| February 8, 2011Hosni Mubarak is being surrounded by opposition from many sides of Egyptian society. The message is clear: he has to go. Various explanation for his imminent ouster have been well-chronicled: brutal repression, abject poverty in Egypt and corruption in the government are but a few of the reasons. The international press has delved into these and made the world aware of Mubarak’s actions over the years. However, one aspect yet to be brought out is his activities in 1990 that played a major role in making an attack against Iraq acceptable in the eyes of the world.
Let’s look at the chronology. On August 2, 1990, Iraqi troops crossed the border into Kuwait. This was no mere on-the-spot decision made by Saddam Hussein. For months prior, Saddam brought up the subject of Kuwait’s attempts to undermine Iraq’s economy, that was fragile at the time because Iraq had just ended an eight-year war against Iran in which it defended all Arab countries, especially Kuwait, against a possible Iranian intrusion and the desired spreading of the Iranian Islamic revolution to the entire Arab world.
Saddam Hussein called for a summit in Cairo, Egypt to be held on August 4, 1990. At this meeting, all issues would be addressed and some sort of arrangement probably would have emerged that would have received world attention and explained why Iraq had to resort to military means to right the wrongs. Additionally, Saddam proclaimed that Iraqi troops would withdraw from Kuwait on August 5. He was, hindsight shows, falsely optimistic. The only concession that Saddam asked was that no Arab country condemn the Iraqi intrusion before the summit. In other words, he wanted Arabs to determine the outcome of the animosities between Iraq and Kuwait.
Shortly after Iraqi troops crossed the Kuwaiti border, King Hussein of Jordan talked with Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi president mentioned that most problems could be resolved at the scheduled mini-summit to be held in Cairo. 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 honorable people, 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 thwarting the efforts of a negotiated settlement.
While the Arab world was awaiting the mini-summit in Cairo, 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 chicanery, supported by Hosni Mubarak, which 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 king did not know at the time that Bush had 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.
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.”
Mubarak’s denunciation stopped any discussion by Arabs to come to an agreement. Of course, Saddam Hussein was irate and he cancelled his edict to remove Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Without Mubarak’s non-functioning mind, there was a strong chance that Iraq would have pulled out of Kuwait and there never would have been a Gulf War that began in January 1991. The actions of 28 nations, all bought off in various manners by the US, destroyed the infrastructure of Iraq and created a devastating embargo that kept Iraq isolated, even though the Iraqis had performed all the necessary draconian obligations that the US-led United Nations imposed on it.
Then, in the mid-1990s, Mubarak had the audacity to declare that Saddam Hussein should step down and allow “democracy” in Iraq. Today, he’s the victim of his own suggestions to Saddam. Mubarak was instrumental in the destruction of Iraq, yet today’s pundits rarely bring up the despicable incidents that Mubarak orchestrated 20 years ago that led to Iraq’s demise. He was a tool of the US and Western imperialism in 1990 and remained so for more than two decades. The only question now is will his successor(s) carry on the tradition?