When Iraq invaded and occupied the country of Kuwait in August 1990, the Bush administration was faced with several dilemmas. From a foreign policy point of view, this action could greatly destabilize the balance of power in a part of the world that was vital to U. S. interests. The United States was dependant on a continuous flow of oil to drive its economic machine, which Kuwait supplied greatly. In addition, this move would put more power into the hands of a government that was not only unfriendly to the U. S. , but a sworn enemy of the state of Israel, a strong U. S. lly.
In addition to, the fall of communism had created what George Bush had described as, “A new world order,” and would become the first major test of how the U. S. would handle its role as the sole remaining super power in this “new world order. ” There were many challenges facing the Bush administration as to the manner in which they would handle this first major international crisis. The Bush administration had to develop a consensus of the major remaining powers, and appear not acting alone in its response to President Saddam Husseins actions of invading Kuwait.
They also yearned to keep Israel from being involved so as not to alienate the remaining Middle Eastern nations. Lastly, they faced a domestic dilemma, in that much of the American public had significant reservations about involving U. S. troops involved in a foreign conflict. There remained a bad taste of Vietnam among the American public, and there were very mixed responses to American involvement in Somalia, Nicaragua, and Grenada. For the Bush administration, Hussein was not a merchant who could be bargained with, but rather an outlaw who would have to be defeated by force.
The Bush administration was faced with a task of developing (more or less) overwhelming support from the U. S. people to take any action in Kuwait, which was accomplished by a dramatic public relations move to demonize Saddam Hussein in the eyes of the American people. The task of the United States demonizing Saddam Hussein was facilitated by many factors, both real and imaginary; a mixture of true facts and public relations image making.
On the fact side, Saddam Hussein was indeed a dictator, and responsible for some true atrocities. Hussein ruled with an iron fist. Most accounts of political analysts looking at Iraq agree that his rein was one characterized by fear of the state. In her book, The Outlaw State, Elaine Sciolino describes Hussein as “a man who used a combination of terror and reward to break the spirit of his people. ” Through the use of secret police, the Baath Party and the army, Saddam controlled every aspect of Iraqi life.
As one American reporter quoted as driving through Iraq, “From the Saddam International Airport, heading down the Saddam Freeway, past Saddam City and the Saddam Water Purification Plant, we sped by Saddam institutes, Saddam housing estates, Saddam boys clubs, Saddam sports arenas, Saddam hospitals, Saddam cafes, and, of course, dozens of Saddam billboards, statues, mosaic walls, and monster outdoor portraits. ” Any opposition to his political views was irraticated. For example, membership in the opposition party ShiaDawa was punishable by death.
One of its leaders, IyatollahBaqr al-Sadr, was executed, along with members of his family, by orders from Saddam Hussein. There is significant evidence indicating that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran during their 8-year war, which is condemned universally by the international community. Hussein is quoted as saying in an interview with Spanish television, “America used nuclear weapons against Japan. Isreal possesses nuclear weapons- you and the whole world know about this. Iraq, therefore, has the right to possess the weapons which its enemy has…
America moreover, used chemical weapons against the people of Vietnam. The USSR also used chemical weapons against the people of Afghanistan. So talk about Iraqi use of chemical weapons is insincere and hypocritical. ” Most accounts of Saddams rise to power in his tenure as leader of Iraq indicate that he constantly used murder, torture, lies, and terror to achieve his goals. In addition to these hard facts, his physical characteristics, mannerisms, and someway naive attempts at portraying himself as a great hero and leader (even God-like) made him more susceptible to criticism and contempt by the American people.
The dark moustache, the heavy eyebrows and swarthy appearance made it….. easy for the media to find photographs projecting images of evil and maleficence. The fact that Hussein always wore military garb, that he portrayed himself as a warrior (when, in fact, he was never in the military) also played to the U. S. public fears. Quotes by Hussein comparing himself to Nebuchadnezzar gave credence to claims of messianic delusions and mental instability by the United States. The Bush administration engaged in a unprecedented campaign to frighten the American people as to the threat that Saddam Hussein posed.
Were dealing with Hitler revisited, a totalitarianism and brutality that is naked and unprecedented in modern times,” Bush is quoted as stating at a campaign rally in 1990. Opinion polls during this period of the crisis showed that the American public did not place very much importance on the charges that Iraq was an aggressor or that its chemical and biological capabilities posed a serious threat to the United States. But the American public did take seriously the charge (which Bush played up on frequently) that Iraq would soon develop a stockpile of nuclear weapons.
Bush also played up the fact that Hussein was intractable- that the U. S. onsistently tried peaceful negations with Hussein, but that he was focused on aggression. When Bush was asked by a reporter if war might have been avoided if the U. S. had been tougher with Saddam Hussein, Bush replied, “Well, we tried the peaceful route; we tried working with him and changing [him] through contact… The lesson is clear in this case that that didnt work. ” The Bush administration turned to supposedly objective experts for support of the argument that Saddam was a dangerous man who needed to be stopped. Quoting Jerrold Post, a former psychiatrist at George Washington University, who had analyzed Saddams actions for the U. S. Government, “Saddam is not crazy.[But] he has the most dangerous personality configuration, which we call malignant narcissism. Such extreme self-absorption. He has no concern for the pain or suffering of other. [He has] a paranoid outlook [with] messianic dreams. ” Quotes such as these coupled with ongoing reports with how close the Iraqis were to developing nuclear capabilities developed the kind of support that the Bush administration was looking for in order to send troops to fight in the war with the backup of the American public.
Saddam Hussein miscalculated and showed a level of naivete when attempting to manipulate his media image. On numerous occasions, he would have what was obviously staged events with his supporters chanting and dancing around him, firing weapons into the air, etc. One of the most obvious events involved Saddam Husseins “human shields. On August 23, 1990, 5-year old Stuart Lockwood was seen on television shying away from the uninvited attentions of Saddam Hussein.
Stuart snubbed Hussein, and ruined the dictators attempt to turn a group of British hostages he was holding into a propaganda sideshow. Stuart and his family had been imprisoned as a part of the “human shield” policy designed to prevent a United Nations task force from liberating Kuwait. Stuarts mother, Glenda Lockwood, recalls the incident in her diary-made-book very clearly: “Today, my five-year old son became the tiny “British Bulldog” who apparently defied the most ruthless, murderous dictator of the 1990s and was witnessed doing so by television viewers all over the world.
Because he was literally standing on the wrong spot at the wrong time, he has had to endure the sort of media pressure and hype that can make even toughened film stars crack under the strain…. “. Events such as this not only outraged the American public, it confirmed everything that the Bush administration had been pushing to them. Of course, this played into the hands of the Bush administration, and they used all of their manipulative powers in the medias to make as much possible out of these events.
All in all, the Bush administrations actions during the Gulf War crisis were considered to be very successful. There were those, of course, who criticized Bush for U. S. troops having to die for “oil money. ” However, the largest criticism over time was that Bush didnt “finish the job,” by assuring that Hussein was out of power and/or assassinating him. The fact that this was the largest criticism of Bush speaks to the effectiveness to Bushs campaign and shows how demonizing Saddam Hussein truly was the best way to earn support from the American people.