehearsal had already been accomplished in preparation for the invasion of Panama.  Once the presidential execute order was given, it merely required alerting units and launching aircraft.”[43]  To increase the pressure on Noriega, President Bush signed an executive order on November 30 intensifying economic sanctions against Panama by prohibiting vessels of Panamanian origin from entering U.S. ports.[44]  Diplomatic reports from U.S. Ambassador John Bushnell in Panama in early December indicated that Noriega was not about to cede power.  The wily general had not only weathered economic sanctions and a coup attempt, but his opponents seemed to be growing dispirited.[45]
Events happened far quicker than Bushnell could imagine.  On Friday, December 15, Noriega gave a speech to the Panamanian Congress in which he declared that, under current conditions imposed by the U.S., a “state of war” existed between the U.S. and Panama.  The statement was intentionally mistranslated by Bush administration officials as a Panamanian declaration of war against the U.S., as if this were remotely realistic.  The following day, U.S. Second Lieutenant Robert Paz and three other U.S. officers dressed in civilian clothes ran through a PDF checkpoint and were fired upon by PDF guards.  Paz was wounded and later died.  In addition, according to U.S. officials, a U.S. Navy lieutenant was beaten and his wife sexually threatened at the same checkpoint.  According to a Los Angeles Times article, “U.S. military and civilian sources” indicated that the shootout may have been provoked by a “small group of U.S. troops who called themselves ‘the Hard Chargers’ and who frequently tested the patience and reaction of Panamanian forces, particularly at roadblocks.”[46]
The Bush administration made no attempt to investigate the incident and no attempt to seek redress through legal means.  The decision to invade was made less than 48 hours after Lt. Paz was killed.  Preparations had long been underway.  On Sunday, December 17, at a national security meeting in the White House, General Colin Powell pushed for the use of military force and presented invasion plans.  Upon short reflection, Bush agreed, saying, “Okay, let’s do it.  The hell with it.”[47]

A violent and complex invasion

El Chorrillo neighborhood in Panama City was largely destroyed by U.S. artillery fire and bombs the first night of the invasion [Newsroom Panama]

The United States launched its surprise invasion of Panama on December 20, 1989, just past midnight.  An official history by the Special Forces Command aptly characterized the invasion as “an unusually delicate, violent and complex operation.”[48]  U.S. warplanes and helicopter gunships pummeled their targets using 105 mm Howitzers and rapid-fire 40 mm cannons, devastating the major cities of Panama City and Colón.  The University of Panama’s seismograph reported at least 400 major explosions within the first twelve hours, an early version of “shock and awe” that the U.S. military would later employ in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.[49]  Relying on the element of surprise and on superior firepower and technology, U.S. forces quickly overwhelmed the outmatched Panamanian forces, concluding combat operations within twenty-four hours.  Guillermo Endara, the presumed winner in the May elections, was sworn in as president at a U.S. military base.
During the invasion, a massive fire consumed one of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods, El Chorrillo. This neighborhood largely consisted of densely packed, older wooden houses. The fire left at least 10,000 people homeless. U.S. forces targeted the neighborhood because it housed La Comandancia, the headquarters of the PDF. Noriega was also assumed to be potentially hiding out in the area, which turned out to be false.[50]
Noriega eluded capture by U.S. forces and took refuge in the Vatican Embassy in Panama City.  U.S. soldiers remained outside for days, blasting the embassy with loud rock music that included songs such as “Nowhere to Run” and “You’re No Good.”[51]  After ten days and much anticipation in the media, Noriega surrendered.  He was shipped off to Miami where he later stood trial and was convicted on charges of drug trafficking, racketeering, and money laundering.

U.S. soldiers search suspects detained outside the home of a business associate of Manuel Noriega in Panama City, Dec. 26, 1989 [Ezequiel Becerra / AP]

The invasion witnessed the first use of stealth bombers.  During an attack against the PDF base at Río Hato, two F-117 stealth fighters each unleashed a 2,000-pound laser-guided bomb, neither of which hit the barracks.  The original plan intended for the stealth fighters to bomb the barracks, but senior planners decided to revise the orders.  Instead of directly attacking the buildings, the stealth fighters were deployed to “stun rather than kill its inhabitants.”  Thus, the bombers did not “miss” their targets, they simply carried out their psychologically framed orders.[52]  Lt. Carl Stiner, who opposed deliberately targeting the barracks, wanted to keep enemy casualties to a minimum in part to avoid stiffening Panamanian resistance.[53]
There were many civilian casualties, though the exact number is a matter of dispute.  Initially, the U.S. government reported that less than 100 people lost their lives.  Subsequent Pentagon reports, however, offered a figure of approximately 200 civilian fatalities and 324 PDF dead, as compared to U.S. casualties of 23 dead and 320 wounded.  The Pentagon’s figures were challenged by the Roman Catholic Church in Panama, which calculated that 673 Panamanians were killed; by the Panamanian Human Rights Committee and the Center for Investigation of Human Rights and Legal Aid, which estimated that 500 to 700 Panamanians died; and by Americas Watch, the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in Central America, and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama.[54]  Clark’s group estimated between 1,000 and 4,000 Panamanian fatalities.[55]

Unnamed bodies prepared for burial in a mass grave [Panama News]

Some Panamanian residents charged that the U.S. military quickly buried the dead, using bulldozers to push bodies into unmarked mass graves in order to conceal the extent of the slaughter.  The mother of one deceased Panamanian said they were “buried like dogs.”[56]  In the aftermath of the invasion, a group of Panamanians formed the Association of the Fallen to commemorate the dead and call for a fuller investigation.  One American observer confirmed that large bulldozers were quickly deployed and hidden behind large tarps.[57]  The U.S. acknowledged that it buried, for reasons of public health, 28 Panamanians in a mass grave in Panama City, and another 18 individuals in a mass grave in Colón; these bodies were later disinterred and reburied by the Forensic Office of Panama in late April and May 1990.  No other mass graves were found.[58]
The pliant U.S. media and Congress
The U.S. military command restricted media access to many sites, including hospitals; hence news broadcasts revealed little of the scale of killing and destruction that took place.  Immediate news reports highlighted the “surgical” strikes conducted by U.S. forces.  The simultaneous and coordinated attacks carried out in the middle of the night seemed to impress journalists, despite the fact that the fierce artillery barrages were unleashed on heavily populated areas and for lengthy durations.  Media coverage either ignored or missed the massive fire which consumed the neighborhood of El Chorrillo.
U.S. newscasts revealed little of the scale of killing and destruction that took place.
Media outlets in both the United States and Canada generally put a positive spin on the invasion.  In two weeks’ worth of coverage, ABC’s World News Tonight contained only four critical paragraphs out of 271 devoted to the invasion.[59]  The New York Times, among others, largely relied on administration officials for information, allowing the administration to frame the invasion and shape the news.[60]  News reports largely focused on whether Bush would be able to attain his set goals, especially as Noriega evaded capture for several days.  Hardly any journalists or outlets questioned the legitimacy of the invasion, though some openly worried about the potential for a Vietnam-style quagmire in Panama.  They focused on how the war was waged, not whether it was necessary.
The media also followed the administration’s lead in demonizing Noriega.  Before Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein became the face of evil the following year, Noriega emerged as public enemy number one.  Panamanians often called Noriega la piña (the pineapple), an epithet referring to his acne scars.  U.S. journalists picked up on this; one broadcaster labeled Noriega “a pock-marked Jesse James Americans could love to hate.”[61]  News anchors portrayed the Panamanian dictator as a vile subhuman.  Peter Jennings called Noriega “one of the more odious creatures with whom the United States has had a relationship.”  Bill Beutel, ABC news anchor, referred to Noriega’s alleged reptilian disposition, noting that he “seemed almost superhuman in his ability to slither away before we got to him.”  Another anchor informed viewers that he “is not man, he’s an animal, a beast.”[62]

Panamanians celebrate Noriega’s ouster with U.S. soldiers [AP]

U.S. news outlets furthermore portrayed Panamanians as overwhelmingly supportive of the invasion.  Those interviewed tended to be middle-to-upper class English speakers who lived some distance from the targeted zones.[63]  Soldiers who participated in “Operation Just Cause” reported that grateful Panamanians greeted them.  As one former soldier recounted, “the streets came alive as people appeared from every door and window, cheering us like liberators.”[64]  Peter Eisner from Newsday was one of the few to question conventional wisdom about grateful Panamanians by reporting incidents of civilians cursing at U.S. troops and criticizing collaborators.[65]
The media’s cheerleader orientation, selective reporting, and uncritical acceptance of administration rationales all contributed to public support for Just Cause.  A poll conducted by Newsweek on December 21 asked Americans if the U.S. was justified in sending military forces to invade and overthrow Noriega; 80 percent responded positively.  Curiously, 73 percent believed that Noriega’s arrest would only have a small impact on the flow of drugs into the United States.[66]  In the immediate aftermath of the invasion, President Bush’s approval ratings skyrocketed to 86 percent, demonstrating once again that U.S. presidents can count on foreign policy victories to alleviate concern about their domestic popularity.  Lee Atwater, Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign manager and chairman of the Republic National Committee, labeled the invasion a “political jackpot.”[67]

US drug enforcement agents handcuff Noriega aboard a C-130 transport plane [AP / The Guardian]

There was little protest in Congress against the executive decision to launch an invasion, though this circumvented the constitutional responsibility of Congress to decide whether or not to go to war.  Liberal stalwart Senator Edward Kennedy, for one, declared, “I do not intend to second-guess the president’s decision while American forces are under fire.”  A few critics emerged, including Representatives Charles Rangel, Ted Weiss, and Don Edwards.  Edwards denounced the mission as “a trigger-happy act of gunboat diplomacy that continues our 100-year abuse of Central American nations.”[68]  The press generally ignored such criticism, much as it did denunciations by Latin American leaders and the UN General Assembly.  In the weeks following the invasion, U.S. news media continued to report positive Panamanian feelings toward the occupation, exemplified by the choreographed visit of Vice-President Dan Quayle in late January 1990.  Quayle was greeted by cheers and placards emblazoned with slogans such as “Thank you for Just Cause.”[69]
Aftermath of the invasion
The reality was far from upbeat.  In the immediate aftermath of the invasion, U.S. forces failed to prevent rioting and looting.  General Fred Woerner acknowledged that the original invasion plan did not anticipate the challenge of keeping order in a post-Noriega society.  General Thurman, who authorized a revised plan that spread U.S. forces more thinly across Panama, reflected that he spent “no more than five minutes reviewing or revising” post-conflict operations.  Lacking sufficient numbers of troops to maintain order, looting and rioting quickly consumed several sections of Panama City.  The city suffered over $1 billion in losses.[70]
Faced with the threat of continued lawlessness, the U.S. and Endara governments decided to retain some members of Noriega’s PDF.  Even though American planners were determined to eradicate Noriega’s military, they recognized the danger posed by firing thousands of service personnel and policemen who may have simply supported Noriega out of economic necessity.  The new force, christened the Panamanian Public Forces, included former PDF soldiers.  Within one year of the invasion, some disenchanted members of the force tried to unseat Endara, compelling the U.S. to send combat troops to secure the political order.[71]

Wall graffiti in El Chorrillo: “Aqui pasó algo” (Something happened here) [Center for Human Rights, Univ. of Washington]

President Endara appealed for U.S. funds to rebuild destroyed neighborhoods.  He estimated that his administration required $40 million to initiate the process.  Both Bush and Endara realized the gravity of the situation; failure to address rebuilding, as well as high unemployment, could have serious political ramifications for the U.S.-backed regime.[72]  Nonetheless, years later, some residents were still waiting for replacement housing.  In July 1990, a group of sixty businesses based in Panama filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government in a New York City court, charging that the invasion was “done in a tortuous, careless, and negligent manner with disregard for the property of innocent Panamanian residents.”  The parties settled out of court.[73]
One year after the invasion, Panama remained in dire straits.  Unemployment hovered between twenty to thirty percent while an estimated forty percent of Panamanians lived near the poverty line.  Violent crime had tripled.  In five months, Panamanians reported over 7,000 thefts, 1,300 armed robberies and 77 rapes.  President Endara’s popularity plummeted into the teens.  The Panamanian Public Forces were hardly more popular; a staggering 75 percent of Panamanians did not believe that they could guarantee public safety.  One poll indicated that only thirty-seven percent of Panamanians thought the invasion brought more benefits than problems.[74]
In 1992, the Panamanian government raised the issue of war damages with the Bush administration.  U.S. officials did not appreciate the gesture.  Bernard Aronson, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, reminded President Endara that not only had Bush acquired funds for Panamanian reconstruction from a reluctant Congress, but in case he had forgotten, “U.S. boys had died to help Panama achieve freedom.”  Lest there be any doubt, Aronson also informed Endara that the continued pursuit of war damages would have a “terrible, permanent effect on relations.”[75]

Administration rationales and counterpoints

President Bush announces that a U.S. military invasion of Panama is underway, Dec. 20, 1989

On the morning of the invasion, December 20, 1989, President George H. W. Bush appeared on primetime television to offer four justifications.  “The goals of the United States,” he said, “have been to safeguard the lives of Americans, to defend democracy in Panama, to combat drug trafficking and to protect the integrity of the Panama Canal Treaty.”[76]  His claims merit examination.

Safeguarding Americans
Regarding the safety of American citizens, Bush charged, “General Noriega’s reckless threats and attacks upon Americans in Panama created an imminent danger to the 35,000 American citizens in Panama.”[77]  The killing of a single American soldier by PDF soldiers on December 16, coupled with rough treatment of another and a threat to his wife, appeared to validate Bush’s claim.  Yet Noriega made no threats against U.S. citizens living in Panama before the invasion, and U.S. citizens did not rush to leave the country.  To be sure, there was increasing tension between the PDF and U.S. military forces prior to the invasion, but this was largely due to intimidating U.S. military exercises.
On the day of the invasion, Secretary of State James Baker sought to buttress the administration’s case by providing the press with an unverified “intelligence report that General Noriega was considering mounting an urban commando attack on American citizens in a residential neighborhood.”  He added, however, “I cannot prove to you that this report was absolutely reliable.”  Indeed, it was a conjured-up allegation, its purpose being to throw off skeptics and critics.[78]
The death of a U.S. soldier was the catalyst for an invasion planned well in advance.  The U.S. case against the PDF should have been taken up in a court of law, perhaps the International Court of Justice, or referred to the OAS for mediation.  There were arguments to be made on each side.  According to a Yale legal review, “The United States soldiers in the car drove through the checkpoint directly in front of a sensitive Panamanian military facility where Noriega’s own office was located, in an atmosphere still tense from the October coup attempt.”[79]  The PDF had every right to set up a roadblock in front of an important military center and the PDF soldiers were technically within their right to shoot at anyone who ran the roadblock.

Following a solemn ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Panama, a woman visits the tomb of her relative killed in the invasion at the Jardín de la Paz cemetery in Panama City [Luis Acosta / AFP]

Whatever the outcome of such a court case in terms of just cause, the U.S. invasion killed hundreds of civilians, including many children, and thus was grossly disproportionate to the death of one U.S. soldier.  In an analysis of the intervention in The American Journal of International Law (April 1990), Ved P. Nanda writes that the “tense situation” in Panama “fails to qualify as a legal justification for the invasion under the test of ‘necessity.’  Nor can a full-scale invasion be considered a proportional response.”

The conclusion is inescapable that the United States has failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove that the necessity prerequisite was met.  But assuming that some level of intervention to protect U.S. nationals was justified, the scale of the operation and the prolonged period of intervention, coupled with the other objectives cited for the invasion, cast serious doubt on its having been a legitimate case of humanitarian intervention.[80]

War on drugs
That Noriega was involved in international drug trafficking is without doubt.  The question is whether capturing the reputed offender can serve as the basis for a military invasion of a country.  According to Nanda, “The fact that Noriega is charged with drug trafficking, an international crime, does not mitigate the illegality of the invasion…. Since a state has no authority to violate the territorial integrity of another state in order to apprehend an alleged criminal, the U.S. claim cannot be sustained.”[81]
Viewed in historical perspective, the addition of the drug trafficking rationale reflects an effort by U.S. leaders to find new justifications for U.S. interventionism in the waning period of the Cold War.  Though not commensurate with the “communist menace,” the “war on drugs” was a salient domestic issue and could be advanced as an international issue as well.  In April 1986, President Reagan issued National Security Directive 221 which enabled “U.S. military forces to support counter-narcotics efforts more actively.”[82]  The directive was accompanied by a public relations campaign that temporarily boosted the issue of drug trafficking to the “most important problem facing the U.S.,” according to 1989 Gallup poll, with 63 percent of Americans identifying it as such.[83]
In April 1989, President Bush sounded the alarm at the International Drug Enforcement Conference.  Using rhetoric more suited for an armed attack, Bush declared that, “I’m here today to talk about war:  first to see cocaine trafficking for what it is – an attack aimed at enslaving and exploiting the weak; second, to confront what’s become a world war; and third, I hope to end a nasty chapter in that war – the diversion of precursor chemicals.”[84]  The president also used a prime-time address to emphasize the severity of the issue.  During his TV appearance, Bush unveiled a bag of crack cocaine that had supposedly been purchased near the White House.  Bush, however, failed to mention that the drug bust had been fabricated.[85]  Pursuing a “get tough” policy toward drugs paid political dividends with a public increasingly concerned about drug abuse.
Building on this concern, U.S. officials framed the invasion of Panama as an effort to bring a “drug dealing dictator” to justice.  Newly appointed ambassador to Panama Deane Hinton described the invasion as “the biggest drug bust in history.”[86]  The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Thomas Pickering, also emphasized Noriega’s drug trafficking ties, which he characterized as a “disgrace” and a “terrible evil.”  Pickering informed the UN Security Council that “we have been reminded again of the terrible price brave men and women – and whole societies – pay because these monsters – these drug traffickers – continue in our midst.”  Continuing with the hyperbole, Pickering insisted that “this is a war as deadly and as dangerous as any fought with armies massed across borders; the survival of democratic nations is at stake.”[87]
The hyperbole was also hypocritical.  Journalists and historians have alleged, with ample evidence, that certain sectors of the U.S. government, notably the CIA, have maintained ties to various international drug cartels dating back to Chiang Kai-Shek’s government in China.  When national security has dictated, these agencies have turned a blind eye to such transgressions and thwarted investigations.[88]  In the case of Noriega, U.S. officials had been keenly aware of his checkered past and tolerated his associations with the drug cartels as long as he was willing to do the Reagan administration’s bidding in the U.S. proxy war in Nicaragua.  The Panamanian dictator was protected as long as his illegal activities served Washington’s foreign policy agenda.   An investigation by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations, headed by Senator John Kerry, provided ample evidence of this collusion in its April 1989 report.  Moreover, the federal drug agent who arrested Noriega on drug charges in 1989 was sentenced to two years in prison for stealing money during a drug sting.  Rene de la Cova, a DEA supervisor, pleaded guilty in January 1994 to taking $760,000 while working on a money-laundering probe in Fort Lauderdale.  [89]

Guillermo Endara at his 1989 swearing-in ceremony [Alberto Lowe / Reuters]

Not surprisingly, the U.S. invasion of Panama did little to curb illegal drug trafficking.  An expose in the Baltimore Sun ten months later noted the U.S. and Panama were “intensifying their investigations of drug money laundering by a bank partly owned by Panamanian President Guillermo Endara.”  Mayin Correa, a former Panamanian legislator, lamented, “It is a pity that we fought so hard to get rid of a corrupt narco-dictatorship and now we find the same things are happening again.”  A sardonic comment that circulated through Panama went:  “The United States took Ali Baba and left us with the forty thieves.”[90]
Democracy promotion
The Bush administration also linked the invasion to a broader international democratic transition.  In his January 1989 inaugural address, President Bush declared that “the day of the dictator is over.  The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away likes leaves from an ancient lifeless tree.”[91]  Several momentous events in 1989 seemed to confirm this – the unraveling of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe, elections in Poland, and the collapse of the Berlin Wall – although the Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators in China was a glaring exception.  Bush administration officials portrayed Noriega as an obstacle to the march of progress.  Not only was he a drug-dealing thug; he was also violating and repressing his own people’s desire for an open society.  As such, he was a historical anachronism.
In a commencement address to the U.S. Coast Guard, the president informed his audience of Panama’s relevance.  The “eclipse of communism,” he said, “is only one half of the story of our time.  The other is the ascendancy of the democratic idea.  Never before has the idea of freedom so captured the imaginations of men and women the world over, and never before has the hope of freedom beckoned so many – trade unionists in Warsaw, the people of Panama, rulers consulting the ruled in the Soviet Union.”[92]  Decrying “rogue dictators” and “narco-terrorists” served as a replacement for the vanishing “communist threat” that had been used to justify U.S. interventionism for more than four decades.
A legal adviser to the White House argued that the cause of democracy trumps national sovereignty and international law under the pseudo doctrine of humanitarian intervention.
Bush had originally listed the safeguarding of American lives as the number one rationale for the invasion, but “democracy promotion” leaped to the top after U.S. forces were committed.  The administration emphasized democracy to justify the invasion on both ethical and legal grounds.  Abraham Sofaer, a legal adviser to the White House, argued that the cause of democracy trumps national sovereignty and international law under the pseudo doctrine of humanitarian intervention.  “The substantial respect afforded to the doctrine of humanitarian intervention,” he wrote, “reflects the fact that the advancement of human rights and democratic self-determination are legitimate objectives of our international system.  Panama presented a strong case for humanitarian intervention.”  Gennady Gerasimov, spokesman for the Soviet Foreign Ministry, countered, “No state has the right to take the law into its own hands.  “That’s basically lynch law.”[93]
Essentially, Bush policymakers claimed the right to judge for themselves whether other governments were sufficiently democratic and, if not, to impose a new government by force.  The Bush administration’s dubious legal claim furthermore ignored a long history of U.S. support for authoritarian and repressive governments.  Indeed, the rise of Noriega, while also attributable to internal Panamanian factors, demonstrated the U.S. government’s proclivity toward supporting friendly anti-democratic regimes.[94]
Protecting the Panama Canal

President Jimmy Carter and Gen. Omar Torrijos signed the Panama Canal treaties in Washington, Sept. 7, 1977

President Bush’s fourth rationale, “to protect the integrity of the Panama Canal Treaty,” conveyed the idea that the Noriega regime constituted a threat to the operation of the Panama Canal, which was not true.  No threats were issued and there was no reason to issue any threats, as many Panamanians were dependent on canal operations for their livelihood.  The “Panama Canal Treaty” actually refers to two treaties, the Panama Canal Treaty and the Neutrality Treaty, both signed on September 7, 1977.  These treaties respectively provide for the transfer of canal operations to Panama on December 31, 1999, and for the U.S. to permanently defend the canal from any threat to its neutral service.

According to Nanda, “The U.S. claim [to be protecting the canal] finds no support in either of the two treaties in question – the Canal Treaty or the Neutrality Treaty.”  The Canal Treaty, moreover, recognizes Panama’s rights as a sovereign nation, which means that there is no legal basis in the treaty for U.S. military interventionism.  Indeed, the U.S. Senate, in ratifying the Neutrality Treaty on March 16, 1978, added a clarification to the effect that the U.S. had no right whatsoever to intervene in Panama.  The amendment recognized the right and obligation of the United States to act against any outside threat and noted:

This does not mean, nor shall it be interpreted as, a right of intervention of the United States in the internal affairs of Panama.  Any United States action will be directed at insuring that the Canal will remain open, secure, and accessible, and it shall never be directed against the territorial integrity or political independence of Panama.[95]

Rather than protect the integrity of the Panama Canal treaties, the Bush administration broke the treaties by failing to respect the territorial integrity and political independence of Panama.

All in all, the rationales for the invasion put forward by Bush do not withstand close scrutiny.  This was a preemptive war of Bush’s choosing.

Interpreting the invasion:  Contrasting views

U.S. military officials offered effusive praise for “Operation Just Cause” in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.  Retired Army Chief of Staff Edward Meyer depicted Just Cause as “probably the best-conceived military operation since World War II” and a ‘brilliant success.’  The limited American casualties, quick duration of the conflict, and decisive application of firepower soothed U.S. officials and political conservatives who still harbored fears of a Vietnam redux.  An unnamed senior Pentagon official also offered a gendered view of the brief conflict, declaring that “the Panama invasion was a test of manhood.”[96]

Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Gen. Colin Powell at a press conference, 1991 [AP]

Two senior officials who would later serve the second Bush administration, General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Richard B. Cheney, Secretary of Defense, drew positive lessons from Just Cause, including the efficacy of military power to enact regime change and achieve political gains.  Both would apply these lessons to subsequent wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003.  Powell, who presided over the Panama invasion, regarded it as an unqualified success.  U.S. forces had pummeled its enemy, decapitated the Noriega regime, and demonstrated that the U.S. military could deploy massive force effectively and quickly.  His memoir restated the lessons of Just Cause:  “… have a clear political objective and stick to it.  Use decisive force and do not apologize for using it.  It ends wars quicker and saves lives.”[97]  Panama demonstrated the necessity of accomplishing the mission quickly and withdrawing troops as soon as possible.  As Powell noted in 2007, in the midst of civil war in Iraq, “You try to do it quickly.  The quicker you do it, the quicker you restore a sense of normalcy to a society and get it back in their [local] hands.”[98]  Powell did not question the right of a foreign power to impose regime change, nor the use of overwhelming military force to restore “normalcy” to a society.
For Powell, the invasion signified the beginning of a larger historical process:  the rebuilding of the U.S. Army.  This required that the ghosts of Vietnam – the so-called “Vietnam syndrome” – be exorcised.  In an interview shortly after the conclusion of Operation Desert Storm (the Persian Gulf War in early 1991), Powell boasted that “from 1973 roughly, to the time of Desert Storm, we rebuilt the Army, we got rid of our syndrome, we internalized the way we’re supposed to fight wars.  We fought war that way in Panama when we went in and took down the Noriega regime, and we fought it again in Desert Shield and Desert Storm.”[99]
Powell also realized the importance of controlling the narrative in regard to media coverage.  Shortly before the Panama invasion, he offered advice to other senior officers at the National Defense University in Washington: “… turn your attention to television because you can win the battle [and] lose the war if you don’t handle the story right.”[100]  The general skillfully directed the media to the reputed positives of the Panama invasion:  the destruction of the Noriega regime and the capture of the “drug-dealing dictator.”  He elided other concerns, notably “collateral damage” – the extent of human casualties and material destruction – and the legitimacy of the invasion under international law.
Beginning with Just Cause, U.S. military generals began to master the intricacies of dealing with the press, limiting potentially negative coverage.  As the journalists Lou Debose and Jake Bernstein aptly characterized the Pentagon approach, the “assault of Panama bore all the signature marks for which Dick Cheney has become known.  Willingness to exercise broad executive authority, low regard for the role of Congress in foreign policy, high tolerance for non-American civilian casualties, and near-absolute secrecy.”[101]
The exercise of “broad executive authority” meant reducing Congressional oversight of U.S. foreign policy, particularly restrictions on military interventionism and wars.  The War Powers Act of 1973 requires that Congress be notified within forty-eight hours of introducing U.S. armed forces into hostilities; and unless Congress declares war or specifically authorizes military action, that the president must terminate the use of the armed forces within sixty days.  It also requires the president to consult Congress “in every possible instance” before involving U.S. troops in hostilities.  President Bush reported to Congress within forty-eight hours of beginning the invasion of Panama, but he did not consult Congress beforehand.[102]
Critics of the Panama invasion across Latin America viewed it as an act of imperial policing, a return to the days of “gunboat diplomacy.”
Critics of the Panama invasion across Latin America viewed it as an act of imperial policing, designed to cement U.S. dominance in Panama and return to the days of “gunboat diplomacy.”  According to a Los Angeles Times report, “News of the Panama attack stunned Latin Americans.  It touched their nationalistic nerve like no other event since American troops swarmed over the Caribbean island of Grenada in 1983 and quickly toppled a Marxist government.”  Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez, a staunch foe of Noriega, said the U.S. intervention “revived an era in inter-American relations that was thought to have been surpassed.”  A Mexican communique declared, “Fighting international crimes is no excuse for intervention in a sovereign nation.”  Peruvian President Alan Garcia recalled his ambassador from Washington and suggested postponement of a scheduled February 15th summit meeting of the U.S., Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru to coordinate efforts against drug traffickers.  “I cannot meet with the leader of an invading nation,” said Garcia.  The invasion, as such, undermined the hemispheric cooperation needed to curb international drug trafficking.[103]
Two days after the invasion began, the Organization of American States (OAS) voted 20-1 to censure the U.S. military action, the U.S. being the lone defender of it.  The resolution “deeply deplored the military intervention in Panama.”  It urged an immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal of foreign troops, and called on all nations to honor the “right of the Panamanian people to self-determination without outside interference and faithful adherence to the letter and spirit of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties.”[104]  In the accompanying debate, noted the Washington Post, “representatives from countries traditionally friendly to the United States used impassioned rhetoric to make clear that they regard the principle of nonintervention as taking precedence over all other aspects of hemispheric relations and that Noriega’s alleged crimes did not justify ousting him by force.”[105]  The U.S. invasion violated the OAS charter in two sections, one absolutely prohibiting military interventionism, the other requiring mediation in disputes between OAS members.[106]
On December 29, 1989, nine days after the invasion began, the United Nations General Assembly passed an “urgent” resolution by a vote was 75-20, with 40 abstentions, which denounced the U.S. intervention as a “flagrant violation of international law and of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Panama.  The resolution called for the immediate cessation of hostilities and the withdrawal from Panama of the “armed invasion forces of the United States.”[107]  The Bush administration ignored the resolution.

The Panama Deception, a 91-minute American-made documentary film, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1993

Critics also assailed the U.S. for failing to observe the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of civilians.[108]  In the sixteen months following the invasion, Americas Watch produced two reports documenting the extent of the “collateral damage.”  The first queried, if the strikes were so precise, then why did the civilian body count outnumber military deaths by a count of at least four to one?  The second report noted that the attack on the neighborhood of El Chorrillo and a similar attack in an urban area of Colón were carried out without prior warning to civilians, thus “violating the permanent duty of the attacking forces to minimize damage to civilians.”  The report concluded that “the tactics and weaponry used by U.S. forces resulted in a disproportionate number of civilian victims in violation of specific obligations under the Geneva Conventions.”[109]  Another investigative report by the Physicians for Human Rights in October 1991 blamed the American “shock and awe” strategy for indiscriminate killing and destruction of homes, presenting figures of at least 300 civilians killed and 3,000 injured.[110]

Paradoxically, U.S. officials such as John Negroponte, ambassador to the United Nations, defended the invasion on the basis of international law.  Employing an expansive definition of self-defense, he argued that armed attacks perpetrated by Noriega’s forces against American citizens in Panama justified the use of force.  U.S. ambassador to the OAS Luigi Einaudi similarly reminded his colleagues of the United States’ “inherent right to self-defense.”[111]  Secretary of State Baker brazenly declared that the invasion reasserted “the rule of law in the hemisphere,” utterly ignoring the judgments of the OAS and UN General Assembly.[112]  The Wall Street Journal piled it on, editorializing, “In the morning darkness, Manuel Noriega learned, and others like him should take note, that there are limits to the uncivilized behavior that the United States will accept or endure.”  Such rationales were similar to those employed earlier in the 20th century to justify U.S. interventionism in the Caribbean and Central America, when U.S. interventions were justified in the name of preventing “chronic wrongdoing.”[113]
Although the invasion caused unnecessary harm and violated international law, the quick victory, rapidly changing international environment, and historical amnesia concealed its short-comings in the U.S.  As the professional golfer Tiger Woods once remarked, “winning takes care of everything.”  Woods’ aphorism could also apply to the realm of policymaking:  win a war and any underlining concerns – ethical, moral, or strategic – can be alleviated.  Just Cause demonstrated that by acting unilaterally, employing overwhelming power, and using a small but highly mobile invading force, the U.S. could enact regime change with minimal casualties or domestic dissent.  As an added bonus, Just Cause boosted the administration’s public approval ratings.  What could go wrong?
The example of Just Cause did not, in isolation, lead to the debacle and quagmire in Iraq decades later.  Nonetheless, replicating the “shock and awe” strategy in Iraq in 2003, in conjunction with inattention to post-invasion planning, ultimately backfired and failed in a different context.  The invasion of Panama, an easy victory on the surface, paved the way for a greater calamity on the Tigris.
*          *         *          *          *

III. The Persian Gulf War

  1. The war option
  2. Geopolitics and the rule of law
  3. Iraq and Kuwait
  4. Propaganda offensive
  5. From defense to offense
  6. Sanctions versus war debate
  7. Peace activism
  8. The six-week war
  9. Casualties
  10. Chemical cover-up
  11. Myth of the Nintendo war
  12. Aftermath of war
Less than eight months after the U.S. invasion of Panama, a crisis erupted in the Persian Gulf region.  On August 2, 1990, Iraqi forces invaded and occupied neighboring Kuwait, the culmination of a long-running dispute.

Saddam Hussein addresses his troops, 1990 [Reuters]

The UN Security Council immediately condemned Iraqi aggression and called for the withdrawal of Iraqi troops.  On August 6, the council voted to impose economic sanctions, cutting off Iraq’s imports and exports except for medical supplies, food and other items of humanitarian necessity.[114]  On November 29, at the behest of the U.S., the UN Security Council authorized member states to initiate military action if Iraqi forces were not withdrawn by January 15, 1991.[115]
Two days after the deadline, with still no response from Saddam, the United States led a 38-nation coalition in a brief and brutal war that entailed six weeks of air attacks on both Iraq and Iraqi troops in Kuwait, and four days of ground operations in Kuwait.[116]  The overwhelming firepower of the U.S. and its allies resulted in a rout, with a 100-to-one ratio of Iraqi to coalition combat deaths excluding those killed by “friendly fire.”[117]  Iraqi troops either fled or surrendered and President George H. W. Bush declared a ceasefire on February 28.
Was the war just and necessary?
As the war was authorized by the UN and approved by Congress, it had the imprimatur of a just war under the UN collective security principle.[118]  Yet it was not a war of last resort and may not have been necessary in light of the alternative – using economic sanctions to pressure Iraq to relent.  Given Iraq’s dependence on oil revenues, many expected Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to withdraw his troops once economic sanctions took full effect.  The Bush administration, however, was not willing to wait.  The conduct of the war also bears scrutiny, as U.S. and coalition airstrikes killed some 2,000 to 3,000 civilians and destroyed vital urban infrastructure such as electrical generating plants which led to more deaths.[119]

1.  The war option

Although the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait appeared to be a surprise, the Bush administration had been preparing for war against Iraq for more than a year.  In April 1989, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) assessed that “Iraq will be the next likely regional threat in the wake of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) and the decline of the Soviet threat.”[120]  On February 8, 1990, CENTCOM commander General H. Norman Schwarzkopf told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, “Iraq is now the pre-eminent military power in the Gulf…. [It] has the capability to militarily coerce its neighboring states should diplomatic efforts fail to produce the desired results.”[121]  In March, over 500 military and civilian staff from CENTCOM and other agencies at Fort McPherson, Georgia, began work on a detailed blueprint for war against Iraq, known as Operations Plan (OPLAN) 1002-90.  In May and again in July, CENTCOM conducted war games in the region based on a hypothetical Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.  The plan included air assaults on Iraqi command and control centers in Baghdad.[122]

Lt. Gen. Khalid Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz, commander of Joint Forces in Saudi Arabia, meets with Defense Secretary Richard Cheney [US National Archives]

Following the actual Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on August 2, according to a U.S. Air Force study, “President Bush convened a meeting of the National Security Council to discuss U.S. options.”  Gen. Schwarzkopf and his staff were directed to prepare “for a deployment of forces to Southwest Asia.  Their deployment plan would take four months to execute (plus an additional two months for the forces added later) and would depend on the use of some twenty-five regional bases, including some not mentioned in existing plans.”[123]
Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and General Schwarzkopf set off for Saudi Arabia to secure key military bases.  Meeting with King Fahd and a coterie of royal advisers on August 7, the general pulled out large maps and aerial photos and suggested that Iraqi tanks could be in Dhahran, the Saudi oil city, in a matter of hours.  According to Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Richard A. Clarke, who was present at the meeting, “The King turned to his brothers and solicited their reaction.  They were unanimously opposed to an American intervention, to U.S. forces being on the soil of the land of the two holy mosques.”  King Fahd, however, rejected their advice.  “’Tell President Bush to send the forces,’” said the king.  “’Send them all.  Send them quickly.  I accept his word that the forces will leave when this is over.’”[124]  That same day, Bush formally launched Operation Desert Shield, ordering 200,000 U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia.  The first to arrive was the 82nd Airborne Division on August 9.[125]
During the first week after the Iraqi invasion, Bush administration officials rounded up international support for military action, meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Turkish President Turgut Ozal, King Hassan of Morocco, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and NATO Secretary General Manfred Wöerner.  Although Mubarak refused to allow U.S. troops and bases on Egyptian soil, he was persuaded to join the emerging coalition against Iraq, in part by cancellation of Egypt’s $7 billion debt for U.S. arms purchases.

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia at the Arab summit in Cairo, Egypt, August 10, 1990 [AP]

Mubarak played a key role in influencing the 21-member Arab League to support economic sanctions against Iraq.  Twelve states voted to endorse the UN sanctions resolution and three more approved it “with reservations.”[126]  Although most Arab countries condemned Saddam’s land grab, they were also wary of Western intervention.  As one civil engineer in Tunisia told the New York Times on August 31, “We cannot accept that the U.S. immediately sends its big armies to get Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, but for 20 years does nothing about the Israel occupied lands.”[127]
To prepare the American public for military action, President Bush gave a television address on August 8 in which he compared Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler.  “Appeasement does not work,” said Bush.  “As was the case in the 1930s, we see in Saddam Hussein an aggressive dictator threatening his neighbors.”[128]  Such rhetoric left little room for negotiation.  Washington Post editor Charles Paul Freund described Bush’s comparison as “another chapter in a process we have seen several times in recent years involving such figures as ‘strongman’ [Manuel] Noriega of Panama, the ‘fanatical’ [Ruhollah] Khomeini of Iran and Libya’s ‘madman’ [Muammar] Gadhafi.”[129]  The Hitler analogy was used to turn Saddam into a caricature of evil, a leader who could not be dissuaded from his malevolent designs by negotiations or compromise.

“If at First…” (Jeff Hook cartoon, August 1990)

Bush’s saber-rattling did not immediately rouse the American war spirit.  A Gallup/Newsweek poll taken on August 23-24, 1990, asked Americans if President Bush “should quickly begin military action against Iraq” or if he “should wait to see if economic and diplomatic sanctions were effective.”  An overwhelming 80% of respondents said Bush should wait to see if the sanctions were successful; only 17% said Bush should begin military action quickly.[130]  The American public nevertheless supported sending U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia for defensive purposes.  A New York Times/CBS poll taken August 16-19, 1990, indicated 77 percent approval.[131]  Among those strongly disapproving were peace activists who immediately began educating and organizing against the possibility of war.  Antiwar demonstrations were held in August and early September, attracting 3,000 in San Francisco, 3,000 in New York, and hundreds in Boston, Syracuse, Chicago, Milwaukee, Austin, Tucson, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, and Washington, DC.[132]

2.  Geopolitics and the rule of law

In a speech before a joint session of Congress on September 11, President Bush decried the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait as “the first assault on the new world that we seek, the first test of our mettle.”  Should the U.S. not respond forcefully, he said, “it would be a signal to actual and potential despots around the world.  America and the world must defend common vital interests … support the rule of law … [and] stand up to aggression.  And we will.”
The vital interests to be protected, of course, were the region’s oil supplies transported through the Persian Gulf.  “Iraq itself controls some 10 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves,” said Bush.  “Iraq plus Kuwait controls twice that.  An Iraq permitted to swallow Kuwait would have the economic and military power, as well as the arrogance, to intimidate and coerce its neighbors – neighbors who control the lion’s share of the world’s remaining oil reserves.  We cannot permit a resource so vital to be dominated by one so ruthless. And we won’t.”[133]
As for the rule of law, Bush failed to mention in his speech recent U.S. transgressions against international law.  These included invasions of Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989), and a proxy war against Nicaragua in the 1980s, which the International Court of Justice ruled in June 1986 a breach of “customary international law not to intervene in the affairs of another State.”[134]  The Reagan administration dismissed the court ruling; in effect, declaring the right of the U.S. to operate as a rogue state.

US special envoy Donald Rumsfeld meets with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Dec. 20, 1983 [Wiki Commons]

President Bush also failed to mention that the U.S. had supported Iraq during its war against Iran (1980-1988).  In December 1983, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in order to convey President Ronald Reagan’s “willingness to do more” to assist Iraq.  Although U.S. officials were aware of Iraq’s use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops at the time, Rumsfeld said nothing about it.[135]  The U.S. subsequently provided Iraq with military intelligence on Iranian troop movements, loan guarantees for Iraqi purchases of “dual use” equipment such as helicopters, transport aircraft, heavy trucks, and computers, and substantial agricultural credits.  The Reagan administration furthermore blocked a UN Security Council resolution in March 1984 that would have condemned Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, substituting in its place a bland statement denouncing the use of chemical weapons by any and all parties.[136]
Following the end of the Iran-Iraq war in August 1988, U.S. officials debated Iraq policy.  Some believed that Saddam was “a guy we can work with,” as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie told a reporter.[137]  Others, especially Pentagon officials, warned of Saddam’s ambition to rekindle a pan-Arab transnational movement, which they deemed a threat to U.S. regional interests and to Israel.  In April 1990, Saddam threatened to wipe out half of Israel if Israel attacked Iraq, posing his chemical weapons against Israel’s nuclear bombs.  The Pentagon’s overarching strategy, in any case, was to check all rising powers in the Middle East not tethered to the West.  As stated in its declassified 1992 Defense Planning Guidance report, “In the Middle East and Southwest Asia (SWA), our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve Western access to the region’s oil.”[138]

Monument in Halabja dedicated to those killed in the chemical attack on March 16, 1988 [Wiki Commons]

Saddam also employed chemical weapons to suppress a rebellion by the Kurdish minority residing in northern Iraq.  A vicious assault against Halabja in March 1988 killed some 5,000 civilians.  The U.S. response was muted.  In the eyes of Washington officials, the fact that the Kurdish rebels had been aiding Iran made the Kurds a legitimate target, although not by chemical weapons.  Following the end of the Iran-Iraq war, Saddam continued to launch attacks against Kurdish villages.  Public and Congressional outcries compelled Secretary of State George Shultz to denounce Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, but nothing more.  Indeed, the Reagan administration lobbied against a Senate bill seeking to cut off trade with Iraq, and the Bush administration approved a new round of agricultural credits – a boon to American farmers.[139]  The Bush administration’s propaganda comparing Saddam to Hitler arose only after Iraq invaded Kuwait, a geopolitical ally of the U.S.
President Bush was nevertheless on the right side of international law in declaring that Iraq must not be allowed to occupy and annex Kuwait.  “I cannot predict just how long it will take to convince Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait,” he said in his September 11th speech.  “Sanctions will take time to have their full intended effect.  We will continue to review all options with our allies, but let it be clear: we will not let this aggression stand.”  That being said, Bush made only one oblique reference to the ostensible danger posed by Iraqi forces in Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, the stated reason for sending U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia.  He remarked that “120,000 Iraqi troops with 850 tanks had poured into Kuwait and moved south to threaten Saudi Arabia.”[140]
Bush’s claim was dubious, first because Iraq’s actions were based on specific arguments with Kuwait; and secondly, because photos taken by a Soviet satellite on September 11 and 13 showed no buildup of Iraqi forces on the Saudi border.  These photos were later acquired by the St. Petersburg Times and analyzed by Peter Zimmerman, a former image specialist for the Defense Intelligence Agency.  Journalist Jean Heller revealed the deception in a front-page article in the St. Petersburg Times on January 6, 1991, writing, “The troops that were said to be massing on the Saudi border and that constituted the possible threat to Saudi Arabia that justified the U.S. sending of troops do not show up in these photographs.  And when the Department of Defense was asked to provide evidence that would contradict our satellite evidence, it refused to do it.”[141]
Speculation in Washington that Saudi Arabia was Saddam Hussein’s next victim was never confirmed by evidence.  A post-war U.S. Air Force study notes, “When General Schwarzkopf returned to the theater in late August, an Iraqi invasion of Saudi Arabia seemed less imminent.  In retrospect, it appears unlikely that Iraq had ever intended to invade Saudi Arabia immediately after seizing Kuwait.”  President Bush continued to emphasize the rule of law in his speeches.  On October 1, 1990, he told the UN General Assembly that the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait “threatens to turn the dream of a new international order into a grim nightmare of anarchy in which the law of the jungle supplants the law of nations.”[142]

3.  Iraq and Kuwait

The roots of the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait date back to 1922 when Sir Percy Cox, the British Proconsul in the Gulf, unilaterally drew national boundary lines within the British mandate.  Sir Cox gave preferential treatment to Kuwait by assigning it ownership of two offshore islands, Bubiyan and Warba, which limited Iraqi access to the Persian Gulf.  Kuwait became a dependable source of oil for Britain, and Britain in turn supported the al-Sabah family dynasty which had ruled Kuwait since 1756.  In 1932, Iraq shed its British protectorate status and became independent.  Soon after, Iraqi leaders launched an unsuccessful campaign to “restore” Kuwait to Iraq.  Earlier in the century, Kuwait and southern Iraq had been part of same province under the Ottoman Empire.  In 1961, when Kuwait became independent, Iraq renewed its claim to Kuwait, which prompted Britain to send troops to the region.  Iraq reluctantly recognized Kuwaiti independence in October 1963.
In 1968, after ten years of political turmoil in Iraq, the pan-Arab, socialist Ba’th Party took charge of the government in a military coup.  Saddam Hussein, who played a role in the coup, gradually worked his way up to become party leader and president in 1979.  He gained a measure of popular support by advancing education and health care programs, improving roads and infrastructure, expanding electricity to rural areas, and generally creating a modern industrial state.  Saddam maintained Sunni Muslim political dominance over the majority Shiite population of Iraq and ruthlessly repressed the Kurdish minority in the north.  He also cultivated friends abroad.  After Saddam made a sizable contribution to a Chaldean Catholic parish in Detroit, the pastor of the parish traveled to Baghdad to give Saddam a symbolic key to the city of Detroit in 1980, with compliments from Mayor Coleman Young.[143]
In September 1980, Iraq invaded Iran.  The war was extremely costly for both nations, resulting in an estimated one million deaths.  Iraq borrowed heavily to finance its war, including $30 billion from Kuwait.  At the end of it, Saddam asked Kuwaiti leaders to cancel the debt, arguing that Iraqi soldiers had fought and died for the greater cause of pan-Arab nationalism against the Iranian Persians.  Kuwaiti leaders were unimpressed.  In addition to the debt issue, Saddam accused Kuwait of slant drilling in the Rumaila oil field which lay beneath their common border, in effect, stealing oil from Iraq.  Most importantly, Kuwait’s failure to observe production quotas set by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) significantly lowered the world price of oil.  According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, every $1 drop in the price of a barrel of oil caused a $1 billion drop in Iraq’s annual revenues.  Without adequate oil revenues, there was no way for Iraq to pay back its debts, let alone recover from the war.  Aziz fired off a harshly worded letter to the Arab League on July 15, 1990, accusing Kuwait of “systematically, deliberately” harming Iraq and undertaking economic “aggression [that] is not less effective than military aggression.”[144]  Three days later, Saddam warned Kuwaiti Emir Jabir al-Ahmed al-Sabah that unless the sheikdom granted Iraq full control over the Rumaila oil field and the offshore islands of Warba and Bubiyan, there would be serious trouble.  Kuwaiti leaders shrugged off the threat and remained intransigent, even haughty.[145]
Some observers have contended that Kuwait’s inflexibility was encouraged by foreign powers.  Dr. Mussama al-Mubarak, Professor of Political Science at Kuwait University, for one, commented:  “I don’t know what the [Kuwaiti] Government was thinking, but it adopted an extremely hard line, which makes me thing that the decisions were not Kuwait’s alone.  It is my assumption that, as a matter of course, Kuwait would have consulted on such matters with Saudi Arabia and Britain, as well as the United States.”  King Hussein of Jordan suspected outright collusion.  According to an interview with American journalist Michael Emery on February 19, 1991, King Hussein reportedly heard the Kuwaiti foreign minister say in July 1990 that Kuwait is “not going to respond” to Iraqi demands and “if they don’t like it, let them occupy our territory…. we are going to bring in the Americans.”[146]
As Saddam Hussein prepared for military action against Kuwait, he met with U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie in Baghdad on July 25, 1990.  Glaspie told Saddam, “I have a direct instruction from the President to seek better relations with Iraq.”  Asked how the United States viewed his dispute over oil prices with Kuwait, Glaspie assured Saddam, “We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.”  She added for good measure that Secretary of State “James Baker has directed our official spokesmen to emphasize this instruction.”[147]
By most accounts, Saddam interpreted Glaspie’s statements as permission to proceed, just as he had proceeded with his assaults on Iran and the Kurds without U.S. interference.  The Iraqi Foreign Ministry released a transcript of the meeting in September 1990.  When made public, the U.S. State Department declined to comment on its accuracy.  Two British journalists, with the transcript in hand, confronted Glaspie outside the American embassy in Baghdad:  One said, “You knew Saddam was going to invade [Kuwait] but you didn’t warn him not to.  You didn’t tell him America would defend Kuwait.  You told him the opposite – that America was not associated with Kuwait.”  The other added, “You encouraged this aggression – his invasion.  What were you thinking?”  Glaspie responded, “Obviously, I didn’t think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait.”[148]

April Glaspie at a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, March 21, 1991 [AP]

On March 21, 1991, three weeks after the war ended, Glaspie testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that she had repeatedly warned Saddam that the U.S. would not tolerate the use of violence to settle the dispute with Kuwait.  She said that Saddam must have been too “stupid” to understand this.  In July 1991, however, Glaspie’s cables to the State Department were released to the Senate, revealing that she told Saddam no such thing.  “Glaspie took a conciliatory tone with Saddam and emphasized that Bush wanted no confrontation with Iraq,” noted the Los Angeles Times.  Senator Alan Cranston, Democrat of California, berated the ambassador, saying, “A stern warning to Saddam Hussein about the likely American response to an Iraqi invasion of Kuwait could have prevented the invasion and all the death and destruction it caused.  Ambassador Glaspie sought to convince us she issued such a warning.  Her own secret cable is evidence that she did not.”[149]
French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson regarded Glaspie’s comments as not simply a diplomatic blunder, but an intentional deceit.  “The Americans were determined to go to war from the start,” he told the International Herald Tribune (March 11, 1991).  Saddam “walked into a trap.”[150]  Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, who traveled to Iraq during the war, similarly argued that “the United States had sought a justification for intervention in the region to control its resources since the 1970s.  The United States was manipulating Iraq into action that would enable the United States to intervene by … subtly coaxing him into the invasion of Kuwait.”[151]  Such allegations of intentions are difficult to prove, but neither can they be ruled out, especially as many government documents of the period remain classified.
Glaspie was not the only one to declare U.S. neutrality in Iraq’s dispute with Kuwait at a critical juncture.  John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified before a Congressional committee on July 31, 1990, just two days before the Iraqi invasion.  Asked by Representative Lee Hamilton, “Do we have a commitment to our friends in the Gulf in the event that they are engaged in oil or territorial disputes with their neighbors?”  Kelly responded:  “As I said, Mr. Chairman, we have no defense treaty relationships with any of the countries.  We have historically avoided taking a position on border disputes or on internal OPEC deliberations, but we have certainly, as have all administrations, resoundingly called for the peaceful settlement of disputes and differences in the area.”
Hamilton:  “If Iraq, for example, charged across the border into Kuwait, for whatever reason, what would be our position with regard to the use of U.S. forces?”
Kelly:  “That, Mr. Chairman, is a hypothetical or a contingency, the kind of which I can’t get into.  Suffice it to say we would be extremely concerned, but I cannot get into the realm of ‘what if’ answers.”
Hamilton:  “In that circumstance, it is correct to say, however, that we do not have a treaty commitment which would obligate us to engage U.S. forces?”
Kelly:  “That is correct.”[152]

4.  Propaganda offensive

Kuwaiti Emir Jaber al Ahmed al-Sabah managed to escape to Saudi Arabia just before Iraqi troops arrived at his palace on August 2, 1990.  The invaders killed the emir’s youngest brother, but most members of the royal clan slipped out or were already on vacation.  Settling in the resort town of Taif, Saudi Arabia, the emir and his advisers began plotting a comeback.  They planned, not a military campaign, but a public relations offensive aimed at prodding the U.S. and British governments into war against Iraq.  With one of the emir’s sons, Saud Nasir al-Sabah, well established in Washington as ambassador to the U.S., Kuwaiti leaders were in a good position to begin immediately.

