Friday, April 04, 2008

April Glaspie: Assad smart, Saddam megalomaniac

April Glaspie, the US ambassador in Iraq who was accused of not warning Saddam enough before he invaded Kuwait, spoke to Dar al-Hayat, here are some things she said, some of which I've been saying here on this blog:

* Saddam's issue with Kuwait isn't just oil theft, he's just megalomaniac.His whole political career derived from overcoming the humiliation of his past . He came from nowhere, he was a self-made man...he grew up at a time when Iraqis believed understandably they were worthy of the leadership of the Arab world just as Egyptians was not the party and what Michel Aflaq wanted, it was his own sense of becoming the leader of the Arab world, after all in his own thinking, it was he who stood against the ancient enemy and beat them back (his war with Iran).

i.e. Saddam's career was a desperately grandiose attempt at trying to be Gamal Abdul-Nassir.

* A very distinguished Iraqi Sunni professor at Bagdad University who was tortured by Saddam who got out of Iraq years before the war once said to me something which is perfectly obvious, but sometimes we tend to forget very obvious things. He said there is only one thing in the world that would make the general Sunni population ever get behind Saddam, because for every reason that we know they have been terrorized by him and that is if they though there was a real possibility of the Shiites taking control in Baghdad. That is perfectly obvious but for a diplomat it is important to remember.


* The British with extraordinary technology of their time tried very hard, spoke more Arabic than the current coalition forces, were working within their old former mandate, they had all the maps they knew every place in Iraq from north to south and they could not do it. I think that the reasons that they could not do it are there for anybody to read and the same difficulties have emerged now.

very true, Iraq was built on a sectarian basis but America needn't entrench it : the Americans should have done their homework

* The difference between Hafiz and Saddam: Completely different, people around President Assad respected his power. Assad was the Eastern Mediterranean, a Levantine; he could be extremely charming which is interesting coming from a very disadvantaged background as he was in every way. He had a great deal of self confidence, he was charming, he could have been a Beirut hostess, he could be genuinely amusing, he always spoke Arabic although I knew from his pilot training he must know some English. Assad was much too subtle and smart to want people to say yes to him all the time. my life as a diplomat in Syria was as free as it would have been in Beirut, o doubt people were watching us and knew where we were but no Syrian would think twice about inviting me to their house, I never entered an Iraqi house except once and that was for a cultural event. Saddam when you were with him there was this huge tension in the air because everybody in the room from his own staff was afraid of him and I never heard him make a joke but if he would have, everybody would have laughed. It was a completely different aura. In Iraq, it was much more frightening.

Full interview (English) [a little difficult to read, pargraphs are stuck together and there are many grammar issues.]


Anonymous said...

Abbas said:

He said there is only one thing in the world that would make the general Sunni population ever get behind Saddam, because for every reason that we know they have been terrorized by him and that is if they though there was a real possibility of the Shiites taking control in Baghdad. That is perfectly obvious but for a diplomat it is important to remember.

Sorry, but I couldn't understand. Can you explain more.

Mayssam said...

So having some of your legitimate rights = taking contorl in the iraqi sunny book ?

Abbas ,
You said in a comment that you " had the mentality of Shaggy"
What is wrong with Shaggy? So he doesn't talk politics and has no picture of an iraqi flag or map in his blog , so what?

Bruno said...

The April Glaspie story is most interesting. I personally believe that she set Saddam up to blunder into Kuwait, just like the Americans wanted the idiot to do. She says no.

Here's two links I found:

The April Glaspie version:

The Washington Post analysis:

"During the run-up to the war, the Iraqi government released a transcript of Glaspie's meeting with Hussein on July 25, 1990, which suggested that she gave tacit approval for an invasion. Glaspie managed to convince lawmakers that the transcript was inaccurate and that she had forcefully warned Hussein not to invade. But her credibility eroded after the leak of her classified cable to the State Department about the meeting, which suggested a more conciliatory conversation with Hussein."

Abbas Hawazin said...


nothing at all, I'm a big fan of Shaggy - I meant to say I just didn't care like him. :)

as for the first thing you said, i didn't get it. best.


it's pretty obvious, man.

nadia n said...

I don't mean this in a dick-ish way, but you seem to be very impressed whenever an American grasps something really obvious.

Anonymous said...

