In My Opinion…

January 1, 2007

Preventative Maintenance

Filed under: History,Military History,Politics — Thomas Hagen @ 8:53 am

Throughout the duration of Saddam Hussein’s reign as the supreme leader of Iraq, he has been responsible for mass executions, unprovoked attacks on neighboring countries, ecological terrorism, and the use of conventional and chemical weapons against his own people. The question is not if he would strike again, but when. By deposing an evil dictator before he can do more harm, the United States is justified in its war with Iraq.

The atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein would begin almost immediately after he came into power. Saddam took control of Iraq in a bloodless coup on July 16, 1979. Less than a week later he called for a conference of senior Party officials, in which one of his close associates announced that a plot against the Party had been discovered. An alleged conspirator was produced who proceeded to tell the audience details of the plot. Saddam then took the podium armed with a list of names, which he began to read aloud. As the names were read, the men were escorted out. Sixty-six names were on that list, including a close friend of Saddam’s. A mock trial was held and fifty-five men were found guilty. Twenty-two were sentenced to death, while the rest were sent to prison (Karsh 109-16).

Approximately a year later, Saddam Hussein took Iraq to war. On September 22, 1980 Iraq launched attacks on airfields in the neighboring country of Iran (Al-Khalil 258). Iran often sent human waves into battle during the war, which were driven back many times by the use of chemical weapons (Butler 18). During the eight-year struggle, Iran accused Iraq of the use of chemical weapons on at least 40 occasions, but Iran’s lack of international credibility caused most of the claims to be ignored (Sciolino 149). Saddam has never personally admitted to using chemical weapons against Iran, but one of his generals is said to have compared the atrocity to using insecticide on insects. Iraq later claimed the right to use any weapons it had, regardless of international opinion (Butler 18).

Atrocities were not limited to Iraq’s neighbors. The Kurds of northern Iraq began to rebel against Saddam during the Iran-Iraq War, causing him to begin their systematic persecution. 8,000 Kurds that had been previously imprisoned were executed, as well as hundreds more who openly opposed Saddam (Karsh 169). In March 1988, the Kurdish town of Halabjah was attacked with hydrogen cyanide, leaving 15,000 men, women, and children dead or wounded (Keegan 69-70). In the following months, a further sixty-five villages were attacked with mustard gas, cyanide, and nerve agents (Karsh 169), bringing hundreds of casualties and forcing 250,000 refugees to flee to Iran and Turkey (Keegan 70). Another 500,000 Kurds were placed in concentration camps or controlled areas in northern and southern Iraq. Several Kurdish villages in Iran were also gassed (Karsh 169).

After the Iran-Iraq War, Iraq’s military was stronger than ever, but its economy was struggling (Karsh 194). Saddam declared the oil prices set by the Persian Gulf states were costing Iraq $1 billion a year, and failure to disregard his demands on oil quotas would be seen as a declaration of war on Iraq (Karsh 206). Saddam determined the nation of Kuwait was continuing to flood the market with oil, costing Iraq $89 billion. There was also a dispute over oil fields set up by Kuwait in an area known as Rumaila. While Kuwait saw these demands as attempts at a bargaining agreement, Saddam intended them as ultimatums. When it was apparent that Kuwait was not going to comply, Iraq began moving troops toward the border (Karsh 211-13). On the morning of August 2, 1990 Iraq sent 100,000 troops and 300 tanks across the border into Kuwait to face an army of 16,000 Kuwaitis. The world quickly protested the invasion. The United Nations Security Counsel met and imposed sanctions and resolutions against Iraq calling for its immediate withdrawal from Kuwait (Karsh 218). When the proposed date was not met, military action was taken. Coalition bombs began to fall on Iraq on January 17, 1991 (Sciolino 300).

One of the weapons in Iraq’s arsenal is the SCUD surface-to-surface missile. This medium-ranged weapon has a range of 150 miles with poor accuracy. During the Gulf War, many SCUD missiles were launched by Iraq at Israel in order to lure them into the war in an attempt to break up the western and Arab coalition against it (Keegan 79). The unprovoked attacks on Israel did not have the desired affect. Israel remained a bystander and the coalition held firm (Butler 38).

Saddam soon resorted to a scorched earth policy—setting fire to several oil wells in Kuwait. While this tactic did have partial strategic value by creating a smoke screen that could inhibit Coalition operations, its main goal was simply to devastate the oil field, as well as cause an ecological crisis. This was compounded when Iraq began pumping Kuwaiti oil into the Persian Gulf. Approximately 200,000 barrels of oil a day was pumped into the Gulf, creating an oil slick over 240 square miles (Karsh 251).

As the conflict began to end, Iraq was in disorder. Many Shiite Muslims in southern Iraq began to revolt. A number of Ba’ath Party buildings were destroyed and several state and party officials were killed (Keegan 83). The Iraqi military used napalm, cluster bombs, and SCUD missiles to quell the uprising. The estimated Shiite death toll from the rebellion is 30,000 killed; with many thousands more seeking refuge in Iran. Scores of Shiite mosques, schools, and other religious buildings were also destroyed (Embry).

Since the end of the Gulf War, many claims have surfaced concerning Iraq’s arsenal of WMDs—Weapons of Mass Destruction. A United Nations commission known as UNSCOM was formed and worked inside Iraq for years inspecting sites and destroying a large portion of Saddam’s WMD arsenal (Keegan 105). The attacks on America on September 11, 2001 gave cause for concern that any undiscovered WMDs could be used by Iraq, or end up in the hands of terrorist organizations. Periodic refusals by Iraq to allow UN inspections, before and after 9/11, did much to further that concern.

History shows that it would have only been a matter of time before Saddam Hussein committed more atrocious acts upon his own people, his neighbors, or the world. By deposing an evil dictator, the US has made the region, and our own country, safe from his future treachery.

Works Cited

Al-Khalil, Samir. Republic of Fear: The Inside Story of Saddam’s Iraq. New York: Pantheon Books, 1989.

Butler, Richard. The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Growing Crisis of Global Security. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000.

Embry, Jason. “Uprising in Iraq may be slow because of US inaction in 1991.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer. April 5, 2003. <;.

Karsh, Efraim and Rautsi, Inari. Saddam Hussein: A Political Biography. New York: The Free Press, 1991.
Keegan, John. The Iraq War. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.

Sciolino, Elaine. The Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein’s Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1991.


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