President Bush meets with Sheikh Saud Nasir Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s ambassador to the U.S., Aug. 8, 1990 [George Bush Presidential Library and Museum]

By August 6, according to the New York Times, the Kuwaiti embassy was “operating at full capacity, 24 hours a day,” with 15 diplomats and 100 staff members in tow.  The ambassador had conducted news conferences at the embassy, met with State Department officials, and appealed to the Bush administration and the American people for military action against Iraq.  “I leave it to your consciences to judge our situation,” he told reporters seated in the opulent embassy reception room.  “It is the responsibility of the superpowers to maintain order in Kuwait.”[153]
Oil and Finance Minister Ali Khalifa al-Sabah, a distant cousin of the emir, moved quickly to secure control over Kuwaiti funds abroad, estimated at over $100 billion.  “This money, an enormous amount for a country with a native Kuwaiti population of no more than 600,000,” noted the New York Times, “now constitutes the war chest that largely sustains the Kuwaiti government-in-exile headed by the Emir.”[154]  The money allowed Kuwaiti leaders to hire the world’s largest public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton (H&K).  The firm’s Washington director, Craig Fuller, had been Bush’s chief of staff when he was vice president.  Fuller and Lauri J. Fitz-Pegado, a former U.S. Information Agency officer, proceeded to plan and carry out an immense, foreign-funded public relations campaign aimed at influencing the American public, media, and Congress.[155]
H&K first created a front group, Citizens for a Free Kuwait, then went to work producing and distributing videos, press kits, and brochures, arranging meetings with newspaper editorial boards and members of Congress, and organizing media and public events.  The Kuwaiti ambassador appeared on television talk shows, including “Crossfire,” and was interviewed by the major news networks.  A Kuwaiti Information Day was held on twenty college campuses on September 12; and a National Day of Prayer for Kuwait was promoted for Sunday, September 23.[156]
The agency borrowed a trick from British propaganda in the First World War which spread ghoulish atrocity stories of German troops mutilating Belgian babies.  The first story of this kind regarding Iraqi troops appeared in London on September 5.  The London Daily Telegraph reported a claim by exiled Kuwait housing minister, Yahya al-Sumait, that “babies in the premature unit of one hospital had been removed from their incubators so that these [incubators], too, could be carried off,” presumably leaving the babies to die.  Two days later, the Los Angeles Times published a Reuters story about a San Francisco woman, identified only as “Cindy,” who had recently been evacuated from occupied Kuwait with 170 other Americans.  She claimed that “Iraqis are beating people … taking hospital equipment, babies out of incubators.  Life support systems are turned off.”  She also claimed that Iraqi soldiers were cutting the ears off those who resisted, though no such persons were ever found.[157]

Such stories were not easy to confirm or deny, as Iraqi authorities restricted access to Kuwait by humanitarian organizations and foreign journalists.  One group, however, Middle East Watch, a chapter of Human Rights Watch, persisted in its investigations and produced a credible report, dated January 1, 1991, that attested to many Iraqi abuses but found no baby-killing episodes.  The report read in part:

Gross human rights abuses against Kuwaiti citizens and other residents of Kuwait commenced in the immediate aftermath of the August 2 invasion.  Hundreds were killed or wounded, and thousands detained, in the takeover.  Hundreds of thousands of others were forced to flee the country.  Iraqi soldiers and militia committed countless acts of theft, rape and assault on civilians.  Others participated in criminal activity as law and order broke down…. Scores of people were summarily executed in September and October, including physicians, hospital volunteers and food-distribution personnel, some of them in front of their families.  Scores more were killed in confrontations with Iraqi forces, or in detention.  Iraq has yet to give an accounting of people killed in its custody – either to relatives or to neutral organizations.  Middle East Watch estimates that at least 600 were killed in the first three months following the invasion.[158]

Clearly, there was a strong case to be made against Iraq for human rights abuses in Kuwait.  Yet Kuwaiti and U.S. officials were looking for something more sensational than a legal brief.  They wanted a “shock and awe” tactic that would heighten popular revulsion against Saddam, to the point that the American public would be willing to go to war against Iraq.

“Nayirah” presents false testimony to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Oct. 10, 1990 [Wiki Commons]. See video clip here.

The opportunity came on October 10, 1990, when the Congressional Human Rights Caucus held a hearing on Iraqi human rights abuses in Kuwait.  Such caucuses, unlike constituted committees, do not require those who testify to swear an oath of truth; hence, with no penalties for lying, the caucus proved to be the perfect forum for H&K to arrange for a fifteen-year-old Kuwaiti girl, given the name “Nayirah,” to present a tearful testimony:

I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital [in Kuwait]…. While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where 15 babies were in incubators.  They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die.[159]

Not until months later, after the war began, was it was revealed that “Nayirah” was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. and a member of the ruling family.  She had not been in the Kuwaiti hospital and had seen nothing at all.  The story was a lie.  Nonetheless, for the next few crucial months, the lie grew to epic proportions.  President Bush repeated it six times in speeches in October and November, embellishing it at each turn.  In a speech at the Dhahran Air Base in Saudi Arabia, he told U.S. troops, “It turns your stomach to listen to the tales of those that have escaped the brutality of Saddam the invader.  Mass hangings.  Babies pulled from incubators and scattered like firewood across the floor.”[160]

With the president making the charge and no Western official refuting it, the media spread the atrocity story far and wide.  The story found its way into the United Nations Security Council debate before that body voted on November 29 to set a deadline for Iraqi withdrawal; and into the U.S. Congress debate before its vote on January 12, 1991, to authorize the president to undertake military action.  H&K buttressed their claims by recruiting a doctor in Kuwait to tell the media that he and his colleagues had buried fifty babies, mostly premature, on August 20, 1990.  What sealed the deal, however, was Amnesty International’s verification of the story in its December 19 report on human rights violations in occupied Kuwait.  Given the organization’s stellar reputation, hardly a soul questioned Amnesty’s press statement that “Iraqi forces have … left more than 300 premature babies to die after looting incubators from at least three of Kuwait City’s main hospitals.”[161]
A thorough investigation of the incubator story did not take place until after the war ended.  No evidence was found to confirm it, and no doctor interviewed saw babies being taken out of incubators.  Moreover, according to Middle East Watch (MEW), “Kuwaiti health workers have reported to MEW that tremendous pressure has been put on them to testify in support of the incubator death allegations.  A number of them reported that they were severely reprimanded for denying to reporters and human rights organizations any knowledge of the incubator deaths.  Some were pressured to recant.”[162]  Amnesty International subsequently issued a press release acknowledging that the group “found no reliable evidence that Iraqi forces had caused the deaths of babies by removing them or ordering their removal from incubators.”  U.S. director John Healey accused the Bush administration of “opportunistic manipulation of the international human rights movement.”[163]

John Chancellor of NBC television also confirmed the falsehood, though he framed it as a natural consequence of war, rather than an intentional deceit by U.S. and Kuwaiti officials to mislead the American public:

The conflict brought with it a baggage train of myth and misconception, exaggeration and hyperbole.… Accounts of Iraqi atrocities were accepted without question.  There was the tale of premature babies thrown out of incubators in a Kuwait hospital and left to die.  It never happened, although other sickening atrocities took place regularly during the Iraqi occupation.… There were facts misperceived, truth bent out of shape and a fog of myth and misconception.[164]

It would be more accurate to say that the truth was intentionally bent out of shape for strategic reasons.  According to John Oddo in The Discourse of Propaganda (2018), “the incubator story is not simply something Bush haphazardly alludes to.  It is strategically linked to the promise of military action and serves as the argumentative ground for war.”[165]  The sensationalism of the story was intended to convince Americans that the situation in Kuwait could not wait for slow-moving economic sanctions to take effect, but that the only moral choice was quick and forceful U.S. military intervention.  Defense Secretary Cheney added to the sense of urgency by suggesting on an ABC news program that Saddam Hussein was acquiring nuclear materials to build a bomb with “some kind of yield,” which could be ready in a year.[166]

5.  From defense to offense

On November 1, 1990, President Bush set out on a six-day, cross-country speaking tour to boost the election prospects of Republican Congressional candidates.  He told audiences that he was “more determined than ever” to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.  “They have committed outrageous acts of barbarism,” he said.  “The brutality against innocent citizens will not be tolerated and will not stand.”  White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater told reporters that Bush’s combative remarks were designed to prepare Americans for “any eventuality” in the Persian Gulf standoff. “We will not rule out the military option.”[167]
In one stroke, President Bush changed the purpose of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia from defense to offense.
On November 7, one day after the elections, Bush announced that he had ordered additional troops to the region and that their purpose was “to ensure that the coalition has an adequate offensive military operation should that be necessary to achieve our common goals.”  Thus, in one stroke, without consulting Congress, the president changed the purpose of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia from defense to offense.  The message was clear to General Schwarzkopf:  “Forget the defensive bullshit,” he told his commanders.[168]
Bush’s sudden move – which brought U.S. troop strength to 430,000 – provoked criticism in Congress.  On November 14, a contingent of Congressional leaders met with Bush and extracted from him a promise that economic sanctions would be given time to work.[169]  Public opinion was still strongly supportive of sanctions.  A Gallup/Newsweek poll taken November 15-18, 1990, indicated 70% in support of giving sanctions time to work, versus 23% in support of taking military action.[170]

The UN Security Council issued an ultimatum to Iraq, Nov. 29, 1990 [Assn. for Diplomatic Studies & Training]

Bush directed Secretary of State James Baker to promote an initiative in the UN Security Council that would set a firm deadline for sanctions to take effect, after which military action could be pursued.  To marshal support for the initiative, the two traveled extensively and met with foreign leaders.  Their efforts proved successful, as on November 29, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 678, declaring that if Iraqi forces were not withdrawn from Kuwait by January 15, 1991, member states were authorized to use “all necessary means” to force the evacuation.  The resolution requested that all states “provide appropriate support” for any actions undertaken by UN members seeking to oust Iraq from Kuwait after January 15, thus allowing the U.S. to lead the charge.  The vote in the Security Council was 12-2, with one abstention.  Yemen and Cuba cast the negative votes, and China abstained.
To secure the affirmative vote of the Soviet Union, the Bush administration arranged for the Saudi government to provide the Soviets with $1 billion in aid.  China’s abstention was rewarded with an invitation to Foreign Minister Qian Qichen to meet with the president at the White House on November 30, a sign of acceptance in the wake of China’s massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in June 1989.  Yemeni officials, on the other hand, were bluntly told by a U.S. diplomat, “That was the most expensive no vote you ever cast,” suggesting an end to $70 million in U.S. foreign aid to Yemen.  The Bush administration rewarded the UN itself with a check for $186 million in back U.S. dues.[171]
The Iraqi ambassador to the UN, Abdul Amir Anbari, responded to the UN Security Council vote by challenging the council’s authority to authorize force and furthermore declaring, “Iraq will fight and not kneel.”[172]  The latter statement caught the media’s attention, but the ambassador’s legal challenge was the more substantive.  During the debate on the resolution, Anbari pointed out that, under Articles 46 and 47 of the UN Charter, “only collective action under the command and control of the Security Council, in coordination with the Military Staff Committee, can lead to the use of force against any country, and no individual Member State may be authorized to lynch a particular country for any reason.”[173]
The ambassador’s point was backed up by former UN Undersecretary-General Brian Urquhart who wrote that “Articles 46 and 47 clearly imply that enforcement measures under chapter VII would be under the control of the Council and its Military Staff Committee … but no such control was provided for.”  When Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan suggested that U.S. troops be placed under the UN Military Staff Committee, however, Secretary of State Baker objected.  The Bush administration was intent on running the show; it wanted UN approval for war but not UN coordination and oversight.  As there is no global supreme court to review Security Council decisions, Resolution 678 could not be overturned based on the flawed application of UN procedural rules.  The U.S., as such, could claim a legal mandate to go to war while the UN watched from the sidelines.[174]
There was still time to negotiate between November 29 and January 15.  Indeed, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze expressed his “confidence that we will be able to overcome this crisis peacefully – I repeat, peacefully, and in a political way.”  Saddam, however, persisted in seeking some benefit from the withdrawal of his troops, which was anathema to both U.S. and UN negotiators.  Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar came away empty-handed when he met with Saddam in early September 1990.  On various occasions, Saddam requested a favorable resolution to its oil price problem with Kuwait, Iraqi control of the Rumaila oilfield, the transfer of Kuwait’s Bubiyan and Warba islands to Iraq, a broad international agreement on Palestinian rights, and a ban on weapons of mass destruction in the region.[175]  The latter two proposals addressed pan-Arab concerns related to Israel’s illegal occupation of territories following the Six-Day War in 1967, and its unfettered development of nuclear weapons – ignored by the U.S.
On December 6, one week after the UN vote, Saddam agreed to release some 3,000 foreigners in Iraq and Kuwait that he had prevented from leaving.  He got nothing for this concession.  President Bush deemed it a sign that his tough posture was working, saying, “We’ve got to keep the pressure on.”  Others, however, saw Saddam’s action as an opening for dialogue.  Senator Alan Dixon, Democrat of Illinois, for example, said it was “further evidence” that a resolution to the Persian Gulf crisis could be reached without resort to war.[176]  A majority of representatives in the UN General Assembly concurred, adopting a resolution on December 6 that asked the Security Council “to convene the International Peace Conference on the Middle East,” as requested by Iraq.  The Bush administration responded by threatening to veto any resolution that set a date for such a conference, arguing that the issues of Kuwait and Israel could not be linked.[177]  For many governments, however, the issues were linked through comparable UN resolutions disallowing territorial acquisitions through war.[178]

Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker in Geneva on Jan. 9, 1991 [AP]

On January 9, 1991, Secretary of State Baker met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in Geneva.  Baker handed Aziz a letter from Bush demanding that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait, offering nothing in return except a statement that “Iraq will gain the opportunity to rejoin the international community.”  Aziz refused to accept the letter.  The talks ended without resolution.  On January 12, UN Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar met with Saddam Hussein for over four hours, even as U.S. diplomats were vacating the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  The secretary-general asked Saddam to take the first step and declare he was willing to withdraw his troops.  Saddam remained inflexible.  Pérez de Cuéllar left the next day.[179]

6.  Sanctions versus war debate

Following President Bush’s shift to an offensive strategy on November 7, the debate over sanctions versus war intensified in the U.S.  According to political scientists Michael Mazarr, Don Snider, and James Blackwell, the sanctions were taking their toll:

The embargo’s impact on Iraq was crippling…. Before the war, Iraq imported some 70 percent of its food; the embargo blocked 90 percent of those food imports.  Oil production fell from 3.4 million barrels per day in July 1990 to 400,000 barrels by March, and only about 60,000 barrels were finding their way out of Iraq into neighboring Jordan.  These cuts in oil production cost Baghdad over $1.5 billion every month.  Before the war, Iraq was a major industrial power in the Middle East; by January 1991 its foreign trade was reduced to some desultory smuggling across a few inhospitable borders.  Tens of thousands of foreign workers had fled, dozens of industries were shutting down for lack of spare parts or supplies, civilian production plummeted by almost half, and the price of food soared.[180]

The Senate Armed Services Committee began hearings on the issue on November 26.  CIA Director William H. Webster testified on December 5 that sanctions had cut off more than 90 percent of Iraq’s imports and 97 percent of its exports.[181]  Among the national security and military experts speaking in favor of economic sanctions over military action were former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and Admiral William Crowe, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Schlesinger testified that “our current policy” was working and that war could produce debilitating results.  “The sight of the United States inflicting a devastating defeat on an Arab country from the soil of an Arab neighbor may result in an enmity directed at the United States for an extended period.”[182]  Brzezinski, well-known for his hawkish views, voiced similar concerns:

Iraq has been deterred, ostracized, and punished…. Therefore, in my view, neither an American war to liberate Kuwait nor a preventative war to destroy Iraq’s power is urgently required, be it in terms of the American national interest or of the imperatives of world order…. By any calculus, the trade-offs between the discomforts of patience and the costs of war favor patience.  Both time and power are in our favor – and we do not need to be driven by artificial deadlines, deceptive arguments, or irrational emotion into an unnecessary war.

Admiral Crowe testified:  “I firmly believe that Saddam Hussein must leave Kuwait.  At the same time, given the larger context, I judge it highly desirable to achieve this goal in a peaceful fashion, if possible.  In other words, we should give sanctions a fair chance before we discard them…. The issue is not whether an embargo will work but whether we have the patience to let it work.”[183]

Coalition troops mobilizing in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 4, 1990 [Greg English / AP]

Arguing in support of military action were former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle.  “Without doubt,” wrote Kissinger in an op-ed article, “the military option would be painful and difficult.  But these dangers must be weighed against the risks of an even larger conflict later on if a demonstration of American impotence leads to a collapse of moderate governments, to escalating crises and the disintegration of all order.”  Kissinger presented similar testimony before Congress.[184]
Secretary Cheney told the Armed Services Committee, “My own personal view is that it is far better for us to deal with him [Saddam Hussein] now, while the coalition is intact, while we have the United Nations behind us, while we have some 26 other nations assembled with military forces in the gulf, than it will be for us to deal with him five or 10 years from now, when the members of the coalition have gone their disparate ways and when Saddam has become an even better armed and more threatening regional superpower than he is at present.”  Perle questioned whether economic sanctions would compel Saddam to withdraw, noting that Saddam had withstood the hardships of an eight-year war with Iran. “I do not believe time is on our side,” he said. “Iraq’s capacity to absorb pain is very great.”[185]

Senator Bob Dole talking with soldiers in Saudi Arabia, Nov. 22, 1990 [Robert and Elizabeth Dole Archive, Univ. of Kansas]

The idea that time was not on the side of the U.S. derived in large part from the logistics of maintaining a huge U.S. army in a foreign land.  The massive deployment of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia could not be sustained indefinitely.  Should the winter season pass without war, America’s Arab allies would be reluctant to initiate a war against a fellow Muslim country during the holy season of Ramadan, slated to begin on March 17, 1991, and lasting four weeks.  Then the intolerably hot summer would set in, creating an inhospitable environment for war operations.  During the waiting period, some 500,000 U.S. troops in Saudi Arabi would have to be fed and entertained – and without alcohol in the legally dry kingdom.  Already by mid-November, military authorities had imposed heavy fines on 12 U.S. servicemen who had flouted the military’s no-booze policy.  The Pentagon would have to keep on board tens of thousands of U.S. reservists who had been called up under a presidential emergency order on August 22, 1990, to serve for 90 days.[186]  Finally, Saudi religious leaders along with zealots such as Osama bin Laden were already chafing at the huge non-Muslim army of “infidels” camped out on Saudi soil.  All of these practical concerns as well as the difficulty of holding together the fragile coalition against Iraq impelled the Bush administration to push for war sooner rather than later.
In Congress, Republicans unified behind the war option while Democrats were divided, though a solid majority supported giving sanctions more time.  Senate Republican leader Robert Dole launched a broadside attack on antiwar Democrats, accusing them of trying to “tie the president’s hands behind his back.”  Senator Daniel Coats, Republican of Indiana, attempted to end the debate by calling on Congress to simply defer to the president.  “I am concerned,” he said on November 27, “that our debating in public what our strategy is going to be simply plays into Saddam Hussein’s strategy.”  Antiwar Democrats shot back that Congress is constitutionally mandated to debate and vote on war and peace issues, being the sole body empowered to issue a declaration of war.  Senator Edward Kennedy added, “The fact of the matter is this country is divided and divided deeply.”[187]
Americans were indeed divided, according to opinion polls, though more were inching toward military action.  A Gallup/Newsweek poll taken December 6-7, 1990, found 53 percent of those polled favoring sanctions and 41 percent favoring military action.  An Associated Press poll conducted January 4-7, 1991, found 50 percent in favor of giving sanctions more time and 44 percent in favor of going to war.  Another poll by New York Times/CBS News taken January 5-7 showed 47 percent in favor of sanctions and 46 percent in favor of military action.  In the latter poll, men supported the war option by a 3-2 ratio, while women supported alternatives by a 2-1 margin, indicating a wide gender gap.[188]

Gen. Schwarzkopf and Saudi King Fahd review U.S. troops at an air base in eastern Saudi Arabia, Jan. 7, 1991 [AP / Al Arabiya]

President Bush was disinclined to ask Congress for a declaration of war, insisting that he had the right to engage in military action based on UN Resolution 678.  It took a suit filed by a group of Democratic members of Congress in a U.S. District Court to pressure Bush into seeking Congressional authorization for the use of force.  Bush made the request on January 8, 1991, only one week before the UN deadline.  Debate in Congress opened two days later.
On January 12, after defeating Democratic proposals seeking to defer the decision on the use of military force, the House and Senate voted in favor of identical resolutions authorizing the president “to use United States Armed Forces pursuant to United Nations Security Council Resolution 678.”  Before exercising this authority, however, the president was required to inform Congress that “the United States has used all appropriate diplomatic and other peaceful means to obtain compliance by Iraq with the United Nations Security Council resolutions….”  The vote was 52-47 in the Senate, and 250-183 in the House, with 80 Democrats voting in favor and three Republicans opposed.[189]  A change of three votes in the Senate would have halted the war.  As it was, the Bush administration was authorized to pursue war in the likely event that negotiations would fail, but the mandate was limited to ousting Iraqi troops from Kuwait, in conformity with the UN resolution, not ousting Saddam from power in Iraq.  The latter would become the goal of the next war against Iraq in 2003.

Rep. Henry Gonzalez

Rep. Henry Gonzalez, Democrat of Texas, introduced a resolution in Congress (HR 86) on January 16, and again on February 21, to impeach President Bush.  The resolution charged that from August 1990 through January 1991, President Bush had “embarked on a course of action that systematically eliminated every option for peaceful resolution of the Persian Gulf crisis,” and that Bush had “prepared, planned and conspired to engage in a massive war against Iraq employing methods of mass destruction that will result in the killing of tens of thousands of civilians, many of whom will be children.” The measure was predictably tabled.[190]

Congressional approval of the war option tipped the scales of public opinion.   Gallup polls in mid-January, just days before air strikes began, indicated that 50 percent of Americans supported military action, up seven percent from mid-December, while 44 percent wanted either giving more time for sanctions or withdrawing U.S. troops immediately from Saudi Arabia.[191]
On January 16, President Bush addressed the nation from the White House Oval Office.  “I’ve told the American people before that this will not be another Vietnam,” he said, “and I repeat this here tonight. Our troops will have the best possible support in the entire world, and they will not be asked to fight with one hand tied behind their back.”[192]

Noam Chomsky, one of America’s leading public intellectuals, offered a different perspective on the administration’s push for war.  In an article published in February 1991, he asked rhetorically, “Why not let diplomacy and sanctions push Hussein out?”

The answer is at the heart of understanding the U.S. role in the so-called “new world order.”  George Bush wants Hussein out of Kuwait, yes.  But he does not want UN activism, international sanctions, and multilateral diplomacy credited with causing withdrawal.  From Bush’s perspective a diplomatic solution would be as bad as Hussein’s interference in the first place.  Diplomatic success would undercut the efficacy of U.S. military interventionism, now, and well into the future.  And it would add powerful fuel to calls for a “peace dividend” and conversion [to a peace economy] here in the U.S.[193]

7.  Peace activism

Critics of the Bush administration’s drive toward war raised many concerns.  The most salient highlighted the possibility of massive U.S. casualties, perhaps by poison gas, and a prolonged quagmire, as in Vietnam.  Peace advocates also derided a “war for oil,” the undue influence of the military-industrial complex, the misuse of tax dollars for military purposes, imperious foreign policies, and blind patriotism that equated national loyalty with support for war.

Protest in Grand Rapids, Michigan [Grand Rapids People’s History Project]

Among the national peace organizations organizing against war as well as the military buildup in Saudi Arabia were the American Friends Service Committee, which sent knowledgeable speakers on tour, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, which organized a “No Blood for Oil” campaign on campuses, the Pledge of Resistance, which gathered names of people willing to commit civil disobedience in the event of an offensive U.S. war, and Veterans for Peace, which made a dramatic, 30-second television advertisement reminding people of the costs of war.  The ad featured Ron Kovic, the Vietnam veteran depicted in the film “Born on the Fourth of July.”
Influenced by peace activists, the San Francisco City Council declared the city a sanctuary for conscientious objectors to war, instructing municipal police officers to not arrest military personnel who refused orders to deploy.  One who did so was Marine Corporal Erik Larson, who stated at a press conference on August 28, 1990, “I will refuse orders to ship me to Saudi Arabia to defend our polluting, exploitative lifestyle.”  Tahan Jones was the first African American to claim CO status during the war. When he filed his application, his sergeant threatened him with bodily harm if he took his case to the media.  Jones told the San Francisco Bay Guardian, “Because I’m an African American he saw me as a dangerous example that other minorities in the military might follow.”  He added, “Its morally wrong to kill thousands of Arabs to protect Americas interests.  And minorities shouldn’t die for it.  I was too naive when I enlisted to understand that its minorities that get screwed by a war.”[194]
In Hawaii, Marine Corporal Jeff Paterson sat down on the tarmac as his unit boarded an aircraft for deployment in the Persian Gulf on August 7.  He had been a Marine for five years and was on the verge of returning to civilian life when his discharge was cancelled.  A week later, Paterson held a press conference where he stated, “I cannot and will not be a pawn in America’s power plays for profit and oil in the Middle East.”  Paterson was one of 26 Marines tried on charges of desertion or missing troop movements.  Some 150 service personnel were charged with unauthorized absences during the Persian Gulf War.  According to the Defense Department, 447 personnel applied for conscientious objector status and 273 received approval.[195]

Protest at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto [Colin McConnell / Toronto Public Library]

Two national umbrella organizations emerged in the fall of 1990.  The first was the Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East, inaugurated at a meeting in New York City on September 18.  The Coalition refused to condemn Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, arguing that any response was up to Arab countries in the region.  Following a lengthy and acrimonious debate on this issue, representatives from major national peace groups opted to form a second coalition, the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East.  Leslie Cagan, coordinator of the National Campaign, said, “From the contact I have had with people throughout the country, it seems that most organizers and activists agree that it is morally right, politically consistent, and tactically wise to be critical of the Iraqi invasion.”[197]  The two national groups also differed over economic sanctions.  The Coalition repudiated them while the National Campaign stated that it had “no position” on sanctions.  With neither major coalition taking a stand in favor of sanctions over war, the peace movement marginalized itself in the great political debate that enwrapped the nation.  Its moral demands – no war (or stop the war), bring the troops home now, and “bread not bombs” – did not directly address the question of how to reverse Iraqi aggression against Kuwait.

The shift in U.S. military posture from defense to offense on November 7 catalyzed an upsurge of peace activism.  Rallies in early December drew 10,000 people in Boston and lesser numbers elsewhere.  Nine major U.S. unions, representing six million workers, took out a full-page advertisement in the New York Times declaring that any war in the Middle East would be largely fought by the children of blue-collar workers.  On November 15, the National Council of Churches, representing Protestant and Eastern Orthodox denominations, voted unanimously to denounce the Bush administration’s offensive strategy.  The Council criticized the administration for “reckless rhetoric” and declared that Christians “must witness against weak resignation to the illogical logic of militarism and war.”[196]  A delegation of eighteen U.S. church leaders from mainline denominations took part in a “peace pilgrimage” to the Middle East December 14-27.  Upon return, they issued a press release:

War will not liberate Kuwait, it will destroy it.  War will not save us from weapons of mass destruction, it will unleash them.  War will not establish regional stability, it will inflame the entire Middle East.[198]

Tens of thousands of demonstrators make their way down Market Street in San Francisco, Saturday, Jan. 19, 1991, to protest the war [Eric Risberg / AP]

As the UN deadline for war approached, an outpouring of peace rallies took place across the world, the largest being in Paris on January 12, with 200,000 marching for peace.  In the two weeks following the beginning of the war, mass demonstrations attracted 100,000 in Rome and 10,000 in Sydney on January 19; 10,000 in Barcelona on January 23; 10,000 in Athens on January 24; and 200,000 in Bonn and 10,000 in Montreal on January 26.  Large peace rallies also took place London, Berlin, Munich, Copenhagen, Oslo, Milan, Madrid, Ottawa, Tokyo, and New Delhi.  In Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, demonstrations were decidedly anti-U.S.  In the U.S., the two national peace organizations sponsored demonstrations on alternative weekends, January 19 and 26.[199]   The National Campaign estimated the number of people attending its demonstration in Washington on January 26 at 250,000, while the National Park Service gave the figure of 75,000.[200]
The Bush administration’s most effective counterpoint to the peace movement was a patriotic “yellow ribbon” campaign to “support the troops,” which implied support for the war.  Americans were encouraged to tie yellow ribbons to signs, cars, trees, and any other visible object as a symbol of their patriotism.  Peace activists countered, “Support our troops, bring them home now!”

8.  The six-week war

Anti-aircraft tracer lights up downtown Baghdad as coalition bombers and cruise missiles attack, Jan. 17, 1991 [Patrick De Noirmont / Reuters]

In the lead-up to the war, the Bush administration pulled together an impressive 38-nation coalition, 31 of which contributed troops.  The U.S. supplied over 80 percent of the ground forces, roughly 540,000 military personnel out of a total coalition force in excess of 660,000.  Although Iraq was reputed to have the fifth largest army in the world, owing to its recent war with Iran, it lacked significant air defenses to counter coalition air assaults on both Iraq and Iraqi forces in Kuwait.[201]  Coalition aircraft flew over 112,000 sorties and delivered almost 87,000 tons of munitions on both military and infrastructure targets during the six-week war.[202]  According to U.S. Air Commander General Charles Horner:

In five months of preparation, the coalition built an armada of almost 2,000 fighters and bombers in the region surrounding Iraq. The list of Iraqi targets grew from 84 facilities to some 480 on the eve of the war and more than 1,200 by war’s end. The targets included airfields, air defense installations, military support facilities, weapons of mass destruction, Scud missile sites, bridges, communications complexes and electrical generating and transmitting facilities. Government command centers and other facilities in Baghdad were also pinpointed.[203]

Iraqi students at the Amiriyah bomb shelter in Baghdad in 2003 [Hussein Malla / AP]

For the home crowd, the administration painted the picture of a “clean war” in which highly accurate “smart bombs” targeted only military facilities.  That image was shattered on February 13, when a pair of U.S. stealth fighter planes dropped two 2,000-pound laser-guided bombs on a hardened civil defense shelter in downtown Baghdad, killing an estimated 288 civilians, mostly women and children.[204]  The Amiriyah shelter, otherwise known as the Al Firdos C3 bunker to U.S. war planners, was intentionally targeted under the assumption that it was a command-and-control center.  Notwithstanding the technological sophistication of U.S. weaponry, one person on the ground could easily have verified the fact that hundreds of civilians were using the building as a civil defense shelter each night.  CNN News reports of the aerial massacre reached the U.S. within a matter of hours, calling into question the Pentagon’s “clean war” propaganda.  Thereafter, Pentagon planners did not stop bombing Baghdad or other urban areas, but they did scrutinize their targets more carefully.[205]
Iraqi forces fired 88 Scud missiles during the war, 42 at Israel and 46 at Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States.  None contained chemical agents.  One Scud missile hit an American barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 28 American soldiers and wounding 98.  Two Israeli civilians were killed in other attacks.[206]  Saddam Hussein also opened the valves of a Kuwaiti oil terminal, releasing thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf, “apparently expecting pollution to give pause to the world’s leading polluters,” writes Andrew Bacevich.  In addition, he “rashly launched a brigade-sized probe into Saudi Arabi proper.  Devoid of air support, the small-scale attack ended in an utter rout.”[207]

Iraqi prisoners-of-war in Kuwait, Feb. 25 [AP]

In the Kuwaiti theater, the 39-day coalition bombardment prior to the ground war was described in a declassified Pentagon report as “the most lethal and intensive air attack in the history of warfare.”[208]  A Los Angeles Times article on February 20 reported that “American helicopters and jets hammered Iraqi tanks, trucks and armored personnel carriers in what one pilot described Tuesday as a ‘turkey shoot,’ and a senior U.S. military source said the month-old air campaign is inflicting ‘horrendous casualties’ on Saddam Hussein’s forces.”[209]
When coalition ground forces were introduced on February 24, the air-to-ground attacks continued without mercy.  For Iraqi troops in Kuwait, estimated at 200,000 to 222,000, there was no place to hide and no safe escape.  Some 60,000 surrendered to coalition forces, so many that they clogged the roads and slowed down the coalition advance.  They overwhelmed Army intelligence specialists, most of whom could not speak Arabic.  To interrogate the prisoners of war, the U.S. Army relied on Kuwaiti students.[210]

Destroyed Iraqi vehicles along the “highway of death” [John Duke Anthony]

Those who did not surrender or could not find anyone to whom to surrender, fled north from Kuwaiti City on what became known as “the highway of death,” their vehicles relentlessly bombed and strafed.[211]  One Navy pilot interviewed by the Washington Post said the operation was “like shooting fish in a barrel.”[212]  According to a U.S. Army history of the war, on February 25, Air Force and Navy aircraft began “destroying all vehicles spotted fleeing from Kuwait.”  The following day, a U.S. Marine brigade known as the Tiger Brigade “added its firepower to the continuous air strikes”:

On the “Highway of Death,” they could see hundreds of burning and exploding vehicles, including civilian automobiles, buses, and trucks.  Hundreds more raced west out of Kuwait City to unknowingly join the deadly traffic jam.  Here and there, knots of drivers, Iraqi soldiers, and refugees fled into the desert because of the inferno of bombs, rockets, and tank fire.  These lucky ones managed to escape and join the ranks of the growing army of prisoners.[213]

Photographer Ken Jarecke traveled along the Iraqi-Kuwait highway just after the ceasefire on Feb. 28. He came upon the charred remains of an Iraqi soldier with his last expression of pain imprinted on his face. The photo was censored and unseen in the U.S. but published in the London Observer [Al Arabiya]

War correspondent Michael Kelly was able to visit the site one week after the war ended.  His description of the scene in The New Republic (March 31, 1991) offered a glimpse of the effects of war:  a 50-60-mile stretch “littered with exploded and roasted vehicles, charred and blown-up bodies,” some partly eaten by wild dogs and scavenging birds.  “It is important to say that the 37 dead men I saw were all soldiers and that they had been trying to make their escape…. Some of the American and British soldiers wandering the graveyard joked a bit.  ‘Crispy critters,’ said one, looking at a group of the incinerated. ‘Just wasn’t them boys’ day, was it?’ said another.  But for the most part, the scene commanded among the visitors a certain sobriety.”[214]

General Schwarzkopf expressed the view that victory required the complete liquidation of the enemy as a military force.  He told his commanders:

We need to destroy – not attack, not damage, not surround – I want you to destroy the [Iraqi] Republican Guard.  When you are done with them, I don’t want them to be an effective fighting force.  I don’t want them to exist as a military organization.[215]

General Schwarzkopf, Jan. 26, 1991 [New York Times]

Schwarzkopf’s strategy of annihilation went beyond the UN mandate, which was limited to ousting Iraqi forces from Kuwait.  It was nonetheless endorsed in so many words by Washington policymakers.  On February 24, at the outset of the ground war, National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft declared on television that the goal was to leave Iraqi forces with “no offensive capability.”  One week later, General Thomas Kelly, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated in another television interview that the president wanted to destroy the ability of Iraqi forces “to conduct offensive operations” outside Iraq.[216]  The UN, it should be noted, had virtually no say in war operations and strategies, as the Bush administration intended.  Secretary-General Pérez de Cuéllar complained that the Security Council “is informed only after the military actions have taken place.”[217]
On February 26, Saddam offered to withdraw his troops over a period of three weeks if coalition forces did not attack them.  President Bush rejected the offer, insisting that Iraqi forces must withdraw immediately and leave their equipment behind.  Saddam balked and the ground war continued – for two more days.[218]  R. W. Apple of the New York Times wrote that coalition forces kept up the attack “despite a series of frantic peace bids, until they were confident that they had shattered Mr. Hussein’s best divisions.”[219]
On the evening of February 27, General Colin Powell, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the president that the demolition of the Iraqi army would be complete by the following day.  With the media now reporting on the one-sided slaughter taking place, President Bush decided to order a ceasefire on midnight that night.  On March 3, Iraqi commanders accepted the terms of the ceasefire.  Three days later, Bush announced to Congress, “The war is over.”[220]

9.  Casualties

Coalition fatality statistics vary depending on the cause of death and the time period of inclusion.  The Pentagon’s summary report lists 147 “hostile” (combat) deaths and 151 “non-hostile” deaths for a total of 298 “in-theater deaths.”  Of the 147 hostile deaths, 35 were due to “friendly fire,” meaning accidental killing by U.S. or coalition forces.  Other sources tabulate all coalition combat deaths at 246, including 47 Saudi troops, 25 British (nine by “friendly fire”), 12 Egyptian, 10 from United Arab Emirates, two Syrian, and two French.  Of 894 coalition soldiers wounded in action, 467 were American, including 80 hit by “friendly fire.”  Thousands more not listed as casualties were exposed to nerve and chemical agents.[221]

In the aftermath of a recent U.S./coalition air assault, a young Iraqi boy carries a plate of sausage among the ruined houses in an area west of Al-Ahrar Bridge, Baghdad, on Feb. 20, 1991 [John Rice / AP]

As for Iraqi casualties, General Schwarzkopf declared early in the air war, “I have absolutely no idea what the Iraqi casualties are, and I tell you, if I have anything to say about it, we’re never going to get into the body-count business.”[222]  The Pentagon nevertheless made an effort to tabulate Iraqi military casualties in the aftermath of the war.  According to an Air Force report, “Coalition air power killed some 10-12,000 Iraqi military in the Kuwait theater prior to the ground war.”  Added to this number were those killed during the 100-hour ground war “which could easily have been as high as 10,000.”[223]
The Pentagon never publicly estimated the number of Iraqi civilian deaths due to the air war.  Nor did it describe the damage done in any detail in its follow-up reports.[224]  During the war, as news reports of civilian casualties filtered in, the Pentagon shifted its message from claiming that the coalition was doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, to expressing regret for “unavoidable” casualties, to blaming Saddam Hussein for allegedly using civilians as shields, to denouncing Saddam for trying to win world sympathy by publicizing civilian casualties.[225]  Bush administration officials also charged that Americans who protested civilian casualties were playing into Saddam’s hands.

Photographs of victims lined a wall of the Amiriyah bomb shelter in 2002 [Damir Sagolj / Reuters]

A U.S. Census Bureau report by Beth Osborne Daponte “calculated that 40,000 Iraqi soldiers and 13,000 civilians died in direct military conflict,” as reported in the New York Times. “In addition, she estimated that 30,000 people had died during the Shiite and Kurdish rebellions after the war and that 70,000 people died from health problems caused by the destruction of water and power plants.”  After providing her statistics to the Associated Press in January 1992, Daponte’s superiors discarded her report and issued another that lowered the number of immediate Iraqi civilian deaths from 13,000 to 5,000.  The agency furthermore dismissed DaPonte for violating peer-review procedures.[226]

Middle East Watch, which conducted interviews and visited sites, estimated an upper limit of 2,500 to 3,000 Iraqi civilian fatalities.  “These numbers,” the human rights group noted, “do not include the substantially larger number of deaths that can be attributed to malnutrition, disease and lack of medical care caused by a combination of the U.N.-mandated embargo and the allies’ destruction of Iraq’s electrical system, with its severe secondary effects.[227]  A Middle East Watch report on June 1, 1991, titled “Needless Deaths in the Gulf War: Civilian Casualties during the Air Campaign and Violations of the Laws of War,” criticized the U.S. for withholding and censoring information regarding the results of coalition bombing missions:

Though occasionally acknowledging that some civilian casualties were inevitable, the impression was created by statement after statement and television image after image that, so far as the allied performance was concerned, it was a near-perfect war, with as little harm to civilian life and property as humanly possible.  This impression was reinforced by a deliberate policy on the part of the United States and its allies to manage the news of the war in a manner designed to suggest that all feasible precautions in fact had been taken to avoid harm to civilians.  Restrictions placed on journalists attempting to cover the war and the selective presentation of information about the conduct of the war, in part through elaborately rehearsed military briefings, left the press unable to probe the extent of the precautions actually adopted.  Parallel curbs on the foreign press imposed by Iraq exacerbated the difficulty of penetrating the veils that blocked the view of the actual conduct of the war.[228]

Through its own investigations and interviews, Middle East Watch documented extensive damage and destruction:

In the course of Middle East Watch’s fact-finding alone, we found the following civilian objects were damaged or destroyed during the air war:  some 400 one- and two-story homes, often in poor neighborhoods; 19 apartment buildings and several hotels; two hospitals and two medical clinics; two schools and one mosque; restaurants and other commercial buildings; and market areas in four cities – Basra, Falluja, Samawa and al-Kut.  By far, the greatest number of civilian objects damaged in Iraq during the war were residential buildings.[229]

A UN team headed by Under-Secretary General Martti Ahtisaari of Finland investigated the damage after the war and concluded that the bombing left Iraq unable to produce industrial goods to any significant degree.

