2 August 1990

Iraq invades Kuwait which triggers events that eventually leading to the Gulf War.

On Aug. 2, 1990, Iraq invaded its neighbor Kuwait, triggering a series of events that would culminate in the 1991 Gulf War. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion, citing unfair Kuwaiti economic practices, perhaps owing to an unclear understanding of America’s position.

Hussein had become president of Iraq in 1979, though he had been the power behind the scenes for many years prior. That same year saw tremendous upheaval in Persian Iran, Iraq’s eastern neighbor. The Iranian Revolution was rooted in Islamic fundamentalism and rejected secular influences like capitalism, communism, nationalism and liberalism. By contrast, Hussein was an Arab nationalist leader who paid lip service to Islam, but who held Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin as his role models.

Afraid that Islamic fundamentalism might spread to Iraq, and wishing to expand his power in the Middle East, Hussein ordered a surprise attack upon Iran in September 1980. The resulting Iran-Iraq War proved to be one of the most barbaric in modern history. One reason why Americans feared Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in the early 2000s was because he had not only possessed but used WMDs in his war against Iran in widespread chemical weapons attacks. By contrast, the Iranians frequently used their soldiers as cannon fodder, even sending students into minefields to clear a path for their tanks.

Offering Iraq a measure of intelligence and logistical support, the United States also weapons to the Iranians, in what would become known as the Iran-Contra scandal, something even President Ronald Reagan’s staunchest supporters admitted was an ill-conceived scheme. After years of strategic stalemate, the Iran-Iraq War ended in 1988.

In his book, “The Iran-Iraq War, 1980-1988,” historian Efraim Karsh wrote: “Though the Iraqi regime went out of its way to portray the end of the war as a shinning victory, the truth was that Iraq, no less than Iran, emerged from the eight-year conflict a crippled nation. At least 200,000 Iraqis had lost their lives, while about 400,000 had been wounded and some 70,000 taken prisoner — an exorbitant price for a nation of 17 million people. In 1980, Iraq could boast a $35 billion foreign exchange reserve; eight years later it had accumulated a foreign debt of some $80 billion — roughly twice the size of its Gross National Product.”

Exact numbers for Iran’s war dead are still not known, though some have suggested that they may have lost as many as half a million citizens. Iraq’s debt stemmed largely from its agreements with other Middle Eastern states such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Not wishing to see a radical Shi’ite Muslim victory in the war, these Sunni states increasingly loaned Iraq the money it needed to fund its war. With the war ended, Iraq found itself heavily in debt to its fellow Arab states.

Like Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and many other Arab states, Iraq’s principle source of income came from its oil exports. With so much of its economy smashed by the war, Iraq could not meet its financial obligations during the agreed upon timetables. To make matters worse, Kuwait and the UAE began overproducing oil, driving down prices across the Middle East. For Hussein, this was an unacceptable slap in the face to a nation that had bled to protect the Arab states.

Meeting with King Hussein of Jordan and Egypt’s President Mubarak in Amman in February 1990, Saddam Hussein formally stated a position he had been expressing for some time — that not only should Iraq not have to pay back its wartime debts, but that the Arab world should loan Iraq an additional $30 billion. He concluded the meeting by stating, “Let the Gulf regimes know, that if they will not give this money to me, I will know how to get it.”

In July, Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz dramatically denounced Kuwait and the UAE to the secretary of the Arab League, historian John Keegan noted in his book “The Iraq War.” “A drop of $1 in the price of a barrel of oil leads to a drop of $1 billion in Iraqi revenues annually.” Aziz noted that Iraq had spent $102 billion in wartime costs and had lost another $106 billion because Iraq could not fully exploit its oil production during the war. Iraq had fought for the Arab world, he noted, so why were Kuwait and the UAE demanding repayment?

Aziz said, “How can these amounts be regarded as Iraqi debts to its Arab brothers when Iraq made sacrifices that are many times more than these debts in terms of Iraqi resources during the grinding war and offered rivers of blood of its youth in defense of the nation’s soil, dignity, honor and wealth?”