I personally believe that she set Saddam up to blunder into Kuwait

i agree, likely thru baker.

sort of

one need only look at the Bush administration's public pronouncements in the weeks before the Iraqi invasion to verify that Glaspie's words to Hussein were in line with offical administration policy:

"We do not have any defense treaties with Kuwait, and there are no special defense or security commitments to Kuwait." - U.S. State Department Spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler, July 1990

"Historically, the U.S. has taken no position on the border disputes in the area, nor on matters pertaining to internal OPEC deliberations. We have no defense treaty relationship with any gulf country. That is clear . . . we have not historically taken a position on border disputes." -- Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly before a House foreign affairs subcommittee on July 31, 1990

After this statement, Representative Lee Hamilton asked Kelly if it would be correct to say that if Iraq invaded Kuwait the United States would not be obligated to commit its military forces in Kuwait's defense. Kelly replied, "That is correct."

('Developments in the Middle East' p14, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs]

So, while Glaspie's private statements on behalf of the administration may have given Saddam Hussein the mistaken belief that he could invade Kuwait with impunity, they were completely consistent with what others in the administration were saying publicly.

i thought there were some interesting parts of the interview.

"don t forget that even though i persuaded some people around him that we meant what we said,who would dare tell him that his political calculations about the arab world and the western world were incorrect"

not her either?

",that his military calculations were absolutely correct and his calculations about the state of his own country were wrong because the shiites were not as frightened of him as he thought they were ."

hmm, not sure what to make of this.

I delivered my message.

( she does not tell us specifically what she said to him, why)

you have the impression that for him what he claimed oil theft by Kuwait was the issue? Or he was just megalomaniac?

she answers that he was just a megalomaniac but earlier she had said saddam said this. maybe she didn't believe he was sincere?..

"started by telling me how very badly behaved the Kuwaitis were, referring also on the meetings in Jeddah that were held he was saying that that they are unreasonable and blaming them."

perhaps they were unreasonable

maybe there was more to saddams invasion of kuwait than simply a matter of megalomania. i am neither arguing he wasn't a megalomaniac or that he was right to invade, simply that isn't it logical that if the US, SA and kuwait all supported iraq in the iran /iraq war they were concerned about irans rise, or threatened about irans rise, and therefore wouldn't it be true the point about perhaps these people iraq had a debt to, did owe the iraqi people a debt of gratitude because they had paid w/their blood?

instead, she uses this point in the interview as proof of saddams megalomania. why?

Iraqis believed understandably they were worthy of the leadership of the Arab world just as Egyptians are

americans believe they are worthy of leadership of the whole world.

He said there is only one thing in the world that would make the general Sunni population ever get behind Saddam, because for every reason that we know they have been terrorized by him and that is if they though there was a real possibility of the Shiites taking control in Baghdad. That is perfectly obvious but for a diplomat it is important to remember.

would this be the fear of the inevitability of overriding influence from iran or religious leadership? would this be the same reason all those countries $upported iraq during the iran/iraq war?


Anonymous said...

one more thing i thought was funny in the interview, she makes fun of saddam wearing the uniform even tho he never fought in a war... ha! like george bush.


onix said...

thx annie, I had understood the official usian line at that point was a fake. However i haven't seen it treated so comprehensive. diplomacy like u mentioned and the certainty with kelly's actual text has been tampered is enough to have that argument ready.

Strange yeah, perhaps they had indeed been thinking of paying him in blood, however i wud say it was the economical interest in kuweiti ( being actually iraki often) oil,
that made them decide to undermine saddams rule.

Abbas, about half of the populace of baghdad has always been shi'ite, i do think it is time irak finds another aproach to sectarian delusions then the baath party one.
omg. 5000 years of inhabitation and they still can't respect about half of the populace to be politically represented.. i wonder how real this would be from mlk 's perspective.

nadia n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Strange yeah, perhaps they had indeed been thinking of paying him in blood, however i wud say it was the economical interest in kuweiti ( being actually iraki often) oil,
that made them decide to undermine saddams rule.

until a little research i did for this thread, i was not aware of the debt iraq owed to kuwait for loans for the iran/iraq war. i had only heard about the border dispute and the slant drilling w/american infrastructure. i also did not know about the Jeddah meeting or saddams claims that arab countries owed iraq a debt for fighting the war w/iran therefore should erase $$ debt. frankly i had not given it lots of thought. it was always presented in US msm that saddam just up and decided to invade kuwait. a land grab or retaliation for unsupported allegations of slant drilling. i did not think it was a good idea for him to invade kuwait, nor was i supportive of our involvement. if what he was doing was really wrong, maybe it should have been the responsibility of citizens and governments of the region to stop him.

