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Is the US State Department still keeping April Glaspie under wraps?

By Kaleem Omar

12/25/05 "
Jang" -- -- It is now more than fifteen years since that fateful meeting on July 25, 1990 between then-US Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie and President Saddam Hussein that the Iraqi leader interpreted as a green light from Washington for his invasion of Kuwait eight days later.

The US State Department, which is said to have placed a gag order on Glaspie in August 1990 prohibiting her from talking to the media about what had transpired at that meeting, is apparently still keeping her under wraps despite the fact that she retired from the American Foreign Service in 2002. .

In all the years since her meeting with Saddam Hussein, Glaspie has never spoken about it to the media, never appeared as a guest on a TV talk show, never written an article or a book about her time as the US’s top diplomat in Baghdad. The question is: why? What has she got to hide?

April Catherine Glaspie was born in Vancouver, Canada, on April 26, 1942 and graduated from Mills College in Oakland, California in 1963 and from Johns Hopkins University in 1965. In 1966 she entered the United States diplomatic service, where she became an expert on the Middle East. After postings in Kuwait, Syria and Egypt, Glaspie was appointed Ambassador to Iraq in 1989.

Glaspie’s appointment followed a period from 1980 to 1988 during which the United States had given substantial covert support to Iraq during its war with Iran.

Before 1918 Kuwait had been part of the Ottoman province of Basra, and thus in a sense part of Iraq, but Iraq had recognised its independence in 1961. After the end of the Iran-Iraq War (during the course of which Kuwait lent Iraq $ 14 billion), Iraq and Kuwait had a dispute over the exact demarcation of its border, access to waterways, the price at which Kuwaiti oil was being sold, and oil-drilling in border areas.

It was in this context that Glaspie had her first meeting with Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990. Glaspie herself had requested the meeting, saying she had an urgent message for the Iraqi president from US President George H. W. Bush (Bush Senior). In her two years as Ambassador to Iraq, it was Glaspie’s first private audience with Saddam Hussein. It was also to be her last. A partial transcript of the meeting is as follows:

US Ambassador Glaspie:

"I have direct instructions from President Bush to improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait. (pause) As you know, I have lived here for years and admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country (after the Iran-Iraq war). We know you need funds. We understand that, and our opinion is that you should have the opportunity to rebuild your country. (pause) We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your other threats against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship - not confrontation - regarding your intentions. Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait’s borders?"

President Saddam Hussein:

"As you know, for years now I have made every effort to reach a settlement on our dispute with Kuwait. There is to be a meeting in two days; I am prepared to give negotiations only one more brief chance. (pause) When we (the Iraqis) meet (with the Kuwaitis) and we see there is hope, then nothing will happen. But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq will not accept death."

US Ambassador Glaspie:

"What solution would be acceptable?"

President Saddam Hussein:

"If we could keep the whole of the Shatt al Arab - our strategic goal in our war with Iran - we will make concessions (to the Kuwaitis). But if we are forced to choose between keeping half of the Shatt and the whole of Iraq (which, in Iraq’s view, includes Kuwait), then we will give up all of the Shatt to defend our claims on Kuwait to keep the whole of Iraq in the shape we wish it to be. (pause) What is the United States’ opinion on this?"

US Ambassador Glaspie:

"We have no opinion on your Arab-Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasise the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960s, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America."

(Saddam smiles)

At a Washington press conference called the next day (July 26, 1990), US State Department spokesperson Margaret Tutweiler was asked by journalists:

"Has the United States sent any type of diplomatic message to the Iraqis about putting 30,000 troops on the border with Kuwait? Has there been any type of protest communicated from the United States government?"

To which Tutweiler responded

"I’m entirely unaware of any such protest."

On July 31, 1990, two days before the Iraqi invasion, John Kelly, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, testified to Congress that the

"United States has no commitment to defend Kuwait and the US has no intention of defending Kuwait if it is attacked by Iraq."

The trap had been baited very cleverly by Glaspie, reinforced by Tutweiler’s and Kelly’s supporting comments. And Saddam Hussein walked right into it, believing that the US would do nothing if his troops invaded Kuwait. On August 2, 1990, eight days after Glaspie’s meeting with the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein’s massed troops invaded Kuwait.

One month later in Baghdad, British journalists obtained the tape and transcript of the Saddam Hussein-April Glaspie meeting on July 25, 1990. In order to verify this astounding information, they attempted to confront Ms Glaspie as she was leaving the US embassy in Baghdad.

Journalist 1:

"Are the transcripts (holding them up) correct, Madam Ambassador?"

(Ambassador Glaspie does not respond)

Journalist 2:

"You knew Saddam was going to invade (Kuwait), but you didn’t warn him not to. You didn’t tell him America would defend Kuwait. You told him the opposite - that America was not associated with Kuwait."

Journalist 1:

"You encouraged this aggression - his invasion. What were you thinking?"

US Ambassador Glaspie:

"Obviously, I didn’t think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait."

Journalist 1:

"You thought he was just going to take SOME of it? But how COULD YOU?! Saddam told you that, if negotiations failed, he would give up his Iran (Shatt al Arab Waterway) goal for the ‘WHOLE of Iraq, in the shape we wish it to be.’ You KNOW that includes Kuwait, which the Iraqis have always viewed as a historic part of their country!"

(Ambassador Glaspie says nothing, pushing past the two journalists to leave)

"America green-lighted the invasion. At a minimum, you admit signalling Saddam that some aggression was okay - that the US would not oppose a grab of the al-Rumalya oil field, the disputed border strip and the Gulf Islands (including Bubiyan) - territories claimed by Iraq?"

(Again, Ambassador Glaspie says nothing as a limousine door closes behind her and the car drives off.)

Two years later, during the American television network NBC News Decision ‘92s third round of the Presidential Debate, 1992 presidential candidate Ross Perot was quoted as saying:

"...we told him (Saddam) he could take the northern part of Kuwait; and when he took the whole thing we went nuts. And if we didn’t tell him that, why won’t we even let the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee see the written instructions for Ambassador Glaspie?"

At this point he (Perot) was interrupted by then President George Bush Senior who yelled:

"I’ve got to reply to that. That gets to national honour!...That is absolutely absurd!"

Absurd or not, the fact of the matter is that after April Glaspie left Baghdad in late August 1990 and returned to Washington, she was kept under wraps by the State Department for eight months, not allowed to talk to the media, and did not surface until just before the official end of the Gulf war (April 11, 1991), when she was called to testify informally before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about her meeting with Saddam Hussein.

She said she was the victim of "deliberate deception on a major scale" and denounced the transcript of the meeting as "a fabrication" that distorted her position, though she admitted that it contained "a great deal" that was accurate.

The veteran diplomat awaited her next assignment, later taking a low-profile job at the United Nations in New York. She was later shunted off to Cape Town, South Africa, as US Consul General. Nothing has been heard of her since her retirement from the diplomatic service in 2002. It’s almost as if she has become a non-person.

Copyright: The News International, Pakistan

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