Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in Fish Hawk (Lithia), Florida, on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. It is a cold day here in the Sunshine State. Currently, the temperature is 50˚F (10˚C) under sunny skies. With humidity at 72% and the wind blowing from the north-northeast at 9 MPH (14 KM/H), the wind chill factor is 46˚F (8˚C). Today’s forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 65˚F (18˚C). Tonight, skies will be partly cloudy. The low will be 44˚F (7˚C).
As you know, I am passionate about history. I have been fascinated about the past – whether it’s about world history or my own life – since I was six years old and lived in Bogota, Colombia with my mom and older half-sister.
It’s also no secret that my favorite subtopic within this fascinating – and ever-changing – subject is military history, especially when it comes to World War II and the various conflicts that followed it in the 20th and early 21st Centuries. (You know, like the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, the two Gulf Wars, and the War on Terror.) My taste in films and reading material makes this interest in war and the humans that get caught up in it makes this obvious, especially if you read my blog and read my various reviews here.
I mention this because….
Yesterday was the 31st anniversary of the start of Operation Desert Storm’s air campaign. On January 17, 1991, the U.S. led multinational kicked off a 43-day-long aerial assault against Iraqi targets in Iraq and Kuwait, which Iraq – then led by dictator Saddam Hussein – had invaded and occupied in August of 1990. This operation began when U.S. Navy warships and subs in the Persian Gulf and Red Sea launched Tomahawk cruise missiles – in combat for the first time ever – at strategically-important Iraqi facilities such as command-and-control centers, power generating stations, and chemical weapons factories deep inside Iraq. F-117A Stealth fighters, F-15E Strike Eagles, F/A-18 Hornets, and B-52 bombers also hit airbases, radar sites, and enemy troop concentrations in both occupied Kuwait and Iraq proper to pave the way for a ground campaign by coalition forces later in Desert Storm.
I was in my late 20s then, and because I had friends who were in the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations as part of the American contingent that participated in Desert Storm, I was both interested and apprehensive about the war. I was aware that Saddam was a ruthless dictator and that he had invaded a smaller neighboring nation for territorial and economic gain, as well as to establish himself as a Pan-Arab strongman destined to lead the Arab world into a glorious new era of domination by Sunni Muslims of the Middle East.
Obviously, I knew that Iraq had to be dislodged from Kuwait by any means necessary. Before January 15, 1991 – the deadline given to Iraq to leave Kuwait and restore its independence – I had hoped Saddam would “blink” and pull his forces out without a need for a war. I also didn’t want to see anyone being killed on either side, but especially my friends who were already in the Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield.
And yet, I suspected that Saddam, who had had ample time to back down and decamp from Kuwait, would refuse to abide by the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 660, which read, in part:
The Security Council,
Alarmed by the invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 by the military forces of Iraq,
Determining that there exists a breach of international peace and security as regards the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait,
Acting under Articles 39 and 40 of the Charter of the United Nations,
1. Condemns the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait;
2. Demands that Iraq withdraw immediately and unconditionally all its forces to the positions in which they were located on 1 August 1990;
3. Calls upon Iraq and Kuwait to begin immediately intensive negotiations for the resolution of their differences and supports all efforts in this regard, and especially those of the League of Arab States;
4. Decides to meet again as necessary to consider further steps to ensure compliance with the present resolution.
I also doubted that the Iraqi leadership would agree to heed U.N. Security Resolution 678:
The Security Council,
Recalling and reaffirming its resolutions 660 (1990) of 2 August 1990, 661 (1990) of 6 August 1990, 662 (1990) of 9 August 1990, 664 (1990) of 18 August 1990, 665 (1990) of 25 August 1990, 666 (1990) of 13 September 1990, 667 (1990) of 16 September 1990, 669 (1990) of 24 September 1990, 670 (1990) of 25 September 1990, 674 (1990) of of 29 October 1990 and 677 (1990) of 28 November 1990.
Noting that, despite all efforts by the United Nations, Iraq refuses to comply with its obligation to implement resolution 660 (1990) and the above-mentioned subsequent relevant resolutions, in flagrant contempt of the Security Council,
Mindful of its duties and responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations for the maintenance and preservation of international peace and security,
Determined to secure full compliance with its decisions,
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter,
1. Demands that Iraq comply fully with resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions, and decides, while maintaining all its decisions, to allow Iraq one final opportunity, as a pause of goodwill, to do so;
2. Authorizes Member States co-operating with the Government of Kuwait, unless Iraq on or before 15 January 1991 fully implements, as set forth in paragraph 1 above, the above-mentioned resolutions, to use all necessary means to uphold and implement resolution 660 (1990) and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area;
3. Requests all States to provide appropriate support for the actions undertaken in pursuance of paragraph 2 of the present resolution;
4. Requests the States concerned to keep the Security Council regularly informed on the progress of actions undertaken pursuant to paragraphs 2 and 3 of the present resolution;
5. Decides to remain seized of the matter.
Mind you, I was at the time a college dropout in my late 20s, but I had taken a course on international relations before I left Miami-Dade Community College, plus I knew my history. So I had a strong feeling that – barring a last-minute change of heart on Saddam’s part – hostilities were now inevitable.
I remember, as if it were yesterday, an odd mix of anticipation and dread as January 15, then January 16, passed and no announcement that Iraqi troops were withdrawing came. I also remember that I hoped that if war were to come, the coalition would achieve its goals without suffering too many casualties And while I did not feel any sympathy for Saddam or his regime, I felt sorry for the ordinary Iraqi civilians who would inevitably pay the price for their leaders’ stupidity.
31 years have passed since that January in 1991. Much has changed since then; Saddam Hussein was toppled by another U.S.-led coalition that invaded Iraq under far more morally ambiguous circumstances in 2003. The Second Gulf War led to a long and often painful occupation and counterinsurgency campaign that ended in 2012 and still has repercussions on the Middle East and American foreign policy.
Tempus Fugit, indeed.