Nothing we had seen or read had quite prepared us for the particular form of devastation which has no befallen the country.  The recent conflict has wrought near apocalyptic results upon the economic infrastructure of what had been, until January 1991, a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society.  Now, most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous.  Now, most means of modern life support have been destroyed or rendered tenuous.[230]

The destruction of urban infrastructure by coalition air attacks resulted in an unspecified number of additional Iraqi deaths due to the breakdown in water purification and sanitation, which in turn caused outbreaks of infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid, malaria, polio, and hepatitis.”[231]

Having documented the extensive destruction and civilian casualties caused by coalition bombing, Middle East Watch charged the U.S. and its allies with contravening the Geneva Conventions of 1977; specifically, Article 51 (1), which states, “The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations.”[232]
“The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations.” – Geneva Conventions of 1977
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark similarly charged the Bush administration with war crimes – nineteen, to be exact – related to the conduct of the war.  After holding inquiry hearings in 20 countries, a nongovernmental “International War Crimes Tribunal” was held in New York City in February 1992.  A selected international tribunal of judges found U.S. officials guilty as charged.[233]  Clark’s publicized efforts, which included letters to U.S. and UN officials and a book, were counterpointed by a Pentagon inquiry into alleged “war crimes” committed by Iraqi soldiers in Kuwait, apparently to take the heat off U.S. actions.  Prepared under the auspices of Secretary of the U.S. Army and published in January 1992, the report recycled the discredited incubator story and added new atrocity stories.[234]
The hazards of the Persian Gulf War did not end with the fighting, as substantial quantities of unexploded ordnance littered the Iraqi landscape after the war.  According to the international relations scholar Adam Roberts, “as many as one third of [coalition] bombs and projectiles reportedly failed to detonate, the soft sand and the use of stockpiled or experimental weapons increasing the failure rate…. In less than a year after the war, explosive ordnance reportedly killed or wounded some 1,250 civilians, and claimed the lives of fifty demolition specialists.”[235]  The unexploded munitions included anti-personnel cluster bombs and landmines.  According to Human Rights Watch, the “U.S. used 117,634 landmines in Iraq and Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War.  Of these, 27,967 were antipersonnel mines and 89,667 were antivehicle mines.”[236]  The U.S. also left behind depleted uranium from its armor-piercing shells, an environmental pollutant and health hazard.[237]

10.  Chemical cover-up

American troops engage in a chemical alert drill in Saudi Arabia [David Turnley / New York Times]

On January 30, 1991, General Schwarzkopf announced that U.S. demolition teams had destroyed thirty-one nuclear, biological, and chemical plants at Samarra, Habbaniyah, Khamisiyah, and other locations in Iraq.  Though the Pentagon had prepared for an Iraqi chemical attack by issuing gas masks to U.S. troops, it had not prepared the troops for toxic releases from these demolitions.  When reports of toxins detected in the air reached U.S. headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, General Robert Johnston was quick to tamp down fears:

I would say to that report that we have, in attacking those targets, attacked them in such a way – and I can’t give you all the technical aspects of it – to minimize the potential for that, for any of those toxins to go into the air.  It’s not to say that it couldn’t happen, but certainly with a view to minimizing, if not eliminating any possible contamination of the surrounding areas.  It’s been done very carefully.  I can’t say that some may not be in the air and the immediate surroundings, but I suspect there would be no serious damage to any community.[238]

One would expect a complete investigation to be initiated, but this was not the case.  An exposé written by investigative reporter Barbara Koeppel for Newsweek twenty-five years after the war, recounted the stories of Gulf War veterans:

During January and February 1991, when the U.S. bombed Iraq’s weapons plants and storage sites, poisonous plumes floated across the desert to thousands of U.S. troops based on the Saudi border…. Ron Brown, a soldier with the 82nd Division, watched the demolitions from a mile away.  “Within 15 minutes, I couldn’t breathe and my head was about to split open,” Brown said.  “Soldiers were nauseous, dizzy and had diarrhea and muscle spasms.  About 30 of us went to the medic, who gave us Motrin and told us to drink water.”  Later that month, Bunker almost died. As the demolitions continued, his symptoms became more severe.  “First, I couldn’t control my muscles,” he said. “But in a couple days, I had convulsions and collapsed.  After this, they medevacked me to hospitals in Saudi Arabia and Germany, and then to the U.S.”

In 1993 and 1994, Senator Donald Riegle, Democratic of Michigan, held hearings on veterans’ illnesses.  DOD and CIA representatives testified they received no reports of “any soldier or civilian experiencing symptoms consistent with chemical warfare agent exposure,” according to Koeppel.  Their testimony was contradicted by a United Nations Special Commission report, which cast doubt on the credibility of these claims.  The VA, meanwhile, denied full disability status to 80 percent of veterans seeking medical care.  “From the time the DOD initially admitted that troops may have been exposed,” writes Koeppel, “it constantly retallied the toll:  In 1996, there were from 300 to 400; from 1997 to 2002, there were 5,000, 20,000, 99,000 and finally 101,752 – but … it also claimed ‘exposure levels were too low to activate chemical alarms or cause any symptoms.’  If they had questions, veterans were told to ‘call a hotline.’”[239]

Patrick Eddington, a CIA analyst, resigned when his superiors blocked his attempts to reveal the extent of American soldiers’ exposure to chemical and nerve agents.  In his exposé, Gassed in the Gulf (1997), he charged that “senior officials of two administrations (George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton) had, as a matter of official policy, deliberately misled the American public, the Congress, and Desert Storm veterans about chemical agent exposures among our forces.”  The Department of Defense (DOD), the Veterans Administration (VA), and the CIA all had their reasons for perpetuating the coverup, he explained.  “If you’re DOD, you’re admitting your policies contributed to the veterans’ illnesses.  If you’re the VA, you’re admitting you don’t know how to treat the vets.  If you’re the CIA, you blew another estimate and that’s not something you want on your résumé.”[240]

11.  The video game war

Media coverage of the war mostly glorified American technological supremacy and conveyed a superficial picture of a Nintendo video war game that obscured the violent reality of war. The New Republic reflected the popular mood in touting the pinpoint accuracy of new “wonder weapons [which] guaranteed a clean victory free of the civilian blood and misery and … destruction caused by outdated cruel weapons.”[241]  During 1991 Congressional hearings on the performance of high technology, chairman Les Aspin (D-WI) gushed about precision munitions “entering buildings exactly through windows and garages.”[242]  The RAND Corporation ranked laser and precision guided missiles used in the war with the introduction of “firearms, the phalanx, and the chariot as a defining moment in human history.”[243]

During the first days of the bombing, the CNN news team reported live from the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad

The Persian Gulf War provided an important showcase for new military hardware.  The signature weapons included Chrysler M-1 “Abrams” tanks capable of firing depleted uranium shells going 45 miles per hour; Cobra and Apache gunships that fired tank-busting Martin Marietta hellfire missiles; F-16s equipped with Martin Marietta Low Altitude Navigation and night Targeting Infrared system (LANTIRN); cruise missiles guided by internal computers programmed with precise target coordinates; unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which flew 568 flight hours during the Gulf War; and stealth F-117 aircraft fighters which took advantage of new technology reducing an aircraft’s radar cross-section and infra-red signature.  The Gulf War also saw the pioneering use of Global Positioning System (GPS), which could determine exact locations by timing how long it took a radio beam to travel from its position to several satellites in fixed-orbit.[244]  Gen. Barry McCaffrey perceptively commented afterwards that “the [Persian Gulf] war didn’t take 100 hours to win, it took fifteen years.”[245]  It was indeed the Carter administration that inaugurated this so-called revolution in military affairs.[246]

On the home front, spectacular television displays of the Patriot missile led to the production of popular t-shirts with the slogan “be a patriot not a scud” (the Patriot missile was designed to counter Saddam’s launching of scud missiles).  President George H. W. Bush proclaimed that the Patriot’s record was “nearly perfect.”  However, a commission of leading scientists found that the Patriots intercepted few of the scuds (zero to five percent).  While the missiles had some deterrent effect, they produced more damage from explosive debris than the scuds themselves, tripling the number of apartments destroyed and doubling the number of injuries in Tel Aviv.[247]  Tracking systems also failed to locate mobile scud launchers in the Western Iraqi desert despite their being the highest-priority target of the war.[248]  Notwithstanding the hype around advanced weaponry, the Air Force also relied on Vietnam-era weapons such as 750-pound napalm bombs, cluster bombs, and anti-personnel land mines.[249]
Most importantly, the fascination with sophisticated weaponry obscured the true costs of war – tens of thousands of Iraqis killed and the country’s infrastructure obliterated.  One journalist later noted:  “One minute of nightly truth on this ‘popular’ war would have changed American public opinion…. If for just 60 seconds the 6 o’clock Monday news had shown 5,000 Iraqi soldiers with hideous phosphorus burns that alter human anatomy followed by sixty seconds Tuesday night of the slaughter at the Baghdad bomb shelter.… What if on Wednesday Americans had seen 10,000 Iraqi soldiers incinerated by American high-tech weapons?”[250]  Those images, however, were never shown, and people were conditioned not to contemplate them.

12.  Aftermath of war

Having trounced the Iraqi army in Kuwait and sent it home, the U.S. had completed its official mission.  The Bush administration’s demonization of Saddam Hussein, however, led some to ask why, if Saddam was akin to Hitler, the U.S. did not invade Iraq and get rid of him.  Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney explained the dilemma:

If you’re going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go to Baghdad.  Once you’ve got Baghdad, it’s not clear what you do with it.  It’s not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that’s currently there now.  Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists?  How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when it’s there?  How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?[251]

These were reasonable questions.  Any effort to topple Saddam would likely lead to a long and difficult, and probably unsuccessful occupation – which indeed is what happened when the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003, pushed by Dick Cheney no less.

Kurdish (red) and Iraqi Shiite (green) regions

What the Bush administration did instead, in 1991, was to encourage Kurds in the north and Shiite Muslims in the south to rise up and overthrow Saddam.[252]  In a speech at the Raytheon defense plant in Massachusetts on February 15, 1991, President Bush expressly encouraged “the Iraqi military and the Iraqi people to take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.”[253]  On March 1, one day after the war ended, Iraq exploded in rebellion.  According to one account by the political scientist Micah Zenko:

Beginning in Basra and spreading throughout Najaf, Karbala, and Nasiriyya, Shia rebels and Iraqi Army sympathizers attacked government security agents and regime targets.  On March 5, Kurdish rebels revolted against Iraqi Army divisions and Baath Party officials, detaining who they could and massacring resisters.  One month after Bush’s call to the Iraqi people to rise up, fourteen of Iraq’s eighteen provinces were surprisingly no longer under the control of the central government.

Despite encouraging the rebellion, the Bush administration refrained from helping the rebels.  It appears that Washington policymakers only wanted to weaken Saddam, not overthrow him.  As Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory wrote, “Bush doesn’t want the Shiite fundamentalist rebels to topple Saddam; that would make Iran the top dog in the Middle East.”  Overthrowing Saddam would likely lead to a Shiite-dominated government, which in turn would likely bond with Shiite Iran – a political victory for Iran.  The administration’s geopolitical strategy was described by Brent Scowcroft in his joint memoir with Bush.  “The trick here,” he wrote, “was to damage his [Saddam’s] offensive capability without weakening Iraq to the point that a vacuum was created, and destroying the balance between Iraq and Iran, further destabilizing the region for years.”[254]  The practical result of this Machiavellian strategy was that General Schwarzkopf allowed Saddam’s forces to quell the rebellion.  As Zenco writes:

On March 3, 1991, commander of UN coalition forces, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, met with Hussein’s generals at the Safwan Airfield in Iraq to discuss the terms of the ceasefire … During the discussion, an Iraqi general asked Schwarzkopf for permission to fly helicopters, including armed gunships, to transport government officials over the country’s destroyed roads and bridges.  Believing it a legitimate request, and acting without Pentagon or White House instructions, Schwarzkopf replied, “I will instruct the Air Force not to shoot at any helicopters flying over the territory of Iraq where our troops are not located.” [Bush’s] memoir, coauthored by … his national security advisor, Brent Scowcroft, succinctly summarized what happened next:  “Saddam almost immediately began using the helicopters as gunships to put down the uprisings.”[255]

Only after Saddam’s forces had thoroughly suppressed the uprisings did the Bush administration step in and provide a measure of protection to the Kurds and Shiites by instituting no-fly zones.

In liberated Kuwait, meanwhile, Kuwaiti leaders instituted a new level of repression as authorities went after Iraqi collaborators, casting aside individual legal rights.  According to a Middle East Watch report dated January 1, 1992, “During March and April [1991], summary executions, as well as deaths in detention caused by beatings and neglect, were the most pressing problem. Scores were killed at the hands of Kuwaiti forces, according to testimony collected by Middle East Watch.  Other evidence of the scope of the killings included fifty-four unidentified bodies of victims of post-liberation killings discovered in a mass grave on the outskirts of Kuwait City.”[256]
These unsavory outcomes of the war in both Iraq and Kuwait stood in marked contrast to the spectacular homecoming parades organized for returning soldiers in cities and towns across the U.S.  The outpouring of victory parades was reminiscent of celebrations after World War II and designed in part to overcome the gloomy homecomings of the Vietnam War era.  On the whole, Americans breathed a sigh of relief that the war had been won quickly and with relatively few U.S. casualties.  “It’s a great day to be a soldier,” General Schwarzkopf told his troops as they departed from Saudi Arabia.[257]

After the war, General Schwarzkopf and President Bush watch the National Victory Parade in Washington on June 8, 1991 [AP]

The parades were organized and funded by a consortium of local governments, private corporations, and the Pentagon.  The Department of Defense subsidized the “Desert Storm Victory Parade” in Washington, DC, held on June 8, 1991, with $7 million, mainly to transport troops and military hardware such as the 67-ton M1A1 tanks.  The parade attracted some 200,000 onlookers as General Schwarzkopf led 8,800 marching war veterans down Constitution Avenue.  In New York City, the “Operation Welcome Home” parade on June 10 attracted an estimated one million spectators.  The parade featured 24,000 marchers, more than half of whom were veterans, with Secretary of Defense Cheney and Generals Powell and Schwarzkopf in the lead.[258]
The heightened respect for the U.S. armed forces in the aftermath of the war was matched by increased military budgets.  “For the Pentagon,” notes the historian David Fitzgerald, “the National Victory was a chance not just to welcome home the ‘half million heroes’ … but also to aggressively promote budget priorities in the post-Cold War spending drawdown.”[259]  There would be no “peace dividend” from the end of the Cold War.
The victory celebrations also presented President Bush with an opportunity to declare, in March 1991, that the “ghosts of Vietnam had been laid to rest beneath the sands of the Arabian desert.”  On another occasion, he announced, “By God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.”[260]  Time magazine writer Lance Morrow captured the spirit of the moment, writing that Desert Storm spelled “the end of the old American depression called the Vietnam syndrome, the compulsion to look for downsides and dooms.”  Victory in the Gulf War heralded “the birth of a new American century – the onset of a unipolar world, with America at the center of it.”[261]
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IV. New World disorder and “humanitarian intervention”

The ascension of the United States to the pinnacle of world power in the aftermath of the Cold War did not fulfill the promise of a new or better world order.  Old conflicts continued and new crises arose as Washington pursued its two major goals of military predominance and “free market” globalization.  There was, however, a growing expectation among some Americans that the U.S. should play a greater role in resolving global crises, an expectation heightened by America’s elevated status and by presidential speeches touting U.S. global leadership. “By the grace of God,” declared Bush in his State of the Union address on January 28, 1992:

America won the Cold War.  A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one sole and pre-eminent power – the United States of America.  And they regard this with no dread. For the world trusts us with power – and the world is right. They trust us to be fair, and restrained, they trust us to be on the side of decency. They trust us to do what’s right.[262]

What was the right thing to do in response to famine in Somalia or to “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia?  Many U.S. citizens, members of Congress, and opinion leaders, both conservative and liberal, judged that the president should take action, presumably in concert with the international community.

The United Nations had long been addressing global crises through agencies such as the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).  During the 1990s, the idea of using military force to secure international food aid, protect civilians caught in wars, or prevent egregious human rights abuses gained currency as “humanitarian interventionism.”  One source of legal support for this was the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, approved by the UN General Assembly in December 1948 and ratified by 99 governments by 1990, although not by the U.S. until 1988.[263]  This international agreement obligated nation-states to prevent or halt the crime of genocide, wherever it may occur.  In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the international community expanded upon this theme and in 2005, the UN General Assembly adopted a set of guidelines under the aegis of “Responsibility to Protect,” obliging states to prevent or halt war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, which is to say, the very worst collective human rights abuses.[264]  As defined by the U.S. State Department, the term “ethnic cleansing entails the systematic and forced removal of members of an ethnic group from their communities to change the ethnic composition of a region.”[265]

The European imperial view: Civilization versus Savagery. Udo Keppler cartoon, Puck magazine, Dec. 10, 1902 [Library of Congress]

However progressive in theory, the idea of humanitarian interventionism was liable to be misused by powerful nations.  Once national sovereignty was no longer held sacrosanct, the door was open for big powers to intervene in other nations in the name of humanitarianism and human rights.[266]  Indeed, history is replete with examples of great powers employing noble ideals to justify imperious policies.  During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Great Britain, France, and the United States all rationalized their acquisition of empires and spheres of influence in the name of “civilizing” missions.
According to the Austrian philosopher Hans Köchler, the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention” developed in European councils during the 19th century to justify repeated interventions in Ottoman Empire territories, including Greece (1826), Syria (1860), Crete (1866, 1894), Armenia (1896), and Macedonia (1905).  Such interventions, he notes, “demanded justification not merely in general moral, but in specific legal terms as well.  Hence the concept of ‘legitimate intervention’ was created.”  The European powers presumed to intervene on behalf of the “rights of humanity” in cases where “excesses of injustice and cruelty … deeply injured European-Christian morals and civilization.”  Köchler continues:

This early doctrine of “limited sovereignty” claimed to be inspired by purely humanitarian motives, while in reality the European powers of the time had their own “imperial” agenda vis-a-vis the Ottoman Empire.  Far from qualifying as disinterested actio popularis [a legal action in the public interest], humanitarian intervention in its actual practice in the 19th century was dictated by the geopolitical interests of the then European powers.  Those powers, in the course of their own colonial rule, violated each and every humanitarian principle they proclaimed to uphold …[267]

In 1898, President William McKinley called for war against Spain in order to “put an end to the barbarities, bloodshed, starvation, and horrible miseries now existing” in Cuba.  While the U.S. intervention did help end Spanish oppression – by helping Cubans defeat the Spanish – it also enabled the U.S. to make Cuba a U.S. protectorate as part of the spoils of war, expanding the informal U.S. empire in the region.  During the Cold War, as the U.S. expanded its reach across the globe, the U.S. actually created or exacerbated a number of humanitarian crises through its wars, covert interventions, and military aid to despotic regimes.  At the same time, the U.S. was the largest single donor to humanitarian relief organizations such as UNHCR and UNICEF, and also underwrote UN peacekeeping operations.[268]
In terms of policymaking, as distinct from superimposed justifications for policies, Pentagon officials have characteristically been been averse to “humanitarian” military interventions not directly tied to traditional security and geopolitical interests.  During the early 1990s, as public and political pressure built for interventions in global crises, Pentagon generals variously argued that the sacrifice of U.S. soldiers could not be justified outside the parameters of U.S. security interests; that the introduction of outside military forces could exacerbate rather than pacify local conflicts; and that the end game could be a quagmire, a no-win war with no exit strategy.[269]  General John Shalikashvili, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, remarked in 1994, “My fear is we’re becoming mesmerized by operations other than war and we’ll take our minds off what we’re all about, to fight and win our nation’s wars.”[270]
Congress nonetheless approved a number of quasi-humanitarian missions.  In February 1994, for example, Congress appropriated funds for Pentagon operations in Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, and Haiti.  The vote in the House was 337-74 in favor, and in the Senate, 85-10, indicating overwhelming support for these missions as a whole.[271]  The mission in Somalia (which was being phased out) was initially aimed at ameliorating famine; in Bosnia, at protecting civilians caught in war; in Iraq, at aiding “the plight of the Iraqi civilian population”; and in Haiti, at restoring a democratically elected government.[272]
As a foreign policy doctrine, “humanitarian interventionism” remained vague.  A White House policy manifesto in February 1995, titled “A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement,” declared that American troops would be sent abroad “only when our interests and our values are sufficiently at stake,” a statement that did little to clarify the decision-making criteria.  Regarding the principle of national sovereignty, the strategy paper ambiguously declared that “all nations should be able to expect that their borders and their sovereignty will always be secure; however, this does not mean we or the international community must tolerate gross violations of human rights within those borders.”  In terms of practical operations, the strategy paper called for primary reliance on non-military means to achieve humanitarian goals, joint operations with “other regional or multilateral actors,” a reasonable chance for “lasting improvement,” and a viable “exit strategy.”[273]
In June 1995, the Pentagon incorporated humanitarian-related operations into a conceptual framework known as Military Operations Other Than War.  This included operations such as protection of relief distribution, creation of civilian safe zones, enforcement of no-fly zones, support for UN peacekeeping, and limited combat operations in keeping with discrete political objectives.[274]
As it was, the 1990s was a decade of experimentation with military missions other than war.  The Clinton administration attempted to put a positive spin on the outcome of these missions, claiming (in February 1995) that during “the past three years, diplomacy backed by American power has produced impressive results,” citing achievements in Iraq, Haiti, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Somalia.[275]  Other assessments have been far more critical, especially in regard to Somalia.[276]
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Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, 1992-1994

Somalia became an independent nation in 1960

Famine in Somalia, 1991-1992 []

According to the Pentagon’s History Office, the U.S. mission in Somalia was sparked by media reports and public pressure:  “Press images of a massive famine provoked US intervention in Somalia.  Severe drought destroyed local crops and famine resulted when marauding gangs seized food and blocked the distribution of relief supplies.”[277]  The central problem, however, was not “marauding gangs,” but rather a violent power struggle among rival, clan-based militias that emerged following overthrow of dictator Siad Barre in January 1991.[278]  These factions sought to direct international relief aid to their own supporters.
The U.S. had an indirect role in creating the crisis in Somalia through its long support for Barre’s dictatorial regime, thus inhibiting democratic institution-building.  In 1977, the Carter administration began providing arms and economic aid to the Barre government in exchange for the use of military facilities at Berbera, located on the Gulf of Aden.  Berbera served as a rear support base for the U.S. Rapid Deployment Force in the region.  Washington officials also valued Somalia as a counterweight to Soviet influence in neighboring Ethiopia.

President Ronald Reagan’s meeting with President Mohammed Siad Barre of Somalia in the Oval Office, March 11,1982 [US National Archives, White House Television Office video recording]

In 1982, Barre met with President Ronald Reagan in Washington.  Thereafter, Somali units began participating in joint military exercises with the U.S. and Egypt under Operation Bright Star. Between 1979 and 1986, the U.S. provided Somalia with $500 million in military aid, making the Barre government one of the largest recipients of U.S. military assistance in sub-Sahara Africa.[279]  The U.S. continued to support Barre even as he increased his dictatorial powers (being in power from 1969 to 1991), jailed dissidents, and authorized massacres of Isaaq clan members when they attempted to form a separate state in northern Somalia called Somaliland.  In short, U.S. geopolitical interests trumped all human rights and humanitarian concerns with respect to Somalia.
In 1989, as the Cold War wound down, Somalia’s usefulness as a client state waned.  Under Congressional pressure, the Bush administration terminated most military aid to Somalia, allowing only food assistance and a small military training program to continue.  To regain the lost aid, Barre hired a prominent public relations firm in Washington to clean up his international reputation.  The firm was headed by Paul Manafort who later became the chairman of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and was sentenced to prison in 2019 for witness tampering, tax fraud and other charges.[280]

Somali clan territories (click to enlarge) [Dept. of Defense]

Economic interests were also a factor in U.S. relations with Somalia.  According to the Los Angeles Times (January 18, 1993):

Far beneath the surface of the tragic drama of Somalia, four major U.S. oil companies are quietly sitting on a prospective fortune in exclusive concessions to explore and exploit tens of millions of acres of the Somalia countryside.  That land, in the opinion of geologists and industry sources, could yield significant amounts of oil and natural gas if the U.S.-led military mission can restore peace to the impoverished East African nation.

According to documents obtained by The Times, “nearly two-thirds of Somalia was allocated to the American oil giants Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips in the final years before Somalia’s pro-U.S. President Mohamed Siad Barre was overthrown and the nation plunged into chaos in January, 1991.  Industry sources said the companies holding the rights to the most promising concessions are hoping that the Bush Administration’s decision to send U.S. troops to safeguard aid shipments to Somalia will also help protect their multimillion-dollar investments there.”[281]

In the midst of Somalia’s civil war in 1992, a UN relief plane arrives at Mogadishu airport with urgent medical supplies [Sayyid Azim / AP]

There was nonetheless real humanitarian concern for the devastating famine in Somalia that took the lives of an estimated 500,000 Somalis in 1991 and 1992.  In April 1992, the UN Security Council authorized the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM) to support the delivery of international aid.  As the distribution of food and supplies was frequently disrupted by rival militias, the Security Council added muscle to the mission on December 3 by authorizing the use of “all necessary means to establish as soon as possible a secure environment for humanitarian relief operations in Somalia.”  The following day, President Bush approved Operation Restore Hope.  The first contingent of U.S. troops departed a week later.  By mid-January 1993, there were 24,500 U.S. troops in Somalia along with 12,000 soldiers from other countries.[282]  U.S. forces operated under the aegis of the U.S.-controlled and UN-approved Unified Task Force (UNITAF).
General Mohammad Farah Aidid, a Somali militia commander who considered himself the nation’s rightful political leader because of his prominent role in ousting Barre, was openly pro-American at the outset of the UN mission.  He soon withdrew his welcome mat, however, when he perceived USOSOM and UNITAF to be siding with his bitter rival, Ali Mahdi.  Aidid also had a long-standing grievance against UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali who, as an Egyptian diplomat, had supported the Barre dictatorship.[283]

Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid []

A key event that changed the calculus was a U.S. Marine attack on one of Aidid’s camps on January 8, 1993.  Some 400 U.S. troops, backed by helicopter gunships and tank and artillery fire, stormed the camp.  “In simple terms, we hit them with a firestorm,” said Major General Charles Wilhelm, commander of the First Marine Division.  The official justification for the attack was that marines had been fired on by Aidid’s gunmen.  “This is definitely meant to convey a message that we won’t tolerate being shot at,” said Col. Fred Peck, the chief American military spokesman.  The attack, however, only served to increase animosity.  Some Western officials and journalists traveling through the city that day were met with cries of “Go home! Go home!” and were pelted with stones by youths, according to a New York Times report.[284]  In subsequent months, sniper attacks on U.S. and UN soldiers increased.  UNOSOM soldiers found themselves in an increasingly hostile environment.

Somalis gather in Mogadishu amid militia members [Small Wars Journal]

Abuses by UNOSOM forces increased in tandem.  In mid-March 1993, members of a Canadian Airborne Regiment were charged with torturing and killing a sixteen-year-old boy who had been detained for alleged thievery.  “At least a dozen other soldiers witnessed some or all of the beating, according to testimony, and two posed for ‘trophy’ photographs with the prisoner,” noted the Washington Post.  “Graphic courtroom testimony over the last six weeks has told more than a tale of soldiers gone amok.”[285]
The militarized mission in Somalia overshadowed international efforts to reach a political accommodation among the warring factions.  According to the historian Elizabeth Schmidt, “Among the strongest critics of the use of military force was UN Special Representative [Mohamed] Sahnoun,” appointed by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to head the UNOSOM mission.  Although Sahnoun “credited the U.S. airlift with saving lives,” Schmidt notes, “he opposed further militarization of the UN operation.”

Political negotiations were making progress, even if they were slowed by painstaking attention to local sensitivities.  Faction leaders and community elders from all regions had endorsed the idea of a national conference to discuss national reconciliation.  Aidid, Ali Mahdi, and other power faction leaders had agreed to permit 500 UN peacekeepers to deploy in Mogadishu; the port had been reopened, and food distribution had commenced…. Sahnoun publicly criticized the provision of military supplies and money to Ali Mahdi’s forces in a UN plane, which contributed to Aidid’s mounting distrust of the UN; Sahnoun also opposed the increase of the UNOSOM I force to 3,500 troops, authorized in August [1992] without warning to Sahnoun or consultation with Somali leaders.  Irked by Sahnoun’s public criticisms and his willingness to work with Aidid, Boutros-Ghali dismissed his special representative in late October.  Sahnoun’s successors failed to garner the same degree of trust among Somalis, and efforts to thwart the rising tensions between the Ali Mahdi and Aidid factions fell apart, as did agreements that allowed the safe passage of relief shipments.[286]

Human Rights Watch similarly notes, “The military dimension of UNOSOM/UNITAF, and its preoccupation with the war leaders of Mogadishu, colored and undercut the U.N.’s own programs to nurture the reemergence of community-based authority,” meaning traditional authority vested in clans and clan elders.  “The overwhelming emphasis on dealing with military leaders – and pursuing military solutions – swamped these other programs.”[287]

Gen. John Shalikashvili with Army and UN Peacekeepers, Somalia, 1992 [US Defense Dept.]

The swamping increased in May 1993, when UNOSOM and UNITAF were replaced by a more robust military program, UNOSOM II, which authorized UN security personnel to seize arms from “unauthorized armed elements.”  This “coercive disarmament” predictably led to direct confrontations between UN forces and various “warlords,” particularly Aidid and his Somalia National Alliance (SNA).  Every faction, of course, regarded its arms as absolutely necessary for self-defense.  UNOSOM II constituted a significant “mission creep” beyond humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, being an aggressive military operation aimed at subduing militant groups.
Open war between Aidid and UNOSOM commenced on June 5, 1993.  Early that morning, UNOSOM forces shot a Somali while trying to disperse a crowd in front of Radio Mogadishu, a station used by Aidid to disseminate his views.  A short time later, Somali fighters attacked Pakistani UNOSOM troops at several military posts and streets in-between.  One group was attacked when returning from a weapons inspection operation; another was ambushed while attempting to rescue those attacked.  In all, 24 UNOSOM soldiers were killed and 56 wounded that day.  UNOSOM estimated Somali casualties, militia and civilian, at 35 dead and 100 injured.[288]

Saudi Arabian High-Mobility Vehicle with mounted machine, supporting UNOSOM II mission, Dec. 19, 1993 [US Army]

A few days later, the UN Security Council unanimously passed a resolution calling for the arrest of Aidid, though Aidid denied responsibility.  Jonathan Howe, the U.S. special representative to the UN and a retired admiral, branded Aidid a terrorist and posted a $25,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.  U.S. forces subsequently undertook a major offensive against Aidid.  Using Air Force Spectre gunships and Cobra helicopters, they attacked suspected weapons compounds and communication centers, while U.S. Rapid Deployment Force troops surrounded neighborhoods, detained suspected militiamen, and confiscated personal weapons, intimidating procedures that enraged the local population.  On June 12, Pakistani UNOSOM troops on the roof of the Egyptian Embassy shot dead 20 Somali civilians, claiming they saw Somali gunmen in a crowd.[289]  That same day the U.S. bombed a house that U.S. commanders believed to be Aidid’s command center.  According to Human Rights Watch:

On July 12, 1993, the house of Aideed [Aidid] supporter Abdi Abdiid was targeted by U.S. forces on the grounds that it was an Aideed command center – and that a meeting of Aideed loyalists was taking place at the time.  In fact, some eighty people who were indeed meeting at the Abdi house are believed to have included elders drawn from a wide range of sub-clans, including the Habr Gedir, Ogadeni, Dir, Majerteen, Murosade, Sheikhal and others, who were apparently meeting to discuss mediation between UNOSOM and Aideed.

On Oct. 3, 1993, U.S. special forces (Task Force Ranger) began an operation that involved traveling through the streets of Mogadishu with the aim of capturing leaders of Aidid’s Habr Gidr clan [Alchetron]

Cobra helicopters of the independent U.S. command attacked the Abdi house in a morning raid with missiles and rockets…. which largely demolished the building.  The SNA – and other sources – have claimed it was a peace and reconciliation meeting.  The presence of elders of a broad number of sub-clans would tend to substantiate this, although the full roster of the dead has never been made public.  The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), estimated there were fifty-four dead and 174 wounded.  General Aideed’s SNA claimed the actual figure was seventy-three dead, including twenty-two women and ten children, with another 234 wounded…. Although no evidence is known to have been produced that the house was a defended military position, UNOSOM subsequently described the attack as flawless.[290]

U.S. military actions continued to exhibit little concern for civilian casualties.  On September 10, according to a New York Times report, two American attack helicopters along with Pakistani tanks and armored personnel carriers “opened fire on a crowd of Somali soldiers, women and children after United Nations peacekeeping troops came under attack.  United Nations officials said as many as 100 Somalis may have been killed in the fighting, and that some appeared to be women and children…. Maj. David Stockwell, the chief United Nations spokesman in Mogadishu, justified the shooting of women and children as a ‘last-ditch, last resort effort to protect the United Nations troops.’”[291]

Two weeks after the battle, young Somalis chant anti-American slogans while sitting atop the wreckage of one of the downed U.S. Black Hawk helicopters, Oct. 19, 1993 [Dominique Mollard / AP]

The urban warfighting culminated in the Battle of Mogadishu on October 3-4, 1993.  Planned by American generals and supported by President Clinton, U.S. Rangers launched a daytime raid into one of Aidid’s strongholds in an effort to apprehend his top lieutenants.  What had been designed as a quick, low cost raid quickly escalated.  Two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down by rocket-propelled grenades.  The first crashed in a Mogadishu neighborhood.  When U.S. Army Rangers rushed to the scene, they were met by angry mobs of Somalis along with Aidid’s militia.  The battle took the lives of 18 Americans, one Malaysian peacekeeper, and some 300 Somalis.  Another 84 Americans were wounded.  Images of jeering Somalis dragging a U.S. corpse through the streets and celebrating atop a downed Black Hawk helicopter shocked the American public.[292]

The debacle in Mogadishu put the Clinton administration on the defensive at home.  Public support for the president’s handling of the Somalia intervention shifted from 51 percent approval (and 21% disapproval) in polls taken June 21-24, to 54 percent disapproval (and 33% approval) in polls taken October 21-24.[293]  Facing intense scrutiny, the White House decided to institute a phased withdrawal rather than escalate the war.  In his memoirs, Clinton intimated that he had not been fully informed about the mission:

What plagued me most was that when I approved the use of U.S. forces to apprehend Aidid, I did not envision anything like a daytime assault in a crowded, hostile neighborhood.  I assumed we would try to get him when he was on the move, away from large numbers of civilians and the cover they gave his armed supporters.[294]

By the end of March 1994, all U.S. troops had been withdrawn, leaving some 19,000 UN peacekeepers to manage security in Somalia.  One senior UN official told the New York Times as the last U.S. troops departed, “The Americans and the U.N. came in with a kind of arrogance…. Their psychological operations were naive, their intelligence very poor.  They didn’t speak the language.  They met with few Somalis.  This has damaged the credibility of the U.N.”[295]

The October 3, 1993 battle in Mogadishu is celebrated each year in Somalia with a holiday known as The Day of the Rangers [CNN]

The resolution of the crisis in Somalia ultimately required political accommodation.  Fighting came to an end when fifteen warring Somali factions and sub-factions signed a reconciliation pact in Nairobi on March 29, 1994.  The pact established a ceasefire and set a date for a future reconciliation conference.  Beyond this and out of the Western media’s spotlight, a deeper resolution was forged through inter-clan conferences, largely without UN sponsorship.  These conferences reportedly made progress not only in reconciling differences but also in reducing the influence of the clans’ war leaders.[296]
The Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, in their report on the Somalia mission, concluded:  “For the United States, the cost came to 32 killed in action, 172 wounded and $1.3 billion spent through 30 June 1994.  The effort in Somalia succeeded as a short-term humanitarian mission but then failed as an attempt at nation-building and as an international venture in peace enforcement.”  For the American public, the Somalia mission was indelibly marked by the Battle of Mogadishu, immortalized in journalist Mark Bowden’s bestselling book, Black Hawk Down, and a 2001 movie by the same name.[297]  According to Bowden, Americans who took the lead in fighting operations did not know enough about Somalia to “write a high-school paper about it…. They remarked again and again how much they felt like they were in a movie, and had to remind themselves that this horror, the blood, the death, was real.”[298]
In hindsight, it may be seen that the U.S.-UN mission was not about nation-building at all.  There was little attempt to work with traditional clan authorities whose participation in the creation of a new government and resolution of factional differences was essential.  The overriding emphasis was on the use of military force, which eclipsed potential conflict resolution efforts that should be the mark of every UN effort (according to the UN Charter).  Indeed, there was undue confidence in the efficacy of force.  Finally, one might ask whether U.S. leaders had the interests of the Somali people in mind at all, considering their long support for the dictator Siad Barre and their lack of concern regarding Somali casualties in the “pacification” effort.  Only the killing and wounding of U.S. soldiers forced a change in U.S. strategy.
*           *           *

Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti, 1994-1995

The purpose of the U.S. mission in Haiti – to restore a democratically elected government following a military coup – did not fall within the parameters of the emerging Responsibility to Protect guidelines, but it was nevertheless undertaken with UN approval and support.

Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former Catholic priest and advocate of liberation theology, was elected president in December 1990 [BBC news]

On September 29, 1991, Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was deposed in a military coup after serving only eight months in office.  Army-backed thugs killed hundreds of his supporters and Aristide was deported to France in exile.  Aristide was a charismatic populist priest with a following in the poorest slums who tried to introduce reforms to uplift Haiti’s poor masses.  No evidence has emerged of U.S. support for the coup.  However, many of the coup plotters had been trained at the U.S. Army School of the Americas or had connections to the CIA.  The CIA’s assets included Emmanuel Constant, the head of the paramilitary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti (FRAPH) which was implicated in large scale human rights abuses, including murders, public beatings, and arson raids on poor, pro-Aristide neighborhoods.[299]  The New York Times reported that “leading figures in the Haitian military and police were on the C.I.A. payroll, and Government officials acknowledged then [in 1993] that the Haitian intelligence services, which had been trained by the agency, had turned to drug running and political violence.”[300]
Both the U.S. and the Organization of American States (OAS) condemned the Haitian military coup and imposed trade embargoes.  In December 1991, the UN took up the issue and appointed Special Envoy Dante Caputo to represent both the UN and the OAS in negotiations with the Haitian military junta.   The Bush administration initially encouraged mediation but grew frustrated when Aristide insisted that junta leader General Raoul Cédras (whom Aristide had appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Haitian Armed Forces) and others responsible for the slaughter of Haitian citizens be prosecuted or exiled.  “So long as the army cooperated with efforts to stop the flood of refugees setting sail for Florida,” notes New York Times writer Kenneth Roth, “the Bush administration seemed willing to accommodate the de facto government.”  Unable to convince the Haitian leaders to step down, the UN Security Council voted in November 1992 to join the U.S. and OAS in imposing a trade embargo on Haiti.[301]

Junta leader Raoul Cédras

President Bill Clinton, during his presidential campaign in the fall of 1992 and again in March 1993, declared his intention to restore Aristide to power.  New U.S. sanctions were imposed in June targeting the Haitian military leadership.  On July 3, Caputo succeeded in arranging a meeting at Governors Island, New York, in which Aristide and Raoul Cédras did not meet face-to-face but nonetheless signed a pact requiring Cedras to resign and Aristide to return by October 30, 1993.  To implement the provisions of the agreement, the UN established a United Nations Mission in Haiti (UNMIH) in September, in which the U.S. took the lead.

Before the slated transition of power, however, the agreement fell apart.  On October 11 (one week after the Battle of Mogadishu half a world away), an angry mob refused to allow a U.S. Navy ship to dock as Haitian soldiers stood by.  The ship carried 200 U.S. soldiers and 25 Canadian military trainers who were part of a 1300-member UN military and police training team.  The violent demonstration was reportedly organized by FRAPH leader Emanuel Constant, who was still on the CIA payroll at the time.[302]
With negotiations stymied, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 940 on July 31, 1994, permitting the U.S. to lead a multinational military force to restore democracy in Haiti.[303]  Anointed “Operation Uphold Democracy” in the U.S., the Pentagon prepared an invasion force of nearly 25,000 troops backed by two aircraft carriers and extensive air support.  The operation was scheduled to begin on September 19.
Although the political left in the U.S. was generally wary of U.S. interventionism, progressive members of Congress such as Rep. Ronald Dellums along with the Congressional Black Caucus were foremost proponents of U.S. intervention in Haiti.  Most of the criticism of the mission came from the right which protested the use of U.S. military forces to re-install a left-of-center president, a notable departure from past U.S. support for the dictatorships of “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” Duvalier from 1957 to 1986.[304]

A U.S. marine stands guard during a Haitian parade [C.S. Fowler / US National Archives]

Two days before the September 19 deadline, former President Jimmy Carter, General Colin Powell, and others flew to Haiti to negotiate a last-minute deal.  With intervention looming, the Haitian military junta agreed to leave the country in exchange for a “luxury exile.”[305]  This was a fortunate turn of events for the country, as a foreign military invasion might well have provoked widespread nationalist opposition and guerrilla war, resulting in many casualties.  Perhaps a lesson was learned from the brutal invasion of Panama five years earlier:  better to negotiate a lucrative deal with dictatorial leaders than to make the people suffer.  As it was, President Aristide returned to Haiti on Oct. 15, 1994, and called for reconciliation and an end to violence.  Some 25,000 U.S. military personnel remained in Haiti for six months as an international police force, after which responsibilities were transferred to the United Nations.  The UN mission ended in July 1997.
Though carried out under the aegis of a humanitarian mission, the U.S.-UN mission in Haiti was not necessarily altruistic.  According to Time magazine, “American support for Aristide’s return was contingent on his signing an agreement with the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank, which bound him to their structural adjustment policies which opened up Haiti’s market to foreign trade.”[306]  In 1996, Aristide was succeeded by Rene Préval who advanced privatization initiatives that sold off public assets to wealthy investors.  Countering such policies, Aristide co-authored Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization (2000), which accused the IMF and World Bank of working on behalf of wealthy nations rather than the poor.  He called for “a culture of global solidarity” to eliminate poverty, as an alternative to “neoliberal” economic policies championed by the U.S.[307]
The story of American involvement in Haiti is hardly a positive one overall.  There is strong continuity in the post-Cold War period from an earlier era of “gunboat diplomacy” and foreign manipulation of the country’s political and economic affairs.[308]  In the end, functioning democracy in Haiti did not last.  Aristide was re-elected president in November 2000, but in February 2004, he was pressured to resign by the U.S. and France amid threats by armed insurgents to take over the capital.  According to the New York Times, “The rebels were led by veterans of Haiti’s army, which was disbanded by Mr. Aristide in retaliation for its role in a 1991 coup that removed him from power.”  It is not clear what role U.S. covert agencies played in Aristide’s ouster, but the foreign policy establishment under President George W. Bush was glad to see him go.  Rep. Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, called the administration to account for its abandonment of democracy.  “We are just as much a part of this coup d’etat as the rebels, as the looters or anyone else,” he said.  “One thing is clear – if you’re elected as president … don’t depend on the United States to respect the rule of law.”[309]
Forceful intervention to secure a democratic government within a country has no basis in international law.
Apart from these vacillations in U.S. foreign policies, the U.S.-UN mission in Haiti in 1994 set a dangerous precedent for the international community.  Notwithstanding the UN’s endorsement of Operation Uphold Democracy, the use of force or threat of force to secure a democratic government within a country has no basis in international law.  If allowed to stand, this precedent would enable the international community, presumably under the direction of the UN Security Council, to send military forces into any nation deemed insufficiently democratic, by whatever standard chosen, opening the door to great power manipulation and war.
*           *           *

Lessons from Rwanda, 1994-1996

In April 1994, six months after the ill-fated Battle of Mogadishu in Somalia, a massive slaughter began in Rwanda, a small, central-east African nation with a population of six million.  The numerically dominant Hutu group, urged on by extremist militias such as the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi, massacred hundreds of thousands of Tutsi and moderate Hutu (who refused to join in the slaughter) in a 100-day killing spree often described as genocide.[310]  According to Jean-Marie Kamatali, a Tutsi who escaped the slaughter:

In Rwanda, neighbors did not kill neighbors in the first days of the three-month slaughter; that pattern developed only after officials decided that the presidential guards and Interahamwe were not killing fast enough.  So the officials organized meetings and took to a hate-spewing radio station to call on citizens to kill fellow citizens; this edict then went down a chain of authority so thoroughly that intimate murder, and deep societal trauma, became common.[311]

Family photographs of some who died are displayed in an exhibition at the Kigali Genocide Memorial [Ben Curtis / AP]

The unbridled violence was catalyzed in the immediate by the downing of a plane carrying Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994.  His death effectively nullified a power-sharing agreement between Hutu and Tutsi leaders which Hutu militias opposed.  More generally, Hutu aggression was aroused by the prospect of renewed war with the Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), whose main forces were located in northern Rwanda and neighboring Uganda.  A U.S. intelligence analyst noted that “the [Hutu] plan appears to have been to wipe out any RPF ally or potential ally, and thus raise the costs and limit the possibility of an RPF/Tutsi takeover.”[312]  Following the plane crash, RPF fighters made their way to the capital city of Kigali, leaving a trail of Hutu blood.  According to Human Rights Watch:

In their drive for military victory and a halt to the genocide, the RPF killed thousands, including noncombatants as well as government troops and members of militia.  As RPF soldiers sought to establish their control over the local population, they also killed civilians in numerous summary executions and in massacres…. Evidence gathered thus far suggests that the death toll was highest in certain communes of Kibungo, southern Kigali, Butare and Gitarama. These indications, partial and tentative, point to a minimum death toll of 25,000 to 30,000 people.[313]

Memorial to more than 11,000 Tutsi men, women, children murdered at Kibuye Andy Hall/The London Observer]

Though the Hutu massacre of Tutsi was far more extensive, the RPF wanted no UN assistance in putting an end to it; which is to say, no interference in its mission to take over the government.  Indeed, on April 30, the RPF leadership declared that it was “categorically opposed to the proposed UN intervention and will not under any circumstances cooperate in its setting up an operation.”  According to political scientist Filip Reyntjens, “At the time, the genocide was far from completed and hundreds of thousands of Tutsi were still alive, but the RPF feared the [UN] force might stand in its way to military victory.”[314]

U.S. officials also opposed UN intervention, although they later expressed regret for this.  On April 10, 1994, three days after Hutu militia murdered ten Belgian UN peacekeepers, Lt. General Roméo Dallaire, the Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), requested that his small force of 2,500 peacekeepers be doubled, a request denied by the UN Security Council at the behest of the U.S. and Great Britain.  Two days later, U.S. ambassador to the UN Madeleine Albright cabled Washington to propose “taking the lead in the Security Council to authorize the evacuation of the bulk of UNAMIR while leaving behind a skeletal staff.”[315]

Dallaire’s fax to UN headquarters on Jan. 11, 1994, warned of Interahamwe plans three months before the massacre began

On April 21, the Security Council did as Albright proposed, voting to reduce Dallaire’s peacekeeping force to 270, effectively neutralizing the UN mission.[316]  On May 5, Undersecretary of Defense Frank Wisner rejected a proposal by National Security Advisor Anthony Lake to jam Rwandan government radio broadcasts that were inciting Hutus to violence, suggesting instead that the U.S. assist Red Cross relief efforts.[317]

On May 13, UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali recommended an expansion of the UNAMIR mandate, asserting that Rwanda was in the midst of a “major humanitarian crisis,” with nearly 2 million people displaced internally and another 400,000 living as refugees in neighboring states.  Four days later, the Security Council authorized an increase in the number of UNAMIR troops to 5,500 in order to protect vulnerable civilians.  The UN resolution also imposed an arms embargo on both the Kigali government and the RPF.  These actions, however, amounted to too little, too late.   The UNIMAR II mission would take at least six weeks to implement, while the RPF pressed on, taking the Kigali airport on May 21 and ousting the Hutu government on July 4.  Five days later, the UN established a temporary safe humanitarian zone under French control in southwestern Rwanda.  Hundreds of thousands of innocent Hutu civilians fled to the safe zone, along with high-level government officials, military and militia commanders, and others who aided the genocide.[318]
In the aftermath of the slaughter, on July 22, President Bill Clinton called it “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in a generation.”  Yet he tactfully avoided the word “genocide,” as this definition would have legally compelled the U.S. to intervene in accordance with the genocide convention.[319]
The failure of the U.S. and UN to stop the long-running massacre was roundly condemned by Samantha Power in her Pulitzer Prize winning book, “A Problem from Hell”: America in the Age of Genocide (2002), and by Lt. General Dallaire in his memoir, Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (2003).  Dallaire believed strongly that an empowered UN force could have made a difference.  Power, a foreign correspondent who later became U.S. ambassador to the UN, approached Rwanda as one of a number of cases in which the U.S. failed to prevent genocide, arguing that the U.S. and the world community have a moral responsibility to do so.[320]
What is missing from this moral lesson is an analysis of the underlying geopolitical forces at work.  A number of scholars have explored this dimension, including Hazel Cameron, a British international relations scholar with expertise in genocide studies, and Helen Epstein, an American journalist and human rights scholar.  Their studies document that the U.S. and especially Great Britain were not simply bystanders in the Rwandan slaughter, but actively aided the RPF and stood to gain if the RPF took power.[321]

In “British State Complicity in Genocide: Rwanda 1994” (2012), Cameron documents British and U.S. connections to the RPF:

Throughout the period of the civil war [1990-1994], the British government continued to provide military training to the Tutsi-dominated guerrilla force in Uganda, whilst the United States military transported the RPA leadership to the US for advanced military training…. One week after the start of the genocide Edward Clay, British High Commissioner Kampala, met with the RPF vice-president who was afforded the opportunity to put forth his views on the subject of withdrawal of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) from the country, a subject to be discussed at the following week’s meeting of the Security Council, New York.  In his reporting of the meeting, Clay advised London that “the RPF could take care of the current disorder and should be left to do so.”[322]

The RPF invasion of Rwanda, April to July 1994

The withdrawal of UN peacekeepers, in other words, comported with British and U.S. geopolitical interests in securing an RPF military victory.  Cameron concludes that “the British government chose to support the RPF’s aspirations to defeat the Government of Rwanda without outside [UN] intervention.  Permitting the RPF to take full control of Rwanda advanced British interrelated goals of maintaining power status and ensuring economic interests in key areas of Africa.”  Rwanda was a chess piece in a great power game for control of central Africa’s mineral wealth.  Cameron quotes a former British government official who describes the RPF as the “cat’s paw of the British government,” having been groomed to overthrow the French-backed Habyarimana government.[323]  French officials, for their part, did not disarm or arrest suspected Hutu war criminals or turn them over to UNAMIR forces.  Instead, they helped Hutu officials escape to Zaire, the Central African Republic, France, and other European countries, enabling them to evade prosecution for war crimes.

