Twenty-Five Years Later: A Look Back at ‘The Other Good War’

On August 2, 1990, the Iraqi army invaded Kuwait, a tiny Persian Gulf emirate. Three days later, US president George HW Bush fielded questions from reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. The key line from, and substance of, those remarks: “This will not stand, this aggression against Kuwait.”

Two days after that, Operation Desert Shield commenced with the arrival of US troops in Saudi Arabia. Desert Shield transitioned into Desert Storm – a short, sharp, successful air and ground attack resulting in the ejection of Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait.

The early days of this military adventure were marked by spirited debate on its merits and trepidation over the possibility of large-scale chemical warfare and mass US casualties.

But by late May of 1991, when I returned home from my tour of duty as a Marine infantry NCO, the war seemed an unqualified success. Saddam’s forces had been routed with fewer than 300 Americans killed and only 800 wounded.

Parades were held. Medals were awarded. Returning troops in uniform got free beer at airport bars. Yes, really – I drank my Budweiser on layover at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. And I drank the Kool Aid that followed, too: Desert Storm had blown away the dark cloud cover of Vietnam and looked set to go down in history as a “good war” not unlike World War II.

How quickly many of us, myself included, forgot that World War II had led to 45 years of “cold war” with “hot” interspersions in Korea and Vietnam, turning America into a permanent garrison state. And little did we know that 25 years after Desert Storm we, too, would find ourselves looking back at a similar alternation between “cold” and “hot,” featuring more American dead on 9/11 than at Pearl Harbor, thousands of casualties in ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an emerging police state that puts old East Germany to shame.

These days on anniversaries like this, I still break out some fond memories of camaraderie and esprit de corps, but those memories are overshadowed by regret and by resolve to help my country break the cycle of military and foreign policy adventurism. Those false gods have proven themselves unworthy of the human sacrifices they demand.

Only by refashioning America into John Quincy Adams’s vision of it – “[S]he goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own” – can we hope to dismount this merry-go-round of death and realize our potential as a land of the free. That’s a far worthier goal than any transitory military victory.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism. He lives and works in north central Florida.

This article is reprinted with permission from William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism.

10 thoughts on “Twenty-Five Years Later: A Look Back at ‘The Other Good War’”

  1. In 1990 over 70% of the residents of Kuwait were non-citizen expatriates working under horrible conditions without basic human rights. Kuwait and the other oil exporting Persian Gulf emirates are "welfare states" where a minority of the residents are citizens living in luxury supported by government subsidies and the forced labor of expatriate workers from Palestine, other Arab countries and Asia. The expatriates comprise a majority of the population. are often indentured, bound to their employers without the right to quit their jobs or return home, their passports are generally confiscated by their employers or labor agents and they often live under guard in barracks until they fulfill their contracts.
    It is no wonder that many expatriates residing in Kuwait welcomed the 1990 Iraqi invasion.

    Following the Gulf War the restored Kuwaiti regime expelled almost the entire expatriate Palestinian community of 400,000 for supporting the Iraqi annexation and restored the forced labor system that persists to this day. As of 2014 the state department classified Kuwait as a tier three country (the worst level) because of its forced labor system and human trafficking .
    See http://www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/countries/2
    .
    So the lies by the war party did not start with the second Iraq War.

    1. In addition, Kuwait is a religious dictatorship. If you like bars and liquor stores Saddam was the best thing to happen to the place. I knew some enlisted guys who went to Kuwait thinking that they were bringing freedom with them – I’m not sure how many understand the truth these days?

  2. Ah, yes, another war sold on lies. Either April Glaspie was freelancing (doubtful), or was told by the highest levels to tell Saddam that the US had no dog in the fight if he invaded Kuwait (over, I believe, the slant drilling of oil which was under Iraqi territory), so that GHWB could flex his muscles by bombing the crap out of Baghdad. Then there was the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US whose teenage daughter earned an Oscar over her tearful testimony that the Iraqi soldiers were bayoneting babies in their incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals. Then there was the tremendous overkill of the US's destruction of Iraq's infrastructure and killing of their soldiers on the "Highway of Death" as they were defenselessly retreating back to Iraq. Was it Colin Powell who called it a "turkey shoot?" Yes, entirely a good war.

    1. The notorious babies-on-bayonets tale has a long life in modern Headline history, beginning in WWI with anti-Hun propaganda, and periodically revived with embellishments since then.
      The saddest thing about the Desert Shield operation was that the 'Highway of Death' scenario could have been carried out on Aug 2 when the Iraqi army was on the way to Kuwait (because of the 'misunderstanding') and could have been stopped in about 10 minutes flat, perhaps with few or no casualties, instead of the US negotiating in the UN for an 'alliance' for 5 months while Kuwait was being systematically destroyed. That was agonizing to watch.

    2. Also, let us not forget we encouraged certain populations (Kurds? Marsh Arabs?) to rise up against Saddam. These folk we treacherously abandoned and watched Saddam's forces slaughter them though we had helicopter gunships nearby. Just another villainous aspect of this so-called "good war".

      I also seem to recall that the Pentagon refused to provide to the media the satellite imagery showing Saddam's army massed at the border of Kuwait prior to invasion. Say, just how many verified casualties did the Kuwaitis suffer at the evil Saddam's hands? The incubator "massacre" was the brainchild of the public relations firm The Rendon Group in Washington.

  3. Sporadisch zijn lieden niet uitvinden wanneer het toerisme zijn een zekerste oplossing om ons gezonder worden. Ik heb een idee voordat degenen tussen u die al verveeld kunnen zijn met het activiteiten van het gebruikelijk leven, dat is door het lezen van artikelen met betrekking tot het reisinformatie die ik schreef en getiteld ofwel misschien als u meer kunt u ook door artikelen bij luisteren meerdere attracties datgene ik het titel ik hoop dat wat ik te geven via deze opmerkingen kunnen een positieve waarde en de moeite waard alles geven.

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