none the less when i heard of the jedda meeting and glaspies dismissal of his concerns (as based solely on megalomania) i thought to myself, well.. what is so weird about saddam expecting these countries to wipe out his debt for the war? i mean the US hardly paid anything for the 91 war. lots of countries paid for it. what is so different about the iran/iraq war? isn't it normal if you support a war, to pay for it. so in this sense i can understand saddam expecting some fluidity wrt his/iraqs debt position @ jedda. why even have a meeting otherwise? but if kuwait already knew they had US support, and went to the meeting knowing they were going to give iraq the thumbs down, weren't they just antagonizing him? why agree to a meeting? why was the US involving itself in the iraq/kuwait border issue to begin with? or kuwaits debt? or the slant drilling?

there is a lot i don't know about that war but i think it is really sad what happened to all the iraqi troops as the US exited who were led to believe one thing, and then perished. the US really screwed w/the shiite. it does seem like they got the rotten end of the stick. not just from the saddam, but from the US. and a lot of those troops who perished in the desert would be backing sadr today and naturally have a anti US bias, for good cause.

here's my position wrt that. i can't quite wrap my head around the idea they are much different than anyone else. so why do their the leaders all seem like fanatics? or better yet, why can't secular normal representative of shia rise? where are their secular leaders and why haven't they filled a vacum. it can't be because shia are inherently freaky, just as regular christians aren't freaky like the uber fundies. i mean look at our own society, we have tons of normal people, so how is it genocide freaks like (christian)bush/(zionist)cheney running the show? what's the difference? power hungry freaks rule.

taunting them only makes it worse for everybody. if the US was going to get involved in that '91 mess, they could have done it earlier w/diplomacy. they didn't. why? if the US really wanted to warn saddam, why did they leave it up to this nobody who didn't even realize she was meeting w/saddam until she arrived. doesn't make sense or cut the mustard. sorry. when you go to war you blast your position from the airwaves BEFORE it starts. that didn't happen. why? why glaspie?

sounds like a set up, acts like a set up, maybe it was a set up.



Anonymous said...

while reviewing an excellent article about perception management guru john rendon titled The Man Who Sold the War (won the 2006 National Magazine Award in the reporting category.) something jumped out at me.

Rendon's involvement in the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein began seven months later, in July 1990. Rendon had taken time out for a vacation -- a long train ride across Scotland -- when he received an urgent call. "Soldiers are massing at the border outside of Kuwait," he was told. At the airport, he watched the beginning of the Iraqi invasion on television. Winging toward Washington in the first-class cabin of a Pan Am 747, Rendon spent the entire flight scratching an outline of his ideas in longhand on a yellow legal pad.

"I wrote a memo about what the Kuwaitis were going to face, and I based it on our experience in Panama and the experience of the Free French operation in World War II," Rendon says. "This was something that they needed to see and hear, and that was my whole intent. Go over, tell the Kuwaitis, 'Here's what you've got -- here's some observations, here's some recommendations, live long and prosper.'"

Back in Washington, Rendon immediately called Hamilton Jordan, the former chief of staff to President Carter and an old friend from his Democratic Party days. "He put me in touch with the Saudis, the Saudis put me in touch with the Kuwaitis and then I went over and had a meeting with the Kuwaitis," Rendon recalls. "And by the time I landed back in the United States, I got a phone call saying, 'Can you come back? We want you to do what's in the memo.'"

What the Kuwaitis wanted was help in selling a war of liberation to the American government -- and the American public. Rendon proposed a massive "perception management" campaign designed to convince the world of the need to join forces to rescue Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government in exile agreed to pay Rendon $100,000 a month for his assistance.

To coordinate the operation, Rendon opened an office in London. Once the Gulf War began, he remained extremely busy trying to prevent the American press from reporting on the dark side of the Kuwaiti government, an autocratic oil-tocracy ruled by a family of wealthy sheiks. When newspapers began reporting that many Kuwaitis were actually living it up in nightclubs in Cairo as Americans were dying in the Kuwaiti sand, the Rendon Group quickly counterattacked. Almost instantly, a wave of articles began appearing telling the story of grateful Kuwaitis mailing 20,000 personally signed valentines to American troops on the front lines, all arranged by Rendon.

Rendon also set up an elaborate television and radio network, and developed programming that was beamed into Kuwait from Taif, Saudi Arabia. "It was important that the Kuwaitis in occupied Kuwait understood that the rest of the world was doing something," he says. Each night, Rendon's troops in London produced a script and sent it via microwave to Taif, ensuring that the "news" beamed into Kuwait reflected a sufficiently pro-American line.

When it comes to staging a war, few things are left to chance. After Iraq withdrew from Kuwait, it was Rendon's responsibility to make the victory march look like the flag-waving liberation of France after World War II. "Did you ever stop to wonder," he later remarked, "how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American -- and, for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries?" After a pause, he added, "Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs then."

anyway, i wondered whether that july 1990 phone call was before her meeting on july 25th.


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