The most sought-after State Department document of the past several decades, the infamous Glaspie Memo, was recently released by WikiLeaks. The memo details a conversation between Ambassador April Glaspie and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on July 25, 1990, exactly one week before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and Glaspie’s reassurances to Hussein both of enduring American friendship and America’s disinterest in the Kuwaiti border dispute. In short, it confirmed decades of suspicion that Glaspie had, in the meeting, given Saddam Hussein the impression that the United States was giving him the green light for the invasion.
The revelation, which puts the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed in a decade of post-war sanctions and the even greater numbers killed in the 2003 US invasion in a new, decidedly unseemly light, and does enormous service to historians. More importantly, however, the release of a document that was still officially secret 20 plus years and three presidents later shattered the enduring myth that these documents are classified to prevent them falling into enemy hands. Rather, the classification is done to keep the American public from knowing the truth, and WikiLeaks is doing us a great service in their release.
The Glaspie Memo’s existence has been long speculated about, and the real contents were what many had long suspected. The official title of the cable, “Saddam’s Message of Friendship to President Bush” only tells part of the story, as Ambassador Glaspie clearly, repeatedly expresses US support for the Iraqi dictator, expressed support for the Egypt-brokered talks between Iraq and Kuwait later that week, and expresses absolutely no opposition when Saddam suggests that he might act unilaterally if the talks didn’t show any progress – indeed Glaspie informs Saddam that “we took no position on these Arab affairs.”
The revelation would be damning to the George H.W. Bush Administration and are doubly shameful when one considers that, just a week after Glaspie’s reassurances the US embarked on a policy of hostility and sanctions that continues to this day, has cost over a million lives and still has 50,000 US troops inside Iraq.
Yet when we are told that these sorts of memos are classified for “National Security” reasons it clearly does not hold weight. There is no “enemy” this is being kept from. The Glaspie Memo’s contents show a disingenuous US policy toward Iraq that spanned several administrations, and the decision to keep these sorts of documents “secret” decades later reveals a complicity in these policies which would continue indefinitely.
It is not, then, some mythical enemy that these documents were classified to keep in the dark, but the American public itself, which would never accept these despicable policies were they aware of them. From both Bush Administrations to the Clinton and Obama Administrations, the policy was designed to deceive the American public, and the bipartisan outrage against WikiLeaks is the natural reaction to having been caught out in their lies. The jig is up, and the calls for censorship, prosecution, even execution reflects the level of embarrassment one might be expected to feel at the revelation to the American public that these administrations carried out a decades-long campaign of mass murder against the Iraqi people entirely on the basis of diplomatic ambiguity by one ambassador over 20 years ago.
We were never meant to know this, nor are we ever meant to have known the contents of some quarter million additional documents yet to be released. There will undoubtedly be many more revelations which will make us uncomfortable about the way the US government does business, and many more condemnations by President Obama et al stemming from it.
But I would urge the American public not to find succor in the bipartisan furore against the notion of a free press. Instead of being angry that a whistleblower has shamed the US government by making its crimes a matter of public record, let us instead direct our anger where it belongs, at the officials whose crimes we are now discovering.
Reprinted from the Wayne Independent and Union Daily Times.