Epstein chronicles how the U.S. supported the RPF by training its officers and providing funds through the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni.  When RPF forces first invaded Rwanda on October 1, 1990, Kagame was training at the United States Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, “studying field tactics and psyops, propaganda techniques to win hearts and minds,” notes Epstein.  “But after four RPF commanders were killed, he told his American instructors that he was dropping out to join the Rwandan invasion. The Americans apparently supported this decision and Kagame flew into Entebbe airport, travelled to the Rwandan border by road, and crossed over to take command of the rebels.”  For the next “three and a half years,” Epstein continues, “the Ugandan army continued to supply Kagame’s fighters with provisions and weapons, and allow his soldiers free passage back and forth across the border…. In 1991, Uganda purchased 10 times more US weapons than in the preceding 40 years combined.”[324]

An RPF rebel soldier stares at a portrait of slain president Juvenal Habyarimana in Kigali [Corinne Dufka / Reuters / History Collection]

In light of these geopolitical underpinnings of the Rwandan crisis, it would seem that the first takeaway lesson is for powerful nations to refrain from fueling violence in other countries by not taking sides in disputes, arming partisans, and pushing regime change.
From 1885 to 1962, the region encompassing present-day Rwanda and Burundi was colonized by European powers, first Germany, then Belgium.  Under Belgian rule, the Tutsi minority, which constituted 15-18% of the population, was granted political, economic and social domination over the Hutu majority.  The Belgians issued identity cards based on ethnic identity, exacerbating tensions.  Around the time of independence for both Rwanda and Burundi in 1962, the Hutu and Tutsi clashed, with Tutsi suffering the worst of it – tens of thousands killed and some 150,000 refugees fleeing to Uganda by the end of the decade, where they remained in exile.  In 1972, another massacre took place in Burundi, this time with Hutu suffering the worst.  U.S. ambassador Thomas Patrick Melady reported a “vast bloodbath of Hutu,” including execution of educated Hutus and secondary school students.[325]
In 1979, Tutsi living in Uganda formed the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity, renamed the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1987.  The RPF’s goal was to return to Rwanda and take power.  Tutsi men gained military experience by serving in the Ugandan National Resistance Army, which overthrew the Ugandan government in 1986, then in the Ugandan armed forces.  RPF leader Paul Kagame, who arrived in Uganda as a refugee and grew up in exile, rose to become chief of intelligence in the Ugandan army.  He was the nephew of the widow of Mwami Mutara III Rudahigwa, the King of Rwanda from 1931 to 1959.

Paul Kagame with RPF troops in 1993, during the civil war that preceded the genocide [Joel Stettenheim / Corbis]

On October 1, 1990, RPF rebel forces invaded Rwanda.  Though briefly repulsed by the Rwandan Hutu government, the RPF soon re-invaded and established bases in the north of the country which it held for the next three and a half years.  During this time, the RPF carried out numerous attacks on Hutu communities, killing civilians.  One RPF offensive in February 1993, notes Human Rights Watch, “killed a number of civilians and caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of others, many of whom camped in enormous settlements not far from the capital, thus increasing further pressure on the government.”[326]  As for the Hutu militias, writes Reyntjens, “Small scale massacres of Tutsi continued during the following years [after October 1990].  Hundreds were killed in January-February 1991, hundreds more in March 1992, hundreds again at the end of 1992-beginning of 1993.”[327]
On August 4, 1993, a peace accord was signed by Rwandan President Habyarimana and RPF leaders in Arusha, Tanzania.  The Arusha Accords called for a permanent ceasefire, the formation of a neutral transitional government, the integration of Tutsi into the Rwandan Armed Forces, and a “neutral international force” to assist in the implementation of the peace agreement.  That agreement was pressed upon the Habyarimana government by outside groups, including the World Bank, Belgium, and the United States, as a precondition for continuing aid.  It gave the Tutsi minority a disproportionate share of government and military operations, and stipulated a right of return for Tutsi refugees living in exile for less than ten years.  Hutu officers and soldiers feared their displacement and rural landholders feared dispossession.  Many Hutu, as such, objected to the accords and President Habyarimana delayed its implementation.
In October, the UN Security Council established UNAMIR in order to help the parties implement the agreement and support a transitional government, but the latter never emerged.  It took five months for the UNAMIR mission to reach its authorized strength of 2,548 soldiers.  In the meantime, Hutu militias began organizing death squads, identifying moderate Hutu politicians who supported the accords as their first targets.  Adding to the palpable tension, on October 21, 1993, Tutsi military officers in neighboring Burundi assassinated Melcior Ndadaye, a popular Hutu president who had been elected only three months before.  Conflict broke out and thousands of Hutu refugees poured into Rwanda, heightening Rwandan Hutu fears of what was in store for them if the RPF were to take over.[328]
Accountability or cover-up?

RPF rebels inspect the wreckage of the plane crash that killed Presidents Habyarimana and Ntaryamira on April 6, 1994 [Corinne Dufka / Reuters / History Collection]

The question of who shot down the airplane carrying Rwandan President Habyarimana, Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira (also Hutu), and ten others has never been conclusively resolved, though there have been a number of investigations.[329]  A Belgian inquiry soon after the crash lent support to the theory that extremist Hutu carried out the attack in order to prevent the Habyarimana government from implementing the peace agreement that would have allowed Tutsi a share of the government.  This view gained wide public acceptance not because of courtroom evidence, but because of press revelations regarding the egregious Hutu slaughter of Tutsi.  If the Hutu radicals were so inhuman as to murder 800,000 Tutsi and their Hutu “accomplices,” what would stop them from shooting down a plane carrying a dozen people?
Contrarily, an eight-year investigation by French magistrate Jean-Louise Bruguière concluded in 2006 that Paul Kagame and nine officials close to him had authorized the surface-to-air missile attack on the plane.  That finding, however, was overturned by another French inquiry in 2012.[330]  The RPF nonetheless had equal motive for undermining the peace accords, as it was highly unlikely that the RPF would ever gain control of the Rwandan government by democratic means, given that Tutsi constituted only 15 percent of the population.

Hutu refugees wait for relief food from the Red Cross near the border between Rwanda and Tanzania, May 3, 1994 [Reuters / History Collection]

What is clear is that the UN Security Council did not pursue the matter; indeed, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), established by the Security Council in November 1994, directed that a budding investigation into the downing of the plane be shut down, claiming that the incident was unrelated to the prosecution of individuals responsible for the massacres.[331]  According to Michael Hourigan, the ICTR Investigations Team Leader, writing in June 2006:

I can tell you from personal experience that the ICTR has totally failed to investigate fully and impartially the real causes of the Rwandan genocide.  It has failed to hold accountable all those responsible for the slaughter of an estimated 1,000,000 men, women and children in Rwanda in 1994.  It has prosecuted only the losers of the genocide [meaning the Hutu, having lost control of the government].  It has buckled to international pressure to keep secret the involvement of foreign powers in the events which led up the to slaughter.  There is overwhelming credible evidence suggesting prima facie that Paul Kagame and his armed forces were involved the in slaughter of many thousands of civilians in Rwanda in 1994 and 1995.  There is significant credible evidence on the public record linking President Kagame with the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential aircraft in 1994 killing the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and all others on board.

Paul Kagame and his regime in Rwanda has for many years now successfully denied these allegations in the press accusing any and all who touches on them as “genocide deniers.”… I am stunned at the way the West embraces Kagame and how universities flock to award him for his leadership in Rwanda.[332]

James R. Lyons, an FBI agent who served with the New York Police Department’s Domestic Terrorism Task Force and had contracted with the U.S. State Department to assist the ICTR, also issued a statement on the plane incident:  “The world community had long attributed the attack to hard line Hutus close to the President but there was no evidence supporting that theory.  There was some speculation that the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was responsible and there were bits of information to support that view.”[333]  Lyons regarded Kagame as “America’s Man in the Great Lakes” and the “fair-haired boy of British intelligence and the CIA.”[334]

Sociology professor André Guichaoua, who was in Kigale when the killing began and later served as an expert witness at the ICTR, became aware in 2002 of documents confirming his suspicions “of RPF implication in several military operations between 1991 and 1994, including the attack against the plane of 6 April 1994.”  He was furthermore appalled “that before, during, and after the war of 1994, the RPF never hesitated to rely on all means of blackmail and pressure, up to and including physical elimination, against witnesses who risked divulging its ‘secrets.’”[335]  Other indictments of a great cover-up have been made by law professor Peter Erlinder, the ICTR Lead Defense Counsel, who has written extensively on the subject, and filmmaker John Conroy, producer of the British Broadcasting documentary “Rwanda’s Untold Story” which aired on October 1, 2014.  Rwandan authorities arrested Erlinder in Rwanda in 2010 on charges of “genocide denial, genocide ideology and of being a threat to national security.”[336]

According to Filip Reyntjens, the ICTR itself was “an embarrassing instance of victor’s justice.”  Only two low-level officers in the RPF were convicted of war crimes, being sentenced to five years in prison.  The tribunal nevertheless put on trial and convicted dozens of Hutu responsible for the mass slaughter of Tutsi.  Reyntjens continues:

Despite its shortcomings, the ICTR has contributed to the development of international humanitarian law, beyond the case of Rwanda.  It was the first international jurisdiction to prosecute and condemn genocide suspects, thus “giving life to the Genocide Convention for the first time since the treaty was adopted.”  It has also clarified the notion of an ethnic group as victim of genocide, and established that rape can be a weapon of genocide.  When closed, the ICTR had condemned 61 and acquitted 14 persons who all belonged to the losing side of the civil war.[337]

Aftermath:  The next massacre

US Defense Secretary William Perry and Rwandan Vice President Paul Kagame discuss matters on July 31 1994 [US Dept. of Defense / Wiki Commons]

In the aftermath of the RPF victory, the Clinton administration wasted no time in cultivating friendly relations with the new Tutsi-led government.  The U.S. provided military training, satellite surveillance, and arms to the Rwanda armed forces, and sent over 200 American soldiers to Rwanda to help rebuild and control the Kigali airport.[338]  Defense Secretary William J. Perry wrote a letter to Paul Kagame on August 7, 1995, stating, “I fully agree with Ambassador David Rawson’s request for training in such areas as intelligence, counterinsurgency, leadership development, logistic, management and administration.  I intend to advocate initiating such training as soon as possible.  The next logical step to this training would be a series of combined exercises and I will pursue that with General [George] Joulwan at the appropriate time.”[339]  Perry expressed no concern that U.S. military aid and counterinsurgency training might be used to kill or oppress Hutu. Indeed, the defense secretary seemed oblivious to the history of the region, the ample documentation of RPF human rights abuses, and the fact that, after the RPF declared victory, some 2.5 million Hutu fled to nearby countries.[340]

Rwandan troops invade from the east, joining Tutsi rebels in the Congo to oust the government [Wiki Commons]

In October 1996, U.S.-trained Rwandan troops invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo to help Congolese Tutsi rebels overthrow the government.  The troops also attacked Hutu refugee camps, “massacring tens of thousands of unarmed civilians, and killing thousands of soldiers and militia,” according to Human Rights Watch.[341]  The U.S. and Britain issued no protest.  A 2010 United Nations account of the invasion, long delayed in its release, stated that “invading troops from Rwanda and their rebel allies killed tens of thousands of members of the Hutu ethnic group, including many civilian … The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who were often undernourished and posed no threat to the attacking forces.”  As reported in the New York Times:

The 545-page [UN] report on 600 of the country’s most serious reported atrocities raises the question of whether Rwanda could be found guilty of genocide against Hutu during the war in neighboring Congo, but says international courts would need to rule on individual cases…. The report presents repeated examples of times when teams of Rwandan soldiers and their Congolese rebel allies lured Hutu refugees with promises they would be repatriated to Rwanda, only to massacre them.[342]

Americans at the time (1996-97) heard little about these atrocities by Rwandan forces under Tutsi leadership as the Rwanda was now a client state of the United States and Great Britain.  An Associated Press article in October 2010 noted:

The story of the 1994 genocide of more than a half million Tutsis slaughtered by Hutus in Rwanda has been told in the world’s press, in books and in movies such as “Hotel Rwanda.”  But the subsequent slaughter of Hutus in neighboring Congo is little known, and its perpetrators never have been brought to justice.  The discovery of mass graves prompted investigations that led to a controversial U.N. report published on Oct. 1 [2010], which accuses invading Rwandan troops of killing tens of thousands of Hutus in 1996 and 1997.[343]

The lesson of the Rwanda genocide cannot be simply that the U.S. and UN must intervene to stop massacres.  In the case of Rwanda, Washington officials readily acknowledged and condemned the Hutu-instigated genocide in 1994 but found no cause for alarm in RPF aggression against the Rwandan government from 1990 to 1994, nor in RPF massacres of Hutus inside Rwanda during the interval, nor in the RPF invasion and slaughter in the Congo in 1996.  While there is a need for mechanisms to prevent or halt genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity, as envisioned in the Responsibility to Protect principle, there is far greater need for political accommodations to prevent these crises from occurring in the first place.  The U.S. and Great Britain, as strategic allies of the RPF and its Ugandan government backers, had the ability to cut off arms to the RPF and to curb RPF aggression, but they chose not to do so.

*           *           *

Crises in the former Yugoslavia, 1991-1999

After WWII, young people in Communist youth groups volunteered to build roads and railroads in Yugoslavia [Aleksandar Hemon / The New Yorker 6/5/2019]

The breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s produced a decade-long humanitarian crisis as ethnic-religious militias engaged in massacres and atrocities amid the creation of several new republics.  The government of Yugoslavia under Josip Tito had promoted multicultural integration and religious tolerance, encouraging the main ethnic-religious groups – Serbs (Orthodox Christian), Croats (Roman Catholic), Bosniaks (Muslim), and Albanians (Muslim) – to work together under Tito’s authoritarian-communist system.  Tito himself was born to a Croat father and a Slovene mother in what is now Croatia.  His wife, Jovanka Budisavljevic, was born to Serbian parents.  Following Tito’s death in 1980, the policy continued under duress for a decade before independence movements arose in the provinces of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereafter referred to as Bosnia).[344]
According to one Yugoslav-Serbian woman, initials L.A., who grew up in Belgrade in the 1950s and 1960s, most people lived comfortably with their neighbors and co-workers without giving much thought to their different religious and ethnic-political identities.  L.A. came to the U.S. as a high school foreign exchange student in 1970-71, then as a college student from 1978 to 1980, earning a master’s degree in Economics.  Living in Belgrade during the 1980s and 1990s, she watched with dismay as relationships between people of different ethnic-religious identities changed from affection and trust, by and large, to distance and distrust.  She saw these changes in community relationships as having been instigated by political leaders who attributed hostile intent to other groups and stoked the embers of old conflicts, apparently in the interest of gaining political power.  In her own family, L.A. raised her children without reference to ethnic identity.  The family took summer vacations in Croatia.
D.K., a Yugoslav-Croatian man born in Dubrovnik in 1949, similarly notes that intermingling was very common in Tito’s Yugoslavia and that there were many mixed marriages, including his own first marriage to a Serbian woman.  He recalls that while growing up, he never felt the ethnic question was important, and he was rarely asked about his ethnicity.  After graduating from the University of Zagreb’s School of Economics in Osijek, Croatia, D.K. came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship in 1976.  He remained in the U.S., but briefly returned to Croatia in October 1991 to get his 18-year-old daughter living in Osijek out of the war zone.  The devolution of the country into war, in his view, was due in large part to politicians demagogically exploiting nationalist sentiments, fostering dreams of statehood and dredging up historical animosities dating back to the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.[345]
The European Community, led by Germany, played a significant role in fostering the crisis in Yugoslavia by encouraging the secessionist movements, a policy that ran against the grain of international stability and diplomacy.  In March 1991, the European Parliament adopted a resolution stating that Yugoslavian provinces/republics “must have the right freely to determine their own future in a peaceful and democratic manner and on the basis of recognized international and internal borders.”[346]  The resolution opened the door to multiple secessions, effectively dissolving the country.  Slovenia and Croatia were the first to declare independence on June 25, 1991; Macedonia followed in September 1991, and Bosnia in March 1992.  The remaining two provinces of Serbia and Montenegro formed the redrawn Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in April 1992.
The European policy of supporting separatist movements appeared motivated by antipathy toward the communist state of Yugoslavia and a desire to foster pro-Western states out of it.  Once independence was recognized, any effort by Yugoslavia to prevent secession was viewed as aggression against another state.  An editorial in the London Independent on July 4, 1991, one week after war broke out in Slovenia and Croatia, stated:  “It is intolerable that, 18 months after the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, two republics with democratically elected governments should be crushed by a communist-led army,” referring to the Yugoslav National Army (JNA).[347]
U.S. officials were likewise eager to see communist governments fall, but they initially regarded Yugoslavia as a European problem.  During the Cold War, Washington had welcomed the independent communist state of Yugoslavia as a counterweight to the Soviet Union.  With the demise of the “Soviet threat,” Yugoslavia not only lost its geopolitical value in Washington, but U.S. officials were intent on turning communist states into capitalist ones, as in Russia.[348]

Heavy smoke over Zagreb, Croatia, after the first air attack by the Yugoslav Federal army (JNA). Tudjman’s presidential palace was damaged, July 10, 1991. [Hrvoje Knez / AP]

The Yugoslav government only briefly resisted Slovenia’s departure, but it fought with determination to keep Croatia within the federation, owing to the fact that Croatia had a large population of ethnic Serbs.  The fighting in Croatia quickly turned into an ethnic war between Croat and Serb militias, with the JNA backing the Serbs.  Both sides committed atrocities against civilians, but those of the Serbs caught the attention of the Western press, especially the bombardment of the historic city of Dubrovnik.  As for the Croats, one official from Helsinki Watch wrote in 1993:  “Since 1991, the Croatian authorities have blown up or razed 10,000 houses, mostly of Serbs, but also houses of Croats [presumably those opposed to secession or too friendly with the Serbs] …. In some cases, they dynamited homes with the families inside.  Whole families were killed.”[349]

Croatian President Franjo Tuđjman (left) and Serbian President Slobodan Milošević sign a ceasefire agreement in Geneva, Nov. 23, 1991 [YU historija]

The UN Security Council sought to tamp down the violence by prohibiting arms transfers to all belligerents and imposing economic sanctions on Yugoslavia as punishment for JNA’s role in the war.  UN Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar also launched a mediation effort headed by former U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance that resulted in a ceasefire agreement on November 23, 1991, signed by Serbian President Slobodan Milošević, Croatian President Franjo Tuđjman, and Yugoslav defense minister General Veljko Kadijević.  The agreement called for a 10,000-strong United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) to separate the combatants, oversee the withdrawal of JNA forces from Croatia, establish three demilitarized safe zones (UN Protected Areas), and prepare for the return of some 600,000 refugees.[350]  The JNA withdrew but left much of its equipment with local Serb militias.  The ceasefire remained in place for about a year before war broke out again in Croatia.

The U.S. remained largely on the sidelines in the region until Bosnia declared independence in March 1992.  The following month, the U.S. joined the European Union in recognizing Bosnia along with Slovenia and Croatia.  All three republics were admitted to the UN in May.  European powers attempted to head off war in Bosnia by offering what became known as the Lisbon plan:  Bosnia would be divided into three semi-autonomous regions, with the total land area divided as follows:  Bosniak Muslims, 45 percent; Serbs, 42.5 percent; and Croats, 12.5 percent.  On March 17, 1992, all three groups agreed to the plan.  However, only one week later, the Bosnian (Muslim) government led by President Alija Izetbegović backed out, apparently believing that that Europeans and Americans would back him in any war with Serbia.  The Croats followed.  According to European Union diplomat David Owen, the U.S. offered absolutely no support for the peace plan.[351]  Owen later wrote of U.S. policy:

Two US administrations [H. W. Bush and Clinton] neither pressurized nor even cajoled the parties to accept, let alone threaten to impose, any one of the four successive peace proposals:  the Carrington-Cutileiro plan of March 1992, the VOPP [Vance-Owen Peace Plan] of May 1993, the EU [European Union] plan in December 1993, and the Contact Group plan in July 1994.[352]

Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović [Wiki Commons]

The U.S. seemed conflicted.  On the one hand, the Pentagon under General Colin Powell steadfastly opposed U.S. military involvement; at least, it wanted no repeat of Somalia.  On the other hand, White House officials viewed the Socialist Republic of Serbia and its president, Slobodan Milošević, a long-time communist, as the main instigators of ethnic conflict in the region.  Some U.S. officials such as Secretary of State James Baker spoke of negotiations with Serbia as “appeasement.”  Washington also maintained friendly relations with Bosnian president Izetbegović despite the fact that he had written a manifesto for “Islamic renewal” in 1966, exalting Pakistan as model Islamic state and declaring, “There can be no peace or coexistence between the Islamic faith and non-Islamic social and political institutions…. the state should be an expression of religion and should support its moral concepts.”  The Yugoslav government sent him to prison for five years (1983-1988) for spreading “hostile propaganda.”  To many U.S. officials, this was a kind of badge of honor despite their antipathy toward Islamic radicalism.[353]
The Yugoslav army (JNA), meanwhile, underwent a significant transition over the course of 1991 and early 1992.  Serb officers gained ascendency and Serb nationalism replaced the multiethnic character of the army.  In the new Federated Republic of Yugoslavia, the JNA committed itself to the protection of Serbs in both current and former Yugoslavian republics and provinces.  The JNA furthermore supported the secession of Krajina, a Serb-dominated region within Croatia, and the secession of Republika Srpska, a Serb-dominated region within Bosnia, neither of which the European Community recognized.

With the Vance-Owen peace plan shelved, war broke out in Bosnia in April 1992.  The JNA-backed Serbs were initially the stronger force.  According to Gibbs:

As war began, Serb forces launched a major offensive in northeast Bosnia, taking over a series of villages of mixed ethnicity, and then expelling most non-Serb inhabitants by force.  By the end of 1992, Serb forces had overrun large portions of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and they controlled approximately 70 percent of the whole area of the country.  The process of ethnic cleansing for which the war became famous, had begun.[354]

In the divided city of Sarajevo, according to a Human Rights Watch report, “Serbian forces, supported by the Yugoslav People’s Army at the start of the war, ruthlessly ‘cleansed’ the districts that came under their control . . . They used various forms of terror including rape, torture and the detention of many who were beaten and sent to work at the front lines under dangerous conditions.” At the same time, the report continued, “Abuses also occurred in the sector of the city that is under the control of the Bosnian government where some non-Muslims at the beginning of the war were harassed and abused by government-tolerated gangs.”[355]

American news reports of the war in Bosnia highlighted Serbian atrocities.  On July 21, 1992, for example, Newsday published an article by journalist Roy Gutman that compared the Serbian expulsion of Bosniak Muslims to the Nazi German deportation of European Jews to Auschwitz.  A week later, U.S. News and World Report heightened the historical analogy by describing “locked trains … once again carrying human cargoes across Europe,” and charging that “the West’s response to this new holocaust has been as timid as its reactions to the beginnings of Hitler’s genocide.”  Picking up on this theme, on August 5, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton challenged the Bush administration’s hands-off policy, saying, “We may have to use military force.  I would begin with air power against the Serbs to try to restore the basic conditions of humanity.”[356]

General Ratko Mladić, June 1993 [Wiki Commons]

In terms of actual history, however, it was Croatia rather than Serbia that was linked to Nazi Germany.  During the Second World War, a Croatian fascist movement called Ustaša worked with Nazi occupiers to carry out murderous assaults on Serbs, Jews, Roma, and other ethnic groups it deemed undesirable.  This was not forgotten by Serbs across Yugoslavia.  Ratko Mladić, military commander of the Army of Republika Srpska, was two years old when his father was killed by fascist Croats associated with Ustaša.[357]  It is important to clarify here that, whereas Nazi ethnic cleansing was aimed at annihilating whole populations, the belligerent parties in Bosnia sought to expel other ethnic groups from particular regions, often using terrorism (including murder and rape) as a means to this end.[358]
The Bush administration, in any case, rejected the misleading Nazi parallel.  On the same day that Clinton suggested using force, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher reported that Red Cross officials had visited nine refugee centers in Bosnia and found no evidence of death camps, notwithstanding “very difficult conditions of detention.”[359]
In April 1993, with Clinton in the White House, NATO began enforcing a UN ban on military flights over Bosnia airspace, thus bringing the U.S. to the edge of war.  In June, the UN Security Council expanded UN Protected Areas in Bosnia to include the cities of Sarajevo, Tuzla, Bihać, Goražde, Srebrenica, and Žepa.  Neither NATO nor the UN, however, kept enough troops on the ground to actually protect those cities.  Periodic Serbian mortar attacks on protected cities drew a response from UNPROFOR in the form of “pinprick” air strikes against Serbian artillery.  These strikes, in turn, led Serbian forces to take UN peacekeepers hostage; hence, the strikes were undertaken sparingly.[360]

Muslim soldiers drink Turkish coffee in Sarajevo, April 25, 1992 [Martin Nangle / AP]

What was not noted in the U.S. press was the fact that UN safe areas were being used by Bosnian government forces to prepare attacks on Serbian forces.  As Gibbs writes, “In practice, the policy of safe areas worked to the advantage of the Muslim militias and against their adversaries, especially the Serbs.  The UN soldiers were protecting not only Muslim civilians, but also Muslim soldiers, who were themselves free to launch attacks.  The situation obviously violated the concept of UN ‘impartiality,’ which is considered a central norm of peacekeeping.”[361]
Pressure continued to build in the U.S. for intervention.  In Congress, Republican Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole and Democratic Representative Frank McCloskey took the lead in calling for U.S. military action to halt “ethnic cleansing” by Serbian forces.  Within the State Department, a dissent letter was circulated and three foreign service officers resigned in protest over the administration’s failure to take action.  Yet it was not clear exactly what actions should be undertaken and against whom.  Secretary of State Warren Christopher testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on May 18, 1993, that atrocities were being committed “by all three of the major parties against each other.”[362]
Christopher was correct in this assessment.  According to a later study by the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, “Some of the most appalling acts in the Bosnian war took place in the battle between Croats and Muslims in Central Bosnia, such as the Croat mass slaughter of Muslims from Ahmci in [April] 1993, or the atrocities perpetrated by the [Muslim] forces against the Croatian inhabitants of the village of Uzdol, in the hills east of Gornji where people and cattle were set on fire by the [Croat] Bobovac brigade.”[363]
Former UNPROFOR commander, Canadian General Lewis MacKenzie, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on May 25, 1993, posed the problem as follows:  “Dealing with Bosnia is a little bit like dealing with three serial killers.  One has killed 15.  One has killed 10.  One has killed five.  Do we help the one that has only killed five?”[364]

Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and Croatian President Franjo Tudjman sign Croat-Muslim peace accord in Washington [Clinton Presidential Library]

On March 1, 1994, at the urging of the Clinton administration, Croat and Bosniak Muslim leaders signed a peace accord in Washington, opening the way for a combined effort to defeat the Serbs.  The U.S., NATO, UN Security Council, Bosnian government, and Croatia were now all aligned against Serbian forces.  In June, however, the Sarajevo government took aim at a Muslim enclave, sending its military forces to attack and take over the town of Velika Kladuša.  The town was part of an Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia established by Fikret Abdić in 1993.  Abdić had been part of Bosnia’s collective presidency before leaving the central government in response to Izetbegovic’s rejection of an internationally brokered peace agreement.  As governor of the Autonomous Province in the northwest corner of Bosnia, Abdić made peace with his Serb and Croat neighbors.  The Izetbegovic government in Sarajevo would not tolerate this neutrality.  Following the attack, which produced 40,000 Muslim refugees, Abdić was arrested and later convicted of “war crimes” against civilian Bosniaks loyal to the Sarajevo government.[365]
In early August, Croat militias began an intense four-day campaign against the Serbian-controlled region of Krajina within Croatia.  “Operation Storm was a major success,” writes Gibbs, and a “humanitarian disaster.”  The attack “forced from 150,000 to 200,000 Serbs to flee, producing what was probably the largest single act of ethnic expulsion of the entire war.  In addition, several hundred Serb civilians were killed.”  The Clinton administration surreptitiously backed the offensive by providing military training to Croatian armed forces through a private company, Military Professionals Resources, Inc.[366]
The administration also approved a secret arms pipeline to the Bosnian Muslim government through Croatia from Iran, breaking the UN arms embargo that the U.S. was pledged to uphold.[367]  Bosniak Muslim and Croat military units went on the offensive and regained lost territories in Bosnia.  Between offensives, some Bosniak units retreated to UN Protected Areas.  This led, in turn, to the defining massacre of the Bosnian War.

Ratko Mladic organises the expulsion of women and children on July 12, 1995, under the gaze of UN peacekeepers [The Guardian]

On July 11, 1995, Serb paramilitary units led by Ratco Mladić entered Srebrenica and forced Dutch peacekeepers to cede control of the city.  Over the next few days, after separating women from the men, Serbian units reportedly executed thousands of Muslim men.  “While the Bosnian war entailed numerous massacres and atrocities (with most of them committed by the Serbs),” writes Gibbs, “none approached the scale of Srebrenica, which was surely the largest mass killing in Europe since the 1940s.”[368]
The Srebrenica massacre was part of a cycle of revenge killing.  Thirty months earlier, on January 7, 1993, Bosnian Muslim commander Naser Oric had launched a surprise attack on Serbian communities in the area, killing civilians and burning villages.  Serb sources claimed that as many as 2,500 Serbs were killed during the assault.  Phillip Corwin, the UN chief political officer in Sarajevo in 1995, noted that “this particular defeat and atrocity was never forgotten by Serbian commanders.”[369]

A Bosnian soldier reads the names of soldiers who are confirmed survivors or escapees from Srebrenica, 1995 [UNICEF]

Riveting accounts in the press told by survivors of the Srebrenica massacre shocked the world and erased any doubt within the Clinton administration as to the necessity of military intervention.  On August 8, Madeleine Albright, U.S. ambassador to the UN, presented to the Security Council photos of the massacre and testimony of survivors, “compelling evidence that the Bosnian Serbs had systematically executed people who were defenseless,” and argued that this had been carried out “with the direct involvement of high-level Bosnia Serb officials.”  The U.S. took the lead in organizing a military response under Operation Deliberate Force – a three-week air assault.  The Clinton administration gained NATO’s backing but did not seek approval from the UN Security Council, fearing vetoes by Russia and China.  The military intervention, as such was illegal under international law.[370]
Attacking from the air seemed to balance the Pentagon’s contrary lessons from Somalia and Rwanda; the first being that the U.S. should avoid troops on the ground if at all possible; the second being that the U.S. should act.  The NATO air strike campaign began on August 30, 1995.  NATO aircraft flew 3,500 sorties, two-thirds of them by the U.S. Air Force, attacking Serbian military positions throughout Bosnia.  Seven other nations participated in the air war.  The air assaults not only targeted Serb air-defense systems, military units and equipment, ammunition dumps, and command posts, but also “civilian infrastructure” such as “electricity stations, bridges, etc.,” according to an Air Force study.  Bosnian Serbs charged that NATO bombs and missiles killed or wounded many civilians and struck water supplies and power plants.  The New York Times reported that staff members at a hospital in a Serbian-held suburb of Sarajevo told of ten people being killed and 22 wounded by a shell that hit just in front of the hospital.  An investigation conducted by the Red Cross shortly after the bombing reported 27 civilian deaths as probably caused by air attacks.[371]

Signing of the Dayton Accords by presidents Milošević, Tuđjman, and Izetbegović, Nov. 1, 1995 [Wiki Commons]

The U.S.-NATO air war did not so much win the war as enable Bosniak and Croat forces on the ground to defeat Serb units.  On November 1, 1995, a peace conference was convened in Dayton, Ohio, attended by Serbian President Milošević, Croatian President Tuđjman, Bosnian President Izetbegović, and representatives from the U.S., Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the European Union, and the UN.  The peace agreement that emerged on December 14 established within Bosnia two governing entities, one Serb, the other a Bosniak-Croat federation, with land divided 49-51 percent between them, respectively – roughly the same division proposed more than two years earlier by international negotiators.  A NATO Implementation Force consisting of 60,000 military personnel, one-third of them American, monitored the peace agreement for the next nine years, after which peacekeeping operations were turned over to a small European Union force.[372]
The three-and-a-half-year war took a heavy toll in Bosnia.  “Out of the pre-war population of 4.37 million,” noted the Washington Post, “about 110,000 former Yugoslavs were killed and another 2.2 million driven from their homes, often explicitly in the name of ‘ethnic cleansing.’”[373]  The peace agreement did not end ethnic animosity.  In its aftermath, some 100,000 Serbs in Bosniak-Croat regions fled to areas under Serbian control.  In Washington, however, a proud feeling emerged that forceful U.S. and NATO action had ended the war on positive terms, in contrast to the plodding and unsuccessful efforts of the UN to protect civilians.  Washington officials were also pleased to have found a new mission for NATO, as European leaders had begun to talk of creating a separate European military force.

Gen. Charles G. Boyd, USAF

There were dissenting voices, however.  Perhaps the most notable was General Charles Boyd, Air Force deputy commander-in-chief of the U.S. European Command.  Writing in Foreign Affairs just after retiring on August 1, 1995, Boyd assailed the Bosnian government’s strategy of leaving its own civilians defenseless in order to gain public sympathy and prod NATO into action on its side.  “In the winter of 1993-94,” he notes, “the Sarajevo government stripped the capital’s defenses to release troops to fight against the Croats in central Bosnia, counting on their public diplomacy efforts to manage the risk to Sarajevo…. This spring and summer [1995] the Muslims excoriated the United Nations for failing to protect Sarajevo, or as one U.N. official privately put it, for failing to do their fighting for them.”  Boyd faulted U.S. policymakers for aiding a Bosnian Muslim victory rather than seeking peace.  “The United States says that its objective is to end the war through a negotiated settlement, but in reality what it wants is to influence the outcome in favor of the Muslims.”  He concludes:

At the end of the day the United States must face the reality that it cannot produce an enduring solution with military force – air or ground – only one that will last until it departs.  There is an alternative: proceed from the premise that all factions to the conflict have legitimate needs, not just Muslims and Croats.  Leverage Belgrade [Serbian government] and Zagreb [Croatian government] equally to stop the flow of arms to Bosnia.  Denounce the use of military force with equal indignation toward all perpetrators.  Pressure the Bosnians to negotiate in good faith or risk true abandonment.  Enlist the Russians both to represent and dampen Serb demands.  Enforce a ceasefire impartially.[374]

Lieutenant Colonel John E. Sray, a U.S. Army military Intelligence officer who served as Chief of Intelligence for the UN command in Bosnia for six months, probed another aspect of the war in his study, “Selling the Bosnian Myth to America: Buyer Beware” (U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office, October 1995).  He writes, “Popular perceptions pertaining to the Bosnian Muslim government . . . have been forged by a prolific propaganda machine.  A strange combination of three major spin doctors, including public relations (PR) firms in the employ of the Bosniacs, media pundits, and sympathetic elements of the U.S. State Department, have managed to manipulate illusions to further Muslim goals.”  One of the PR firms, Hill & Knowlton, notes Sray, “managed the highly successful Kuwaiti public relations offensive prior to Desert Storm.  Its achievements included convincing the American public of the perverse fabrication that Iraqi troops had ejected Kuwaiti babies from incubators.”  Sray continues:

The successful efforts of these firms resulted in the portrayal of unilateral Serbian atrocities in such a way that future moral judgments were seriously corrupted. . . . Bosniac ethnic cleansing was ignored. . . . Bosniac military offensives (more frequent than Bosnian Serb Army attacks) went deliberately unreported. . . .

America need not succumb to the false messages which the Bosniacs are selling.  Our society must retain its perspective on all the warring factions and learn to recognize the tools of propaganda.  When this conflict began, cosmopolitan Sarajevan Muslims realized the importance of both perception management and the need to disseminate their message to the world.  This awareness, coupled with the expertise of their PR firms, resulted in a highly successful psychological operations campaign.  Meanwhile, the more rustic Serbs proved no match for this competition.  They relied on their Bolshevik slogans, recited them by rote, and were promptly dismissed by the international press.  While the U.S. and its allies must continue to pursue war criminals, no one should not condemn an entire nationality for their lack of erudition and finesse. . . .

All the groups in this country have been victims, and they all deserve our sympathy and best humanitarian efforts. Military support for any warring faction, however, remains another matter.  Such benefits should be withheld until all sides abandon their greed for more land, tire of killing each other, and permit the implementation of a just and lasting peace.[375]

The views of Boyd and Sray appear to align with those of the International War Resisters League and the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.  An open letter concerning the situation in the Balkans by the two pacifist groups issued on June 29, 1992, stated, “Any use of military force – no matter how limited it is intended to be – introduces a different logic, a military logic offering a rationale for further, less limited use of additional military force.”[376]


Kosovo was an autonomous province within Serbia in 1998-99, becoming independent in 2008

The collapse of Yugoslavia was not yet complete.  The province of Kosovo within the Republic of Serbia had been pushing for independence since 1991.  With a population 90 percent ethnic Albanian and 10 percent Serbian, Kosovo had been an Autonomous Province under Tito.  In 1989, Serbia rescinded that status and placed political control in the hands of the Serb minority.  Repressive measures ensued, including “mass dismissal of ethnic Albanians from professional, administrative, and other skilled positions in state-owned enterprises and public institutions,” and “the closure of Albanian-language mass media,” according to a UN General Assembly resolution in February 1994 that condemned the repression.[377]  Albanians organized the Democratic League of Kosovo, led by literary scholar Ibrahim Rugova, to peacefully protest these indignities as well as to build parallel governing structures.  Violent resistance began in the mid-1990s led by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA).

Intent on complete independence, the KLA waged a terrorist campaign against Serbian forces and civilians in Kosovo, prompting the U.S. State Department to identify the KLA as a terrorist group.  Indeed, U.S. Special Envoy to Kosovo Robert Gelbard publicly announced on February 23, 1998, that the KLA was “without any question a terrorist group.”  Secretary of State Madeleine Albright later disagreed with this designation but nonetheless noted in her memoirs that the KLA “seemed intent on provoking a massive Serb response so that international intervention would be unavoidable.”  According to David Gibbs, “That strategy – baiting the Serbs into attacking Albanian civilians, and thus increasing pressure for external intervention – worked quite well.  This is precisely the scenario that played out during 1998-1999, leading to NATO intervention and a KLA victory.”[378]

U.S. special envoy Richard Holbrooke meets with KLA guerrillas, shown here next to local spokesman Hajdin Abazi, June 24, 1998 [BBC]

On March 31, 1998, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution that condemned both Serbian and KLA military actions.  The resolution encouraged a political settlement and urged all UN member states to “prevent the sale or supply … of arms and related matériel of all types,” and “prevent arming and training for terrorist activities there.”[379]  Washington officials, however, were not neutral in this matter.  In June, President Clinton sent diplomat Richard Holbrooke, co-chair of the Dayton peace conference, to meet with KLA leaders, offering U.S. support if the KLA curbed its attacks on ethnic Serbs.  KLA leaders claimed that their sole enemy was the occupying Serbian army, not local Serbs.  In October, having secured a local ally, the Clinton administration sent Holbrooke to present an ultimatum to Serbian President Milošević:  either withdraw Serbian forces from Kosovo or suffer another NATO bombing campaign, not only in Kosovo but in Serbia as well.  An agreement was signed and Milošević subsequently withdrew most of his forces from Kosovo under international monitoring by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as required.  KLA leaders nonetheless denounced the Holbrooke agreement because it did not endorse Kosovo independence.  According to Gibbs:

Two problems emerged with the agreement.  First, the Kosovo Liberation Army used the Serb restraint as an opportunity to launch a new offensive.  A key limitation of the Holbrooke agreement was that it made explicit demands only on the Serbs, while the KLA guerrillas, who rejected the accord, met no demands at all.  This loophole worked to the advantage of the KLA.  And once again, the guerrillas engaged their long-standing practice of attacking isolated Serb outposts as a strategy of provocation…. In short, it was the KLA, not the Serbs, who were undermining the Holbrooke agreement.[380]

Kosovo Albanians cross the border into Albania in early 1999 [Joel Robine / AFP]

In the end, the KLA’s strategy to draw international support succeeded.  The KLA offensive “soon goaded Serb forces into launching a counteroffensive,” continues Gibbs.  “The effect was brutal, leading to several mass killings [by Serbian forces] in insurgent-controlled regions of Kosovo, and these atrocities, in turn, drove large numbers of Albanian civilians from their homes.”  Serbia’s visible intervention in Kosovo led NATO to issue an “activation order” on October 12, 1998, authorizing preparations for a bombing campaign.  The U.S. also began aiding the KLA by providing training, field advice, and arms, ignoring UN stipulations to the contrary. “Any pretense that the United States was an evenhanded mediator now disappeared,” writes Gibbs.[381]
In early 1999, U.S. and NATO leaders offered Milošević a one-sided peace proposal known as the Rambouillet Agreement, named for the Château de Rambouillet in France where representatives met.  The agreement called for NATO troops to operate freely within Serbia, appropriating facilities as needed to ensure that Serbia would not mobilize for war.  Such access represented an infringement of the country’s sovereignty and could not be seriously countenanced by Milošević.  Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger accurately described the Rambouillet Agreement as “a provocation” and “an excuse to start bombing.”[382]  Milošević’s expected rejection nonetheless allowed NATO leaders to claim that they had exhausted all diplomatic options and that war was a last resort.
The air war began on March 24, 1999, and ended on June 10.  It was undertaken without approval of the UN Security Council, making it illegal under international law once again.  Russia, with its historic ties to Serbia, was rankled.  (Russia had entered the First World War on behalf of the Serbians.)  Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov signaled his displeasure by cancelling his trip to Washington on March 24.  Three days later, the Russian Duma (legislature) condemned the NATO air attacks, though it took no action.[383]

The smoldering wreckage of a passenger train after being hit by two missiles launched from a NATO F-15, killing at least 20 commuters [Emil Vas / Reuters]

The 78-day NATO bombing campaign, Operation Allied Force, was directed by U.S. General Wesley Clark.  NATO aircraft from the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Spain carried out 27,000 sorties across Yugoslavia, of which more than 7,000 were attack raids.  Slightly more than half of the attacks (3,600) were carried out by U.S. warplanes.[384]  “NATO is encircling Yugoslavia and attacking from all directions,” declared Defense Secretary William Cohen at the outset of the air war.  Besides military targets, NATO warplanes bombed civilian-military infrastructure such as petroleum storage areas, electrical power plants, television and radio centers, roads, rail lines, and bridges.  On May 27, Rear Admiral Thomas R. Wilson, director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that Yugoslavia’s petroleum storage had been reduced by half; its broadcast capabilities – television and AM and FM radio – were down 35 percent; and its countrywide power generation had been reduced by 80 percent.[385]
According to John A. Tirpak, writing in Air Force Magazine, the NATO air war was designed not only to destroy Serbian military assets, but also to “diminish the will to resist of both Milošević and the Serb population,” a strategy that contravened international humanitarian law under the Geneva Conventions.  The bombing of civilian-military infrastructure “forced Milošević to choose between providing fuel and generators to his military or to vital civilian services such as hospitals and water supplies…. The destruction was widespread and produced the desired effect.”  Though NATO spokespersons insisted that avoiding civilian casualties was a top NATO priority, General Wesley instructed NATO pilots at the outset of the campaign to stay above 15,000 feet in order to minimize risk to themselves, which of course increased the likelihood of missing designated targets.  As press reports of civilian casualties rolled in during the month of May, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea declared, “There is always a cost to defeat an evil.  It never comes free, unfortunately.  But the cost of failure to defeat a great evil is far higher.”[386]

The Serbian Interior Ministry in Belgrade is set ablaze by a NATO cruise missile attack in 1999 [European Pressphoto Agency]

Human Rights Watch, in Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign (2000), documented some 500 civilian deaths in 90 separate incidents caused by NATO bombings in Serbia and Kosovo.[387]  Executive director Kenneth Roth criticized NATO for using anti-personnel cluster bombs and for deliberately bombing targets with little or no military significance, including the television station, Belgrade’s heating plant, bridges, some factories and other infrastructure.  Amnesty International, based on its investigations, accused NATO of violating international law by striking targets where civilians were sure to be killed.
Amnesty’s report on the war in June 2000 created a public stir, as it was released only days after Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), reported that she had found no basis for charging NATO or its leaders with war crimes.  Although “some mistakes were made by NATO,” said del Ponte, “there was no deliberate targeting of civilians or unlawful military targets.”  Amnesty International countered with a detailed list of NATO attacks that caused civilian casualties.  In particular, the human rights group noted that the NATO bombing of Radio Television Serbia in Belgrade on April 23, 1999, “was a deliberate attack on a civilian object and as such constitutes a war crime.”[388]  The ICTY, an entity created by the UN Security Council in May 1993, simply avoided this line of inquiry.[389]

A man leads his daughter away from destroyed buildings after NATO air strikes hammered the center of Pristina, the Kosovo capital [Goran Tomasevik / Reuters]

The peace agreement approved on June 3, 1999, granted Kosovo autonomy but not independence, and included provisions for an international security force to keep the peace.  Notably, the agreement did not allow NATO forces to enter and occupy the Federated Republic of Yugoslavia, as had been proposed in the Rambouillet Agreement, which leads to the question of whether a reasonable proposal before the NATO bombing campaign began might have achieved peace.[390]

Washington policymakers regarded the NATO air war an overall success.[391]  The Milošević government had been forced to pull its forces out of Kosovo and the U.S. had been instrumental in arranging a peace agreement, in keeping with its assumed global leadership role.  According to General Clark, the purpose of the NATO air war was “to halt or disrupt a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing.”[392]  Yet the immediate effect of the NATO bombing was to exacerbate Serb attacks on Kosovo Albanians, resulting in a massive refugee crisis.  In the aftermath of the NATO victory, moreover, the KLA engaged in a reverse “ethnic cleansing” of Serbs.  According to David Gibbs:

The KLA used its newly privileged position to persecute the Serbs, as well as other minorities (notably the Roma) considered suspect by the Albanians.  The resulting atrocities were tracked by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe … By February 2000, between 400 and 700 Serbs were murdered, presumably by Albanian vigilantes.  These murders were effective in driving out most of the remaining Serbs…. All told, almost a quarter of a million people – including Serbs, Roma, and other disfavored groups – fled Kosovo during the period after the war ended.[393]

What might the international community have done differently to avoid the violence in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo?
What might the international community have done differently to avoid the violence in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo?  It is useful to consider different options possible:
  • At the outset, the European Community and the U.S. could have given first priority to preserving the multicultural ethic upheld by the Yugoslav government for 45 years, rather than hurriedly backing independence movements in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, come what may.
  • The U.S. and all outside powers could have remained neutral and not supplied arms to their favored parties, thereby encouraging those parties to negotiate rather than fight.
  • Western European nations and especially the U.S. could have offered more support for the peace plans put forth; and the UN could have taken the lead in mediation, carrying out its mandate to prevent war instead of deferring to NATO.  With NATO running the show, there was a clear bias toward military “solutions” over negotiations.  Indeed, NATO was primed for fighting a war against a nation-state (Serbia) but poorly prepared for diffusing violence between three locally-based militias.[394]
  • With a clearer understanding of the roots of ethnic rivalries in the region, the international community could have initiated mediation and conflict resolution meetings at the local level, bringing people together to talk in a structured environment with the help of conflict resolution experts.  If coupled with practical negotiations over land disputes and perhaps economic incentives for successful agreements, such meetings on a massive scale might have produced positive results; and even if they failed in the immediate, they would have pointed the way to a lasting solution.  If the money spent on the war in Kosovo, estimated at $3 billion, were spent on conflict resolution rewards, every man, woman, and child in Kosovo – some two million people – could have received $1,500 in compensation for getting along with their neighbors.[395]
  • Had all of the above failed to prevent fighting, UN peacekeeping could have been strengthened.  This includes not only providing “safe areas” with adequate military protection, but also preventing militias from using these areas for attacks.  The UN secretary-general originally requested 34,000 troops to protect six “safe areas,” but the UN authorized only 7,600 and provided 5,000.[396]
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
Although the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia refrained from investigating NATO bombings, it did investigate atrocities committed by all ethnic militias in the Bosnia and Kosovo wars.  The ICTY brought charges against persons from every ethnic background, securing convictions of Serbs, Croats, Bosniaks, and Kosovo Albanians.  In May 1999, Serbian President Slobodan Milošević and his senior staff were indicted for war crimes.  Milošević died in 2006 while still on trial.  Six of his staff were convicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić.  In 2003, the Tribunal indicted three former KLA officials, Fatmir Limaj, Haradin Bala, and Isak Musliu, accused of imprisoning, torturing and murdering Serbian and Albanian civilians.  Seventeen years later, in June 2020, a special international court in the Netherlands indicted the the president of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, on ten counts of war crimes.  Prosecutors accused him of being “criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders” while serving as a guerrilla leader in the Kosovo-Serbian war.[397]

Radovan Karadžić, convicted of genocide at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [ICTY]

Serbian leader Radovan Karadžić, the president of Republika Srpska during the Bosnian War, managed to evade capture until 2008, having changed his name and disguised himself as a practitioner of alternative medicine.  In 2016, at the end of a very lengthy ICTY trial, he was found guilty of genocide in Srebrenica and sentenced to 40 years in prison, though he was 70 years old at the time.[398]  One interesting feature of his trial, noted on page 1,303 of the 2,590-page ruling, was that the judges were “not satisfied that there was sufficient evidence presented in this case to find that Slobodan Milošević agreed with the common plan” of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia.  In a footnote on the page, the judges added that, although Milošević had “provided assistance in the form of personnel, provisions, and arms to the Bosnian Serbs during the conflict,… there was apparent discord between the Accused and Milošević in meetings with international representatives, during which Milošević and other Serbian leaders openly criticised Bosnian Serb leaders of committing ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’ and the war for their own purposes.”[399]

While this footnote hardly exonerates Milošević, it does indicate that the U.S. campaign to demonize the Serbian leader as the evil villain behind ethnic cleansing was fashioned out of a stereotypical Hitler image.  This demonic image skewed both the debate over intervention and the memory of it.  Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware and future president, for example, let it be known in a speech on December 13, 1995, that the U.S. intervened in Bosnia in order to prevent another Holocaust:

How many in this Chamber, like me, have gone to the Holocaust memorial events and heard the refrain, ‘Never again.’  Never again?  On the same continent, in the same proximity, the same death camps – it is happening again…. This time it was not Jews.  It was primarily Muslims…. I am here to take sides.  Karadžić, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, is war criminal.  He is no better than [Heinrich] Himmler.  He is no better than [Joseph] Goebbels…. Milošević is also a war criminal…. What is the message we send to the world if we stand by and we say we will let it continue to happen here in this place but it is not in our interest?”[400]

This ready-made historical analogy to Nazi Germany served to obscure the complex nature of ethnic rivalries in the former Yugoslavia.  The Serbs were identified as the only villain; negotiations were dismissed as “appeasement”; and forceful military action was deemed the best way to derail the “ethnic cleansing,” albeit of one party.  A more accurate and realistic analysis would arguably have encouraged more effort in the direction of peace negotiations and compromise.[401]

*           *           *

Operation Provide Comfort and other missions in Iraq, 1991-2003

On March 1, 1991, in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, ethnic Kurds in northern Iraq and Shiite Muslims in the south rose up against Saddam Hussein.  Though the first Bush administration had encouraged these uprisings, it offered no material support.  Saddam’s subsequent repression resulted in more than one million Kurds abandoning their homes and fleeing to the mountains.  Thousands died from lack of food, water, shelter, and health care.  On April 3, the UN Security Council authorized relief aid for the Kurds.  Thereafter, the U.S. organized Operation Provide Comfort, air dropping supplies to Kurdish camps and dispatching some 12,000 troops to help set up relief camps, distribute supplies, and patrol the northern region.  They were joined by 11,000 troops from twelve other countries.  The U.S. troops stayed until July, after which a modicum of protection was provided by airpower.