Increasingly, the Iraqi president verbally lashed out against his creditor nations, and even began sending troops to the border with Kuwait. In his book, “Islamic Imperialism: A History,” Karsh wrote: “As Iraqi troops were massing along the Kuwaiti border during July 1990… the Americans were fixated on Europe. This had been the case since the revolutions of 1989 had brought the East European communist regimes tumbling down. … The general mood was euphoric. A brave new world was around the corner. No minor disputes between Third World autocrats would be allowed to spoil this moment of celebration.”

Like Hitler, Hussein was always a risk-taker when it came to politics and war. With his preparations for an invasion of Kuwait in place, there was just one thing he had to know — what was the position of the United States?

On July 25, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie met with Hussein in Baghdad, Keegan wrote. Hussein gave the ambassador a note to pass on to U.S. President George H. W. Bush, that read in part, “We don’t want war… but do not push us to consider war as the only solution to live proudly and to provide our people with a good living.”

The discussion between Hussein and Glaspie has been the subject of much controversy, given what followed, according to Keeghan’s “The Iraq War.” Glaspie told Hussein that his military buildup along the Kuwaiti border was cause for concern, but she also stated incomprehensibly that “we have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border dispute with Kuwait.” She then suggested possible intermediaries like the Arab League that could perhaps broker an acceptable solution. Hussein closed with the words, “But if we are unable to find a solution, then it will be natural that Iraq cannot accept death.”

In her official report following the meeting, Glaspie stated of Hussein that “his emphasis that he wants a peaceful settlement is surely sincere.” Apparently, she believed she had made herself clear, and that the U.S. and Iraq had an understanding. Clearly, Hussein must have seen Glaspie’s statement of “Arab-Arab conflicts” as a sort of green light.

After the invasion, Glaspie told The New York Times, “Obviously, I didn’t think, and nobody else did, that the Iraqis were going to take all of Kuwait.”

Did she just expect Hussein to adjust the border by force and take some of Kuwait? Even that would have amounted to an enormous violation of international law. Most likely believing that America was distracted with Europe and disinterested with the Middle East, Hussein decided to launch his attack upon Kuwait on August 2. Kuwait was to become Iraq’s “19th province.”

In his book “The Iraq War,” Keegan wrote, “The Iraqi army was experienced and plentifully equipped. Fully mobilized, it numbered a million men, organized into 60 divisions, including 12 armored and mechanized. Seven of the divisions belonged to the Republican Guard, better equipped and chosen for political reliability. These, however, were only paper strengths; the coalition identified only 43 divisions on the ground.”

The Iraqis also boasted over 8,000 tanks and armored infantry vehicles, perhaps as many as a 1,000 mobile artillery pieces, and over 700 aircraft.

Compared to this massive force that, on paper, made the Iraqi military one of the largest on the planet, the Kuwaitis boasted an army of only 16,000 men. Decimating the Kuwaiti army, the Iraqis swiftly moved into the small nation. The elite Republican Guard units positioned themselves along the Kuwaiti-Saudi border, threatening not only Saudi Arabia, but also the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar.

Keegan wrote, “Nearly half the world’s oil reserves had fallen under the shadow of Saddam’s power.”

Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait reminded much of the world of Hitler’s unprovoked and illegal attacks prior to and during World War II. Despite the delicate situation unfolding in Eastern Europe, the United States assembled a coalition of nations, including many in the Arab world, to stand up to Hussein’s naked aggression. The Gulf War began in January 1991 and ended with the Iraqi army largely vanquished and Kuwait liberated a few weeks later.

After the 2003 Allied invasion of Iraq, Hussein hid from the occupational authorities. Discovered in December of that year, he was eventually tried and executed by an Iraqi court for crimes against the Iraqi people in 2006.

9 September 1990

Massacre of 184 Tamil civilians by the Sri Lankan Army in the Batticaloa District.

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The uneasy relationship between Tamils and Sinhala has persisted for centuries, with cyclical exchanges of political power effected by means including war, economic dependence and turning-a-blind-eye coexistence. Periodically, the opposition explodes in frenzied violence at which both sides have considerable practice – without any warning.

