By Spc. Don Parker
148th Public Affairs Detachment
As of this writing, Feb. 24 , the waiting is over. The
big question has been answered. It's no longer whether, or when,
but how long it will last.
Yet the question many soldiers must answer for themselves,
and will be asked by others, is this: Did the United States forsake
a last chance for peace, instead choosing war for its own reasons?
It's not hard to see why people will] ask the question. After
all, we hear that Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, who claimed
to speak for the Iraqi government, accepted a last-moment Soviet
That plan, never formalized, supposedly called for an unconditional
Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, starting 24 hours after a complete
cease-fire. The Iraqis were to return all POWs within 48 hours,
withdraw from Kuwait City within four days, and completely evacuate
Kuwait within 21 days following the cease-fire.
I say supposedly, because the only place the plan surfaced
was in broadcasts from the Kremlin. Saddam never publicly endorsed
it, it was never presented for a U.N. Security Council vote,
and no Iraqi diplomat directly approached U.S. or other coalition
But for those who yearn for peace, among whom must be counted
the soldiers who have died in its absence, the plan had an undeniable
appeal. Why go to a land war because of two weeks, the difference
between the U.S. and Soviet withdrawal timetables?
Against this seemingly obvious choice must be counted several
facts. The first is that this war began August 1 Then, as now,
Iraq was in the midst of peace negotiations over the question
of Kuwait. And then, as now, Iraqi diplomats said agreement was
near, and peace awaited only a few more days of talks. While
Iraqi officials assured the world they would never invade, the
Republican Guard crossed the border.
The issue of time is not really about 14 days, but seven months.
That's plenty of time fix honest people to come to agreement
If the Iraqis wished to settle, if they had a sincere desire
for peace, few can argue there was not enough time. The argument
that the ground offensive was wrong because it was launched too
soon could be presented only by those who have not been sniffing
sand for better than half a year.
Yet even these reasonable points miss the essential problem.
The fact is that Saddam Hussein simply could not be trusted.
Coalition forces could see him taking advantage of a cease fire
to resupply his troops, refuel his armor, and place an international
peacekeeping force between his troops and coalition forces. What
could the U.S. do if Saddam then began stalling? Drive through
U.N. forces in order to get to him?
The possibility is based on history, not on paranoia. During
the eight-year Iran-Iraq War that began in 1980, Saddam promised
a complete and unconditional withdrawal from Iranian territory
in 1981 But he held on to all the land he wished to keep anyway.
Saddam agreed to, and then violated, a U.N.-sponsored ban
in 1985 against attacking civilian targets. Almost immediately
after Iraq pledged before the international community to abide
by the ban, Saddam began the "War of the Cities" with
Scud attacks on Teheran.
Despite the uncontested fact that Saddam opened the Iran-Iraq
war by invading Iran without provocation or warning, he pushed
almost from the beginning for a cease-fire. The result of yet
another Saddam miscalculation, the Iraqi Army was on the defensive
for most of the war.
Finally, in July 1988, the effort of several nations resulted
in a U.N.-approved cease-fire, to which both Iraq and Iran agreed.
Again, Saddam used the interlude to prepare and launch what was
then the largest Iraqi offensives of the war. The attacks penetrated
40 miles before they were stopped, and all occurred as Iraqi
diplomats insisted the cease-fire was still in effect.
Saudi and Marine soldiers can attest that these tactics have
not really changed in the current conflict. The Iraqi tanks which
attacked the town Khafji got close to the Allied positions because
they approached with their turrets turned backwards, faced away
from Allied troops in a sign of surrender. When the armored forces
came within range, commanders whirled the turrets about and fired.
We can all regret that a way for peace was not found. Reasonable
people can argue economic sanctions would have eventually forced
an Iraqi withdrawal Yet even if that is correct, how many Kuwaitis
would die under an Iraqi occupation designed to eliminate the
state and convert it to a docile province? How many Kurds would
be killed by an Iraqi military with secure borders, free to roam
the country in search of Saddam's political opponents?
Would an emboldened Saddam turn next to bullying or invading
Saudi Arabia into submission? What of his rocket forces? Would
Saudi Arabia and Israel have been subjected to Scud launches
by the hundreds or thousands?
Nobody can answer these questions with certainty. But there
is enough history to assume that, where Saddam is concerned,
expect the worst He has proved be will violate a cease-fire.
He has shown he will ignore treaties before the ink on his signature
has dried. He has proved he will tenure and kill anybody-innocent
or guilty, military or civilian - who stands in his way.
Could peace have been concluded with this man? Perhaps. But
not on the strength of words, and not on the basis of promises.
There was one way to avoid this war, and that was through action.
There was one man who could have acted, and that was Saddam.
If peace has been forsaken, there is only one person on whom
the blame can be placed.