MUBARAK’S MIND NOT FUNCTIONING AGAIN
It seems like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been around forever. His 25-year reign as the Egyptian leader is far from over. Last year, he announced he would step aside, only to change his mind shortly after. He realized the job market would be limited for a 78-year-old former president of Egypt.
Mubarak has been the number one asset in the Middle East for various U.S. administrations. Let’s to back 25 years. When Mubarak was inaugurated, not one Arab leader would openly court the U.S. or side with America against Israel. Mubarak was a willing candidate to break that tradition. Today, most Arab leaders are in the pockets of the U.S., all because of the groundbreaking of Mubarak. One independent Arab leader is in jail in Iraq, and another, Bashir al-Assad of Syria, is on the brink of being an ex-president. Other than them, Arab leaders have succumbed. This will be Mubarak’s legacy to the Arab world.
Over the years, Mubarak has won every election in which he participated. According to the U.S., he is a great leader of a democratic nation. The truth is slightly different, however.
Egypt is far from a democracy. During his tenure, Mubarak has jailed many a political opponent. His methods are simple: just declare any opposition party illegal. It works every time.
In 1995, Iraq held a referendum in which the presidency of Saddam Hussein was the ballot issue. The question was whether Saddam should stay on for a seven-year term. He won 99.96% of the vote. We all know that this was a stroke of propaganda. The U.S. criticized the results and demonized Saddam even more.
A few months after the Iraqi plebiscite, Mubarak ran in Egypt. He won 99.81% of the vote. Same farce as the Iraqi elections, but no one called foul. In fact, some U.S. pundits called Mubarak’s re-election proof of his popularity. At least the Iraqi elections displayed a party-like atmosphere and many officials held tongue slightly in cheek. Saddam the dictator and Mubarak the democrat gained about the same number of supporters in the polls, but one was viewed as a travesty and the other as democracy in action by the U.S.
How about Saddam’s palaces? Rarely does a conversation about Iraq that includes warmongers arise without this subject. Mubarak has many palaces also, but I have yet to hear one use this as an argument against him. Hypocrisy, as usual, is the order of the day.
His advanced years have not stopped Mubarak from making ridiculous statements. On April 8, 2006, Al-Jazeera News ran an article titled, “Mubarak: U.S. Must Not Leave Iraq Yet.” His red-white-and-blue tinged remarks included:
Asked what effect an immediate U.S. troop withdrawal would have, he said, “Now? It would be a disaster. It would become an arena for a brutal civil war and then terrorist operations would flare up, not just in Iraq, but in very many places.”
Maybe Mubarak has not read any recent newspapers. He uses the future tense for current everyday occurrences in Iraq.
Most Arab leaders, even though in the pockets of the U.S., would not make a public statement calling for U.S. troops to stay in Iraq. Eighty-five percent of the Iraqi population is calling for an immediate withdrawal, even those who once supported the illegal invasion.
Mubarak states that he does not know of a solution to Iraq’s problems. However, he does know how the problems started. He, like successive U.S. administrations, blamed Saddam Hussein: “If Saddam was more just, none of this would have happened.” This statement is illogical at best. “None of this” did not happen when Saddam was in power, but he blames the violence after Saddam’s removal on Saddam. The victim of the U.S. invasion becomes the offender.
If we go back a little less than 15 years in time, it could be argued that Mubarak was a major contributor to the Gulf War of 1991: the event that began the downward slide of Iraq to its current-day state of chaos. Without his actions, there would have been a strong chance that Iraqi troops would have left Kuwait on August 5, 1990 and certain injustices against Iraq by Kuwait would have been addressed in a much different manner.
Below, I have posted a portion from my soon-to-be-released book, The Mother of all Battles, that addresses the diplomatic issues of early August 1990: issues in which Hosni Mubarak played a crucial role in enhancing the U.S. pro-war stance.
The Closed Door
Negotiation as a tool to settle the crisis that emerged when Iraq crossed the border into Kuwait on August 2, 1990 was disallowed by the U.S. From August 3, 1990, the diplomatic door was slammed shut and nobody could pry it open, despite the efforts of many to negotiate a settlement. You might recall that there was a term being spread between August 3, 1990 and the start of Desert Storm: “The Nightmare Scenario.” This term was used to describe George Bush’s worst vision; Iraqi troops pulling out of Kuwait.