In 1990 there was just such an explosion at Batticaloa, cm Sri Lanka’s east coast considered by the whole country to be a Tamil region not often involved with outright military confrontation. Episodes of violence there have generally consisted of ambushes, bombings and ‘guerrilla actions’. Severe incidents in which 20 or 30 people might be made to ‘disappear’ or be found dead and mutilated, increased in number until August 3 when armed Tamil Tiger personnel butchered 103 Muslims from the mosque at Kattankudy. The next day they killed over 300 men and boys from the Meera Jumma mosque on the Kandy-Batticaloa road, and about 40 more from the nearby Hussainya mosque.

Retaliation came in the shape of the Sri Lanka Army and Muslim guards, who on September 9 took 158 Tamil civilians sheltering in the East University Campus plus 184 Tamil villagers from Sathurukondan village and caused all 342 to ‘disappear’.

The Tamil attacks of August had included single-shot executions of men with their hands bound and horrific, very public mutilations by machetes, grenades and machine guns. SLA/Muslim attacks left less bloody evidence but many mass graves. Neither side achieved anything except more dates to be remembered with further violence. In the 20 years since, peace declarations have been made and refuted and actual war has flared repeatedly. The Batticaloa massacres serve only as a terrible example of pointless tit-for-tat violence executed on the civilians who have least to gain from either side winning power.

10 August 1990

The Magellan space probe gets to Venus.

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The Magellan spacecraft was the first planetary explorer to be launched by a space shuttle when it was carried aloft by the shuttle Atlantis from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on May 4, 1989. Atlantis took Magellan into low Earth orbit, where it was released from the shuttle’s cargo bay and fired by a solid-fuel motor called the Inertial Upper Stage on its way to Venus. Magellan looped around the Sun one-and-a-half times before arriving at Venus on August 10, 1990. A solid-fuel motor on the spacecraft then fired, placing Magellan into a near-polar elliptical orbit around Venus.

The spacecraft carried a sophisticated imaging radar, which was used to make the most highly detailed map of Venus ever captured during its four years in orbit around Venus from 1990 to 1994. After concluding its radar mapping, Magellan also made global maps of Venus’s gravity field. Flight controllers then tested a new maneuvering technique called aerobraking, which uses a planet’s atmosphere to slow or steer a spacecraft. The spacecraft made a dramatic plunge into the thick, hot Venusian atmosphere on October 12, 1994, and was crushed by the pressure of Venus’s atmosphere. Magellan’s signal was lost at 10:02 Universal Time, 3:02 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time that day.

The Magellan mission was divided up into “cycles” with each cycle lasting 243 days,the time necessary for Venus to rotate once under the Magellan orbit.

In all, the highly successful imaging radar mapped more than 98 percent of the planet’s surface and collected high-resolution gravity data of Venus. The lessons learned from Magellan’s aerodynamic dive into the Venusian atmosphere will be applied to future planetary missions.

22 May 1990

North and South Yemen join to create the Republic of Yemen.

Although there are no cultural, ethnic and linguistic elements that could divide the North and the South of Yemen, the process of unification did not happen without conflict. In 1972 and in 1979, simmering tensions between the two Republics of Yemen led to fighting and attempts towards unification after these conflicts did not succeed. However, a draft constitution for a united State was written in 1981. In 1988, an agreement was concluded to demilitarize the borderline and exploit in common the oil wells discovered in 1984. The collapse of the Soviet Union, the main sponsor of South Yemen, and the cessation of Saudi aid to North Yemen, were determining factors in the movement towards the unification.

On 22 May 1990, the Yemen Arab Republic and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) merged to form a sovereign State, the Republic of Yemen. Sanaa, the former capital of the YAR, became the political capital while Aden with its free trade zone became the economical capital. Unification implied a complete fusion of the institutions of both States, thereby obliterating the federal or co-federal options envisaged previously. Within 30 months elections had to take place in order to give legitimacy to the new government.

