Iraq

“Malcontents”

Here’s another excerpt that caught my eye from Jeffrey Goldberg’s New Yorker piece about Brent Scowcroft:

In the case of Iraq [in 1991], Scowcroft was incensed by Saddam’s violation of an international border [with Kuwait]; he did not believe that Saddam’s treatment of his own citizens merited military intervention. A month into the war, [George H. W.] Bush, in public comments, encouraged Iraq’s defeated military, and also its civilian population, to “take matters into [their] own hands” and to rise up against Saddam. “Here’s where we fell down,” [Scowcroft’s deputy] Robert Gates said recently. “It was our hope that the magnitude of the defeat would lead the Iraqi generals to throw Saddam out, but we didn’t anticipate these uprisings. When the Kurds and the Shiites rose up, Saddam won back his generals. We speculated that Saddam ‘warned’ his generals that, without him, they could not control the uprisings, and the country would disintegrate.” Gates, who went on to serve as director of the C.I.A. from 1991 to 1993, argued that the President never intended to provoke a popular rebellion. “When the President talked about the Iraqis solving the problem, he was absolutely not urging the Kurds and the Shiites to do it. He was talking about the generals taking him out.” In the book that Scowcroft wrote with the elder Bush, a passage about the uprising said, “It is true that we hoped Saddam would be toppled. But we never thought that could be done by anyone outside the military and never tried to incite the general population. It is stretching the point to imagine that a routine speech in Washington would have gotten to the Iraqi malcontents and have been the motivation for the subsequent actions of the Shiites and the Kurds.”

Thousands of Kurds and Shiites, encouraged by the comments of the first President Bush, rose up in a gallant effort to overthrow a murderous tyrant– only to be slaughtered while the US and the rest of the world stood aside. And the best Scowcroft and Bush can say about them is that they were “malcontents”?

These are not men to admire.

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