We can see that Iraq s claim on Kuwait was not a sudden incident. There had been a history of demands and combat throughout the twentieth century. The culmination of all this was Iraq s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. The United Nations immediately issued Resolution 660 demanding an immediate withdrawal from Kuwait. Next came Resolution 661 on August 6, 1990, which called for economic sanctions against Iraq. Also the United Nations issued Resolution 662 which called the invasion illegal.
But Iraq did not withdraw. Iraq had its own agenda. Citing historical precedence for its occupation, the Iraqis were coveting the cash that Kuwait had to offer. Iraq was in economic distress from their years of involvement in the Iran-Iraq War. Kuwait s wealth would offset their economic problems. Iraq was also upset with Kuwait for not forgiving loans that Iraq had not repaid. Finally, Iraq had illusions of becoming the force to be contended with and dominant in the Middle East, especially if they had access to the Gulf.
The United States reacted quickly to the invasion. On August 7, 1990, America began deploying troops. The next day President Bush ordered armed forces to Saudi Arabia. Their purpose was to protect the Saudi Arabians from any Iraqi attack. Iraq responded by declaring that male hostages would be used as human shields at strategic Iraqi sites. This was an attempt to deter any military attacks on these locations. On August 22, 1990, George Bush called up reservists. Iraq then announced that it would withdraw from Kuwait if they were allowed to retain the islands of Bubiyan and Warbah. These two locations would give them free access to the Gulf.2
On October 26, 1990, the London Financial Times reported that a senior engineer of the Kuwait Oil Company stated that Iraq had prepared 300 of the 1000 oil wells for destruction.3 The concern of the Bush Administration about Hussein s threats to use Kuwait oil as a weapon caused it to initiate top secret studies on environmental terrorism of fires/oil spills in the Middle East.
The studies concluded that the smoke s impact would have little effect on weapons. Estimates on damage to world climate and the environment varied. The local impact, on the other hand, was property predicted to be potentially dangerous.4 As predicted, temperatures below the clouds, caused by both Iraqi sabotage and Allied bombing, were below normal during the day; hospitals were packed with patients suffering from respiratory problems; and black rain damaged crops and drinking water.5 Global warming due to the increase of carbon monoxide was another concern.
By October 27, 1990, eight Patriot missiles were now operational. Later, reports would show that in actuality it took about four Patriot missiles to down one Scud. After the November elections George Bush ordered additional troops to the Persian Gulf. By November General Schwarzkopf described three centers of gravity:
1. Saddam Hussein
2. the Iraqi nuclear, biological, chemical threat
3. the Republican Guard6
In December troops were vaccinated against chemical warfare. Reporters would also take pills, use gas masks, and take injections during Desert Storm. One reported from the Washington Post noted side effects from the medication upon injection. Some troopers actually sat on syringes and injected themselves by mistake during the confrontation.
The Gulf arena was a new experience for many women. At first many units would not send females to Saudi Arabia for fear of insulting the Islamic culture. As it turned out, there would be more women in combat there than at any other time in United States history. The women had to adjust to rules such as no driving non-military vehicles, keeping their bodies covered, entering public buildings from the back door, and having a male companion to join them in shopping, to do the talking.
The United Nations gave Iraq until January 15, 1991 to pull out of Kuwait. They did not. On that night hotels were hosting parties at sixty dollars a head. Desert Shield became Desert Storm January 16, 1991. President Bosh, as some Iraqis called him because bosh means nothing in Arabic, began the bombardment with a vengeance. The war of words also began. Bush referred to Saddam Hussein as a Hitler and Hussein began the rhetoric of calling Bush satan. Hussein evoked the sympathy of his Muslim countrymen by turning the confrontation into a jihad or holy war. He went on to pronounce Kuwait Iraq s nineteenth province.
It was fortunate for the United States that the war began when it did because prior to that time the United States was not prepared to defend Saudi Arabia let alone attack Iraq. Military equipment was slow in coming and some of it was antiquated. Many soldiers feared death if more troops and supplies did not arrive. The excessive summer heat during the onset of Desert Shield had rendered some soldiers unconscious during their sleep. The morale of the troops was not great in the beginning. The United States was not prepared until the deadline to undertake the enormous task ahead.
It was also necessary to commence the war due to the much debated Amnesty International reports of Iraqi torture and executions of Kuwaitis. Rumors had also surfaced that Iraqis were taking incubators resulting in the deaths of many infants. The Iraqi government manipulated a CNN tour of Kuwait. They had promised the news team access to several hospitals in Kuwait. On the day of the trip they only allowed them to see one hospital for a short time. Before CNN had time to file any report, the Iraqi government announced that the CNN news team found the reports of stolen incubators to be false.