No fly zones imposed on Iraq by the U.S. and Britain

This brief humanitarian relief effort was overshadowed by U.S. and NATO military actions to “contain” Saddam.  The U.S. along with Britain and France engaged in a low-intensity air war in Iraq.  The three powers established two no-fly-zones, one north of the 36th parallel (Northern Watch) in April 1991, and the other south of the 32nd parallel (Southern Watch) a year later.  These no-fly zones were instituted without UN approval, although the great powers claimed to be enforcing UN Security Council Resolution 688, adopted in 1991, which demanded that Iraq cease its “repression of the Iraqi civilian population.”  Coalition warplanes attacked Iraqi air defenses, communication and control centers, and an occasional Iraqi MIG-25 that flew into a no-fly zone.  On June 27, 1993, the U.S. launched 23 Tomahawk cruise missiles into downtown Baghdad, destroying what was believed to be the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service.  President Clinton claimed that there was “compelling evidence” of “a plot to assassinate former President Bush.  And that this plot, which included the use of a powerful bomb made in Iraq, was directed and pursued by the Iraqi intelligence service.”[402]

The humanitarian impulse was more thoroughly dissolved by the UN Security Council’s economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, which were repeatedly extended.  Originally imposed when Iraqi troops had invaded Kuwait, the sanctions were continued ostensibly to pressure Saddam to eliminate Iraq’s chemical weapons and any other weapons of mass destruction.  This required Iraq to open itself to international inspectors, which Saddam was reluctant to do.  The economic sanctions restricted Iraqi oil sales and therefore Iraq’s ability to import food and other necessities, creating a long-running humanitarian crisis.  UNICEF recorded a rapid rise in the number of children under five-years-old dying.  According to UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy, had the child mortality rate in Iraq continued to substantially drop as it had during the 1980s, “there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children in the country as a whole during the eight-year period 1991-’98.”[403]

CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl (left) interviews former U.S. secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright, May 1996 [Daily Beast news]

As the results of the economic sanctions became evident, Russia, France, and other states began to call for their removal or modification.  The U.S. and Britain, however, used their veto power to keep the sanctions in force.  In May 1996, the television news show, 60 Minutes, aired an interview with Madeleine Albright, ambassador to the UN at the time.  Correspondent Leslie Stahl said to Albright, “We have heard that a half-million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died in Hiroshima. And – and, you know, is the price worth it?”  Albright replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.”  Albright later publicly disowned her statement, telling journalist Amy Goodman in 2004, “I have said 5,000 times that I regret it.  It was a stupid statement.  I never should have made it.”  Nevertheless, three years after she made her “stupid statement,” she continued to support the sanctions, suggesting that if they were removed, Saddam would use the money “for palaces and poison gas.”[404]  In late 1997, the U.S. and Britain permitted a limited Oil-for-Food Program, allowing some Iraqi sales of oil to relieve food shortages.  The program lessened the crisis but did not end it.
For a number of foreign policy hawks known as neo-conservatives, or “neo-cons,” the economic sanctions were not enough.  Led by former defense officials Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowtiz, Donald Rumsfeld, and Richard Perle, the neo-cons pushed for regime change in Iraq and for American military hegemony in general.  In 1997, they founded the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), an elite advocacy group.  In a letter to President Clinton on January 26, 1998, PNAC members implored the president to support the removal of Saddam from power.  The letter maintained that “containment” had failed to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction and that the resumption of full weapons inspections would be futile.  “In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power,” they wrote.[405]

A Tomahawk cruise missile is fired from a U.S. Navy destroyer, Dec. 19, 1998, during a four-day assault on Iraq [Wiki Commons]

At the behest of PNAC, Congress approved the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 by a vote of 360-38 in the House and a unanimous voice vote in the Senate.  The act stated, “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”[406]  Though the time was not ripe for undertaking this regime-change mission, the U.S. and Britain did initiate a four-day bombing campaign in December 1998, code-named Operation Desert Fox, ostensibly because of Iraq’s failure to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and its interference with UN weapons inspectors.
With the election of George W. Bush as president in November 2000, the neo-cons took charge of U.S. foreign policy.  Following the 9-11-2001 terrorist attack on the United States, they deemed the time ripe for ousting Saddam.  Through rhetorical sleight-of-hand, they transformed non-state actors responsible for the terrorist attack (mainly from Saudi Arabia) into state enemies suitable for military invasions (Afghanistan and Iraq).[407]  The U.S. and its partners – the “coalition of the willing” – subsequently invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein, notwithstanding the fact that Saddam had nothing to do with the terrorist attack and had no weapons of mass destruction.  The invasion was nonetheless carried out under the aegis of a new War on Terror, an overarching rationale comparable to the former War on Communism.  Humanitarian rationales were integrated into this theme, such that Saddam was overthrown not only to save civilization but also to bring democracy to the Middle East.
*          *          *
All in all, U.S. and UN missions in Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Iraq distorted the Responsibility to Protect principle – in four ways.
All in all, U.S. and UN missions in Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and Iraq were rather distorted manifestations of the Responsibility to Protect principle.  Four reasons may be cited:  great power interests; a propensity toward war over diplomacy; UN manipulation; and lack of clear definition of the principle itself.

Great power geopolitical interests were evident in U.S. and British support for the Rwandan Patriotic Front, in taking sides in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, and in seeking to oust Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, all of which favored war over nonviolent conflict resolution.  The UN, to its discredit, turned from its initial humanitarian mission in Somalia to embrace an unrealistic and unsuccessful military undertaking.  On the other side of the coin, the UN was inhibited from protecting civilians in Rwanda and sidelined by the U.S. and NATO in Bosnia and Kosovo.  For the Responsibility to Protect principle to be valid, it must be carried out by the proper international agency under established international law, lest the great powers define and carry out “humanitarian interventions” as they see fit. Hans Köchler, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, writes of the implications for international order and collective security:

After the collapse of the bipolar balance of power at the beginning of the 1990s, the intervention of NATO had not only a destabilizing impact on international order, but it effectively undermined the United Nations Organization in the exercise of its mandate of collective security.  This unilateral use of force – not challenged, or reigned in, by the international community – was followed by a series of similar actions by the United States and her allies, as in the case of the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 or the intervention in the Syrian civil war in the years after 2011.[408]

Finally, the principle of Responsibility to Protect was misapplied in Haiti.  A clear distinction must be made between “crimes against humanity” and the panoply of lesser abuses that beset the world, including the denial of political, social, and economic rights (outlined in the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent human rights treaties).  Should the denial of democracy become cause for international military interventions, a Pandora’s Box of wars and woes would be unleashed.  The struggle for human rights requires continuing work on many levels to establish collective norms, international treaties and courts, national policies and laws, and educational programs and activities designed to raise social and moral consciousness.

*          *          *          *           *

V. The failed American crusade to remake Russia in the 1990s

For over one hundred years prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union, U.S. leaders dreamed of importing capitalism into Russia and remaking the supposedly backwards and barbarous country in the American image.  In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the invasion of Russia in an attempt to unseat the Bolshevik regime.  During the Cold War, the U.S. sought to isolate the Soviet Union and undermine its system.  With the fall of the Soviet government in 1991, a new opportunity arose to remake Russian society.  An army of Americans descended on the country to tutor Russian politicians about electoral strategy, develop business education programs, teach English, and, most of all, privatize the economy.[409]

The Fall of the U.S.S.R. and American Policy Towards Russia

During the late 1980s, many Russians wanted greater political freedom and an end to the privileges accrued by the Communist Party Nomenklatura (elite), but they did not necessarily want to abandon socialism or dissolve the U.S.S.R.  Only 50,000-60,000 people are estimated to have demonstrated in support of the alleged anti-communist revolution, a tiny fraction of the Russian population.[410]  Fritz Ermath, a veteran CIA agent and former Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, wrote that “the Soviet system collapsed because a large portion of the nomenklatura, those with hands directly on state property, deserted the CPSU [Communist Party] and the Soviet state to pursue business interests and nationalist political agendas.”[411]  This describes a revolution from above and not below.[412]  Russian President Vladimir Putin (2000-present) reflected a popular view when he stated that the collapse of the Soviet Union was the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century” and “unnecessary.  We could have introduced reforms, including those of a more democratic nature, without allowing this.”[413]

Time, Aug. 1991, hails Boris Yeltsin as the hero of a democratic Russian revolution

Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the post-Soviet Russian Federation, supported Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic liberalization (perestroika), though he said that the reforms did not go far enough.  In 1987, Yeltsin was the first to resign from the Communist Party’s governing Politburo, establishing his popularity as an anti-establishment figure.[414]  This reputation was cemented when he helped rally public opposition to a coup attempt led by the head of the KGB, Vladimir Kryuchkov, and Vice President Gennady Yanyayev, against Gorbachev in August 1991.  Yeltsin made a memorable speech on the turret of a tank, which many Russians today believe was staged.  Gorbachev subsequently gave up without a fight and the Soviet Union was dissolved.[415]

The U.S. intelligence community considered Yeltsin to be the “Russian democratic alternative to the imperial authoritarianism of the traditionalists.”[416]  The Bush administration supplied him with portable telephone equipment which he used to make secure calls to military commanders, urging them not to back the KGB putsch.  President George H. W. Bush furthermore ordered the National Security Agency (NSA) to make available to Yeltsin real-time reports on the coup plotters.[417]
The Bush I administration’s Russia policy was directed by future Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other neoconservatives who later promoted regime change in Iraq (Dick Cheney, Richard Armitage, Stephen Hadley, Richard Perle, Dov Zakheim, Robert Zoellick and Paul Wolfowitz).[418]  Non-governmental organizations funded by Congress such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) provided financial assistance to Russian anticommunist leaders as well as to supposedly pro-democracy movements in the Baltics, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia.[419]
During the 1992 U.S. presidential election campaign, Bill Clinton criticized Bush for being “overly cautious on the issue of aid to Russia.”  As president, Clinton provided an estimated $2.58 billion to Russia during his eight years in office, encouraging American businesses to invest.  Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott specified that the aid was “an investment in revolution, an attempt to help Russia complete the destruction of one system and the building, virtually de novo, of a new one.”  In 1997, Vice-President Al Gore boasted that American companies accounted for a third of all foreign investment in Russia.[420]
Clinton’s approach to Russia was influenced by an unlikely source:  disgraced former President Richard M. Nixon.  Nixon considered Boris Yeltsin “the most pro-Western leader of Russia in history” and a “courageous figure who risked his life to face down a gang of card-carrying killers in a Stalinist coup attempt.”  Yeltsin “may be a drunk,” Nixon told Strobe Talbott, Clinton’s deputy secretary of state, but he was “the best we’re likely to get in the screwed up country over there.”  In a leaked March 1992 memo entitled “How to Lose the Cold War,” Nixon warned that losing Russia in the 1990s would be “infinitely more devastating” than losing China in the 1940s.[421]

Privatization:  Harvard boys do Russia

In the late summer and fall of 1991, as the Soviet state fell apart, Jeffrey Sachs, a former adviser to the Polish Solidarity movement, participated in meetings at a dacha outside Moscow with young, pro-Yeltsin reformers in which they planned Russia’s political and economic future.  A prodigy who gained tenure at Harvard before his 30th birthday, Sachs teamed up with Deputy Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, grandson of one of the folk heroes of the Bolshevik revolution, to promote a plan of “shock therapy.”  The aim was to swiftly eliminate most of the price controls and subsidies that had underpinned life for Soviet citizens for decades.  Six years earlier, Sachs had developed a similar plan for Bolivia with the goal of cutting hyperinflation.  The adoption of harsh economic austerity measures triggered large scale protests that were suppressed through violence.[422]

Privatization czar Anatoly Chubais [Wiki Commons]

Gaidar’s successor, Anatoly Chubais, a 38-year old economist, became the main Russian architect of the privatization program under President Yeltsin as finance minister and first deputy prime minister.  The son of a Red Army tank commander, Chubais fell under the sway of free-market libertarians such as Friedrich Von Hayek while involved with the anti-Soviet underground in the 1970s and 1980s.  Jeffrey Sachs called him a “freedom fighter,” though by the late 1990s he became the most “hated man in Russia,” surviving four assassination attempts following the 1998 economic crash.[423]  The New York Times queried, “How did the former St. Petersburg academic and squeaky-clean Government official, a man who in the West has been admired as a kind of Eliot Ness of free-market reform, end up tarnished with the same kind of conflict-of-interest problems that he so openly deplored all across the Government?”  Chubais placed the blame on “powerful bankers and businessmen” for widespread corruption.  His critics, however, described Chubais as “a reverse Bolshevik, a free market ideology for whom the ends justify the means.”  Chubais’ behavior, in any case, was more like that of Al Capone, the infamous gangster whom Ness arrested for tax evasion during the Prohibition Era.[424]
The U.S. Congress funded Russian privatization initiatives through the “Freedom for Russia and the Emerging Eurasian Democracies and Open-Market Support Act,” signed by President George H. W. Bush in October 1992.  The act authorized up to $350 million in aid to be provided and managed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which already had an advance team working informally in Russia at the government’s invitation.  The official purpose of the aid was to “establish the rule of law, adopt commercial codes, and replace the Soviet regulatory system with regulations hospitable to domestic and foreign investment.”[425]
In the heady early post-Soviet days, Anatoly Chubais worked directly with the Harvard Institute for International Development to implement large-scale privatization initiatives and construct a new market economy.
The rule of law was notably absent in many of Chubais’ dealings.  In 1996, Chubais had over $300,000 in unaccountable income.  One of his close associates was caught with a box containing $500,000 in cash that was intended as a bribe for Boris Yeltsin.[426]  Chubais granted ownership over newly privatized companies to banks who gave loans to his foundation.  He organized insider auctions of prime national properties, known as loans for shares, in which the Harvard Management Company (HMC), which invests the university’s endowment, and billionaire speculator George Soros were the main participants.  HMC and Soros in turn became significant shareholders in Novolipetsk Steel, Russia’s second largest steel mill, and Sidanko Oil, whose reserves exceeded those of Mobil (later merged with Exxon).[427]
In the heady early post-Soviet days, Chubais worked directly with the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) to implement large-scale privatization initiatives, which were designed to construct a new market economy.[428]  HIID was a 30-year-old entity based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that concentrated on assisting nations that were changing from government-run to market-driven economic systems.[429]  Sachs directed the agency from 1995 to 1999.  HIID’s Russia Project was funded by a $57 million USAID grant.  It was housed in Russia at one of Moscow’s fanciest addresses with a marble lobby and twenty-four-hour security.  Lawrence Summers, Deputy Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton who helped oversee foreign aid programs, regarded Chubais and the “Harvard Boys” as an “economic dream team.”[430]
The Harvard Boys did not just advise the Yeltsin government; they also wrote numerous laws and regulations.  Overzealous in their promotion of free-market ideals and blind to the wishes of the local people – much like the “best and the brightest” from a generation earlier who had orchestrated America’s war in Vietnam – they helped steer the Russian economy into collapse in 1998.[431]  Economist Marshall I. Goldman, who for a time worked with HIID, wrote that the problems associated with Margaret Thatcher’s privatization of state-owned business in England, on a much smaller scale, should have raised some red flags.  Goldman concluded in his 2003 book Privatizing Russia that the “shock therapy” program in Russia “created structural deformities in the economy that [would] not be easy to remedy.  He [Chubais along with his Harvard mentors] chose to overlook… that there was no market or competitive infrastructure in place to absorb and temper these newly privatized monopolies.  Nor were there essential controls such as audited accounting procedures and accountability to stockholders and boards of directors… Privatization even under the best of circumstances is a complicated and complex affair.”[432]  Andrei Volgin, a Russian stock market pioneer, perceptively noted, “it was a great arrogance that developed there.”[433]

Russian Gross Domestic Product (Purchasing Power Parity) under successive presidents, 1989-2016 [Source: University of Groningen / Wiki Commons]

The shock therapy policies caused a twenty-six-fold increase in prices and massive hyperinflation, which wiped out most Russians savings.  Venyamin Sokolov, the Russian government’s chief auditor under Yeltsin, told Mother Jones Magazine in June 1998 that “under the guise of establishing a market in Russia, the authorities have created an economic monstrosity that has nothing to do with a market system.”  He went on to describe how, because of a lack of money, Russians were forced to resort to a barter system “similar to that which existed in primitive societies in which people exchanged stone axes for mammoth skins.”  The Yeltsin government was corrupt and immoral, with teachers and medical workers laid off owing to the embezzlement of government funds.  Russian workers, said Sokolov, had been “reduced to serfs like under the tsars.”[434]
Viktor Chernomyrdin, who served as Russia’s Prime Minister from 1992 to 1998, compared Chubais’ privatization program to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s collectivization program because the privatization decrees were enacted by fiat without popular or democratic consensus and sought a rapid economic transformation which most Russians opposed.[435]  Many of the decrees were written by Harvard law school graduate Jonathan Hay, an HIID consultant, and his associates.  With Chubais, they set up a network of USAID-funded “private” organizations that enabled them to bypass legitimate government agencies and circumvent the new parliament of the Russian Federation, the Duma.[436]
Hay in turn used his political influence and USAID resources to help his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Hebert set up a mutual fund called Pallada Asset Management.  It became the first mutual fund to be licensed in Russia by a securities commission that HIID helped to establish (it received its license long before established mutual funds such as Credit Suisse did). Striving to become Russia’s version of Fidelity Investments, Pallada was later found to have paid $4,100 to a subsidiary of HIID, the Institute for Law Based Economy (ILBE), to help in its preparation of a charter and for consultation on tax issues.[437]  Pallada was also able to use HIID’s offices and computers, was given choice opportunities for marketing, and was granted, without a tender, the exclusive and lucrative right to manage millions of dollars of assets for a government fund set up to bail out defrauded investors.[438]

Harvard University’s Andrei Shleifer [Wiki Commons]

HIID project director Andrei Shleifer, recipient of the prestigious John Bates Clark Medal in economics, used his management position to promote his own personal business investments.  His wife, Nancy Zimmerman, a wealthy hedge fund manager who later served as an economic adviser to Barack Obama, set up a Russian investment company called New World Capital.  It was headed by another member of ILBE which invested in Pallada and used insider information from HIID and ILBE staff to profit from the bond market while evading taxes.[439]  To support a lavish lifestyle, Zimmerman and Shleifer made huge sums of money investing in companies that were privatized under the new government decrees.[440]  Profits repatriated back to the United States violated Russian rules designed to prevent capital flight.
Following an internal investigation, USAID was forced to suspend the HIID project in 1997.  According to a USAID newsletter (September 2004):  “The Harvard Russia Project terminated in 1997 after USAID Office of Inspector General uncovered evidence that Shleifer and his second-in-command, Jonathan Hay, were investing and assisting their wives in establishing businesses in Russia.  This included using their influence with Russian government officials to obtain favorable licensing, funding, and other benefits in violation of the terms of the agreement between USAID and Harvard.”[441]  Harvard fired Hay and relieved Shleifer, a tenured professor, of his project duties.
In 2000, the U.S. Attorney in Boston filed an 11-count claim against Harvard University, Shleifer, and Hay for defrauding the government by making personal investments in Russia against the terms of their contract.  The Justice Department lawsuit charged that Shleifer benefited financially not only from his advice on privatization, but also from USAID-funded assistance, including free legal services.  According to a U.S. statement of “undisputed material facts” submitted with the Justice Department’s lawsuit, Hay was aware of some of the private investments of Shleifer and his wife.  Hay was also cited for attempting to launder $400,000 through his father as well as through his girlfriend, Hebert.
The whole scandal epitomized the cynical opportunism that prevailed among the “Harvard Boys” and their associates, who masked the plundering of Russia in a benign sounding rhetoric of reform.
In June 2004, a U.S. District Court Judge upheld the U.S. Attorney’s claim in a 100-page decision and forced the defendants to pay $31 million in fines.  Harvard University, which was cleared of the fraud allegations but still faced damages for breach of contract with USAID, was forced to pay $26.5 million, and Shleifer, $2 million, and Hay, from $1 to $2 million.  Both men were barred from working for USAID for two and five years respectively.[442]  Zimmerman was obliged to pay a $1.5 million fine.  One of her associates said that there was just “incredible crookery involved.”  Illegal investments in the Russian oil industry were covered up by using the name of Zimmerman’s and Shleifer’s fathers.[443]  The whole scandal epitomized the cynical opportunism that prevailed among the “Harvard Boys” and their associates, who masked the plundering of Russia in a benign sounding rhetoric of reform.

[Wiki Commons]

The Russian people were not granted any redress. The HIID’s U.S. taxpayer subsidized privatization scheme resulted in a dramatic decline in the Russian social safety net and a corresponding rise in poverty and inequality.  Millions lost their life savings after Russia defaulted on its debt and devalued its currency in response to crippling hyperinflation.  According to World Bank data, life expectancy for men plummeted from 63 ½ in 1991 to 57 ½ in 1994.[444]  Russia’s gold reserves were looted and its wealth taken by predatory financial interests and mafia-connected oligarchs.  Over $150 billion was taken out of the country in just six years, much of it stored in Western or off-shore banks.  The privatization of Gazprom, Russia’s natural gas monopoly, was described by Deputy Prime Minister of Finance, Boris Fyodorov, as “the biggest robbery of the century, perhaps of human history.”[445]

Integral to the privatization plan was a voucher system in which every Russian citizen was allowed to purchase for a small fee a voucher worth 10,000 rubles that could be used to buy shares of newly privatized enterprises at auctions.[446]  Most Russians were forced to sell their privatization voucher for quick cash on the black market at ridiculously low rates (10,000 rubles or a mere $7) in order to feed their families.  Others got nothing when they invested in voucher funds that failed to pay dividends or turned out to be pyramid schemes.[447]  Most of the auctions were rigged by oligarchs and corrupt government officials.  Industries that were sold off were grossly undervalued, depriving the Russian people of billions of dollars in revenue.  The top six industrial giants were valued at least 20 times higher than the price for which they were sold in voucher auctions.  Political analyst William F. Engdahl wrote that “the entire Russian industrial system, including mines, oil companies, and factories, had a total valuation of under $12 billion. It was theft on a colossal scale.”[448]  According to the historian Odd Arne Westad:

If many Russians felt robbed of a future, they were not wrong. Russia’s future was indeed stolen – by the privatization of Russian industry and of its natural resources.  As the socialist state with its moribund economy was dismantled, a new oligarchy emerged from party institutions, planning bureaus and centers of science and technology and assumed ownership of Russia’s riches.  Often, the new owners stripped these assets and closed down production.  In a state in which unemployment had, officially at least, been nonexistent, the rate of joblessness rose through the 1990s to peak at 13 percent.  All this happened while the West applauded Boris Yeltsin’s economic reforms.[449]

Economist Joseph Stiglitz called Russia’s reformers “market Bolsheviks” for their fondness for cataclysmic revolution and top-down policy formulations.[450]  Large majorities of Russians – over 80 percent in some polls – continued to support fundamental economic features of the Soviet system such as public ownership of large-scale economic assets, a state-regulated market, guaranteed employment, controlled consumer prices and other standard of living subsidies, and free education and health-care.[451]

Yeltsin’s autocracy and American election meddling

The popular image of Boris Yeltsin in the United States was that of a great leader who had brought democracy to Russia after years of authoritarian rule.  Meeting with him a record eighteen times, President Bill Clinton said that Yeltsin was “genuinely committed to freedom and democracy, genuinely committed to reform.”  Yeltsin, however, not only rewarded his financial backers with control over newly privatized industries, but also took to calling himself Boris I, as if he was the new czar.[452]  Russia evolved under his tenure as a “gangster state” in which organized criminals yielded an unprecedented degree of political influence and power.  One of his top advisers, Boris Berezovsky, was a mafia-linked oligarch who bragged to The Financial Times that he and six other financiers controlled fifty percent of Russia’s economy.[453]
On September 21, 1993, Yeltsin lived up to his new title by disbanding parliament in violation of the Russian Constitution.  Parliament responded by declaring his decision null and void, and impeaching Yeltsin whom they had accused of “impoverishing,” “tormenting” and “selling out Russia.”  On October 3, the crisis escalated as demonstrators took over the new parliament building – nicknamed Russia’s White House because it was a white skyscraper – along with the Moscow mayor’s office and the main TV broadcasting center.  Participants in the protests detected the presence of government provocateurs.  Yeltsin ordered the army to storm the parliament when the protesters refused to leave.  He claimed that the goal of his opponents was to “turn back history” and “resurrect the communist past.”  Several hundred people were reportedly killed and nearly a thousand wounded by the Russian army.  The parliament building was burned in the worst day of violence Moscow had seen since the 1917 revolution.[454]
Vice President Alexandr Rutskoi, who accused Yeltsin of promoting the “economic genocide of the Russian people,” and Parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, who condemned Yeltsin’s subordination of Russia’s economy to “the savage market… [and] raw material corporations of international financial and industrial groups,” were arrested under false pretexts along with 1700 other people.  Yeltsin temporarily banned opposition parties and shut down their newspapers, including Pravda, the communist party newspaper.  A new constitution was approved in December 1993 that gave the president sweeping powers to issue decrees.  Such undue presidential powers set off no alarm bells in Washington, as Yeltsin was viewed as a pro-U.S. president who would use his considerable powers to dismantle the remaining structures of state socialism as against strong popular resistance.  Concern only became apparent after Vladimir Putin, elected president in 2000, proved less amenable to U.S. designs.[455]

Boris Yeltsin welcomes Bill Clinton to the Kremlin Palace, Jan. 13, 1994 [Greg Gibson / AP]

Rather than condemn Yeltsin’s actions, President Clinton praised him over the telephone, signed a large foreign aid bill afterwards, and said publicly that Yeltsin had “bent over backwards to avoid violence” and “had no other choice… If such a thing happened in the United States, you would have expected me to take tough action against it.”[456]  Secretary of State Warren Christopher complimented Yeltsin’s blatant assault on protesters as a “superb handling” of the situation.[457]  The U.S. media followed the lead, casing events in Moscow as a battle between the forces of reform and democracy, led by Yeltsin, and communists and fascists.  Yeltsin was like Lincoln, columnists asserted, as he “used force to save his country from disunion” and proceeded to its “reconstruction.”[458]  However, when Yeltsin began his re-election campaign in 1996, in stark contrast to the martyred Lincoln, his popularity stood at below 6 percent.  More than 60% of the electorate believed Yeltsin was corrupt and more than 65% believed he had wrecked the economy.[459]
The Clinton administration subsequently lobbied the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to give Russia a $10 billion loan, some of which Yeltsin distributed to woo voters in the June 1996 elections.[460]  Clinton told his point man for Russia, Strobe Talbott: “I want this guy [Yeltsin] to win so bad it hurts.”[461]  The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) received USAID grants for providing seminars, conferences, and exchanges on party organization, message development, focus groups, polling methods, and television ads to members of Yeltsin’s political machine.  Three American political consultants went to work on Yeltsin’s reelection bid, including Richard Dresner, a veteran of the Clinton campaign in Arkansas.
The consultants promoted dirty tricks and urged Yeltsin to “go negative” by rallying the oligarch-controlled Russian media to whip up “a wild anti-Communist psychosis among the people,” as one sympathetic news editor put it.  Yeltsin’s top challenger was Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.  Zyuganov’s platform was only slightly more radical than the New Deal, calling for increased public investment in transportation, communications and energy, raising wages and pensions, reducing raw material prices, steering credit away from speculative activities and towards productive uses, reversing illegal privatization and renationalization of key economic sectors, and increasing spending on science, technology and education.  Every week, Dresner would send to the White House the Yeltsin’s campaign’s internal polling.  Dresner also advised Clinton on what to say when he was in Moscow that would lend support to Yeltsin’s reelection.[462]
Fresh from helping to elect Pete Wilson (R) as Governor of California, the American consulting team acknowledged that they were trying to help an unpopular candidate win.  One of their first memos read:  “Voters don’t approve of the job Yeltsin is doing, don’t think things will ever get any better and prefer the Communists’ approach.  There exists only one very simple strategy for winning:  first, becoming the only alternative to the Communists; and second, making the people see that the Communists must be stopped at all costs.”  The final TV spots were all about the communists’ repressive rule.  Mikhail Margolev, who coordinated the Yeltsin account at Video International, a Russian TV company trained by the American PR firm Oglivy and Mather, said that “the Americans were vital.  They helped teach us Western political advertising techniques.”[463]

An exposé of U.S. manipulation of Russian elections was framed as a “rescue” of the U.S.-favored candidate, Boris Yeltsin, July 15, 1996 issue

Time magazine’s now famous cover story on the American meddling came with the brazen cover lead, “Yanks to the Rescue.”  It later inspired a Showtime film, Spinning Boris, about how American political consultants “saved Russia from communism.”  Correspondent Michael Kramer announced, “Democracy triumphed – and along with it came the tools of modern campaigns, including the trickery and slickery Americans know so well.”[464]

Despite his disastrous policies and poor health, Yeltsin won the election by thirteen percent.  At an Independence Day rally in Ohio, Clinton proclaimed that, in “a free and fair election . . . the Russian people chose democracy.”[465]  However, the Yeltsin campaign conducted extensive “black operations,” including disrupting opposition rallies and press conferences, spreading disinformation and false campaign material attributed to their communist opponent, and denying media access to the opposition.  Campaign donations from financial oligarchs exceeded a legal spending cap by an estimated $1.7 billion, and were used to pay out bribes and curry favor among political bosses.[466]
An independent British election monitoring team found widespread voter fraud.  One million people were said to have voted in Chechnya when the population was only 500,000.  Yeltsin allegedly received 70 percent of the vote when he had ordered the invasion and bombing of Chechnya.  “The West let Russia down, and it’s a shame,” said Michael Meadowcroft, a former British MP and veteran of 48 election monitoring missions to 35 countries.  He compared the 1996 Russian election to those held in African dictatorships:  “In Chechnya they’d been bombed out of existence, and there they were all supposedly voting for Yeltsin.  It’s like what happens in Cameroon.”[467]
In 1998, a top Russian analyst at the CIA told The New York Times that the Clinton administration routinely discouraged reports about the corruption of the Yeltsin regime.  One such report about Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, said to have amassed a personal fortune of $5 billion by 1996, was returned by Vice President Al Gore with a barnyard epithet scribbled on it.[468]  Fritz Ermath, a veteran CIA Russia-hand and the former chairman of the National Intelligence Council, spoke of American policymakers’ disdain for analysis about the corruption of Russian politics and their Russian partners.  He attributed this primarily to the “warping of intelligence analysis to fit political agendas” and to a cynical Washington habit of “preserving the image of a foreign policy success.”[469]
Rather than a success, Forbes Magazine journalist Paul Klebnikov described Yeltsin’s legacy and that of U.S. foreign policy as one of “unmitigated failure.”  He wrote that “the freedom [Yeltsin] brought was freedom enjoyed primarily by a handful of political bosses and crony capitalists… For the Russian people, the Yeltsin era was the biggest disaster (economically, socially, demographically) since the Nazi invasion of 1941.”[470]  Many Russians spoke about the country being plunged back to the 19th century or pre-modern age.  In an article in Global Research, Markar Melkonian, an Armenian-American writer holding a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, summarizes some of the main devastating effects:
  • In the first years of the Chubais-Yeltsin privatization scheme, the life expectancy of a Russian male fell from 65 years to 57.5 years.  Female life expectancy in Russia dropped from 74.5 years in 1989 to 72.8 years in 1999.
  • The number of people living in poverty in the former Soviet republics rose from 14 million in 1989 to 147 million in 1998.
  • In the period from 1992 to 1998 Russia’s Gross Domestic Product fell by half – something that did not happen even during the German invasion in the Second World War.
  • Capital flight totaled $1-2 billion per month during Yeltsin’s tenure.[471]
When Yeltsin finally left office on December 31, 1999, he had an approval rating of two percent.[472]  Desensitized from the suffering of his people, he spent much of his second term in a drunken stupor.  His American backers, however, were completely sober.

Vladimir Putin, NATO Expansion and the New Cold War

Russian President Vladimir Putin, the effective leader of Russia for 20 years, addresses the State Council in Moscow, Jan. 15, 2020, seeking to extend his presidency past 2024 [Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP]

The history of American interference in Russia in the 1990s and the cataclysm that befell the country under the Harvard Boys’ “shock therapy” programs are crucial backstories to the rise of Vladimir Putin and new Cold War.  Following his appointment as prime minister in 1999 and his election as president in May 2000, Putin stabilized Russia’s economy and restored Russia’s self-respect.  Initially, he enjoyed good relations with the George W. Bush administration, though relations began to break down after his regime prosecuted pro-American oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and refused to support the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.  This was followed by a more serious rupture in 2008, when Russia backed a separatist movement in Georgia that was put down by the American-backed regime of Mikheil Sakaashvili.[473]
After a brief “reset” policy, relations deteriorated further when the Obama administration imposed economic sanctions on Russia in December 2012, in response to alleged human rights abuses, then backed a coup d’état in Ukraine in February 2014.  By this point, Putin had become widely demonized in the American media.[474]  In January 2018, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) released a Foreign Relations Committee staff report purporting to detail Putin’s “nearly two decades-long assault on democratic institutions, universal values and the rule of law across Europe and his own country.”  According to the report’s analysis, Mr. Putin had restored the totalitarian features of the Tsarist and Soviet systems in Russia, combining “military adventurism and aggression abroad with propaganda and political repression at home.”[475]

NATO expansion absorbed Eastern Europe, leading to conflicts over the Ukraine and Georgia in the 2010s [reddit]

This assessment was greatly misleading.  Among other things, it obscured how many of Putin’s foreign policies were initiated in response to the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in countries bordering Russia.  From Russia’s viewpoint, NATO was an adversarial organization formed during the Cold War which no longer served any legitimate purpose.[476]  In February 1990, Secretary of State James A. Baker promised Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not be expanded “one inch to the East,” in return for Russia’s support for German reunification.[477]  The Clinton administration violated this promise by expanding NATO into Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in 1998.[478]  In a 1997 West Point graduation address, Clinton emphasized that NATO enlargement would “help secure the historic gains of democracy,” erasing the “artificial line in Europe that Stalin drew.”[479]
Twenty members of Congress sent a letter to Clinton questioning the wisdom of incorporating East European nations into NATO.  A number of foreign policy experts expressed dismay.  George F. Kennan stated that the expansion of NATO would amount to a “strategic blunder of epic proportions” and the “most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era,” as it would “inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion,” “restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations,” and “impel Russian foreign policy in a direction decidedly not to our liking.”[480]  Kennan’s dire prediction proved accurate.[481]
At a March 1997 summit in Helsinki, Finland, Yeltsin signed the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security with the United States and other NATO countries. The act created the NATO Russian Council that would meet periodically to consider security problems as they arose in Europe as Russia gave approval for NATO’s continued operations and expansion.  The Council would operate by consensus, but NATO remained free to act without Council approval.  As a concession to the Russians, NATO Secretary General Javier Solana stated that NATO had “no intention, no plan, no reason” to deploy nuclear weapons on the territories of its new members or to significantly increase troop levels on their territories.  Clinton also promised to support Russia’s entry into the prestigious Group of Seven, stating paternalistically, “we’ll get more responsible behavior out of these guys if they’re in the tent.”[482]
After the summit, Yeltsin said that “the eastward expansion of NATO [was] a mistake and a serious one at that… Nevertheless, in order to minimize the negative consequences for Russia, we decided to sign an agreement with NATO.”[483]  Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov accused Yeltsin of allowing a “Versailles” for Russia, a reference to the 1919 conference in which Germany was humiliated by the Western allies.  An advisor to the Foreign Ministry said that Russia was being treated “like a colony” [of the United States].[484]
Besides NATO expansion, Yeltsin acquiesced to the 1995 and 1999 U.S.-NATO bombing of Serbia, a Russian ally, and its capital Belgrade; and to the 1993 U.S. air strikes against Iraq which targeted Saddam Hussein after the end of the Persian Gulf War.  Yeltsin also allowed U.S. military personnel to help provide food and medicine in Russia, an unprecedented invitation for American soldiers to work in their former enemy’s territory.  Pravda, the former organ of the Communist Party, editorialized that “the role of Washington yes-man is unbecoming of any country, especially Russia, and it inevitably conflicts with national interests.”[485]  By 2000, the welcome mat had been removed.  Russia’s official National Security Concept warned of “attempts to create an international relations structure based on domination by developed Western countries … under U.S. leadership.”[486]
“Putin inherited a ransacked and bewildered country.  And he started to do with it what was possible – a slow and gradual restoration.” — Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn
The antithesis of a yes-man, Putin stood up more robustly for Russia’s interests and was consequently vilified in the West.  Famed Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn stated that “Putin inherited a ransacked and bewildered country.  And he started to do with it what was possible – a slow and gradual restoration.”[487]  This was in part achieved by strengthening Russia’s military defenses, by ordering oligarchs to pay taxes, by regaining national control over oil and gas deposits sold off to Exxon Mobil and other Western oil companies under Yeltsin, and by implementing policies that improved infrastructure, living standards, and led to a decrease in corruption and crime.  Inflation, joblessness, and poverty rates subsequently declined while wages improved and the economy grew tenfold.  Putin cut Russia’s national debt, stymied the exodus of Russian wealth abroad and put in place a successful pension system.[488]
Author Alex Krainer stated in an interview that “Russia was supposed to have continued the course initiated by Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s in turning over its industry and resources to key Western interests and joining the New World Order.  Putin has done the opposite.  He has asserted Russia’s sovereignty, blocked the theft of Russia’s resources, including oil, and asserted control over the Russian Central Bank.”[489]  This helps to explain the demonization of Putin and bipartisan opposition to him in the United States.  The American people had been led to believe that capitalism and democracy were working well to remake Russia anew until Putin took charge and restored the old corrupt authoritarian order.  This oversimplified view whitewashed many of the facts of recent history, including American contributions to Russia’s corruption through the promotion of over-zealous privatization initiatives.
Many of the people promoting a new Cold War with Russia are the same financial elites who profited from its foreign plunder in the 1990s.  One of the chief figures lobbying for economic sanctions, William F. Browder, was a billionaire hedge fund manager and grandson of U.S. Communist Party leader Earl Browder.  His Hermitage Capital made millions of dollars in the 1990s selling privatization vouchers which Hermitage bought from desperate Russians.  Browder fled Russia after being prosecuted by the Russian government for tax evasion.  In 2017, he was convicted by a Russian court in absentia.  Subsequent to his escape, he claimed to have been robbed of $237 million by the Russian government, though an independent investigation concluded that he was the one to have likely orchestrated the theft.[490]
British writer John Hobson, in his 1902 classic work, Imperialism: A Study, provided an enlightened understanding of how the British empire was driven by financial elites who sought outlets for new investments and unduly influenced government policy.  With regards to the United States, Hobson wrote that “it is Messrs. Rockefeller, Pierpont Morgan, Hannah, Schwab, and their associates who need imperialism … because they desire to use the public resources of their country to find profitable employment for the capital which otherwise would be superfluous.”[491]
A review of the history of America’s crusade to privatize Russia’s economy in the 1990s confirms Hobson’s maxim.  While the architects of U.S. policy may have believed in the ideals they were espousing, their programs were ultimately designed to benefit financial elites, large corporations and the capitalist classes rather than the population at large.  The expansion of investment opportunities had been all along a main goal of U.S. foreign policy – as Clinton administration officials openly admitted.  A new stage of financial imperialism took hold in which foreign technocrats directly profited from their restructuring.  Russia’s comprador elite, in collaboration with foreign capitalists, looted their country’s treasury in an unprecedented way.  The biggest losers were the Russian people. They won’t soon forget the economic destitution caused by the Ivy League’s “Best and the Brightest” – whose arrogance was all too reminiscent of the Vietnam era.
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About the authors

Brian D’Haeseleer is Assistant Professor of U.S. History at Lyon College. His research interests focus on U.S.-Latin American relations with an emphasis on Central America. He is the author of The Salvadoran Crucible: The Failure of U.S. Counterinsurgency in El Salvador, 1979-1992 (2017).
Jeremy Kuzmarov is the author of The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs (2009), Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation Building in the American Century (2012), and Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State (2019). He is the co-author, with John Marciano, of The Russians Are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (2018).  He is currently the managing editor for CovertAction Magazine.
Roger Peace is a diplomatic historian, coordinator of this website, former community college instructor, and author of A Call to Conscience: The Anti-Contra War Campaign (2012) and A Just and Lasting Peace: The U.S. Peace Movement from the Cold War to Desert Storm (1991).
Thanks to readers and contributors Tom Clark, Helen Epstein, David Gibbs, Dubravko Kakarigi, John Marciano, Anne Meisenzahl, and Elizabeth Schmidt.


[1] Stanley Meisler, “Reagan Recants ‘Evil Empire’ Description,” Los Angeles Times, June 1, 1988.

[2] Reagan campaign speech, June 1980, cited in Barbara Farnham, “Reagan and the Borbachev Revolution: Perceiving the End of Threat,” Political Science Quarterly 116, no. 2 (2001): 227; and “Remarks at the Annual Convention of the National Association of Evangelicals in Orlando, Florida,” March 8, 1983, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum,

[3] Gorbachev’s watchwords for reform were “perestroika” (restructuring) and “glasnost” (openness).  The reforms heralded greater democratization of the political system, a modicum of individual enterprise, and a larger measure of personal liberties, including free speech.  Gorbachev served as general secretary of the Communist Party from 1985 until 1991.

[4] “Address by Mikhail Gorbachev at the UN General Assembly Session (Excerpts),” December 07, 1988, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, CWIHP Archive.  See also, Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (New York: Gallery Books, 2012), 463-64.

[5] “Gambler, Showman, Statesman,” New York Times (opinion), December 8, 1988.

[6] U.S. Dept. of Defense, Soviet Military Power: An Assessment of the Threat, 1988 (Washington, DC, 1988), 8-13.  See also, Andrew Bacevich, The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2020), 28.

[7] Andrew Rosenthal, “The Malta Summit: Bush and Gorbachev Proclaim a New Era for U.S.-Soviet Ties; Agree on Arms and Trade Aims,” New York Times, December 4, 1989, A1.  For transcripts of the meeting by the U.S. and the Soviets, see Svetlana Savranskaya and Thomas Blanton, eds., “Bush and Gorbachev at Malta: Previously Secret Documents from Soviet and U.S. Files on the 1989 Meeting, 20 Years Later,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 298, posted December 3, 2009,  The latter authors note:  “Throughout 1989, judging by the candid memoir authored by President Bush with his national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, the Bush mentality was marked by insecurity and anxiety that Gorbachev was more popular globally and had the initiative on proposing new departures in security policy – never quite recognizing that Gorbachev’s proposals might well be in the U.S. national security interest.”