Most Americans view August 2, 1990 as the date that the Iraq-Kuwait crisis began, but previous sections of this book have shown that Iraq knew long before that Kuwait was up to something that would undermine the economy and structure of Iraq. Saddam Hussein asked on February 23, 1990 in Amman, Jordan, “Aren’t American ships still patrolling the Gulf even though the war between Iran and Iraq is over?” He made reference to the presence of the U.S. Navy that had been in the Persian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq War, supposedly to protect merchant shipping. When the war was finished, there was no further purpose for the U.S. Navy to maintain its occupation of the Gulf, but the fleet remained.
The U.S. military presence in the Gulf, combined with the information that Iraq had acquired concerning Kuwait’s techniques in trying to undermine the Iraqi economy, led Iraq to believe it was being targeted, but Iraq thought a diplomatic conclusion could be reached. On March 3, 1990, Saddam Hussein met with King Hussein of Jordan in Baghdad. When the conversation turned to the problems between Kuwait and Iraq, Saddam Hussein told his Jordanian counterpart, “In time, reason and goodwill would finally prevail in this matter.” Shortly after, Saddam Hussein met with Senator Robert Dole and explained his country’s plight to the American lawmaker. When Dole returned to the U.S. and met with George Bush I, he told the president that Saddam Hussein is “the kind of leader the United States can easily be in a position to influence.” There was no talk about the Iraq-Kuwait problems; only the concern about being able to “influence” a country.
Before the Iraqi intervention in Kuwait, most Arab countries were concerned about problems that may arise from an invasion. However, the American public was unaware of the months of negotiation that Iraq had conducted in attempting to defuse the situation. At that time, the American press rarely covered events in the Middle East unless they involved Israel. When it was announced that Iraq had crossed the border of Kuwait, most Americans considered this an unprovoked act of aggression. The ignorance of the American public about the Middle East allowed Bush to turn U.S. public opinion against Iraq.
Another bit of misinformation fed to the American public concerned the linking of the Palestinian’s plight to Iraq’s pulling out of Kuwait. In August 1990, Saddam Hussein stated that he would withdraw troops from Kuwait if discussion of the Palestinian question could begin. He was looking to the future and wanted to address major problems in the Arab world that had been put out of sight by much of the Western world. Immediately, we heard the term “no linkage.” The Bush administration told the American public that Saddam Hussein was using this as a ploy and that he had never championed the Palestinian cause before. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Throughout early 1990, Yasser Arafat was a frequent visitor to Baghdad and he and Saddam Hussein worked on the two biggest issues of contention in the Middle East — the Palestinian problem and the Iraq-Kuwait dilemma.
On May 24, 1990, King Hussein of Jordan told Saddam Hussein, “At the next (Arab) summit in Baghdad, I intend to demand financial aid not only for Jordan, but also for the PLO.” Saddam answered, “Leave it to me — I’ll force them to pay.” What he meant by the word “force” was to shame the rich countries into helping the poorer states.
On the agenda at the May 28, 1990 summit in Baghdad was the disparity among rich and poor Arabs.. Saddam Hussein strongly inferred that the rich countries of the Gulf were not pulling their weight in helping the less fortunate, such as Jordan, Iraq and the Palestinians. When the subject of money arose, he said:
Brothers, let me tell you an old legend that perhaps some of you know. One day, disaster struck a little village, and all the villagers were asked to contribute something toward repairing the damage. In the village there lived a very poor man who had no possessions, and the other inhabitants decided not to ask him for anything. But the poor man approached them and said that he would feel ashamed not to contribute. He gave the other villagers the only thing he possessed — a copper pot. Well, at this summit, that poor man is Iraq, but we shan’t fail in our duty. We shall give $50 million to Jordan and $25 million to the PLO. That should help to exert moral pressure on those who might be tempted not to contribute. You all know the sacrifices we have accepted over the years while others fail to respect their agreements.
Saddam Hussein was criticizing all the rich Arab states in general, and Kuwait in particular. He mentioned the sacrifices Iraq had made in defending Kuwait against Iran, but he included the plight of the PLO as well.
Saddam Hussein had always worked closely with Yasser Arafat. In fact, he helped convince the Palestinian leader to adopt a more moderate stance in dealing with the U.S. When the public was told that Saddam was only using the Palestinian issue as a ploy, they were told another lie. History shows that the Ba’athist government worked right up until the March 2003 invasion of Iraq in helping the Palestinians. Even the more recent assistance received negative press in the U.S. The administration mentioned that the Iraqi government paid a stipend to the families of suicide bombers, therefore, Iraq supported terrorism. In reality, the Iraqi government paid benefits to the families of all those Palestinians who died at the hands of the Israelis during the Palestinian intafada. Saudi Arabia also contributed to those families, yet the Saudis were not depicted as terrorists, especially since the U.S. still had troops stationed in Saudi Arabia.