[8] Victoria Graham, “URGENT General Assembly Condemns Panama Invasion 75-20,” AP News, December 29, 1989,  The idea that the end of the Cold War presented a new opportunity to build a more cooperative world order was asserted continually during the 1990s by the Center for Defense Information in Washington, DC, a group headed by retired admirals Eugene J. Carroll and Gene R. La Rocque.  In a 1999 article in The Defense Monitor, “America’s Future: Confrontation or Cooperation?” (Vol. 28, No. 3), the authors write, “The answer to that depends on whether we attempt to perpetuate an American global hegemony as the world’s only military superpower – or if we seek to exercise constructive leadership as a cooperative member in a peaceful world community governed by the rule of law” (p.1).  Two decades later, with Washington policymakers having taken the former course of action, Stephen Wertheim, a research scholar of the Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies of Columbia University, wrote in the New York Times, “In theory, armed supremacy could foster peace.  Facing overwhelming force, who would dare to defy American wishes?  That was the hope of Pentagon planners in 1992; they reacted to the collapse of America’s Cold War adversary not by pulling back but by pursuing even greater military pre-eminence.  But the quarter-century that followed showed the opposite to prevail in practice.  Freed from one big enemy, the United States found many smaller enemies:  It has launched many more [overt] military interventions since the Cold War than during the ‘twilight struggle’ itself.  Of all its interventions since 1946, roughly 80 percent have taken place after 1991.”  Stephen Wertheim, “The Only Way to End ‘Endless War,'” New York Times, September 15, 2019, Sunday Week-in-Review (op-ed), p. 7.

[9] “Gorbachev Wants ‘Helsinki 2’ Summit,” Tallahassee Democrat, December 1, 1989.  Gorbachev laid out his vision for Europe in a speech given in France on July 6, 1989.  See James M. Markham, “Gorbachev Spurns Armed Aggression as Tool in Europe,” New York Times, July 7, 1989.

[10] “Record of conversation between Mikhail Gorbachev and James Baker in Moscow, February 9, 1990,” National Security Archive, document 6, in “NATO Expansion: What Gorbachev Heard,”  The U.S. did not declassify records of the Baker-Gorbachev meeting until December 12, 2017.  This website contains a trove of primary documents attesting to the promises and indications made to Soviet and Russian leaders to not expand NATO into Eastern Europe. See also Joshua Shifrinson, “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit Expansion,” International Security, Vol. 40, no. 4 (Spring 2016): 7-44,  [The issue became a hot topic of debate after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, with numerous U.S. political leaders and scholars challenging the idea that a “promise” had been made to the Soviets to not expand NATO into Eastern Europe.  The extension of NATO into Ukraine was the major point of contention raised by the Putin government, to which the Biden administration would not budge from asserting the right to expand NATO regardless of Russian security interests.  Though no treaty to prevent NATO expansion into Eastern Europe was signed in 1990, the U.S. and Germany offered at least a dozen private and public assurances to Soviet leaders between January and June 1990; these can be found on the National Security Archive website.  Additionally, on February 3, 1990, German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and U.S. Secretary of State James Baker gave a press conference in which Genscher stated: “Perhaps I might add, we were in full agreement that there is no intention to extend the NATO area of defense and the security toward the East. This holds true not only for GDR, which we have no intention of simply incorporating, but that holds true for all the other Eastern countries.”  Cited in Marc Tractenberg, “The United States and the NATO Non-extension Assurances of 1990: New Light on an Old Problem?” International Security, Vol. 45, No. 3 (2021) – online copy, page 18, footnote 57,

[11] David E. Rosenbaum, “Spending Can Be Cut in Half, Former Defense Officials Say,” New York Times, December 13, 1989.  Lawrence J. Korb, a former assistant Defense Secretary in the Reagan administration, agreed with McNamara, saying that transferring funds to the domestic sector “can have a dramatic impact on our economic well-being and our competitive position in the world.”

[12] Michael Oreskes, “Poll Finds U.S. Expects Peace Dividend,” New York Times, January 25, 1990, B9.  The article noted poll data from a New York Times/CBS Poll taken January 13-15, 1990, indicating that 36 percent favored decreasing military spending, up from 24 percent just a year earlier.  Over half of Americans at that time did not think the Cold War had ended, indicating that the trend would continue as the Cold War thawed.

[13] James McCartney, “Are We Coming Out of the Cold?” Tallahassee Democrat, July 2, 1989.  According to the Center for Defense Information, based on constant, inflation-adjusted FY2000 dollars, U.S. military outlays dropped precipitously from $522 billion in 1946 to $97 billion in 1948 before rising rapidly to $428 billion in 1953.  Average military spending during the Cold War years was $324 billion.  During the Reagan years, military spending rose from $292 billion in FY 1981 to $402 billion in FY 1989, a 37 percent real increase.  Military spending decreased to a low of $274 billion in FY 1998 before rising again to $331 billion in FY 2005.  Center for Defense Information, 1999 CDI Military Almanac (Washington, DC: Center for Defense Information, 1999), 26.

[14] Michael Klare, “Beyond the Cold War: U.S. Intervention and Third World Poverty,” Fellowship (Fellowship of Reconciliation) 54, no. 10-11, Oct./Nov. 1990: 10-11; and “Violent Peace May Replace Cold War,” Tallahassee Democrat, March 5, 1990.

[15] The White House, “A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement,” February 1995,, page 2.

[16] “Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Interview on NBC-TV ‘The Today Show’ with Matt Lauer, Columbus, Ohio, February 9, 1998,” U.S. Department of State Archive,

[17] Andrew Bacevich, “False Security:  Donald Trump and the Ten Commandments (Plus One) of the National Security State,” October 31, 2019, TomDispatch,

[18] “Military Domination or Constructive Leadership?” The Defense Monitor, 1998 (Center for Defense Information), Vol. XXVII, No.3, p. 5.  CDI produced summary reports and interpretive articles from the perspective that military force was the least desirable option for settling international disputes.

[19] See “America on the Sidelines,” New York Times (editorial), July 29, 2001; and United States Ratification of International Human Rights Treaties,” Human Rights Watch,

[20] Quoted in Andrew Bacevich, American Empire: The Realities and Consequences of U.S. Diplomacy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 73, 97.

[21] See World Inequality Report 2018,, pp. 79.

[22] Michael H. Hunt, The American Ascendancy: How the United States Gained & Wielded Global Dominance (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 275.  In some areas, such as the Carolinas, the loss of textile factory jobs was replaced by foreign investments; in many other areas, both rural and urban, jobs were not replaced to the extent needed nor at the wages desired.

[23] Odd Arne Westad, “The Cold War and America’s Delusion of Victory, New York Times, August 28, 2017.

[24] President George H. W. Bush, “January 16, 1991: Address to the Nation on the Invasion of Iraq,” Presidential Speeches, University of Virginia Miller Center,

[25] Preamble to the United Nations Charter,  The theme of lost opportunity for a New World Order is evident in a number of studies, but in different ways.  Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznic, in The Untold History of the United States (2012, 2019) highlight the theme expressed in this Introduction – a lost opportunity to meet Gorbachev halfway and create a more peaceful and cooperative world order.  Andrew Bacevich, in The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2020), appears to share this view but focuses more particularly on Washington’s illusions regarding the efficacy of force.  Stephen M. Walt, in The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), decries the loss of U.S. influence in the world in the decades following the end of the Cold War, citing overreach of U.S. foreign policies such as pushing NATO into Eastern Europe, but he retains the overarching realist belief that the U.S. should wield predominant power and that U.S. intentions are beneficent.  Another realist scholar, Richard Ned Lebow, in A Democratic Foreign Policy: Regaining American Influence Abroad (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), more insightfully explains that the loss of U.S. influence is due in large part to long-standing U.S. imperious policies, including support for undemocratic regimes.  He challenges realist doctrine in asserting that imperious policies and military predominance have undermined true U.S. leadership in the world, producing in Washington an illusion of influence while other nations seek opportunities to function outside the U.S.-orbit (e.g., linking up with China or asserting independence in the UN).

[26] David Johnston, “U.S. Admits Payments to Noriega, New York Times, January 19, 1991, p. 14.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Frederick Kempe, Divorcing the Dictator: America’s Bungled Affair with Noriega (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1990), 95, 204.

[29] David A. Graham, “The Death of Manuel Noriega – and U.S Intervention in Latin America,” The Atlantic, May 30, 2017,; Guillermo St. Malo and Godfrey Harris, The Panamanian Problem: How the Reagan and Bush Administrations Dealt with the Noriega Regime (Los Angeles: The Americas Group, 1993), 25; and Kempe, Divorcing the Dictator, 94.

[30] Congressional Record – Senate, June 26, 1987, pp. 17768-69.

[31] Ronald H. Cole, “Operation Just Cause: The Planning and execution of Joint Operations in Panama, February 1988 – January 1990,” Joint History Office, Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C., 1995,, pages 7-8.

[32] “Message to the Congress Reporting on the National Emergency With Respect to Panama, October 14, 1988,” Ronald Reagan Presidential Library,; and “Economic Sanctions: Reagan Steps Up Pressure on Panama,” Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1988.

[33] Kevin Buckley, Panama: The Whole Story (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991), 136.

[34] Lally Weymouth, “Panama: The May ’88 Option,” Washington Post, December 31, 1989.

[35] Lawrence Yates, The US Military Intervention in Panama: Operation Just Cause, December 1989– January 1990 (Washington, DC: US Army Center of Military History, 2014), 100.  Woerner confirmed this account in an interview with author, Brian D’Haeseleer, 23 June 2017.

[36] Stephen Engelberg With Jeff Gerth, “Bush and Noriega: Examination of Their Ties,” New York Times, Sept. 28, 1988, 1A; and Kempe, Divorcing the Dictator, 338.

[37] Doyle McManus, “Bush Orders Aid for Foes of Noriega: CIA Funds Election Efforts in Bid to Oust Panama Chief,” Los Angeles Times, April 23, 1989.

[38] Shannon Schwaller, “Operation Just Cause:  the Invasion of Panama, December 1989,” Army Heritage and Education Center, November 17, 2008,  The “Sand Fleas” operations were also described as “Freedom of Movement Drills.”  As an example of the tension they caused, Lt. Col. Nicholas E. Reynolds relates the story of an incident on May 23, 1989, in which Panamanian military police stopped a column of U.S. military vehicles.  The Panamanian officer in charge informed the Americans that their military vehicles required a Panamanian escort.  The U.S. platoon commander refused, insisting on his company’s right to “freedom of movement.”  He gave the Panamanian officer two minutes to sort it out.  The column was allowed to proceed, unescorted.  Lt. Col. Nicholas E. Reynolds, Just Cause:  Marine Operations in Panama, 1988-1990 (Washington, DC:  U.S. Marine Corps History and Museums Division Headquarters, 1996), 15.

[39] Cole, “Operation Just Cause,” page 6.

[40] “Intensifying out Military Exercises, ND, Panama” (report), Panama Canal Commission Meetings [3], box 2, William T. Pryce Subject Files, National Security Council Records, George Bush Presidential Library; and James A. Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy: Revolution, War and Peace, 1989–1992 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s and Sons, 1995), 185.

[41] “Maxwell Reid Thurman, General, United States Army,” Arlington National Cemetery Website,

[42] Steven Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York:  Henry Holt and Co., 2006), 253; and “Amateur Hour,” Newsweek, October 16, 1989.  Bush had been struggling to rid himself of the “wimp factor” label since before the presidential election of 1988.  It was an undeserved public branding, conveying the idea that Bush lacked the requisite machismo – think of Theodore Roosevelt with a big stick – to be president of the world’s strongest nation.  See Margaret Garrard Warner, “Bush Battles the ‘Wimp Factor,’” Newsweek, October 19, 1987; and Stephen Ducat, The Wimp Factor: Gender Gaps, Holy Wars, and the Politics of Anxious Masculinity (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2005).

[43] Lyle M. Koenig, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, “Strategy in Operation Just Cause: A Framework for Analysis,” Air War College, Air Education and Training Command, March 1994,

[44] National Security Directive 32, “Economic Sanctions Against Panama,” November 30, 1989.  The sanctions were not pushed by U.S. business leaders.  Ludlow Flower, Director of the Council of the Americas, expressed concern that the sanctions would “unfairly and disproportionately burden U.S. business interests.”  Ludlow Flower to Robert Gates, “Panama Sanctions: A Discussion Paper Representing the View of a Representative Organization of US Multinational Corporation with Interests in Panama.” 6 April 1989, Latin American Directorate Staff Files [2], box 1, William T. Pryce Files, National Security Council Files, George Bush Library.

[45] John Bushnell, telegram, “Panamanians Hope for a Successful Coup: Noriega Plans for a New Year in Power,” 13 Dec. 1989, Wikileaks, html.

[46] Sara Fritz, “U.S. Officer, Wife Beaten in Panama: Military alert: Bush reviews options for action in wake of fatal shooting. Cheney accuses Noriega of fostering violence,” Los Angeles Times, December 18, 1989; and Kenneth Freed, “Panama ‘Aggression’ – Sources Say Dead Marine Provoked Guards,” Los Angeles Times, December 22, 1990.

[47] This account is derived from Powell’s autobiography:  Colin Powell, My American Journey (New York: Ballantine, 1995), 412.

[48] United States Special Forces Command History, 1987– 2007 (Unknown City: United States Special Forces Command, 2007). Available at https://fas. org/irp/agency/dod/socom/2007history.pdf.

[49] Greg Grandin, ‘How the US Created a “Little Hiroshima” in Central America’, The Nation, 22 Dec. 2014.

[50] U.S. Congress, House Committee on Armed Services, “The Invasion of Panama: How Many Innocent Bystanders Perished?” 102nd Congress, 2nd session, 31–2. William P. Head makes the case that fire from AC-130 gunships ignited the inferno. See William Pace Head, Night Hunters: the AC-130s and Their Role in US Airpower (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2014), 175.

[51] Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012), 473.

[52] John T. Correll, “A Small War in Panama,” Air Force Magazine (December 2009), 59.

[53] Noris Lyn McCall, “Assessing the Role of Air Power,” in Operation Just Cause: the US Intervention in Panama, edited by Peter Tsouras and Bruce Watson (Boulder: Westview Press, 1991): 115-122, 118; and Yates, The US Military Intervention in Panama, 283.

[54] Larry Rohter, “Panama and U.S. Strive To Settle on Death Toll,” New York Times, April 1, 1990, A12.

[55] Ramsey Clark’s Independent Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama, The U.S. Invasion of Panama: The Truth Behind Operation “Just Cause” (Boston: South End Press, 1991), 34. Some scholars, on the other hand, supported the Pentagon’s low estimates of Panamanian casualties, including Russell Crandall who believes that the U.S. over-reported civilian fatalities; see Crandall, Gunboat Diplomacy, 215.

[56] Greg Grandin, “How the US Created a ‘Little Hiroshima’ in Central America,” The Nation, 22 December 2014.

[57] Elisa Malo, phone interview with author, Brian D’Haeseleer, 23 July 2017.

[58] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Report No. 121/18, Case 10.573, October 5, 2018, p. 10-11.

[59] Walter Soderlund, Ronald Wagenberg, and Ian Pemberton, “Cheerleader or Critic?  Television News Coverage in Canada and the United States of the US Invasion of Panama,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 27.3 (September 1994): 581-604; and Jonathan Mermin, Debating War and Peace: Media Coverage of U.S. Intervention in the Post-Vietnam Era (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 50.

[60] Sandra Dickson, “Understanding Media Bias: The Press and the US Invasion of Panama,” Journalism Quarterly 71.4 (Winter 1994): 809-819; and Jonathan Mermin, “Conflict in the Sphere of Consensus? Critical Reporting on the Panama Invasion and the Gulf War,” Political Communication 13 (1996): 181-194, 184.

[61] Soderlund, et. al., “Cheerleader or Critic?” 600.

[62] Jeff Cohen and Mark Cook, “How Television Sold the Panama Invasion,” Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, January 1, 1990,

[63] Buckley, Panama: The Whole Story, 258-59.

[64] Clarence Briggs, Operation Just Cause, Panama December, 1989:  A Soldier’s Eyewitness Account (Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1990), 95.

[65] Cohen and Cook, “How Television Sold the Panama Invasion.”

[66] “The Panama Invasion: a Newsweek Poll,” Newsweek, January 1, 1990. The poll sampled 500 adults over the phone on 21 December 1989.

[67]  Julian E. Zelizer, Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security in America from World War II to the War on Terrorism (New York: Basic Books, 2010), 358.

[68] Michael Frisby, ‘Dissonant Voices are Few as Congress goes Along,’ Boston Globe, December 21, 1989; and Jonathan Mermin, Debating War and Peace: Media Coverage of U.S. Intervention in the Post-Vietnam Era (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 66.

[69] William Branigin, “Pro-US Panamanians Cheer Visit by Quayle,” Washington Post, January 28, 1990.

[70] General Fred Woerner, phone interview with author, Brian D’Haeseleer, 23 June 2017; Richard H. Shultz Jr., In the Aftermath of War: US Support for Reconstruction and Nation-building in Panama Following Just Cause (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, 1993), 16; and John T. Fishel and Richard Downie, “Taking Responsibility for Our Actions: Establishing Order and Stability in Panama,” Military Review (April 1992), 66–78, 66.

[71] The White House, “National Security Directive 33,” 24 January 1990,; Richard Shultz, Jr., In the Aftermath of War: US Support for Reconstruction and Nation-Building in Panama Following Just Cause (Maxwell Air Force Base: Air University Press, 1993), 46; and John Fishel, “The Institutional Conversion of the Panamanian Defense Forces,” in Orlando Perez (ed), Post-Invasion Panama: The Challenges of Democratization in the New World Order (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2000), 11–27, 22.

[72] President Endara to President Bush, letter, ND, National Security Council Files, Eric Melby, “Panama (2) [1], George H. W. Bush Presidential Library, College Station, TX.

[73] William Head, “Gunships and ‘Ding-Bats’: US Military Operations During ‘Just Cause,’” Journal of Third World Studies, XXVIII.2 (2011): 87-105, 99.

[74] Buckley, Panama: The Whole Story, 258-259.

[75] Telegram, “September 30th Meeting with Endara,” Oct. 1989, Panama (General) January 1992– June 1992 [3], no box number, Charles Gillespie Files, National Security Files, George Bush Presidential Library.

[76] “Fighting in Panama:  The President; A Transcript of Bush’s Address on the Decision to Use Force in Panama,” New York Times, December 21, 1989, A19.

[77] Ibid.  General Woerner believed that American lives were in no immediate danger prior to the invasion.  Godfrey Harris, Invasion: The American Destruction of the Noriega Regime in Panama (Los Angeles: Penguin Printing, 1990).

[78] Excerpts from “Statement by Baker on U.S. Policy,” New York Times, December 21, 1989, A9.

[79] Ruth Wedgwood, “The Use of Armed Forces in International Affairs: Self-Defense and the Panama Invasion,” Yale Law School Faculty Scholarship series, 1991,, pages 617-18, 626.  Supposedly, the soldiers who ran the blockade were among those frustrated by what they perceived as SOUTHCOM’s tepid response to Noriega.  Known as the “hard chargers,” some sources allege they were trying to provoke a response, and according to one, SOUTHCOM officers were aware of their activities.  See Luis Murillo, The Noriega Mess: The Drugs, the Canal, and Why America Invaded (Berkley, CA: Video Books, 1995), 772.

[80] Ved P. Nanda, “The Validity of United States Intervention in Panama under International Law,” The American Journal of International Law 84, no. 2 (1990), 497.  See also, Charles Maechling Jr., ‘Washington’s Illegal Invasion’, Foreign Policy, lxxix (Summer 1990), 113– 31; and John Quigley, “The Legality of the United States Invasion of Panama,” Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 15, Issue 2 (1990),  Quigley writes, “International law permits one state to use force against another state only in certain narrowly defined situations.  A state may use force in self-defense in the event of an ‘armed attack’ by another state.”  For a contrary view, see Anthony D’Amato, “The Invasion of Panama was a Lawful Response to Tyranny,” The American Journal of International Law, lxxxiv (1990), 516–24.

[81] Nanda, “The Validity of United States Intervention in Panama under International Law,” 502.

[82] National Security Decision Directive Number 221, “Narcotics and National Security,” April 8, 1986,

[83] Ted Galen Carpenter, Bad Neighbor Policy: Washington’s Futile War on Drugs in Latin America (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003), 32; and Jeffrey M. Jones, “In U.S., 65% Say Drug Problem ‘Extremely’ or ‘Very Serious,’” Gallup News, Social & Policy Issues, October 28, 2016,

[84] Nancy Golden and Sherrill Brown Wells, eds., American Foreign Policy Current Documents: 1989 (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1990).

[85] Dan Baum, Smoke and Mirrors: the War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1996), 286.

[86] Carpenter, Bad Neighbor Policy, 42.

[87] Telegram, 21 December 1989, ‘Security Council Meeting on Panama,’ Wikileaks,

[88] Some examples include Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall, Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies and the CIA in Central America (Berkley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991); Douglas Valentine, The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America’s War on Drugs (London & New York: Verso, 2004); and Alfred McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Revised Edition (Chicago, IL: Chicago Review Press, 2003).

[89] Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy: A Report Prepared by the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 1988),, pages 79-100; and “Agent Who Arrested Noriega Sentenced on Theft Charge,” AP News, March 25, 1994,

[90] John M. McClintock, “Panama leader’s bank is linked to drug money,” Baltimore Sun, October 23, 1990; and Robert T. Buckman, Latin America 2014: The World Today Series, 2014-2015 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 335.

[91] George H. W. Bush, ‘Inaugural Address’, 20 Jan. 1989, http://www.presidency.ucsb. edu/ws/index.php?pid=16610.

[92] George H. W. Bush, ‘Remarks at the United States Coast Guard Academy,’ May 24, 1989.

[93] Abraham Sofaer, Draft Speech, “The United States Acted Lawfully in Panama,” no date, Boyden Gray Files, White House Counsel Files, “War Powers: Panama,” Box 1, George H. W. Bush Library, College Station, Texas; and Ronnie Ramos, David Lyons, and Martin Merzer, “He was U.S. prisoner #41586.  How Noriega landed in a Miami jail after invasion,” Miami Herald, May 30, 2017.  For historical background on the doctrine of “humanitarian intervention,” see Hans Köchler, The Concept of Humanitarian Intervention in the Context of Modern Power Politics (Vienna: International Progress Organization, 2001),

[94] Zelizer, Arsenal of Democracy, 356.  Lindsey O’Rourke, in Covert Regime Change: America’s Secret Cold War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2018), identifies 70 “regime change” U.S. interventions during the Cold War, of which 64 were conducted covertly through the CIA.  Of these 64, she writes, “The United States supported authoritarian forces in forty-four out of sixty-four covert regime changes, including at least six operations that sought to replace liberal democratic governments with illiberal authoritarian regimes.”  See Roger Peace, “Cold War interventionism, 1945-1990,” United States Foreign Policy History and Resource Guide website, 2019,

[95] Nanda, “The Validity of United States Intervention in Panama under International Law, 501.

[96] George J. Church, ‘No Place to Run,’ Time, 8 January 1990.

[97] Powell, My American Journey, 421.

[98] David Samuels, “A Conversation with Colin Powell,” The Atlantic (April 2007), https://

[99] “The Gulf War, Oral History: Colin Powell,” Frontline, Public Broadcasting Station, pages/frontline/gulf/oral/powell/1.html.

[100] Robert Parry and Norman Solomon, ‘Behind Colin Powell’s Legend: Panama War’, Consortium News, 19 Dec. 2013.

[101] Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein, Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency (New York: Random House, 2006), 99.

[102] See Carl T. Bogus, “The Invasion of Panama and the Rule of Law,” The International Lawyer, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Fall 1992): 781-87.

[103] Richard Boudreaux, “Combat in Panama: Top Latin Leaders Roundly Condemn U.S. Military Attack; Panama: Officials across the region assail the intervention. They predict a crisis unless American troops withdraw quickly.” Los Angeles Times, Dec. 21, 1989; and John M. Goshko and Michael Isikoff, “OAS Votes to Censure U.S. for Intervention,” Washington Post, December 23, 1989.

[104] Permanent Council of the OAS, Resolution CP/RES 534 (800/89), “Serious events in the Republic of Panama,” adopted on December 22, 1989.

[105] John M. Goshko and Michael Isikoff, “OAS Votes to Censure U.S. for Intervention,” Washington Post, December 23, 1989.

[106] OAS Charter,  Article 21 of the OAS charter states:  “The territory of a State is inviolable; it may not be the object, even temporarily, of military occupation or of other measures of force taken by another State, directly or indirectly, on any grounds whatever.  No territorial acquisitions or special advantages obtained either by force or by other means of coercion shall be recognized.”  Article 26 states:  “In the event that a dispute arises between two or more American States which, in the opinion of one of them, cannot be settled through the usual diplomatic channels, the parties shall agree on some other peaceful procedure that will enable them to reach a solution.”

[107] Victoria Graham, “URGENT General Assembly Condemns Panama Invasion 75-20,” AP News, December 29, 1989,; and General Assembly of the United Nations. Resolution No. 44/240 “Effects of the military intervention by the United States of America in Panama on the situation in Central America,” adopted on December 29, 1989.

[108] Civilian protections in Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977, include the following:  Article 51, No. 1.  “The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general protection against dangers arising from military operations.”  No. 4.  “Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited.”  No. 5.  Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate:  a.  an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village, or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians of civilian objects; an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of live civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”

[109] Americas Watch, “The Laws of war and the conduct of the Panama invasion,” May 10, 1990; and Americas Watch, “Human Rights in Post-Invasion Panama: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied,” April 7, 1991; cited in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Report No. 121/18, Case 10.573, p. 20.

[110] Physicians for Human Rights, “Operation Just Cause: The human cost of military action in Panama,” October 1991; cited in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Report No. 121/18, Case 10.573, p. 20.

[111] Telegram, “Security Council Meeting on Panama,” 21 Dec. 1989, cables/89STATE405134_a.html; and Telegram, “US Presents its Case on Panama to the Organization of American States’, 21 Dec. 1989,” Wikileaks,

[112] Baker, The Politics of Diplomacy, 193.

[113] Editorial, “Civilization’s Limits,” Wall Street Journal, 21 December 1989; and Roger Peace, “’Yankee Imperialism,’ 1901-1934” (Section II), U.S. Foreign Policy History and Resource Guide website, 2018,

[114] The UN Security Council voted to institute economic sanctions against Iraq on August 6, 1990, requesting all nations to block Iraqi imports and exports, excepting “supplies intended strictly for medical purposes, and in humanitarian circumstances, foodstuffs,” and to cease all financial payments and arms transfers. “Resolution 661 (1990), adopted by the Security Council at its 2933rd meeting, on 6 August 1990,” United Nations Digital Library,

[115] United Nations Security Council Resolution 678, adopted November 29, 1990,

[116] The four days of ground war from February 24-28 does not include a two-day battle in the Saudi border town of Khafji on January 29, 1991.

[117] Thomas A. Keaney and Eliot A. Cohen, “Gulf War Air Power Survey, Summary Report,” Washington, DC, December 1993,, 249.  Iraqi combat deaths in Kuwait are estimated at 21,000 by Keaney and Cohen.  Coalition combat deaths totaled 246, of which at least 44 were from “friendly fire,” meaning accidental killing by coalition troops.  The ratio, as such, is 21,000 to 202, or more than 100 to one.

[118] United Nations Charter, Chapter VII,

[119] Middle East Watch, Needless Deaths in the Gulf War: Civilian Casualties During the Air Campaign and Violations of the Laws of War (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1991),, section: “Introduction and Summary of Conclusions.”  Saddam Hussein’s complete name is Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti.  He is often called Saddam in the Western press, but is sometimes referred to as Hussein.

[120] Defense Intelligence Agency, A Chronology of Defense Intelligence in the Gulf War: A Research Aid for Analysts, July 1997, p. 3, access via William Burr and Jeffrey T. Richelson, editors, “Operation Desert Storm: Ten Years Later,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 39, document 16, published January 17, 2001,

[121] H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Testimony before Congress, Senate Committee on Armed Services, Threat Assessment; Military Strategy; and Operational Requirements, 101st Congress, 2nd Session, February 8, 1990, 577-79.

[122] “OPLAN 1002 Defense of the Arabian Peninsula,”,; Defense Intelligence Agency, A Chronology of Defense Intelligence in the Gulf War, 4; and Keaney and Cohen, “Gulf War Air Power Survey, Summary Report,” 30.

[123] Keaney and Cohen, “Gulf War Air Power Survey, Summary Report,” 2.  According to another account, Air Force Col. John A. Warden III began preparing an offensive plan on August 5, “nicknamed “Instant Thunder,” designed to “incapacitate” the Iraqi forces by targeting “high-level bunkers, regime headquarters, official residences, air defenses, telecommunications, electrical power plants, oil plants, military production facilities and transportation links.”  See William M. Arkin, “Fog of War: Masterminding an Air War,”, 1998.

[124] Richard A. Clarke, “Mission to Jeddah,” August 7, 2015,

[125] Defense Intelligence Agency, A Chronology of Defense Intelligence in the Gulf War, 16.  The Dhahran Air Field was built by the U.S. after World War II.  It was called an airfield rather than a base due to Saudi sensitivities about having U.S. troops on Saudi soil.  Under a 1948 agreement, the U.S. leased the airfield annually from Saudi Arabia.

[126] John Kifner, “Confrontation in the Gulf; Arab Vote to Send Troops to Help Saudis; Boycott of Iraqi Oil Is Reported Near 100%; Baghdad Isolated,” New York Times, August 11, 1990.  According to the article, “The vote essentially pitted pro-Western states, particularly those rich in oil, against the radicals.  In favor were Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, all oil states, along with Egypt, Morocco, Somalia, Lebanon, Djibouti and Iraq’s longtime rival, Syria.  Sudan and Mauritania joined Jordan in voting to approve the resolution ‘with reservations.’ Tunisia was the only country in the league that did not attend. Algeria and Yemen abstained, and Iraq, the P.L.O. and Libya voted against the measure.”

[127] Edward Schumacher, “Tunis, Long Friendly to West, Bristles with Hostility to U.S. Gulf Moves,” New York Times, August 31, 1990.

[128] President George H.W. Bush, address to the nation from the Oval Office of the White House, August 8, 1990, transcript printed in “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990, 46th edition: 717-56 (Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1991),

[129] Charles Paul Freund, “In Search of a Post-Postwar Rhetoric,” Washington Post, August 12, 1990, cited in Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (New York: Gallery Books, 2012), 475-76.

[130] Joseph Carroll, “Americans on Iraq: Military Action or Diplomacy?” Gallup News, October 8, 2002,

[131] “Troops to Saudi Arabia: Support Varies,” New York Times, September 8, 1990.

[132] Roger Peace, A Just and Lasting Peace: The U.S. Peace Movement from the Cold War to Desert Storm (Chicago: Noble Press, 1991), 169.

[133] George H. W. Bush, “September 11, 1990:  Address Before a Joint Session of Congress,” University of Virginia Miller Center,  According to the Oil & Gas Journal in BP Statistical Review of World Energy, 1990, at year-end 1989, the percentage of proven reserves in different countries and regions were as follows:  Kuwait 9.3%, Iraq 9.9%, Saudi Arabia 25.2%, all other Mideast 20.8%, and all other countries 34.7%; cited in Joe Stork and Ann M. Lesch, “Background to the Crisis: Why War?” Middle East Report, No. 167 (Middle East Research and Information Project), Nov. – Dec., 1990, 13.

[134] “Case Concerning the Military and Paramilitary Activities In and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. United States of America),” International Court of Justice,  The court ruled against the U.S. on June 27, 1986.

[135] Joyce Battle, ed., “Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward Iraq, 1980-1984,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82, February 25, 2003, The geopolitical maxim of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” also played out 20 years earlier when the Kennedy administration sought to woo Iraqi leaders away from their reliance on Soviet arms and bring them into the American camp. From June to November 1963, Iraq’s first Ba’thist regime conducted a ruthless war of pacification against insurgent Kurds in the north. Needing more arms for this campaign of repression, U.S. officials welcomed the opportunity to replace the Soviet Union as primary arms supplier. See Weldon C. Matthews, “The Kennedy Administration and Arms Transfers to Ba’thist Iraq,” Diplomatic History, Vol. 43, No. 3 (2019): 469-492.

[136] Ibid.; and “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990.  See also, Seymour M. Hersh, “U.S. Secretly Gave Aid to Iraq in Its War Against Iran,” New York Times, Jan. 26, 1992. Hersh notes that “the Reagan Administration had permitted Iraq’s allies in the Middle East to ship American-made arms to Baghdad,” thought to have begun in 1982.

[137] Geraldine Brooks, “Iranian Blood Is on Our Hands, Too,” New York Times, January 9, 2020, p. A23.

[138] “Defense Planning: Guidance FY 1994-1999,”April 16, 1992,, page 22.  For an overview of U.S. global strategy, see Andrew J. Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (New York: Random House, 2016); and Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East since 1945 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002).

[139] Samantha Power, “A Problem from Hell” America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 171-235.  Power notes that some 4,049 Kurdish villages were destroyed in the 18-month campaign against the Kurds that began in February 1988 (p. 232).

[140] Bush, “September 11, 1990:  Address Before a Joint Session of Congress.”

[141] “No Evidence of Iraqi Threat to Saudi Arabia,” St. Petersburg Times, July 9, 2015, cited in Project Censored,

[142] Keaney and Cohen, “Gulf War Air Power Survey, Summary Report,” 4; and George H. W. Bush, “October 1, 1990: Address to the United Nations,” Presidential Speeches, University of Virginia Miller Center,

[143]  A. H. H. Abidi, “Origins and Dimensions of the Iraqi Claim Over Kuwait,” India International Centre Quarterly 18, no. 1 (1991): 129-43; Susan F. Kinsley, “Whatever Happened to the Iraqi Kurds?” Middle East Watch (a component of Human Rights Watch) report, March 11, 1991,; and “Detroit honored Saddam 20 Years Ago,” The Michigan Daily, March 27, 2003.  An estimated 3.5 million Kurds lived in Iraq – out of a total Iraqi population of 17 million (circa 1990); another 12 million Kurds lived in Turkey, seven million in Iran, and one million or so in Syria and the Soviet Union.  The Kurdish minority is a non-Arab ethnic group, with its own language and ancient cultural identity.  The Kurds have long sought their own nation-state which has long been denied.

[144] “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990; and Stork and Lesch, “Background to the Crisis: Why War?”

[145] Little, American Orientalism, 254.

[146] Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (East Sussex, UK: Clairview Books, 2003), 72-73.  See also, Michael Emery, “How Mr. Bush Got His War,” in Greg Ruggiero and Stuart Sahulka, eds., Open Fire (New York: New Press, 1993).

[147] “Confrontation in the Gulf; Excerpts From Iraqi Document on Meeting With U.S. Envoy,” New York Times, September 23, 1990.

[148] April Glaspie transcript, July 25, 1990,; and Flora Lewis, “Foreign Affairs; Between-Lines Disaster,” New York Times, September 19, 1990, A29.

[149] Roger Simon, “Was the U.S. Signal Red or Green on Kuwait?” Los Angeles Times, November 22, 1992.  See also, Glenn Kessler, “Ex-Envoy Details Hussein Meeting,” Washington Post, April 3, 2008; and Lloyd C. Gardner, The Long Road to Baghdad: A History of U.S. Foreign Policy from the 1970s to the Present (New York: The New Press, 2008), 73-77.

[150] “Setting the American Trap for Hussein,” International Herald Tribune, March 11, 1991, cited in Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “The 1991 Gulf Massacre,”,  Ahmed is a British investigative journalist.  On U.S. manipulation of Iraq, see also, Norman Solomon and Reese Erlich, Target Iraq: What the New Media Didn’t Tell You (New York: Context Books, 2003).

[151] Ramsey Clark, The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1992), 22-23.

[152] Developments in the Middle East, July 1990, Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 101st Congress, Second Session, July 31, 1990, page 14.

[153] “The Iraqi Invasion; Kuwaiti Washington Embassy Embattled Too,” New York Times, August 6, 1990, A6.

[154] Ibid.  Native Kuwaitis constituted about one-third of the 2.1 million population in Kuwait in 1990.  Many of the rest were from Palestine, Egypt, or India.  Citizenship was reserved to those able to prove Kuwaiti ancestry prior to 1920, although this law was being contested.

[155] Stone and Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, 476.

[156] John R. MacArthur, Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War (Berkeley/London: University of California Press, 1992), 49-50.

[157] Ibid., 54, 56.

[158] Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1990 – Iraq and occupied Kuwait, 1 January 1991,

[159] Ibid., 58.  For a closer look at the incubator story and its influence in the political debate, see “To Sell A War: Gulf War Atrocity Propaganda,” a 28 1/2 minute documentary produced by InfoWars Recast, available on YouTube:  “To Sell A War” first aired in December 1992 on the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s newsmagazine, The Fifth Estate.

[160] Stone and Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, 476.  According to John Oddo, in The Discourse of Propaganda: Case Studies from the Persian Gulf War and the War on Terror (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2018), by October 23, Bush stopped “sourcing the allegations altogether … Thus, audiences are positioned to regard the narrative as categorically true and potentially worthy of being shared again” (89).

[161] MacArthur, Second Front, 62, 66.  Middle East Watch was wary of the incubator story.  In a letter dated January 6, 1991, MEW investigator Aziz Abu-Hamad noted:  “Because Iraq has refused to allow neutral observers and journalists to monitor the situation in Kuwait, rumors sometimes were the only source of information.  The incubator deaths may be one of these stories…. I wonder if AI [Amnesty International] has the names of any families of the reported 350-plus killed premature babies.  They have, as we do, names of people killed in other ways, and names of detainees, but I have yet to come across the name of one family whose premature baby was allegedly thrown out of an incubator.”  Cited in ibid., 68.

[162] Ibid., 68, 249.  Journalist Alexander Cockburn publicly challenged “the incubator myth” in an op-ed article in the Los Angeles Times on January 17, 1991, the first day of the war.

[163] Ibid., 74; and John Healey, “Amnesty responds to President Bush,” The Heights (The Independent Student Weekly of Boston College), January 28, 1991,, page 13.

[164] MacArthur, Second Front, 76.  According to John Oddo in The Discourse of Propaganda: Case Studies from the Persian Gulf War and the War on Terror (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2018), an American doctor named Mohammed Said traveled to Kuwait in early September 1990 and interviewed doctors who denied the incubator story.  Dr. Said took videos of the incubators which remained intact in Kuwaiti hospitals.  Though Said held press conference in Amman, Jordan, and Washington, DC, where he showed his videos to reporters, major news organizations declined to run the story.  “The best Dr. Said could get was local news coverage in his hometown of Seattle, Washington,” notes Oddo.  “Later, Dr. Said says, he contacted the office of Representative Tom Lantos to request that he be allowed to give a statement at the Human Rights Caucus, so he could set the record straight.  But, again, he received no reply.  Dr. Said says he even contacted Amnesty International to share his story, but no one there was interested either” (page 98).

[165] Oddo, The Discourse of Propaganda, 90-91.

[166] Gardner, The Long Road to Baghdad, 87.

[167] Tom Raum, “Bush Says Saddam Even Worse Than Hitler,” November 1, 1990, AP news service,  Notwithstanding President Bush’s partisan efforts in the 1990 Congressional elections, Democrats gained one seat in the Senate and seven seats in the House of Representatives.

[168] Andrew J. Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (New York: Random House, 2016), 116.

[169] “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990.

[170] Joseph Carroll, “Americans on Iraq: Military Action or Diplomacy?”

[171] Ibid.; and Thomas L. Friedman, “Mideast Tensions; How U.S. Won Support to Use Mideast Forces; The Iraq Resolution: A U.S.-Soviet Collaboration – A special report,” New York Times, December 2, 1990, page 1A.

[172] John M. Goshko, “U.N. Vote Authorizes Use of Force Against Iraq,” Washington Post, November 30, 1990.

[173] John Quigley, “The United States and the United Nations in the Persian Gulf War: New Order and Disorder,” Cornell International Law Journal, Vol. 25, Issue 1 (Winter 1992), 27.

[174] According to law professor John Quigley:  “The danger in the [Security] Council’s failure to establish control became evident immediately after Resolution 678 was adopted.  The Council had no control over whether the Bush administration would negotiate with Iraq before launching a military invasion; once the administration attacked, it [the U.S.], rather than the Council, made all tactical decisions, including the decision to begin a ground war.  Further, once Iraq stated it would withdraw from Kuwait, the administration decided to continue fighting.  If the Military Staff Committee had controlled the action, it might well have decided to desist at that point.”  Ibid., 27-28.

[175] Ahmed, Behind the War on Terror, 83.

[176] “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990.  According to the State Department, rather than leave on evacuation flights, about 500 Americans choose to stay in Iraq or Kuwait because of dual citizenship or other reasons.

[177] Quigley, “The United States and the United Nations in the Persian Gulf War,” 10-11.

[178] In November 1967, following the Six-day War, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 242, calling on Israel to withdraw its armed forces from occupied territories, and encouraging all states in the region to negotiate a lasting peace.  United Nations Security Council, Resolution 242 of 22 November 1967,  Another issue of contention centered on Israel’s not-so-secret development of nuclear weapons.  Washington officials said nothing about this while demanding that other states in the region refrain from developing nuclear weapons.  In 1981, Israel bombed an Iraqi nuclear power plant, suspecting that the plant would be used to manufacture nuclear bombs.  The UN Security Council subsequently passed a weak resolution (487) denouncing the attack – an act of war – but otherwise took no action against Israel.

[179] “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990; and Michael J. Mazarr, Don M. Snider, and James A. Blackwell, Jr., Desert Storm: The Gulf War and What We Learned (New York: Routledge, 1993), 81-86.

[180] Mazarr, Snider, and Blackwell, Desert Storm: The Gulf War and What We Learned, 71.  The choice between continued economic sanctions and war was not an absolute choice between peace and war, but rather between a plodding siege and a quick lethal attack.  In the view of social science professor Michael Walzer, the blockade “was technically and practically an act of war,” reminiscent of Medieval sieges, except that food and medical supplies were allowed to pass through “before people started dying in the streets.”  Sanctions nonetheless avoided outright war.  Michael Walzer, “Justice and Injustice in the Gulf War,” in David E. DeCosse, ed., But Was It Just?  Reflections on the Morality of the Persian Gulf War (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 4, 6.

[181] “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990.”

[182] Ibid., 72.

[183] Ibid., 71-72.  See also, Bacevich, American Empire, 63-64.

[184] Mazarr, Snider, and Blackwell, Desert Storm: The Gulf War and What We Learned, 73.

[185] “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990.

[186] Douglas Jehl, “12 Punished for Violating Liquor Rules,” Los Angeles Times, November 10, 1990; and “A Look Back at Desert Storm,” HQ Air Force Reserve Command Public Affairs, January 14, 2016,

[187] “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990. On December 27, a group of 110 Democrats sent a letter to Bush urging military restraint.

[188] Joseph Carroll, “Americans on Iraq: Military Action or Diplomacy?”; Associated Press poll in “Should the U.S. Go to War?” Tallahassee Democrat, January 13, 1991; New York Times/CBS News poll in “Views on the Gulf,” New York Times, January 9, 1991; and Michael de Courcy Hinds, “Drawing on Vietnam Legacy, Antiwar Effort Buds Quickly,” New York Times, January 11, 1991 (analysis of recent polls). European public opinion was also divided, though the preference was to give sanctions a chance. See Eric V. Larson and Bogdan Savych, “Operation Desert Storm (Iraq, 1991),” in Misfortunes of War: Press and Public Reactions to Civilian Deaths in Wartime (Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2007), 37.

[189] “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution” (House Joint Resolution 77 and Senate Joint Resolution 2), passed on Jan. 12, 1991, and signed by President Bush on Jan. 14, reprinted in “Gulf Crisis Grows into War with Iraq,” Congressional Quarterly Almanac 1990; and Andrew Glass, “House approves military action against Iraq, Politico, Jan. 12, 1991, For background, see Gary R. Hess, “Presidents and Congressional War Resolutions of 1991 and 2002,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 121, No. 1 (Spring 2006): 93-118.

[190] “H.Res.86 – Impeaching George Herbert Walker Bush, President of the United States, of high crimes and misdemeanors,” 102nd Congress (1991-1992), Rep. Henry Gonzalez had previously introduced resolutions to impeach President Ronald Reagan; one following the Grenada invasion (cosponsored by seven other representatives); another following the Iran-Contra scandal.

[191] David W. Moore, “Americans Believe U.S. Participation in Gulf War a Decade Ago Worthwhile,” Gallup News, February 26, 2001,

[192] President George H. W. Bush, “January 16, 1991: Address to the Nation on the Invasion of Iraq,” Presidential Speeches, University of Virginia Miller Center,

[193] Noam Chomsky, “Gull War Pullout, Z Magazine, February 1991,

[194] Peace, A Just and Lasting Peace, 169; and Vince Bielski, “A Marine No More,” San Francisco Bay Guardian, January 9, 1991.

[195] Charles F. Howlett and Robbie Lieberman, For the People: A Documentary History of the Struggle for Peace and Justice in the United States (Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing, 2009), 292-94 (statement of Marine Corporal Jeff Paterson); Peter Applebome, “Epilogue to Gulf War: 25 Marines Face Prison,” New York Times, May 3, 1991; and U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Conscientious Objectors: Number of Applications Remained Small During the Persian Gulf War,” published Nov. 9, 1993; released Dec. 9, 1993,  According to the New York Times:  “In the Persian Gulf war only a tiny fraction of military personnel applied for conscientious objector status, saying their moral and religious beliefs forbid them from fighting in a war. The War Resisters League, which did a nationwide survey of counseling groups, said that about 2,500 applications were filed and that about 150 applicants face charges, including unauthorized absence, missing a troop movement or desertion.”

[196] Leslie Cagan, “Mideast Organizing,” Z Magazine, Vol. 3, No. 11 (Nov. 1990), 30.

[197] The National Council of Churches resolution is quoted in Ari L. Goldman, “Council of Churches Condemns U.S. Policy in Gulf,” New York Times, Nov. 16, 1990, A10.

[198] “War is Not the Answer,” New York Times advertisement (Statement of the Delegation to the Middle East), January 7, 1991.

[199] “Gulf War Responses,” Z Magazine 4, no. 3 (March 1991): 31-32 (information furnished by the Public Eye, and educational project of the National Lawyers Guild); Larson and Savych, “Operation Desert Storm (Iraq, 1991),” 41-42; and Barbara Epstein, “The Antiwar Movement During the Gulf War.” Social Justice 19, no. 1 (47) (1992): 119.  The January 26, 1991, rally was videotaped by C-SPAN:

[200] “List of rallies and protest marches in Washington, D.C.,” Wikipedia,,_D.C.

[201] Keaney and Cohen, “Gulf War Air Power Survey, Summary Report,” 7.

[202] United States Central Command, “Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Executive Summary,” July 11, 1991 (declassified), page 1,  Large sections of the latter declassified document are redacted (blacked out); hence, much information regarding U.S. motives, strategy, and operations is lacking.

[203] General Charles Horner, “Fog of War: Baghdad Bombing,”,

[204] William M. Arkin,  Gen. Charles Horner, and Rick Atkinson, “Fog of War: The 1991 Air Battle for Baghdad (Battle for Hearts and Minds),”, 1998,  Initial Iraqi estimates of civilian deaths in the Amiriyah bombing were in the 400-500 range, but by February 15, the total had been revised downward to 288.  Larson and Savych, “Operation Desert Storm (Iraq, 1991),” 44.

[205] In the two weeks preceding the Firdos bombing, U.S. warplanes had struck 25 targets in downtown Baghdad; in the two weeks after, they struck five, all reviewed by General Schwarzkopf.  Keaney and Cohen, “Gulf War Air Power Survey, Summary Report,” 219.

[206] Col. Harry G. Summers Jr., Persian Gulf War Almanac (New York: Facts on File, 1995), 225-26.

[207] Bacevich, America’s War in the Middle East, 120-21.

[208] United States Central Command, “Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Executive Summary,” 11.

[209] J. Michael Kennedy, “Allied Aircraft Pound Iraqis in ‘Turkey Shoot,’” Los Angeles Times, February 20, 1991.

[210] Mazarr, Snider, and Blackwell, Desert Storm: The Gulf War and What We Learned, 141-42.

[211] Keaney and Cohen, “Gulf War Air Power Survey, Summary Report,” 107; and Timothy J. McNulty, “Bush Warns Iraq on Chemical Arms,” Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1991.  The 60,000 Iraqi prisoners of war were quickly sent home after the war ended, as were 21 U.S. prisoners of war.

[212] Richard Randall, “’Like Fish in a Barrel,’ U.S. Pilots Say,” Washington Post, February 27, 1991, A28.

[213] Center of Military History, United States Army, War in the Persian Gulf: Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, August 1990-March 1991 (Washington, D.C.:  Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 2010), 56.

[214] Michael Kelly, “Highway to Hell,” The New Republic, March 31, 1991,

[215] Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East, 118.

[216] “Meet the Press,” February 24, 1991, and “Sunday Today,” March 31, 1991, both quoted in Quigley, “The United States and the United Nations in the Persian Gulf War,” 13.

[217] Leonard Doyle, “U.N Has No Role in Running War,” The Independent (London), February 11, 1991, cited in Quigley, “The United States and the United Nations in the Persian Gulf War,” 28.

[218]  John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, “An Unnecessary War,” Foreign Policy, January-February 2003, 54

[219] R. W. Apple, Jr., “Another Gulf War?” New York Times, March 10, 1991, A16, quoted in Quigley, “The United States and the United Nations in the Persian Gulf War,” 13.

[220] Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East, 125-28; and Quigley, “The United States and the United Nations in the Persian Gulf War,” 15.

[221] Defense Casualty Analysis System, “U.S. Military Casualties – Persian Gulf War Casualty Summary Desert Storm,”; Summers, Persian Gulf War Almanac, 90; Barton Gellman, “Gulf War’s Friendly Fire Tally Triples,” Washington Post, August 14, 1991; and Richard H. P. Shia, “Friendly fire cited in 13% of U.S. losses,” The Baltimore Sun, August 10, 1991.

[222] New York Times, February 3, 1991, quoted in Margot Norris, “Military Censorship and the Body Count in the Persian Gulf War,” Cultural Critique, No. 19, The Economies of War (Autumn, 1991), 224.

[223] Keaney and Cohen, “Gulf War Air Power Survey, Summary Report,” 249.  The report also cited a Baghdad government report claiming that 2,248 Iraqi civilians had been killed as a direct result of the war (p. 22).

[224] Ibid., 158; and Larson and Savych, “Operation Desert Storm (Iraq, 1991),” 21.

[225] Philip M. Taylor, War and the Media: Propaganda and Persuasion in the Gulf War (New York: Manchester University Press, 1998), 178-81.

[226] Edmund L. Andrews, “Census Bureau to Dismiss Analyst Who Estimated Iraqi Casualties,” New York Times, March 7, 1992.  Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark and his Commission of Inquiry, which traveled to Iraq, argued that both Iraqi military and civilian casualty figures were exponentially higher.  “Commission research, hearings, documentation, and analyses indicate between 125,000 and 150,000 Iraqi soldiers were killed,” the group noted.  “Experience reason, and actual counts completed make the 150,000 minimum civilian deaths in Iraq since the beginning of the war until early 1992 a very conservative number.”  The Commission cited various statements by government and media spokespersons and Beth Daponte’s Census Bureau report, but offered no independent analysis.  Clark, The Fire This Time, 209.

[227] Middle East Watch, Needless Deaths in the Gulf War, section: “Introduction and Summary of Conclusions.”

[228] Ibid.

[229] Ibid.

[230] “After the War; Excerpts From U.N. Report on Need for Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq,” New York Times, March 23, 1991; Adam Roberts, “The Laws of War in the 1990-91 Gulf Conflict,” International Security, Vol. 18, No. 3 (Winter, 1993-1994), 157; Quigley, “The United States and the United Nations in the Persian Gulf War, 18; and Louise Cainkar, “The Gulf War, Sanctions and the Lives of Iraqi Women,” Arab Studies Quarterly 15, no. 2 (1993): 15-51.

[231] See Barry S. Levy and Victor W. Sidel, War and Public Health (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

[232] “Protection of the Civilian Population,” Article 51, Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977, International Committee of the Red Cross, online:

[233] Clark, The Fire This Time, 266-69.

[234] “Report on Iraqi War Crimes (Desert Shield/Desert Storm): Unclassified Version, Prepared under the Auspices of Secretary of the Army,” January 8, 1992.  The bogus incubator story was allegedly confirmed by an investigation of Kuwait City medical records.

[235] Roberts, “The Laws of War in the 1990-91 Gulf Conflict,” 162.

[236] Human Rights Watch News, “Landmines in Iraq: Questions and Answers,”

[237] See Nick Cohen, “Radioactive Waste Left in Gulf by Allies,” The Independent on Sunday (London), November 10, 1991, pp. 1-2; and Eric Hoskins, “With Its Uranium Shells, Desert Storm May Have Sown Death,” International Herald Tribune (London), January 22, 1993, p. 4.  According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health:  “Depleted uranium (DU) is an emerging environmental pollutant that is introduced into the environment primarily by military activity.  While depleted uranium is less radioactive than natural uranium, it still retains all the chemical toxicity associated with the original element.  In large doses the kidney is the target organ for the acute chemical toxicity of this metal, producing potentially lethal tubular necrosis.  In contrast, chronic low dose exposure to depleted uranium may not produce a clear and defined set of symptoms.”  Wayne Briner, “The Toxicity of Depleted Uranium,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, January 2010,

[238] Quoted in Taylor, War and the Media, 114-15.

[239] Barbara Koeppel, “U.S. Nerve Gas Hit Our Own Troops in Iraq,” Newsweek, March 27, 2015,

[240] Patrick G. Eddington, Gassed in the Gulf: The Inside Story of the Pentagon – CIA Cover-Up of Gulf War Syndrome (Lincoln, NE:, 1997), xxi; and Barbara Koeppel, “U.S. Nerve Gas Hit Our Own Troops in Iraq.”

[241] Gregg Easterbrook, “Robowar: The Day the Weapons Worked,” The New Republic, February 11, 1991, 17-20; H. Bruce Franklin, Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2000), 150.

[242] Statement of the Honorable Les Aspin,” In “Performance of High-Technology Equipment in Operation Desert Storm,” April 22, 1991, Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, 102nd Congress, 1st Session (Washington, D.C: U.S. G.P.O., 1991).

[243] George and Meredith Friedman, The Future of War: Power, Technology and American World Dominance in the 21st Century (New York: Crown Publishers, 1996), x.

[244] See Max Boot, War Made New: Weapons, Warriors and the Making of the Modern World (New York: Avery, 2007), 330-331; Richard P. Hallion, Storm Over Iraq: Air Power and the Gulf War (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1992); Eric Prokosch, The Technology of Killing: A Military and Political History of Antipersonnel Weapons (London: Zed Books, 1995), 180; Keith L. Shimko, The Iraq Wars and America’s Military Revolution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Annie Jacobsen, The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency (Boston: Little & Brown, 2015); William D. Harwood, Raise Heaven and Earth: The Story of Martin Marietta People and Their Pioneering Achievements (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), 551.

[245] Andrew Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 35.

[246] See Jeremy Kuzmarov “The Improbable Militarist: Jimmy Carter, the Revolution in Military Affairs and Limits of the American Two-Party System,” Class, Race and Corporate Power,  6 :2 (2018).  Under the direction of President Carter’s Defense Secretary Harold Brown, heavy investment was made in the development of Laser-guided bombs (LGBs – or “smart bombs”), space-based satellite systems, and fighter planes equipped with complex avionic systems consisting of large radars to detect enemy planes and computerized fire control.  Funding for missiles increased $485 million or 63.5 percent, leading to the development of the Phased Array Track Intercept of Target (Patriot) missile, the world’s most advanced air missile defense system, along with Tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided (TOW) antitank and “Tomahawk” cruise missiles built by General Dynamics.  The latter were said to be accurate within a 100-foot range from 1,500 miles and possessed on-board computer guidance systems that allowed it to duck around hills and make necessary course corrections while eluding enemy radar.  Secretary of Defense Harold Brown was the Air Force Secretary during the Vietnam War (1965-1969), former president of the California Institute of Technology, and former director of the Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory at Berkeley.

[247] Robert Fisk, The Great War for Civilization: The Conquest of the Middle East (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 633, 650.  The point was emphasized by Theodore A. Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in April 1991.  According to the New York Times, “Professor Postol cited the video recording by an ABC News crew of four Patriots launched against incoming Scuds over Tel Aviv on January 25.  The videotape showed that one Patriot self-destructed in midair while two others skimmed rooftops and then crashed into residential areas and the fourth climbed and then dived into a warehouse district.” Statement of Professor Theodore A. Postol, Center for International Study MIT in “The Impact of the Persian Gulf War and the Decline of the USSR on How the U.S. Does its Defense Business,” Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, 102nd Congress, 1st Session, February-June 1991, 425.  See also, Patrick Tyler, “After the War: Did Patriot Missiles Work? Not So Well, Scientists Say,” The New York Times, April 17, 1991; Tim Weiner, “Patriot’s Success a Myth, Israeli Aides Say,” The New York Times, November 21, 1993; Fred Kaplan, “Patriot Games: The Missile Didn’t Really Work in 1991. Is it Working Now?” Slate, March 3, 2003; and Seymour Hersh, “Missile Wars,” The New Yorker, September 26, 1994.

[248] “Testimony of Pierre Sprey, former special assistant to assistant secretary of defense,” in “Performance of High Technology Equipment in Operation Desert Storm,” April 22, 1991, Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, 102nd Congress, 1st Session (Washington, D.C: U.S. G.P.O., 1991), 550, 572; Pierre M. Sprey, “Evaluating Weapons: Sorting the Good from the Bad,” in The Pentagon Labyrinth, ed. Winston Wheeler, Pierre Sprey and George Wilson (Washington, D.C.: Center for Defense Information, 2011), 111; Keith L. Shimko, The Iraq Wars and America’s Military Revolution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Andrew Cockburn, Kill Chain: The Rise of the High Tech Assassins (New York: Henry Holt, 2015), 4.

[249] John Ismay and Thomas Gibbons-Neff, “Trump’s Pentagon Embraces Weapons 164 Nations Ban, New York Times, February 8, 2020, A5.

[250] Douglas Kellner, The Persian Gulf TV War (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992); Triumph of the Image: The Media’s War in the Persian Gulf – A Global Perspective, ed. Hamid Mowlana, George Gerbner and Herbert I. Schiller (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1992).

[251] Timothy Noah, “Dick Cheney, Dove,” Slate, October 16, 2002,  See also, Gardner, The Long Road to Baghdad, 122-23.

[252] According to a post-war report commissioned by the U.S. Air Force, “Coalition planners believed from the outset that if Saddam Hussein’s forces were decisively defeated, the Iraqi leader would not long survive the war in power.”  Keaney and Cohen, “Gulf War Air Power Survey, Summary Report,” 76.

[253] R. W. Apple Jr., “After the War: Politics; Another Gulf War? New York Times, March 10, 1991.

[254] Mary McGrory, “Bush’s Peace Problems,” Washington Post, March 26, 1991; and George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed (New York, 1998), 383-84.  See also Bacevich, America’s War for the Greater Middle East, 132.

[255] Micah Zenko, “Remembering the Iraqi Uprising Twenty-Five Years Ago,” Council on Foreign Relations, March 5, 2016,

[256] Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch World Report 1992 – Kuwait, 1 January 1992,

[257] McNulty, “Bush Warns Iraq on Chemical Arms.”

[258] Mary Jordan and DeNeen L. Brown, “On the Mall, the Celebration Linters,” Washington Post, June 10, 1991; David Fitzgerald, “Support the Troops: Gulf War Homecomings and a New Politics of Military Celebration,” Modern American History (2019), 2: 14-16; and Mark Sussman, “Celebrating the New World Order: Festival and War in New York.” TDR (The Drama Review) 39, no. 2 (1995): 156.

[259] Fitzgerald, “Support the Troops: Gulf War Homecomings and a New Politics of Military Celebration,” 15.

[260] George C. Herring, “The War That Never Seems to Go Away,” in David L. Anderson and John Ernst, The War That Never Ends: New Perspectives on the Vietnam War (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2007), 335.

[261] Lance Morrow, “Desert Storm’s Troops: Triumphant Return,” Time, March 18. 1991; cited in Bacevich, America’s War in the Greater Middle East, 128.  For a non-nationalistic critique of the Persian Gulf War, see John Marciano, Civic Illiteracy and Education: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of American Youth (Chapter 6), 1997, republished in Counterpoints, Vol. 23: 145-176,

[262] President George H. W. Bush, State of the Union Address, January 28, 1992, Congressional Record, 102nd Congress (1991-1992),

[263] United Nations Treaty Collection, Chapter IV, Human Rights, 1. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Paris, 9 December 1948,

[264] In the year 2000, Canada convened the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty to draw up guidelines for humanitarian intervention.  The panel’s report, “The Responsibility to Protect,” was released in December 2001.  See Charles Homans, “Responsibility to Protect: A Short History,” Foreign Policy, October 11, 2011,; and United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect, “Responsibility to Protect,”

[265] “Erasing History: Ethnic Cleansing in Kosovo,” Report released by the U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC, May 1999, If applied to the past, this definition would condemn the U.S. Indian Removal Act of 1830 and resulting actions as a crime against humanity.

[266] E. H. Carr, in The Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919-1939: An Introduction to the Study of International Relations (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), argues that what passes for morality in international relations is often defined by the hegemonic powers of the era, consistent with their perceived national interests.  On the cooptation of human rights rhetoric to serve U.S. hegemonic designs, see James Peck, Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-opted Human Rights (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010). The U.S. State Department routinely cites the human rights abuses of U.S. geopolitical rivals while ignoring those of friends and allies. One example in 2020 is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo naming China, Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela as violators of human rights while turning a blind eye to abuses by Saudi Arabia (murder of a dissident), Turkey (press censorship), and Indonesia (attacks on a minority group). “We pray for a day when Cubans, Venezuelans, Chinese, Iranians and all peoples can speak and assemble freely without fear of their own governments,” Pompeo told journalists at the State Department. Lara Jakes, “Pompeo’s List of Top Human Rights Scofflaws Focuses on Trump Targets,” New York Times, March 12, 2020, A8.

[267] Hans Köchler, The Concept of Humanitarian Intervention in the Context of Modern Power Politics (Vienna: International Progress Organization, 2001),, p. 2.  See also, Richard Betts, “The Delusion of Impartial Intervention,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 1994.

[268] President William McKinley, “Message to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War with Spain,” April 11, 1898, The American Presidency Project,  For historical context, see Brian D’Haeseleer and Roger Peace, “The War of 1898 and the U.S.-Filipino War, 1899-1902,” United States Foreign Policy History and Resource Guide website, 2016,  On the debilitating effects of U.S. Cold War policies, see Edward Pessen, Losing Our Souls: The American Experience in the Cold War (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993); Jeremy Kuzmarov, Modernizing Repression: Police Training and Nation-Building in the American Century (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012); and Roger Peace, “Cold War interventionism, 1945-1990,” United States Foreign Policy History and Resource Guide website, 2019,

[269] Samantha Power, in “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: HarperCollins, 2002) identifies these and other arguments in relation to U.S. interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo, Chapters 11 and 12.

[270] James R. Ayers (Major, US Air Force), “Military Operations Other Than War in the New World Order: An Analysis of Joint Doctrine for the Coming Era,” Graduate Research Paper, Air Force Institute of Technology, Air University, May 1996, p. 15,

[271] “U.S. Armed Forces Abroad: Selected Congressional Votes Since 1982,” Congressional Research Service, Updated January 9, 2020,, p. 7.  The February 1994 vote was but one of a number of votes approving humanitarian-related missions.  The Somalia mission at this time was being phased out, following a botched raid in October 1993 that led to the deaths of American servicemen.

[272] United Nations Security Council Resolution 688, approved 5 April 1991,

[273] The White House, “A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement,” 12-13.

[274] “Joint Doctrine for Military Operations Other Than War” (Joint Pub 3-07), 16 June 1995,

[275] The White House, “A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement,” iii-iv.

[276]  Samantha Power’s bestseller, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (2002), has had a major influence in shaping the debate over military interventionism for humanitarian concerns, recounting the hesitancy of U.S. political and military leaders to prevent mass killings in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo, and urging military interventionism.  Rajon Menon, in The Conceit of Humanitarian Interventionism (Oxford University Press, 2016), points out flaws in Power’s approach, writing (p. 3), “The moral fervor of humanitarian interventionists is admirable, but it produces in them unwarranted confidence, even hubris.  They seem to believe that if the objective is good, the outcome will be as well, and that their critics either lack ethical commitment or represent states that want the freedom to engage in repression without outside interference.  One does not, alas, follow from the other:  criticism of humanitarian intervention does not necessarily stem from cold-heartedness; not all of its opponents are brutal despots or apologists for them.”  Menon identifies critics of the idea of “humanitarian intervention” as being in the minority.  These include David Chandler, Noam Chomsky, Anne Orford, and David Rieff.  Others critics have focused on specific interventions.  See, for example, David N. Gibbs, in First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009).

[277] Walter S. Poole, The Effort to Save Somalia, August 1992-March 1994, (Washington, DC:  Joint Chiefs of Staff History Office, 2005), 1-2.  See also, Walter E. Kretchik, Robert F Baumann, and John T. Fishel, Invasion, Intervention, “Intervasion”: A Concise History of the U.S. Army in Operation Uphold Democracy (Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College Press, 1998).

[278] Each clan-based faction had a military leader who could draw on clan members and a locational base in Somalia:   Ali Mahdi Mohammed of the Abgal clan which dominated North Mogadishu and Middle Shebelle Region; General Mohammed Aidid of the Habr Gedir clan whose control extended over South Mogadishu and areas south; General Siad Hersi Morgan, formerly a chief commander of Siad Barre’s army, of the Somali Patriotic Movement and Harti sub-clan that controlled the port of Kismayu; and Col. Ahmed Omar Jess of the Ogadeni sub-clan that also operated in the Kismayu area.  Human Rights Watch, “Somalia Faces the Future: Human Rights in a Fragmented Society,” Human Rights Watch Report Somalia, Vol. 7, No. 2 (April 1995),

[279] Peter Woodward, U.S. Foreign Policy and the Horn of Africa (New York: Taylor & Francis, 2016), 25-26; Elizabeth Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War: Sovereignty, Responsibility, and the War on Terror (Athens: Ohio University Research in International Studies, 2018), 75; and Helen Chapin Metz, ed., Somalia: A Country Study (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1992), “Relations with the United States” section,  Before 1977, Somalia had been allied with the Soviet Union.  When Somali forces invaded neighboring Ethiopia, the Soviet Union aligned instead with Ethiopia.  Though Somalia was clearly the aggressor, the U.S. allied with Somalia and provided it with “defensive” arms.  U.S. loans to the Barre government also came with strings attached – International Monetary Fund requirements to reduce the public sector and expand opportunities for international investment.

[280] Ismail Einashe and Matt Kennard, “In the Valley of Death: Somaliland’s Forgotten Genocide,” The Nation, October 22,2018,

[281] Mark Fineman, “The Oil Factor in Somalia: Four American petroleum giants had agreements with the African nation before its civil war began. They could reap big rewards if peace is restored,” Los Angeles Times, January 18, 1993,

[282] Human Rights Watch, “Somalia Faces the Future”; and “Somalia – UNOSOM 1 Background,” United Nations, This report provides much of the background in the foregoing discussion.

[283] David N. Gibbs, “Realpolitick and Humanitarian Intervention: The Case of Somalia,” International Politics, 37 (March 2000),, p. 45, 46, 49. As tension increased between the international mission and Aidid, Conoco oil company, the largest U.S. investor in Somalia, distanced itself from Aidid.

[284] Kenneth B. Noble, “400 U.S. Marines Attack Compound of Somali Gunmen,” New York Times, January 8, 1993, A1.

[285] Charles Trueheart, “Canadian Guilty of Killing Somali,” Washington Post, March 18, 1994. See also, Colonel Dennis P. Mroczkowski (U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired), Restoring Hope: In Somalia with the Unified Task Force, 1992-1993; U.S. Marines in Humanitarian Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. Marine Corps History Division, 2005), especially pp. 98-102, “Morale and Restraint,” which discusses the difficulty of winning over the population and notes a number of unwarranted killings by U.S. and Canadian troops.

[286] Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War, 78.  See also, Mohamed Sahnoun, Somalia: The Missed Opportunities (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 1994); and John L. Hirsch and Robert B. Oakley, Somalia and Operation Restore Hope: Reflections on Peacemaking and Peacekeeping (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace, 1995). Oakley was a U.S. special envoy to Somalia during the first phase of the mission, a political advisor to the relief effort.  He was sharply critical of the shift in emphasis to military operations.

[287] Human Rights Watch, “Somalia Faces the Future.”

[288] Ibid.

[289] Ibid.; and Art Pine, “U.N. Forces Attack Somali Weapon Sites : Africa: U.S.-led assault targets clan leader Aidid’s radio station, compounds and warehouses in retaliation for the ambush-killing of 23 Pakistani peacekeepers,” Los Angeles Times, June 12, 1993,

[290] Human Rights Watch, “Somalia Faces the Future.”

[291] Michael R. Gordon, “U.S. Troops Fire on Somalis; Death Toll May Reach 100,” New York Times, September 10, 1993,

[292] A photo of the dead American soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu taken by Paul Watson of the Toronto Star won a Pulitzer Prize.  It may be viewed, with discretion, on the Alchetron website here.

[293] Matthew A. Baum, “How Public Opinion Constrains the Use of Force: The Case of Operation Restore Hope,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 34, No. 2, June 2004, 216.

[294] Bill Clinton, My Life: The Presidential Years (New York: Random House, 2004), 114.

[295] Donatella Lorch, “Last of the U.S. Troops Leave Somalia; What Began as a Mission of Mercy Closes With Little Ceremony,” New York Times, March 26, 1994.  Some UN relief agency officials credited the UN-U.S. mission with saving lives. “Was it necessary and was it needed?” asked Staffan de Mistura, director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Somalia. “Definitely yes. It all began with the images of tens of thousands of dying children.”  Besides distributing food, UNICEF vaccinated 753,000 children, built 3,700 wells, and enrolled 62,000 children in school, though a UN military mission was not needed to accomplish these.

[296] Human Rights Watch, “Somalia Faces the Future.”

[297] Poole, The Effort to Save Somalia, 69.

[298] Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (New York: Grove Press, 2001), 10, 345. For a critique of the movie Black Hawk Down, see Mickey Kaus, “What Black Hawk Down Leaves Out,” Slate, January 21, 2002,

[299] William Blum, “Haiti 1986-1994: Who Will Rid Me of This Turbulent Priest?” (section), Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1998), 373, 376, online:  See also, Jim Mann, “CIA’s Aid Plan Would Have Undercut Aristide in ’87-’88: Haiti: But Senate panel stymied agency’s effort to boost candidates, counter his call for vote boycott,” Los Angeles Times, Oct. 31, 1993.

[300] Stephen Engleberg, “A Haitian Leader of Paramilitaries Was Paid By the CIA,” New York Times, October 8, 1994.  The article notes that the “disclosure of Mr. Constant’s ties to the C.I.A. was first reported by The Nation magazine and detailed further in today’s Washington Post…. In the Nation article, Mr. Constant was quoted as saying he was encouraged to form Fraph by Col. Patrick Collins, an American military officer who served as defense attache at the United States Embassy in Port-au-Prince.  Mr. Constant also charged that Colonel Collins and the C.I.A. station chief were inside the headquarters of the Haitian military when the anti-Aristide coup unfolded in 1991.  An Administration official said that Colonel Collins has denied both charges. Colonel Collins could not be reached for comment.”

[301] “Haiti:  Efforts to Restore President Aristide, 1991-1994,”, May 11, 1995,; and Kenneth Roth, “Haiti and Clinton,” The New York Review of Books, March 4, 1993.

[302] Engleberg, “A Haitian Leader of Paramilitaries Was Paid By the CIA,” New York Times, October 8, 1994.  According to the article, “Emmanuel (Toto) Constant, the head of the organization known as Fraph, was on the C.I.A.’s payroll in October 1993, when his group organized a violent demonstration that prevented the docking of the Navy ship Harlan County, the [U.S. government] officials said…. While refusing to confirm that Mr. Constant was on the C.I.A. payroll, Walter Slocombe, Undersecretary of Defense for policy, reminded Congress today that the United States frequently buys information from shadowy figures.” Haitian paramilitary forces were also on the loose; assassins killed a prominent Aristide supporter, Antoine Izmery, on September 12, and Aristide’s Minister of Justice, Guy Malary, on October 14. See also, “National Emergency with Respect to Haiti,” Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Part 1, 103rd Congress, Second Session, April 26, 1994, pp. 39.9-39.11.

[303] United Nations Security Council, “Resolution 940: Authorization to form a multinational force under unified command and control to restore the legitimately elected President and authorities of the Government of Haiti and extension of the mandate of the UN Mission in Haiti,”

[304] Steven Greenhous, “Clinton Policy Toward Haiti Comes Under Growing Fire,” New York Times, April 15, 1994.  Reps. Dellums and Obey had both voted in January 1991 against authorizing the president to go to war against Iraq.  For a critique of humanitarian interventionism from the left, see Anthony Fenton, “’Legalized Imperialism’: ‘Responsibility to Protect’ and the Dubious Case of Haiti,” Global Policy Forum, December 3, 2005, 

[305] Douglas Farah, “U.S. Assists Dictators’ Luxury Exile,” Washington Post, October 14, 1994; and “Intervention in Haiti, 1994-1995,” Office of the Historian.

[306] Rachael Bunyan, “25 Years After ‘Operation Uphold Democracy,’ Experts Say the Oft-Forgotten U.S. Military Intervention Still Shapes Life in Haiti,” Time, September 24, 2019.

[307] Jean-Bertrand Aristide and Laura Flynn, Eyes of the Heart: Seeking a Path for the Poor in the Age of Globalization (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000).

[308] When U.S. troops marched into Haiti in 1915, sparking resistance and a brutal counter-insurgency war in which over 3,000 Haitians were killed, democracy was not a concern for the invaders.  In the spring of 1917, the Haitian National Assembly refused to pass an American-drafted Constitution that allowed for foreign ownership of land.  U.S. authorities responded by issuing a decree signed by puppet President Dartiguenave that dissolved the National Assembly.  The Haitian legislature did not meet again until 1929.  For background on this period, see Roger Peace, “’Yankee Imperialism,’ 1901-1934” (Section IV. Case studies), United States Foreign Policy History and Resource Guide website, 2018,; Mary A. Renda, Taking Haiti, 1915-1940: Military Occupation & the Culture of U.S. Imperialism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001); Paul Farmer, The Uses of Haiti (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1994); and Peter Hallward, Damning the Flood: Haiti and the Politics of Containment (London: Verso, 2012).

[309] Jose de Cordoba and Greg Jaffe, “Aristide Leaves Haiti Amid Chaos; Hundreds of U.S. Marines To Depart for the Country, Joining Peacekeeping Force,” Wall Street Journal, March 1, 2004; Lydia Polgreen and Tim Weiner, “Haiti’s President Forced Out; Marines Sent to Keep Order,” New York Times, February 29, 2004; and Amy Wilentz, “Coup in Haiti,” The Nation, March 22, 2004.  For background and details on the 2004 coup, see Jeb Sprague, Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012).  The U.S. foreign policy establishment’s antipathy toward Aristide is clear in Daniel Whitman’s account, A Haiti Chronicle: The Undoing of a Latent Democracy, 1999–2001 (Victoria, Canada: Trafford, 2004), which views the ouster of Aristide in February 2004 as a just response to the thuggery of Aristide’s supporters.  Whitman was the Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince in 1999-2001 and, according to Sprague, an investigative journalist, played a role in spreading false rumors about Aristide, including an alleged psychiatrist’s report finding Aristide “psychotic” (Sprague, 360).  See Sprague’s online photos and brief history of Haitian politics:

[310] The UN Outreach Programme on the Rwanda Genocide,, states that “more than 800,000 people are estimated to have perished,” without clarifying the proportion of Tutsi to Hutu.  That figure was disputed by Christian Davenport and Allan Stam, in “What Really Happened in Rwanda?” Pacific Standard, October 6, 2009; updated June 14, 2017,  The authors examined Tutsi population figures and arrived “at an estimated total of somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 Tutsi victims.”

[311] Jean-Marie Kamatali, “Following Orders in Rwanda,” New York Times (op-ed), April 4, 2014.  Kamatali served as dean of the National University of Rwanda School of Law before becoming assistant professor at Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law.

[312] U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Intelligence Assessment, “Roots of the Violence in Rwanda,” April 29, 1994, “The U.S. and the Genocide in Rwanda: Evidence of Inaction,” ed. William Ferroggiaro, National Security Archive, August 20, 2001,  RPF units were also stationed in Kigali, the capital, and sporadically fought with Hutu militias until the RPF victory on July 4, 1994.

[313] Human Rights Watch, “Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda,” March 1999, section on “The Rwandan Patriotic Front,”

[314] Filip Reyntjens, “Rwanda 25 Years On: International (Non-)Response to Genocide,” July 17, 2019, available at (list of publications).  Reyntjens, Emeritus Professor of Law and Politics at the University of Antwerp, spent years in the Great Lakes region and has published numerous works on the Rwandan genocide.

[315] “Inside the UN Security Council: April-July 1994,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 472, edited by Michael Dobbs, June 2, 2014, document 5,

[316] Guy Martin, in “Review: Readings of the Rwandan Genocide,” African Studies Review, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Dec. 2002), p. 21, offers a cogent summary of UN Security Council resolutions and actions:  “UNSC resolution 872 of October 5, 1993, created the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) to help implement the Arusha Accords.  By December 1993, 1,428 UNAMIR peacekeepers (out of a total authorized force of 2,538) were in place in Rwanda. Following the assassination of ten Belgian peacekeepers from UNAMIR – and of the Rwandan prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana – on April 7, 1994, the Belgian peacekeepers were withdrawn and the UNAMIR force was reduced to 270.  Increasing pressure from the international humanitarian lobby resulted in UNSC resolution 918 of May 17, which authorized UNAMIR II with a beefed-up peacekeeping force of 5,500 men and a broadened mandate.  However, due to persistent U.S. delaying tactics, UNAMIR II was never deployed.  Finally, UNSC 925 of June 8, followed by resolution 929 two weeks later, authorized the French, through Operation Turquoise, to set up ‘safe humanitarian zones’ in southwestern Rwanda just as the genocide was subsiding and the RPF was progressively taking control of the country.  The UN Security Council approved Resolution 918 on May 17, 1994, which authorized a phased expansion of UNAMIR II to a force level up to 5,500 troops, but the additional troops did not arrive until June.”

[317] Frank G. Wisner, Under Secretary of Defense, “Memorandum for Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, National Security Council; Subject: Rwanda: Jamming Civilian Radio Broadcasts,” May 5, 1994, declassified document available from the National Security Archive, “The US and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994, Evidence of Inaction,” edited by William Ferroggiaro, August 20, 2001,

[318] Department of Public Information, United Nations, “Rwanda—UNAMIR: United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda,” September 1996; and Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War, Chapter 6.  An Organization of African Unity (OAU) investigative report, Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide (July 2000, faulted the UN Security Council, France, Belgium, and the United States for failing to prevent the genocide and for failing to hold the RPF as well as Hutu extremists accountable for the slaughter.  The responsibility of the French, being allied with the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government, is the focus of a number of studies:  Daniela Kroslak, The French Betrayal of Rwanda (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2008); Andrew Wallis, Slient Accomplice: The Untold Story of France’s Role in the Rwandan Genocide (New York: I. B. Tauris, 2006), and Arnaud Siad, ed., The Rwandan Crisis Seen through the Eyes of France, part one, “Leadup to the Genocide,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book no. 461, March 20, 2014, 

[319] “At Last, Rwanda’s Pain Registers,” New York Times editorial, July 23, 1994.

[320] Lt. General Roméo Dallaire (Force Commander of the UN Assistance Mission to Rwanda, 1993-94), Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda (New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2003).  Samantha Power is described by the writer Dexter Filkins as “a kind of Joan of Arc for humanitarian intervention.”  Dexter Filkins, “Damned If You Don’t,” The New Yorker, September 16, 2019, p. 20.  In her study, “A Problem from Hell”, Power urges the protection of refugees and civilians by “well-armed and robustly mandated peacekeepers, airpower, or both,” and states that “the United States must also be prepared to risk the lives of its soldiers in the service of stopping this monstrous crime” (514).

[321] Studies by Hazel Cameron (University of St. Andrews Lecturer) include Britain’s Hidden Role in the Rwandan Genocide: The Cat’s Paw (London: Routledge, 2013); “British State Complicity in Genocide: Rwanda 1994,” State Crime Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, 2012: 70-87; and “The French Connection: Complicity in the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda,” African Security, Vol. 8, Issue 2, 2015: 96-119.  Helen C. Epstein is the author of Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror (New York: Columbia Global Reports, 2017); and “America’s secret role in the Rwandan genocide,” The Guardian, September 12, 2017,  See also, Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War; Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and Genocide in Rwanda (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2001); Wayne Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa, 1993-1999 (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 1999); Edward S. Herman and David Peterson’s The Politics of Genocide (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2010); and Judi Rever’s In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Toronto: Random House Canada, 2018).

[322] Cameron, “British State Complicity in Genocide: Rwanda 1994,” 76-77.

[323] Ibid., 84; and Cameron, Britain’s Hidden Role in the Rwandan Genocide: The Cat’s Paw, 80.

[324] Epstein, “America’s secret role in the Rwandan genocide.”

[325] André Guichaoua (translated by Don E. Webster), From War to Genocide: Criminal Politics in Rwanda, 1990-1994 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2017), x-xi; and Power, “A Problem from Hell”, 82-83.

[326] Human Rights Watch, “Genocide: Ideology and Organization,” April 2006,  See also, Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda (New York: Human Rights Watch, 1999).

[327] Reyntjens, “Rwanda 25 Years On.”

[328] “Rwanda: The Failure of the Arusha Peace Accords,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 469, May 32, 2014,; Schmidt, Foreign Intervention in Africa after the Cold War, 142-48; Catharine Newbury, “Background to Genocide: Rwanda,” Issue: A Journal of Opinion, 1995, Vol. 23, No. 2, 15-16; and “Rwanda: UNAMIR background,”

[329] Raymond Bonner, “Unsolved Rwanda Mystery: The President’s Plane Crash,” New York Times, November 12, 1994.

[330] Katrin Bennhold, “French judge seeking to bring Rwandan president before UN tribunal,” New York Times, October 21, 2006; and Bruce Crumley, “French Inquiry Clears Rwanda’s Kagame Of the Attack That Sparked a Genocide,” Time, January 11, 2012.

[331] Carla de Ponte, Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations with Humanity’s Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity (NY: The Other Press, 2009).

[332] Michael Hourigan,  “To the Editor,” The Guardian, London, UK, 15 June 2010, republished in  See also, “Rwanda’s Untold Story Documentary,” a 59-minute documentary film aired by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) in 2014, available for viewing at

[333] “A former FBI investigator accused Paul Kagame:  Prepared Statement of Mr. James R. Lyons; Statement regarding the April 6, 1994 assassination of the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in addition to all others on board the Presidential Aircraft,” April 2001,

[334] Jeremy Kuzmarov, “Exposing the Crimes of the CIA’s Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front,” Counterpunch, December 7, 2018,  See also, Philip Gourevitch, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998), 212.

[335] Guichaoua, From War to Genocide, 145-46.

[336] Peter Erlinder, “The Great Rwanda ‘Genocide Coverup,’” Global Research, February 20, 2008,; “Rwanda’s Untold Story” (documentary series, one hour), British Broadcasting Company,; and Martin Ngoga, “Why we’re prosecuting Peter Erlinder,” The Guardian, July 3, 2010.

[337] Reyntjens, “Rwanda 25 Years On”; and Guichaoua, From War to Genocide, 313-16.  Reyntjens writes that no Tutsi were put on trial or convicted, but, in fact, belatedly in October 2008, two captains were tried and sentenced for killing 14 persons, including ten priests and a child, at Kabgayi on June 5, 1994.  Their commanding officers were acquitted, as the military tribunal in Kigali established that the killings were “an accident” involving “personal decisions of soldiers acting without orders.”  Meanwhile, those responsible for massacring over 5,000 civilians at Byumba stadium on April 23, 1994, were never tried at all.  The trial of the captains, as such, was designed to show the world that justice was being carried out, whereas in reality, it served to put out of mind the larger number of massacres carried out by the RPF.

[338] Robert E. Gribbin, In the Aftermath of Genocide: The U.S. Role in Rwanda (New York: IUniverse, 2005), 168, 170; Michael Wines, “U.S. Sending Force of 200 to Reopen Rwandan Airport,” The New York Times, July 30, 1994; and Madsen, Genocide and Covert Operations in Africa 1993-1999.

[339] Remegius Kintu, “The Truth Behind the Rwandan Tragedy,” Presented to UN Tribunal on Rwanda, Arusha, Tanzania, March 20, 2005,”, 27.  Defense Secretary Perry wrote another letter to Kagame on November 6, 1995, emphasizing joint U.S.-Rwandan military exercises:  “I am confident that Rwandese officers and soldiers will enjoy the fruits of formal training alongside American soldiers at U.S. military schools next year.  We have also arranged for our European Command to offer you a Joint Combined Exercise for Training (JCET) for next year in Rwanda.”

[340] On the counterinsurgency campaigns targeting Hutu refugees and their brutality, see Marie Beatrice Umutesi, Surviving the Slaughter: The Ordeal of a Rwandan Refugee in Zaire (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2004).

[341] “Rwanda, Human Rights Developments,” Human Rights Watch, World Report 1999,

[342] Howard W. French, U.N. Congo Reports Offers New View on Genocide, New York Times, August 27, 2010.  See also, “Leaked UN report accuses Rwanda of possible genocide in Congo,” The Guardian, August 26, 2010; and Human Rights Watch, “DR Congo: UN Report Exposes Grave Crimes,” October 1, 2010,

[343] Michelle Faul, “A second Rwanda genocide is revealed in Congo: U.N. report ties Tutsi soldiers to deaths of thousands of Hutus,” Associated Press, October 10, 2010,  As of September 2020, the Kagame government was still in power.  According to an in-depth New York Times article, “‘In the Belly of the Beast’: How Savior of Rwanda Fell Into a Strongman’s Trap” (September 20, 2020), Paul Kagame was re-elected in 2017 “with 99 percent of the vote.”  In addition to skewing elections, Kagame ordered the assassination of a number of his political opponents.  “In at least six countries, Rwandan exiles have been harassed, assaulted or killed, as part of an apparent covert campaign targeting Mr. Kagame’s most nettlesome detractors.”  In September 2020, Kagame set a trap and kidnapped Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of the film “Hotel Rwanda” (Rusesabagina was played by Don Cheadle), who sheltered hundreds of Hutus and Tutsis in his Hotel des Mille Collines during the genocide of April 1994.  In November 2005, President George W. Bush awarded Rusesabagina the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award.  After criticizing the authoritarian Kagale regime, however, Rusesabagina received death threats, which led him to flee Rwanda with his family.  His kidnapping – by tricking him to take an airplane back to Rwanda – was accompanied by trumped up charges of aiding murder, arson, and terrorism.  See also, Michela Wrong, The Story of a Political Murder and an African Regime Gone Bad (New York: PublicAffairs, 2021), which focuses on the assassination of former Rwanda spy chief Patrick Karegeya by Kagame’s henchmen.  Wrong, a former journalist who covered Rwanda, also discusses the Kagame regime’s “deplorable record on human rights abuses” and asserts that the Kagame regime “has also been caught red-handed attempting the most lurid of assassinations on the soil of foreign allies, not once but many times,” and that Western countries have continued to supply aid to the government regardless.  Howard W. French, “Power Trip: The dark underside of Rwanda’s model public image,” New York Times Book Review, April 18, 2021, page 15.

[344] Multiculturalism has been a fact of life in many empires in the past.  From 1918 to 1929, Yugoslavia – meaning “Land of the South Slavs” – was officially called the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.  Regarding theories of why the former Yugoslavia descended into ethnic-political wars in the 1990s, see Randy Hodson, Dusko Sekulic, and Garth Massey, “National Tolerance in the Former Yugoslavia,” American Journal of Sociology 99, no. 6 (1994): 1534-558.  Multiculturalism is again solidly embraced by all cultures; see Scott Gardner and Jonathan Evans, “Most in former Yugoslavia favor multicultural society, although some tensions remain,” Pew Research Fact Tank, May 22, 2017,

[345] These personal accounts (names withheld) were shared with the author Roger Peace.

[346] David N. Gibbs, in First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009), 92.  All twelve European Community member countries formally recognized Slovenia and Croatia as independent states on January 15, 1992.

[347] Ibid., 99.

[348] Ibid., 102.  During the 1980s, the U.S. pressed Yugoslavia to accept IMF structural adjustment reforms.  According to Gibbs, “Adjustment was intended to dismantle statist economic systems to make them more accessible to multinational investors.”  Yugoslavia’s adoption of the IMF program worsened economic conditions which in turn contributed to “the political and ethnic conflicts that ultimately resulted in the disintegration of the country” (56).

[349] Ibid., 87.

[350] Chuck Sudetic, “Cease-Fire Stills Gunfire in Croatia,” New York Times, January 4, 1992.

[351] Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 109.  Gibbs asserts that U.S. Ambassador Warren Zimmerman encouraged the Izetbegović government to reject the Lisbon plan (108), and that Washington officials were motivated by a desire to “oppose European efforts to achieve foreign policy independence” and assert U.S. “predominance” (113).  Zimmerman publicly denied such charges in a letter to the New York Times (“Bosnian About-Face”) on September 15, 1993.

[352] David Owen, Balkan Odyssey (New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1995), 221, 399, cited in Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 276.

[353] Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 144; and Ben Fowkes, Ethnicity and Ethnic Conflict in the Post-Communist World (London: Palgrave, 2002), 88.

[354] Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 122.  For a detailed review of the history of the Bosnian conflict, see Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, “Srebrenica – A ‘Safe’ Area: Reconstruction, Background, Consequences, and Analyses of the Fall of a Safe Area,” April 2002,

[355] Human Rights Watch, “Bosnia-Hercegovina: Sarajevo,” Vol. 6, No. 15, October 1994,  See also, Andrew Higgins, “It Was a Rape Camp.  Now It’s a Spa That Depends on Amnesia,” New York Times, November 25, 2020, A9.  The article cites a 2011 UN report indicating that the Vilina Vlas spa in eastern Bosnia “had been commandeered by a gang of Serb nationalist thugs who called themselves the White Eagles and the Avengers.”  Many of their captives, mostly Bosnian Muslim women but also some men, were raped and murdered.  Bakira Hasecic, who was raped three times at a nearby police station, later founded the Association of Women War Victims, interviewed survivors, and testified before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.  The spa later reopened as a health resort with all indications of its past removed.

[356] Power, “A Problem from Hell”, 271-72, 277, 274.

[357] Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 47; and David Rohde, Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica: Europe’s Worst Massacre Since World War II (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997), 374. Some Serbs also carried an older vendetta against Islamic Turks (Muslims) dating back six centuries. Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević gave a famous speech to some one million people on June 28, 1989, marking the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo in which Serbian forces fell to the Ottoman Turks. The speech called for Serbian ethnic unity, but it also elevated the principle of multi-ethnic unity rather than fan the flames of ethnic hatred. “Slobodan Milosevic’s 1989 St. Vitus Day Speech, Gazimestan – June 28, 1990,”

[358] According to Human Rights Watch, “The primary aim of ‘ethnic cleansing’ is the capture or consolidation of control over territory by forcibly displacing, killing, mistreating or otherwise terrorizing members of the ‘enemy’ ethnic group(s) in the area.” Human Rights Watch, “Bosnia-Hercegovina: Sarajevo.”

[359] Power, “A Problem from Hell”, 272.

[360] United Nations, “Former Yugoslavia – UNPROFOR,”; Chuck Sudetic, “Serbs Attack Two of U.N.’s ‘Safe Areas’ in Bosnia,” New York Times, June 7, 1993; and Anthony M. Schinella, Bombs Without Boots: The Limits of Airpower (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2019), 14.  Following the shelling of Sarejevo’s Markale Market Square in February 1994 and again in August 1995, killing 68 and 37 civilians, respectively, UN Protection Force commander Lieut. Gen. Rupert Smith quickly concluded that the Serbs were responsible.  After the latter shelling, however, foreign correspondent David Binder interviewed four UNPROFOR specialists (a Russian, a Canadian, and two Americans) who challenged that conclusion.  “The Canadian specialist,” wrote Binder, “an officer with extensive service in Bosnia, said in a telephone interview that the UN report, which he’d seen, was ‘highly suspect.’  He cited ‘anomalies with the fuse’ of the mortar shell recovered from the marketplace crater.  Unlike the fuses of four other shells that hit Sarajevo that morning, this one, he said, ‘had not come from a mortar tube at all.’  He added that he and fellow Canadian officers in Bosnia were ‘convinced that the Moslem government dropped both the Feb. 5, 1994, and the August 28, 1995 mortar shells on the Sarajevo markets.’”  Binder asked rhetorically, “Why would the Bosnian government kill its own people?”  Noting that “the Muslim leadership [had previously] loudly demanded NATO air attacks but General Smith refused to call them in,” he suggested that pressuring NATO to enter the war on its side could have been a motive.  David Binder, “Bosnia’s Bombers,” The Nation, October 2, 1995,  See also, Ceese Wiebes, Intelligence and the War in Bosnia, 1992-1995 (London: LIT Verlag, 2003), 68; and Lt. Col. John Sray, “Selling the Bosnian Myth to America: Buyer Beware,” U.S. Army Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, October 1995,

[361] Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 153.

[362] Power, “A Problem from Hell”, 295-302, 308.  In January 1994, the UN Security Council condemned Croatian interference in Bosnia, citing 3,000 to 5,000 Croatian regular army personnel in Bosnia.

[363] Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, “Srebrenica – A ‘Safe’ Area; and Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 151.  The U.S. General Accounting Office, in a May 1995 report, noted, “In December 1994, the U.N. Commission of Experts on the former Yugoslavia reported on the killing of civilians, mass gravesites, rapes, torture, ethnic cleansing, and prison camps.  The Commission concluded that all parties had committed grave breaches of international humanitarian law.  But most violations were committed by Serbs against Bosnian Muslims.  Croats were the second largest group of victims.  Serbs were also victims, but to a much lesser extent than the others.”  U.S. General Accounting Office, “Peace Operations: Update on the Situation in the Former Yugoslavia,” May 1995,, p. 29.

[364] Michael O. Beale, Bombs over Bosnia: The Role of Airpower in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press, August 1997), 44.  Air Force Major Beale writes:  “From the spring of 1993 until February 1994, the Croats, Muslims, and Serbs were essentially fighting against and allied with each other at various points throughout the country. In Bihac, it was Abdic’s Muslims allied with Serbs, fighting Bosnian government soldiers.  In Mostar, it was Croats fighting Muslims; in north central Bosnia, it was Serbs and Croats fighting Muslims; and in Croatia, it was Krajina Serbs fighting Croats.  This was in addition to Serbs and Muslims fighting in eastern and northern Bosnia.  The battlefield maps and intelligence scenario changed daily.  Frustrated NATO and UN personnel kept searching for solutions” (24).