Despite Iraq’s efforts to reach an agreement with Kuwait, the Emirate continued to demand money from Iraq. Leaders of other Arab countries were becoming concerned that the situation could become more volatile and most were surprised at Kuwait’s insistence on immediate payments.
On July 28, 1990, King Hussein of Jordan spoke with Sheikh Sabah, the Kuwaiti foreign minister. The king was perplexed at Kuwait’s attitude and he told the foreign minister about his concern that Iraq may take military action. The Kuwaiti response was curious because Iraq had not yet invaded the Emirate and, in theory, the U.S. had no defense agreement with Kuwait. Sheikh Sabah told King Hussein, “We cannot bargain over an inch of territory. It is against our constitution. If Saddam comes across the border, let him come. The Americans will get him out.”
Iraq had maintained that the U.S. as working with Kuwait to undermine the Iraqi economy and Sheikh Sabah’s statement inferred knowledge of future U.S. military intervention. When Iraq crossed the border of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, the whole world focused its attention on the Middle East. Unfortunately, Iraq’s military intervention was the first information to which most Americans were exposed in the Iraq-Kuwait dispute, making it possible for the U.S. administration to create its own version of the incident. Hardly anybody knew about the fruitless discussions that led to the invasion.
Saddam Hussein’s strategy was to garner world attention to his plight and then withdraw from Kuwait and start earnest negotiations. He had no idea of the magnitude of the U.S. plan to turn the world against Iraq.
Shortly after Iraqi troops crossed the Kuwaiti border, King Hussein talked with Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi president mentioned that most problems could be resolved at a scheduled mini-summit to be held in Cairo, Egypt on August 4. He then said he did not want any condemnation by an Arab country of the invasion prior to the meeting. King Hussein took the role of mediator and said he would talk to the other Arab nations. He foresaw few problems.
One of the first calls King Hussein made was to the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak. After the king explained the situation, Mubarak replied, “I’ll support you.”
On the same day, August 2, 1990, King Hussein called President Bush to explain the latest developments in negotiations. He wanted to obtain Bush’s commitment that he not pressure Arab countries to issue communiqués criticizing Iraq’s actions for at least 48 hours. At the time of the call, Bush was on an airplane from Washington D.C. to Colorado. The Jordanian leader told Bush, “We (Arabs) can settle this crisis, George … we can deal with it. We just need a little time.” Bush’s reply was, You’ve got it. I’ll leave it to you.”
King Hussein thought he was dealing with an honorable person, and, when the conversation ended, he took Bush’s word that he would do nothing for 48 hours. Bush did not wait 48 seconds to start to break down the efforts of a negotiated settlement.
While the Arab world was awaiting the mini-summit in Cairo, scheduled for August 4, George Bush was already lining up allies to condemn Iraq, despite his promise to King Hussein to remain quiet for 48 hours. On August 3, 1990, Saddam Hussein issued a communiqué announcing he would begin to withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait on August 5. He was confident that the mini-summit scheduled for August 4 would reap benefits for everyone. Saddam, as well as the entire Arab world, was unaware of the American duplicity that was occurring.
On August 3, 1990, Bush met with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Colin Powell. The topic was the option of military force against Iraq. Powell told Bush, “If you finally decide to commit to military forces, Mr. President, it must be done as massively and decisively as possible.”
Meanwhile, on August 3, in Amman, Jordan, matters worsened. King Hussein met with his foreign minister, Marwan Al Qasim, and stated, “I have very good news. Saddam Hussein has told me he’s going to pull out of Kuwait.” The foreign minister was a little more up-to-date on the situation and he wasted no time telling the king, “You haven’t heard, but the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has just put out a statement condemning the Iraqis for invading Kuwait.”
King Hussein realized he had been duped by Bush. Egypt was an Arab country that held much influence and its condemnation could destroy all possible negotiations. The kind did not know at the time that Bush has already called Mubarak and cancelled a $7 billion Egyptian debt in return for Mubarak’s condemnation — a debt George Bush had no right to forgive under U.S. law.
Immediately, an irate King Hussein called Mubarak and asked, “Why did you release that communiqué? We had an agreement not to do something like that until the mini-summit took place.” Mubarak answered, “I was under tremendous pressure from the media and my own people. My mind is not functioning.” King Hussein angrily told Mubarak, “Well, when it starts functioning again, let me know.”
Egypt’s condemnation virtually shut the door on diplomacy. The August 4 mini-summit was cancelled and King Hussein told his brother, Prince Hassan, “The Arabs ought to have proved that they could settle the conflict themselves. We shouldn’t have failed. Anything can happen now. We must expect the worst.”