[365] Gen. Charles G.Boyd, “Making Peace with the Guilty: The Truth about Bosnia,” Foreign Affairs 74, no. 5 (Sept.-Oct. 1995), 32; and Sara Flounders, “Bosnia Tragedy: The Unknown Role of the Pentagon,” in NATO in
the Balkans: Voices of Opposition
, edited by Ramsey Clark, Sean Gervasi, Sara Flounders, Nadja Tesich, Thomas Deichmann, and others (New York: International Action Center, 1998), 59.

[366] United Nations, “Former Yugoslavia – UNPROFOR”; and Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 159, 163-64.  Military Professionals Resources, Inc. trained the security forces of numerous authoritarian regimes, including Equatorial Guinea in a contract that was approved by the State Department after dictator Teodoro Obiang granted concessions for off-shore drilling to Exxon-Mobil. It also trained Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and Ugandan fighters linked to major human rights abuses in Congo. A senior embassy staffer described the program there as “killers training killers.”  See Jeremy Kuzmarov, “’Distancing Acts’: Private Mercenaries and the War on Terror in American Foreign Policy, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 12, Issue 52, No. 1, December 21, 2014,

[367] James Risen and Doyle McManus, “U.S. OK’d Iranian Arms for Bosnia, Officials Say,” Los Angeles Times, April 5, 1996.

[368] NIOD, “Srebrenica – A ‘Safe’ Area,” press release April 10, 2002.  On the Srebrenica massacre, see also Rohde, Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica; Seema Jilani, “Srebrenica Revisited,” New York Times (Sunday Review), July 10, 2015; and David N. Gibbs, “How the Srebrenica Massacre Redefined US Foreign Policy,” Class, Race and Corporate Power, Vol. 3, Issue 2 (2015), 2. The number of people executed by the Serbs has been the subject of some dispute. Gibbs and many others cite the figure of 8,000 people killed, “overwhelmingly males sixteen and older.” Phillip Corwin, the UN chief political officer in Sarajevo in 1995, however, writes that “the figure of 8,000 killed, which is often bandied about in the international community, is an unsupportable exaggeration. The true figure may be closer to 800.” Philip Corwin, “Forward,” in Edward S. Herman, ed., The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics (Srebrenica Research Group, June 2011), online: Nevertheless, in his own memoir, Dubious Mandate: A Memoir of the UN in Bosnia, Summer 1995 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), Corwin does not address the issue of the number killed at Srebrenica. In a follow-up investigation, the International Commission on Missing Persons collected 22,268 blood samples from Srebrenica survivors and matched them to 6,827 buried bodies that were found, indicating roughly 7,000 killed at Srebrenica. See Thomas Parsons, “How DNA profiling helped unravel the horror of Bosnia’s genocide,” International Commission on Missing Persons (March 31, 2016),

[369] Corwin, Dubious Mandate, 189.

[370] Stephen Engelberg and Time Weiner, “Massacre in Bosnia; Srebrenica: The Days of Slaughter,” New York Times, October 29, 1995; Sheila Zulfiqar Ahmad, “The UN’s Role in the Bosnian Crisis: A Critique.” Pakistan Horizon 51, no. 2 (1998): 83-92; and Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 166.

[371] Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 166; and Col. Robert C. Owen, Deliberate Force: A Case Study in Effective Air Campaigning; Final Report of the Air University Balkans Air Campaign Study (Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Air University Press, January 2000), 280, 491, 522; Eric Schmitt, “NATO Shifts Focus of Its Air Attacks on Bosnian Serbs,” New York Times, September 11, 1995; and International Committee of the Red Cross, “ICRC Report on Certain Aspects of the Conduct of Hostilities and the Consequences from a Humanitarian Point of View of NATO Air Strikes,” November 1994.

[372] John S. Brown (Chief of Military History, U.S. Army), Bosnia-Herzegovina: The U.S. Army’s Role in Peace Enforcement Operations, 1995-2004,, p.168. U.S. forces gradually declined to less than 1,000 soldiers by 2004.

[373] Edward Morgan-Jones, Neophytos Loizides and Djordje Stefanovic, “20 years later, this is what Bosnians think about the Dayton peace accords,” Washington Post, December 14, 2015.

[374] Boyd, “Making Peace with the Guilty: The Truth about Bosnia,” 31, 33, 38.

[375] Sray, “Selling the Bosnian Myth to America,” 1-3, 15, 17.  Beyond duping the American public, Lt. Col. Sray was concerned that the Bosnian government would facilitate the spread of radical Islam, if only because militants were coming to Bosnia to buttress Bosnian Muslim forces.  He writes (p. 8):  “Approximately 4000 Mujahedin, supported by Iranian special operations forces, have been continually intensifying their activities in central Bosnia for more than two years.  Detachments of Mujahedin have assisted in training selected Bosniac army elements and began to spearhead many tactical-level attacks against the BSA [Bosnian Serb Army] during the summer of 1994.  The potential for this organization to escalate its activities remains high and could threaten regional stability despite any future agreements.  Funding for the Mujahedin has been provided by Iran and various other Islamic states with an interest in expanding extremism into Europe.  International radical groups, such as Hizbollah, have also been included on the suspected list of sponsors.  Bosnian government sources only grudgingly acknowledge the presence of the Mujahedin but publicly intimate that they have accepted their presence as a “necessary evil” to maintain the flow of aid from international Islamic contributors.  This ‘aid’ has been distributed in forms ranging from hard currency to clandestine arms shipments.  As time progresses, these professional ‘holy warriors’ will likely divert their attention to politicizing the Muslim population and attempting to establish an Islamic republic obedient to fundamentalist doctrine.”  The latter scenario, however, did not take root in Bosnia.

[376] Leonard Desroches, Allow the Water: Anger, Fear, Power, Work, Sexuality, Community – and the Spirituality and Practice of Nonviolence (Ottawa: Dunamis, 2003), 207-08.

[377] Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 177-78.

[378] Sam Pender, How Did It Come to This: America’s Experience in the New World Order (College Station, TX:, 2004), 115; and Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 182.  In Hearings before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 20, 1999, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was questioned about Ambassador Gelbard’s statement that the KLA was a terrorist organization.  She responded, “We do not consider them a terrorist group.”  Asked “What has changed the opinion?”  The secretary replied, “I never called them a terrorist group…. I cannot speak to what he said.  We consider them the military arm of the Albanians … They do have some arms, as we know, and we have not approved of all the actions that they have taken, but they have pledged themselves in the [Rambouillet] agreement that they signed to disarm.” Senate Hearing 106-265, “The War in Kosovo and a Postwar Analysis,” April 20, September 28, and October 6, 1999,”

[379] United Nations Security Council Resolution 1160, 31, March 1998,

[380] Ibid., 185-86; and BBC Interview with Hajdin Abazi, “How I met Holbrooke,” December 14, 2010, BBC,  The KLA attracted various radical Muslim groups from other countries, including al Qaeda, but such groups gained little influence.  According to Marko Attila Hoare, the “fundamentalist version of Islam … was rejected by ordinary Muslims in Bosnia, Kosova, Albania and Macedonia and by their political leaders, and was out of keeping with their native tradition.”  Marko Attila Hoare, “Three Books on al-Qaeda in Bosnia” (review), Democratiya 13 (Summer 2008), 56.

[381] Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 186, 184.  Investigative reports on U.S. support for the KLA ran in the Sunday Times (London) on March 12, 2000, and in the Wall Street Journal on November 1, 2001.  See also, Amos Chapple, “Operation Allied Force: The NATO Bombing of Yugoslavia,” March 24, 2019, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty website,  The latter, a U.S. government website, notes instances of KLA terrorism followed by Serbian authority repression:  (1) “In the summer of 1998, KLA fighters killed dozens of Serb police and civilians.  Yugoslav-backed authorities responded by rolling on villages with armored vehicles and driving ethnic Albanians from their homes and setting houses ablaze.”  (2) “In January 1999, after KLA fighters killed four Serbs in an attack on a police post, Yugoslav government forces cordoned off the nearby village of Racak.  When international observers were able to enter, they found the aftermath of a massacre: 45 ethnic Albanian civilians dead, including women and a child.”

[382] Appendix B of the Rambouillet text stated:  “NATO personnel shall enjoy, together with their vehicles, vessels, aircraft, and equipment, free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY including associated airspace and territorial waters.  This shall include, but not be limited to, the right of bivouac, maneuver, billet, and utilization of any areas or facilities as required for support, training, and operations.”  Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger published his comments in a Daily Telegraph article on June 28, 1999, stating:  “The Ramboiillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, an excuse to start bombing.  Rambouillet is not a document that an angelic Serb could have accepted.  It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.”  Cited in Peter Lee, “Tony Blair and Military Intervention,” in David Whetham and Bradley J Strawser, eds., Responsibility to Protect: Perspectives in Theory and Practice (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Nijhoff, 2015), 66-67.

[383] “A Kosovo Chronology,” Frontline, Public Broadcasting Station,

[384] The NATO air war offered a showcase for modern weaponry, including long-range stealth warplanes delivering satellite guided bombs released from an altitude of 40,000 feet, GPS-guided all-weather air-and-sea launched cruise missiles, Apache attack helicopters equipped with heat detecting sensors and video cameras capable of transmitting aerial pictures from a mile away to command posts within 90 seconds, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for eavesdropping, surveillance, and jamming Yugoslav communications.  A live feed from the drones was set up in CIA director James Woolsey’s 7th floor Langley office enabling him to monitor events on the ground while communicating through an early form of chat software.  See Andrew Bacevich, The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Michael G. Vickers, “Revolution Deferred: Kosovo and the Transformation of War,” in War Over Kosovo: Politics and Strategy in a Global Age, ed. Andrew Bacevich and Eliot A. Cohen (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 195, 196; and Richard Whittle, Predator: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution (New York: Henry Holt, 2014).

[385] John A. Tirpak, “Washington Watch: Victory in Kosovo,” Air Force Magazine, July 11, 2008,

[386] Ibid; Capt. Gregory Ball, “1999 – Operation Allied Force,” Air Force Historical Support Division,; and “Civilian deaths ‘necessary price,'” BBC News, May 31, 1999,

[387] Human Rights Watch, “The Crisis in Kosovo,” in Civilian Deaths in the NATO Air Campaign, Vol. 12, Number 1, February 2000,; and United National International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, “Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia,”  See also, Steven Erlanger, “Dozens of Civilians Are Killed as NATO Air Strikes Go Awry,” New York Times, June 1, 1999.

[388] “Amnesty International accuses NATO of illegal bombing raids,” Baltimore Sun (New York Times news service), June 8, 2000.

[389] See Timothy William Waters, “Unexploded Bomb: Voice, Silence, and Consequence at the Hague Tribunals: A Legal and Rhetorical Critique,” Journal of International Law and Politics, Vol. 35 (2003): 1015-1131.  Waters argues that the justice was not served by the Tribunal’s refusal to merely inquire into whether NATO’s actions crossed the line on war crimes.

[390] “Military Technical Agreement between the International Security Force (‘KFOR’) and the Governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia,” June 9, 1999, NATO’s Role in Kosovo, Basic documents,

[391] See, for example, Richard Holbrooke (Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs from 1994 to 1996, To End a War (New York: Modern Library, 1999).

[392] Human Rights Watch, “The Crisis in Kosovo”; and Fred Abrahams, “Justice Gap for Kosovo 20 Years On,” Human Rights Watch, June 13, 2019,

[393] Gibbs, First Do No Harm, 201-202.  Kosovo population statistics indicate a drop of 486,000 people from 1997 to 2000.

[394] Richard Holbrooke, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs from 1994 to 1996, was nonetheless convinced that NATO military action was the key to maintaining peace, writing, “The best chance to prevent war would have been to present Yugoslavia with a clear warning that NATO airpower would be used against any party that tried to deal with ethnic tensions by force.  The United States and the Europeans could then have worked with the Yugoslav parties to mediate peaceful (although certain contentious and complicated) divorce agreements between the republics.”  Richard Holbrooke, To End a War (New York: Modern Library, 1999), 28.  Given the context, would NATO bomb all three warring factions to keep the peace?

[395] “Comparative Analysis of the Wars in Kosovo and Iraq,” Economists for Peace and Security newsletter, March 2008,

[396] NIOD, “Sebrenica Report,” Press release; and Corwin, Dubious Mandate, 191.

[397] United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia,; and Patrick Kingsley and Gerry Mullany, “Kosovo Leader Is Indicted Over Murders In 1990s War,” New York Times, June 25, 2020.  The latter article notes that, while the larger of number of casualties in the Kosovo-Serbian war were committed by Serbian troops, more than 2,000 Serbs and other groups were killed by either NATO bombs or the Kosovo Liberation Army.

[398] See Jessica Stern, My War Criminal: Personal Encounters with an Architect of Genocide (New York: Ecco/HarperCollins, 2020).

[399] United Nations International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991, “Prosecutor v. Radovan Karadžić,” 24 March 2016,, page 1,303.  See also, Andy Wilcoxson, “The Exoneration of Milosevic: the ICTY’s Surprise Ruling,” Counterpunch, August 1, 2016,

[400] Naza Tanović-Miller, Testimony of a Bosnian (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2001), 224-25.

[401] On the UN role in mediation, conflict resolution, and peacekeeping, see A. V. Suleymanov, “United Nations Role in Resolution [of] International Conflicts,” Vetnik Rudn, International Relations, Vol. 17, No. 1 (2017): 86-94,

[402] “Raid on Baghdad; Clinton’s Address:  Message is ‘Don’t Tread On Us,'” New York Times, June 27, 1993; Gordon W. Rudd, Humanitarian Intervention: Assisting the Iraqi Kurds in Operation Provide Comfort, 1991 (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 2004), 226; Capt. Gregory Ball, “1991 – Operation Provide Comfort and Northern Watch”; and “Operation Provide Comfort,”,  In 1993, the Clinton administration adopted a policy of “dual containment,” intended to isolate and disempower the governments of both Iraq and Iran.  With respect to Iraq, “regime change” was often mentioned as the goal, but caution was voiced as Iran could well become the beneficiary, given that a majority of Iraqis were Shiite Muslim, as in Iran.

[403] Tom Roberts, “Sharp Jump in Child Deaths in Iraq,” National Catholic Reporter, August 27, 1999,

[404] “Democracy Now! Confronts Madeleine Albright on the Iraq Sanctions: Was It Worth the Price?” July 30, 2004,; and Tom Raum, “Albright Meets With Iraq Opposition,” Washington Post, September 20, 1999.

[405] “Were 1998 Memos a Blueprint for War?” ABC News, January 6, 2006,

[406] “Iraq Liberation Act of 1998,” Public Law 105-338 – Oct. 31, 1998,

[407] The destruction of Iraq’s chemical weapons was overseen by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC). Director Hans Blix told the UN Security Council in March 2003 that its inspectors “had found no evidence of the continuation or resumption of programmes of weapons of mass destruction.” United Nations Security Council press release, “UN Inspectors Found No Evidence of Prohibited Weapons Programmes as of 18 March Withdrawal, Hans Blix Tells Security Council,” 5 June 2003, During President Bush’s first seven months in office, his administration opted not to participate in an agreement signed by 178 other nations to cut the emission of greenhouse gases; demanded that a treaty limiting illegal trafficking in small arms be watered down; “un-signed” President Clinton’s signature on a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; announced that it was abandoning a UN draft accord to enforce a 29-year-old treaty against germ warfare; refused to send the International Criminal Court treaty to the Senate for ratification; and declared that the U.S. intended to build a missile defense shield despite strong opposition from the rest of the world. Steven Thomma and Warren P. Strobel, “Bush sets lone world strategy for U.S.,” Tallahassee Democrat, July 26, 2001.

[408] Hans Köchler, “The NATO War of 1999 and the Impotence of International Law,” Lecture delivered at Institute of International Politics and Economics in Belgrade, 22 March 2019, published in Global Research, April 5, 2019,

[409] See David Foglesong, The American Mission and the “Evil Empire:” The Crusade for a “Free Russia” Since 1881 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Stephen Cohen, Failed Crusade: America and the Tragedy of Post-Communist Russia (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), 7-10; and Jeremy Kuzmarov and John Marciano, The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018).  On the 1917 Midnight War, see Jeremy Kuzmarov, “The Wilson administration’s war on Russian Bolshevism,” United States Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide,  On the Cold War, see Roger Peace, “Cold War interventionism, 1945-1990,” United States Foreign Policy History & Resource Guide,

[410] Peter Reddaway and Dmitri Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms: Market Bolshevism Against Democracy (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace Press, 2001); and Vladislav Zubok, A Failed Empire: The Soviet Union in the Cold War From Stalin to Gorbachev (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007), 333.  Zubok estimates that only 15 percent of Russians supported democratization.

[411] Fritz Ermath, “Seeing Russia Plain: The Russia Crisis and American Intelligence,” The National Interest, Spring 1999, 5-14; available at:

[412] Historian David M. Kotz and journalist Fred Weir corroborate this view, arguing that the Soviet system was swept away in a bloodless revolution from above in which the elites switched sides owing as much to opportunism as any ideological conviction. ; David M. Kotz and Fred Weir, Russia’s Path from Gorbachev to Putin: The Demise of the Soviet System and the New Russia (New York: Routledge, 2007), 147, 148.  See also David Marples, The Collapse of the Soviet Union, 1985-1991 (UK: Pearson, 2004).  Marples writes that the fall of the Soviet Union resulted from a “coup from within” by Yeltsin, a view also promoted by Stephen Cohen.

[413] “Putin: Soviet Collapse a Genuine Tragedy,” Associated Press, April 25, 2005; Engdahl, Manifest Destiny, 29.  One reason it was a catastrophe was that Russia’s borders were rolled back to what they had been in 1613 while the GDP in all the former Soviet Republics (excepts the Baltic States) plummeted.  In one poll taken in the early 21st century, 80 percent of Russians regretted the Soviet Union’s abolition.  Stephen F. Cohen, “Was the Soviet System Reformable?” Slavic Review, 63, 3 (Autumn 2004); Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin, 78.

[414] Leon Aron, Yeltsin: A Revolutionary Life (New York: St .Martin’s Press, 2000); Timothy J. Colton, Yeltsin: A Life (New York: Basic Books, 2008); Steven Otfinoski, Boris Yeltsin and the Economic Rebirth of Russia (Brookfield, CT: The Milbrook Press, 1995); Kotz and Weir, Russia’s Path From Gorbachev to Putin, 127, 128.

[415] Aron, Yeltsin, 453, 454; Marples, The Collapse of the Soviet Union, 1985-1991, ch. 5, 6; Zubok, A Failed Empire, 333.

[416] Colton, Yeltsin, 191.

[417] Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms, 203.  There are suggestions in some sources (i.e., Engdahl, Manifest Destiny) that the CIA paid the coup plotters, and thus helped stage the coup as a means of facilitating the collapse of the U.S.S.R.  This charge is yet to be verified with declassified documents.  Andrei Kozyrev, a top aide to Yeltsin reported that during the crisis, the Western embassies “in effect began to work for us; through them, we received and passed on information.” In John Dunlop, The Rise of Russia and the Fall of the Soviet Empire (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993), 216.

[418] See James Mann, The Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (New York: Penguin Press, 2006).  Defense Secretary Dick Cheney advocated for the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. and breakaway of Ukraine and other former Soviet Republics, which he felt would be geopolitically advantageous to the United States.  Brent Scowcroft, a longtime associate of Henry Kissinger and National Security Council advisor under Bush I, argued for a more moderate position within the administration.

[419] James M. Goldgeier and Michael McFaul, Power and Purpose: U.S. Policy Towards Russia after the Cold War (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2003), 29, 30.

[420] Goldgeier and McFaul, Power and Purpose, 90, 91, 93, 213.

[421] Richard M. Nixon, “How to Lose the Cold War,” March 1992, reprinted at Richard Nixon Foundation website,;  and Strobe Talbott, The Russia Hand: A Memoir of Presidential Diplomacy (New York: Random House, 2002), 46.   On deep rooted Russophobia – which is evident in Nixon’s writings – see Guy Mettan, Creating Russophobia: From the Great Religious Schism to anti-Putin Hysteria (Atlanta; Clarity Press Inc., 2017).

[422] Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), ch. 7.  Jeffrey Sachs believed in free markets, though backed by debt relief and generous aid.  His anticommunist and anti-socialist views may have derived from his wife, Sonia Ehrlich, a pediatrician who fled Communist Czechoslovakia with her family when she was twelve.  According to a Spanish newspaper, Sachs personally edited Yeltsin’s decrees.  As in Russia, Sachs’ economic austerity program in Bolivia was implemented by fiat without popular consent, in this case by Bolivian President Victor Paz Estenssoro who had ironically overseen the nationalization of Bolivia’s tin mines and land redistribution policies after leading Bolivia’s 1952 revolution.  The protests were violently crushed by Estenssoro’s government, with many killed.  Many Bolivians were forced subsequently to work as coca growers.  Sachs’ key counterpart, Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada (Goni) later became president of the country where he oversaw the renewed massacre of protestors opposing privatization initiatives.  In later years, Sachs became a strong critic of imperious U.S. foreign policies and, in his own defense, argued that his plan for Russia entailed significant economic aid to Russia – a stabilization fund – but the White House did not go along with his aid plan, in contrast to significant Western aid to Poland.

[423] David E. Hoffman, The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia (New York: Public Affairs, 2002), 84-92; Peter Passell, “Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Shock Therapist,” The New York Times, June 27, 1993; C.J. Chivers and Erin E. Arvedlund, “Head of Russian Electricity Monopoly Survives Ambush,” The New York Times, March 18, 2005. Born in Belarus, Chubais’ father Boris had been a commissar, or political indoctrinator of the troops. Anatoly said that his father “sincerely believed in Soviet power, its ideas, in the communist power, in Stalin.” After leaving the government, Chubais became an oligarch in his own right and worked to break up the national electric power monopoly, of which he was appointed director. Described by journalist Paul Klebnikov as “cold blooded, clear headed and decisive,” this rainmaker to Russia’s new financial elite lived in an expensive dacha in a wealthy suburb of Moscow and traveled in an armor-plated BMW. Paul Klebnikov, “Power Struggle,” Forbes, March 3, 2003.

[424] Alessandra Stanley, “Russian Reformer’s Credibility Undercut by Scandal,” New York Times, November 17, 1997.

[425] David McClintick, “How Harvard Lost Russia,” Institutional Investor Magazine, January 24, 2006,

[426] Steve Liesman and C. Anne Roberts, “Aborted Mission: How an Aid Program Vital to the New Economy of Russia Collapsed,” The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 1997, A1.

[427] Liesman and Roberts, “Aborted Mission;” Paul Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin: Boris Berezovsky and the Looting of Russia (New York: Harcourt Inc., 2000), 115, 116.  An audit by the Russian Chamber of Accounts revealed serious misappropriations at the Russia Privatization Center, a private nonprofit linked to Chubais and funded by Western aid money.  Much of the money was distributed directly to Chubais’ cronies and to key political bosses in return for their support for market “reforms.”  In 1997, Soros purchased 24 percent of Sviazinvest, a telecommunications giant, in partnership with Vladimir Potanin.  It was later learned that shortly before this purchase, Soros had tided over Yeltsin’s government with a backdoor loan of hundreds of millions of dollars.  According to Wall Street Journal reporter Anne Williamson, the American assistance program in Russia was rife with such conflict of interest involving HIID advisers and Chubais’ allies.  HMC managers favored Russian bankers, Soros and insider expatriates.

[428] Janine R. Wedel, “The Harvard Boys Do Russia,” The Nation Magazine, May 14, 1998; Maxim Boycko, Andrei Shleifer, Robert W. Vishny, Privatizing Russia (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995); Passell, “Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Shock Therapist.”

[429] McClintick, “How Harvard Lost Russia.” In Indonesia, HIID helped revise the tax system and liberalize financial markets. It also had been active in Colombia, Kenya, Pakistan and Zambia.  Russia was its biggest and most important project.  Other notable professors who worked with Sachs to promote privatization included Graham Allison of the Harvard Kennedy School, Anders Aslund, David Lipton, and Marshall I. Goldman.

[430] Liesman and Roberts, “Aborted Mission;” Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms, 297.  Summers was one of Harvard’s youngest ever tenured professors and later became its president.

[431] See David Halberstam’s classic book, The Best and the Brightest, rev ed. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1993)

[432] Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms; Marshall I. Goldman, The Privatization of Russia: Russian Reform Goes Awry (New York: Routledge, 2003), 31.

[433] Liesman and Roberts, “Aborted Mission.”

[434] Anne Williamson, “Russia’s Fiscal Whistleblower: Chief Auditor Venyamin Sokolov Says Western Loans Are Hijacked by the Corrupt Yeltsin Government,” Mother Jones, June 16, 1998.  Sokolov said that giving more loans to the Yeltsin government was comparable to “giving a drug addict a fresh supply of narcotics.”

[435] Goldman, The Privatization of Russia, 31.

[436] Wedel, “The Harvard Boys Do Russia.”

[437] Wedel, “The Harvard Boys Do Russia;” Liesman and Roberts, “Aborted Mission.”  Hay and his father also allegedly used inside information to invest profitably in Russian government bonds.

[438] McClintick, “How Harvard Lost Russia.”  A USAID audit found that Pallada had been given unfair advantage.

[439] McClintick, “How Harvard Lost Russia;” Wedel, “The Harvard Boys Do Russia;” Liesman and Roberts, “Aborted Mission.”

[440] McClintick, “How Harvard Lost Russia.” Shleifer and his wife also invested in Russian government debt.

[441] United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Front Lines (newsletter), September 2004, p. 2.

[442] Wedel, “The Harvard Boys Do Russia”; Liesman and Roberts, “Aborted Mission”; McClintick, “How Harvard Lost Russia”; Zachary M. Seward, “Harvard to Pay $26.5 million in HIID Settlement,” Harvard Crimson, July 29, 2005; David Warsh, “Judge Finds Against Shleifer, Hay and Harvard,” Economic Principals, July 4, 2004; “Russia Case (and Dust) Settle,” Harvard Magazine, November-December 2005. In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly identified Shleifer and Hay as CIA agents. Whether this is true or not is uncertain.

[443] McClintick, “How Harvard Lost Russia;” Klein, The Shock Doctrine, 235; Seward, “Harvard to Pay $26.5 Million in HIID Settlement;” Edward Spannaus, “DOJ Sues Harvard Over Russia-USAID Scam,” Lyndon Larouche News Service, October 13, 2000; Kotz and Weir, Russia’s Path from Gorbachev to Putin, 229, 230 (quote from David Cohen, a Rhodes Scholar).  HIID also misappropriated government funds, using them to support fancy tennis lessons and memberships, huge housing allowances, ghost jobs for girlfriends and vacation boondoggles for Harvard employees, their Russian girlfriends and spouses.  It also carried out tax evasion. Rather than suffering any career setbacks, Shleifer remained a tenured Harvard professor, received a prestigious endowed chair, and was invited to give lectures all around the world.  Indeed, he lectured at Princeton in April 2015 on “Instability from Finance,” a theme on which he was well-versed.  Hay meanwhile became a partner at a prestigious London law firm and later resurfaced as founder of the Ukrainian branch of the Polish “free market” Centre for Social and Economic Research (CASE) during the coup d’états backed by the U.S. in Kiev in 2014.

[444] Cohen, Failed Crusade; Ron Ridenour, The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert (New York: Pinto Press, 2018); Goldman, The Privatization of Russia, 2, 3; and “Life expectancy at birth, male (years) – Russian Federation,” The World Bank (Data),

[445] F. William Engdahl, Manifest Destiny: Democracy as Cognitive Dissonance (Wiesbaden: Mine Books, 2018), 29-69; and Representatives Christopher Cox, Ben Gilman, Porter Goss, et al. “Russia’s Road to Corruption: How the Clinton Administration Exported Government Instead of Free Enterprise and Failed the Russian People,” Members of the Speaker’s Advisory Group on Russia, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., September 2000 (286 page report),, page 107.

[446] For description of the privatization program, see Maxim Boycko, Andrei Shleifer, and Robert Vishny, “Privatizing Russia,” Brookings Paper on Economic Activity 2: 1993, 150.  Some 151 million privatization vouchers were distributed.  The idea was that every Russian would have a stake in the new economy.  Two-thirds of Russian industry was privatized by July 1, 1994.

[447] Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms, 248; Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin, 127, 138. $325 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars funded the privatization voucher system.

[448] Engdahl, Manifest Destiny, 59; David Hoffman, The Oligarchs: Wealth and Power in the New Russia (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), 202; Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin, 135.  The Yeltsin-connected oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky got a 78% share in Yukos Oil, worth about $5 billion, for a mere $310 million, and Boris Berezovsky got Sibneft, another oil giant worth $3 billion, for about $100 million.  Russia was also plundered through the sale of its natural resources.  In a typical scheme, a seller, aided by corrupt government officials, sold Russian commodities overseas for higher prices than was reported to the government and pocketed the difference.  Illegal profits are estimated to have exceeded $10 billion.  David E. Kaplan and Christian Caryl, “The Looting of Russia,” U.S. News & World Report, August 3, 1998.

[449] Odd Arne Westad, “The Cold War and America’s Delusion of Victory, New York Times, August 28, 2017.

[450] Klein, The Shock Doctrine, 224.  See also Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms.

[451] Cohen, “Was the Soviet System Reformable?” 465; Kotz and Weir, Russia’s Path from Gorbachev to Putin, 132, 133.

[452] Klein, The Shock Doctrine, 226; Amy Knight, Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder (New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2017), 79.

[453] Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin. Berezovsky held a Ph.D. in mathematics and had worked at the prestigious Russian academy of sciences and in the Soviet space program. He made his first fortune running a car dealership with the help of Chechen organized criminals. His takeover of formerly state-run industries was marred by assassinations and accidental deaths of key players including a popular TV host that were never properly investigated.  Berezovsky first became close to Yeltsin after Yeltsin sought him out in order to finance publication of his memoirs. Subsequently he took over Russia’s number one television network after it was privatized and gained control of Aeroflot and the Rosneft oil company. Later, Yeltsin named him Deputy Secretary of the National Security Council, a prestigious post.

[454] Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms, 370, 424; Aron, Yeltsin, 498, 499, 501, 524, 552. The Russian government said that 187 people were killed in the conflict, including 12 soldiers, at least 9 of which were accidentally killed by their own men.

[455] Klein, The Shock Doctrine, 228, 229; Aron, Yeltsin, 498, 499, 501, 524, 552; James DeFronzo, Revolutions and Revolutionary Movements, 5th ed. (New York: Routledge, 2014), 60; Colton, Yeltsin, 278, 279.  Economic genocide quote from Otfinoski, Boris Yeltsin and the Economic Rebirth of Russia, 82.  Margaret Shapiro, “Yeltsin’s ‘Essential’ Crackdown Provokes Charges of Expediency,” The Washington Post, October 16, 1993.

[456] Sean Guillory, “Dermokratyia, USA,” Jacobin, March 13, 2017; Foglesong, The American Mission and the “Evil Empire,” 208.

[457] Svetlana Savranskya and Tom Blanton, “Yeltsin Shelled Russian Parliament 25 Years Ago, U.S. Praised ‘Superb Handling,’” National Security Archive, October 4, 2018,  Few members of Congress opposed Yeltsin’s actions or urged the Clinton administration to renounce them.  Senator Robert Dole (R-KS) was among the few to question on national television whether it was wise for the United States to urge countries like Russia to impose shock therapies.  Congressman Bernie Sanders (Ind.-VT) also opposed the shock therapy policies.  Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms, 425.

[458] Fogelsong, The American Mission and the “Evil Empire,” 208; Aron, Yeltsin, 498, 499, 501, 524, 552; Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms, ch.7.  Many leaders of the opposition in parliament came from the close-knit group of comrades-in-arms who supported Yeltsin’s countercoup in August 1991.  Yeltsin’s strongest supporters in the U.S. were cold warriors such as Harvard University Sovietologist Richard Pipes and columnist William Safire.  A U.C. Berkeley Russian “specialist” compared Yeltsin to Peter the Great, John Locke, and Thomas Jefferson.  For the pattern of media and academic distortion and apologia for Yeltsin, see Cohen, Failed Crusade.  In a New York Times review of the book, Robert D. Kaplan wrote, “Cohen’s thesis is that Yeltsin, rather than Russia’s first democratic leader, was a new-czarist bumbler who destroyed a democraticzation process thatn, in fact, should be credited to Mikhail Gorbachev. . . . Cohen is particularly scathing toward American journalists, whom he depicts as overly influenced by the prosperity of a small, rapacious upper class in the major Russian cities, and who seldom ventured out into the countriside to see the terrible price of the reformers’ handiwork.”  Cohen received his doctorate in Russian Studies from Columbia University in 1969.  Robert D. McFadden, “Stephen F. Cohen, 81, Professor and Influential Historian of Russia, Is Dead,” New York Times, September 20, 2020, p. 31.

[459] Michael Kramer, “Rescuing Boris: The Secret Story of How Four U.S. Advisers Used Polls, Focus Groups, Negative Ads and all the Other Techniques of American Campaigning to Help Boris Yeltsin Win,” Time Magazine, July 15, 1996.

[460] Yeltsin in return for the loan said he would exempt the exports of Arkansas-based Tyson Chicken (a longtime Clinton donor) to Russia – then a $700 million annual business – from a threatened 20 percent import tariff increase.  Engdahl, Manifest Destiny, 63.  Germany also loaned Russia $2.7 billion, three quarters of which was given without condition on its use.

[461] Talbott, The Russia Hand, 205.  Clinton gave directions that the United States had to go all out in helping Yeltsin [to win.]

[462] Peter Beinart, “The U.S. Needs to Face Up to Its Long History of Election Meddling,” The Atlantic, July 22, 2018; Guillory, “Dermokratyia, USA;” Eleanor Randolph, “Americans Claim Role in Yeltsin Win,” Los Angeles Times, July 9, 1996; Kramer, “Rescuing Boris;” Fred Weir, “Betting on Boris,” Covert Action Quarterly (Summer 1996): 38, 41.  George Gorton and Joe Shumate were the other consultants, along with Steven Moore, who worked in public relations in the United States and Felix Braynin, a Russian expatriate.

[463] Ibid. The consultants went on to help elect Arnold Schwarzrenegger (R) as Governor of California.

[464] Kramer, “Rescuing Boris” (Cover title:  “Yanks to the Rescue:  The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win,” Time magazine, July 15, 1996); and Gerald Sussman, “The Myth of ‘Democracy Assistance:’ U.S. Political Intervention in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe,” Monthly Review, December 17, 2006.  See also, Steven Kinzer, “How to Interfere in a Foreign Election,” Boston Globe, August 19, 2018.

[465] Guillory, “Dermokratyia, USA.”

[466] Wedel, “Harvard Boys Do Russia;” Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin, 220, 221.  In keeping with Russian laws at the time, Zyuganov spent less than three million dollars on his campaign.   Estimates of Yeltsin’s spending, by contrast, range from $700 million to $2.5 billion, a clear violation of the law.  A portion of the money derived from illicit black-market operations and was paid in the form of a bribe or as a form of payback for the state’s selling off privatized industry at pennies to the dollar.

[467] Alexander Zaitchik and Mark Ames, “How the West Helped Invent Russia’s Election Fraud: OSCE Whistle-Blower Exposes 1996 Whitewash,” The eXile, November 20, 2007,  An independence movement in the southern republic of Chechnya began in the late 1980s and gathered force in the early 1990s.  In December 1994, the Russian military invaded and heavily bombed the city of Grozny to suppress the secession. Because Yeltsin was regarded as a U.S. ally, “U.S. policymakers, from President Clinton on down, referred to the war in Chechnya as an ‘internal matter’ and compared it to the U.S. civil war, implying that all-out war, with massive civilian casualties, was fully justified to preserve the country,” according to the National Security Archive.  The Clinton administration took the exact opposite position in relation to the breakaway republics of the former Yugoslavia. The historical parallel in that case was the American Revolution of 1776.  Rather than abiding by any principle, U.S. policy depended on whether or not U.S. leaders liked the government facing secessionist movements.  “Chechnya, Yeltsin, and Clinton: The Massacre at Samashki in April 1995 and the US Response to Russia’s War in Chechnya,” National Security Archive Briefing Book #702, published April 15, 2020, edited by Svetlana Savranskaya and Matthew Evangelista,

[468] Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin, 325; James Risen, “Gore Rejected CIA Evidence of Russian Corruption,” The New York Times, November 23, 1998; David Ignatius, “Who Robbed Russia? Did Al Gore Know About the Massive Lootings?” The Washington Post, April 25, 1999.  Gore had taken the lead on U.S.-Russia policy in the Clinton administration.  Other suppressed reports detailed the corruption of Anatoly Chubais who was a close U.S. ally.

[469] Ermath, “Seeing Russia Plain;” Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin, 325.  See also, Cox, Gilman, Goss, et al., “Russia’s Road to Corruption.”  This well-grounded, 286-page Congressional report details the Clinton administration’s failed policies in Russia and the widespread destitution and corruption that it caused.  The report also discusses the unwillingness of Clinton administration officials – notably key architects of Russia policy, Vice President Al Gore, Strobe Talbott, special advisor to the Secretary of State and an old Oxford classmate of Clinton’s, and Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers – to recognize their failings.  The report echoes Ermath’s conclusion and others in the CIA about the prevalence of group think – a psychological process of “wishful thinking, shaky premises and tendency to develop facts at odds with the cognitive underpinnings of the course of action to which groups were committed.”  This, the report states, “led to flawed decision making and policy-failures [regarding Russia].  Decision makers were unable to admit to their own errors and in turn became trapped in a tangled muddle of self-justifiable denial and distortion” (p. 115).

[470] Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin, 320.  Because of the wide corruption, democracy became a curse word, referred to on the streets of Moscow as “shitocracy,” while privatization was referred to as “grab-it-ization.”

[471] Markar Melkonian, “US Meddling in the 1996 Russian Elections in Support of Boris Yeltsin,” Global Research, November 11, 2017,  See also Cohen, Failed Crusade; Klein, The Shock Doctrine, 237, 238; Reddaway and Glinski, The Tragedy of Russia’s Reforms; and Klebnikov, Godfather of the Kremlin.

[472]  In Sight, CNN transcript, October 7, 2002,; Melkonian, “US Meddling in the 1996 Russian Elections in Support of Boris Yeltsin.”

[473] See Stephen Cohen, War with Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russia Gate (New York: Hot Books, 2019).

[474] Ibid., and Tony Kevin, “The Devolution of U.S.-Russia Relations,” Consortium News, September 13, 2019,

[475] United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, “U.S. Senator Ben Cardin Releases Report Detailing Two Decades of Putin’s Attacks on Democracy, Calling for Policy Changes to Counter Kremlin Threat Ahead of 2018, 2020 Elections,” January 10, 2016,  See also, Jeremy Kuzmarov, “Cardin’s Senate Report Repeats Russophobic Charges,” The Huffington Post, January 12, 2018.

[476] Robert Donaldson and Vidya Nadkarni, The Foreign Policy of Russia: Changing Systems, Enduring Interests (New York: Routledge, 2019), 261.

[477] Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson, “Deal or No Deal? The End of the Cold War and the U.S. Offer to Limit NATO Expansion,” International Security, 40, 4 (Spring 2016), 7-44; Goldgeier and McFaul, Power and Purpose, 184, 185; Talbott, The Russia Hand, 93.  Neoconservative writers affiliated with Ivy League institutions such as Mark Kramer and Anne Applebaum deny that Baker made this promise, though it was confirmed by written documents and reported on by government officials.

[478] Clinton was apparently influenced by the arguments of Czech President Vaclav Havel and Polish President Lech Walesa at the opening of the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C. that if the world wanted to avoid another European catastrophe, Central Europe should be integrated into Western structures; cited in Anglea Stent, The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the 21st Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014), 40.  Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a child of the Cold War whose family had been expelled from Czechoslovakia in a 1948 Soviet backed coup, was among the most fervent supporters of NATO expansion, stating she felt the Central European case for admission “in my bones and in my genes.”  Talbott, Russia Hand, 223.  In 2004, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Slovenia joined NATO, and Albania and Croatia joined in 2009, followed by Montenegro in 2017.  The U.S. was also trying to expand NATO into Georgia and Ukraine.  See Jonathan Marshall, “NATOs Strange Addition of Montenegro,” Consortium News, February 28, 2017.

[479] John Dumbrell, Clinton’s Foreign Policy: Between the Bushes, 1992-2000 (New York: Routledge, 2009), 125.  See also M.E. Sarotte, “How to Enlarge NATO: The Debate inside the Clinton Administration, 1993–95,” International Security 44:1 (Summer 2019): 7-41.  In a review of Sorotte’s article, Joe Burton writes that “Sarotte focuses on three decision-making ‘ratchets’ in the 1990s . . . The first was President Bush’s decision to block alternatives to NATO’s continued dominance in Europe and to expand the alliance to a reunified Germany.  This set a historical precedent for enlargement that was difficult to ignore.  The second was the Clinton administration’s creation of the PfP [Partnership for Peace] in 1994, which provided a steppingstone to full NATO membership for Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, among others.  The third was the decision in 1994 to move beyond the PfP to a full-guarantee expansion.”  H-Diplo / ISSF Article Review 133 on Sarotte, “How to Enlarge NATO: The Debate inside the Clinton Administration, 1993–95,” by Joe Burton, University of Waikato; published by International Security Studies Forum (ISSF), April 1, 2020.

[480] George F. Kennan, “A Fateful Error,” The New York Times, February 5, 1997; and Bruce W. Nelan, “NATO: The Alliance Expands,” CNN/Time, July 14, 1997,  See also Branco Marcetic, “The Mysteriously Vanished NATO Critique,” Jacobin, July 16, 2018; and Dombrell, Clinton’s Foreign Policy, 1992-2000, 125.  New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman parlayed Kennan’s views to the U.S. public in an op-ed on May 2, 1998:  “His voice is a bit frail now, but the mind, even at age 94, is as sharp as ever.  So when I reached George Kennan by phone to get his reaction to the Senate’s ratification of NATO expansion it was no surprise to find that the man who was the architect of America’s successful containment of the Soviet Union and one of the great American statesmen of the 20th century was ready with an answer.  ”I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,’ said Mr. Kennan from his Princeton home. ‘I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies.  I think it is a tragic mistake.  There was no reason for this whatsoever. No one was threatening anybody else.  This expansion would make the Founding Fathers of this country turn over in their graves.  We have signed up to protect a whole series of countries, even though we have neither the resources nor the intention to do so in any serious way.  [NATO expansion] was simply a light-hearted action by a Senate that has no real interest in foreign affairs. . . . What bothers me is how superficial and ill informed the whole Senate debate was,’ added Mr. Kennan, who was present at the creation of NATO and whose anonymous 1947 article in the journal Foreign Affairs, signed ‘X,’ defined America’s cold-war containment policy for 40 years.  ‘I was particularly bothered by the references to Russia as a country dying to attack Western Europe.  Don’t people understand?  Our differences in the cold war were with the Soviet Communist regime.  And now we are turning our backs on the very people who mounted the greatest bloodless revolution in history to remove that Soviet regime.  ‘And Russia’s democracy is as far advanced, if not farther, as any of these countries we’ve just signed up to defend from Russia,’ said Mr. Kennan, who joined the State Department in 1926 and was U.S. Ambassador to Moscow in 1952.  ‘It shows so little understanding of Russian history and Soviet history.  Of course there is going to be a bad reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO expanders] will say that we always told you that is how the Russians are – but this is just wrong.'”  Thomas L. Friedman, “Foreign Affairs: Now a Word from ‘X,'” New York Times, May 2, 1998.

[481] Though official and popular interpretations continued to blame Putin for the deterioration of US-Russian relations in the 21st century, some “realist” internationalist scholars (concerned with maintaining American hegemonic power) such as Stephen M. Walt have recognized NATO expansion as a major strategic error.  According to Walt:  “Relations with Russia deteriorated largely because the United States repeatedly ignored Russian warnings and threatened Moscow’s vital interests.  The most important step was the decision to expand NATO eastward, beginning with the admission of Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic in 1999; the subsequent entry of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia in 2004; and the U.S. proposal to invite Ukraine and Georgia to prepare ‘action plans’ for NATO membership in 2008…. A similar disregard for Russian concerns led President George W. Bush to withdraw from the U.S. -Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and announce plans to deploy ballistic missile defenses in Eastern Europe, triggering Russian fears of a possible U.S. first strike capability…. The United States bombed Serbia during the 1999 Kosovo War (without prior authorization by the UN Security Council), toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003, backed the ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine in 2004, and ousted the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.  This last step was especially significant because Moscow had gone along with the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 – which authorized military action ‘to protect civilian life’ but not to topple the Libyan government – only to see the United States and its allies use the resolution as an opportunity to remove a leader they had long despised.  As former secretary of defense Robert Gates later acknowledged, ‘the Russians felt they had been played for suckers on Libya,’ which helps explain why Russia later backed the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad so firmly and blocked UN action against him.”  Stephen M. Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions: America’s Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of U.S. Primacy (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018), 32-33.

[482] Donaldson and Nadkarni, The Foreign Policy of Russia, 264; Hal Brands, From Berlin to Baghdad: America’s Search for Purpose in the Post-Cold War World (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2008), 208; Talbott, The Russia Hand, 234, 238.

[483] Thomas W. Lippman, “Clinton, Yeltsin Agree on Arms Cuts and NATO,” The Washington Post, March 22, 1997, A1.  Earlier, Yeltsin had stated that “it would be an important part of Russia’s security to associate with the only military alliance in Europe [NATO].”  Goldgeier and McFaul, Power and Purpose, 48, 49.

[484] Luis José Rodrigues Leitao Tomé, “Russia and NATO’s Enlargement,” NATO Research Fellowship Program, 1998-2000, Final Report, June 2000,; Lippman, “Clinton, Yeltsin Agree on Arms Cuts and NATO”; Talbott, The Russia Hand, 243; and Stent, The Limits of Partnership, 25.

[485] Donaldson and Nadkarni, The Foreign Policy of Russia, 251, 252; and Goldgeier and McFaul, Power and Purpose, 48.  See also, Peter Conradi, Who Lost Russia? How the World Entered a New Cold War (London: Oneworld, 2018), which identifies exploitative privatization schemes combined with aggressive NATO expansion as the source of the new cold war.

[486] Walt, The Hell of Good Intentions, 32-33.

[487] Ben Judah, Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell in and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 57.

[488] Anne Garrels, Putin Country: A Journey Into the Real Russia (London: Picador, 2017), 11, 12, 19; Chris Miller, Putinomics: Power and Money in Resurgent Russia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018); Andrey P. Tsygankov, “The Dark Double: The American Media Perception of Russia as a Neo-Soviet Autocracy, 2008-2014,” Politics, April 2016, Cohen, War With Russia, 4.  A former IMF director said that Putin’s economic team does “not tolerate corruption” and that Russia now ranked 35th out of 190 in the World Bank’s Doing Business Ratings.  Miller found that Putin “skillfully managed Russia’s economic fortunes.”

[489] Personal Interview (Jeremy Kuzmarov), Alex Krainer, November 2017.

[490] Andrei Nekrasov and Torstein Grude, The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes (Piraya Films, 2016); Alex Krainer, The Killing of Bill Browder: Deconstructing Bill Browder’s Dangerous Deception (Monaco: Equilibrium, 2017); Luci Komisar, “The Man Behind the Magnitsky Act: Did Bill Browder’s Tax Troubles in Russia Color Push for Sanctions,” 100 Reporters, October 20, 2017.  Other forceful advocates of economic sanctions were funded by exiled Russian tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Putin had jailed.  Knight, Orders to Kill, 279.

[491] John A. Hobson, Imperialism: A Study (London: James Nisbet & Co. Ltd., 1902 reprinted by Cambridge University Press, 2010), 83.