The main beneficiary of the unification was former President of North Yemen, Ali Abdallah Saleh, who became President of the united Yemen, while Ali Salem al-Beid, the former President of South Yemen became Vice-President. One of the positive consequences of the unification was the creation of a multiparty political system and the organization of free elections in May 1991, which guaranteed freedom of speech, press freedom and the right of association. The unification process did not go without some difficulties due to the differences in terms of territory and demographic weight. The period of unification can be divided in two phases.

16 April 1990

Jack Kevorkian (“Doctor Death”)participates in his first assisted suicide.

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Dr. Jack Kevorkian has been known as “Dr. Death” since at least 1956, when he conducted a study photographing patients’ eyes as they died. Results established that blood vessels in the cornea contract and become invisible as the heart stops beating. In a 1958 paper, he suggested that death row inmates be euthanized, and their bodily organs harvested. In 1960, he proposed using condemned prisoners for medical experiments.

In 1989, a quadriplegic, too handicapped to kill himself, publicly asked for assistance, and Dr. Kevorkian began tinkering on a suicide machine. But a different patient — Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old with Alzheimer’s — was the first to test the device. It worked. Kevorkian then provided services to at least 45 and possibly more satisfied customers. Kevorkian was arrested and tried for his direct role in a case of voluntary euthanasia. He was convicted of second-degree murder and served eight years of a 10-to-25-year prison sentence. He was released on parole on June 1, 2007, on condition he would not offer advice nor participate nor be present in the act of any type of suicide involving euthanasia to any other person; as well as neither promote nor talk about the procedure of assisted suicide

In 1997, however, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Americans who want to kill themselves but are physically unable to do so have no Constitutional right to end their lives. Kevorkian is now serving 10-25 years in prison, and is reportedly in ill health.

13 February 1990

An agreement is reached on the plan to reunite Germany.

The German reunification was the process in 1990 in which the German Democratic Republic joined the Federal Republic of Germany to form the reunited nation of Germany, and when Berlin reunited into a single city, as provided by its then Grundgesetz constitution Article 23. The end of the unification process is officially referred to as German unity, celebrated on 3 October. Following German reunification, Berlin was once again designated as the capital of united Germany.

The East German regime started to falter in May 1989, when the removal of Hungary’s border fence with Austria opened a hole in the Iron Curtain. It caused an exodus of thousands of East Germans fleeing to West Germany and Austria via Hungary. The Peaceful Revolution, a series of protests by East Germans, led to the GDR’s first free elections on 18 March 1990, and to the negotiations between the GDR and FRG that culminated in a Unification Treaty.Other negotiations between the GDR and FRG and the four occupying powers produced the so-called “Two Plus Four Treaty” granting full sovereignty to a unified German state, whose two parts had previously still been bound by a number of limitations stemming from their post-World War II status as occupied regions.

The united Germany is the enlarged continuation of the Federal Republic and not a successor state. As such, the Federal Republic of Germany retained all its memberships in international organizations including the European Community and NATO, while relinquishing membership in the Warsaw Pact and other international organizations to which only East Germany belonged.

22 November 1990

Lech Walesa is elected as the President of Poland.

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Lech Walesa is known for his valiant effort to free his native Poland from Communist rule. Born into a working-class family in 1943 in Popowo, he excelled in school. But lack of money forced Walesa to attend a vocational school at 16. In 1967, he moved to Gdansk where he worked in a shipyard as an electrician. By this time, Polish workers were beginning to protest the poor conditions of life. A strike in Gdansk in 1980 led to the formation of the National Committee of Solidarity (see below), and Walesa was elected chairman. In 1990, Walesa was re-elected to chairman of Solidarity. His interest in serving as president in Poland became increasingly public. In the presidential election of 1990, Walesa won more than 74 % of the ballots, making him Poland’s first popularly elected president. For his efforts, Walesa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983, among many other awards. Walesa has been married since 1969 and he has eight children. He is a devout Roman Catholic.

13 November 1990

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In Aramoana, near Dunedin in New Zealand, David Gray shoots dead 13 people.

On November 13th, 1990, residents of the small seaside town of Aramoana awoke to a horrific nightmare. One of the town’s residents, in a deranged state, had decided to take his fury out on the people around him. With his rifle he ran riot through the village, shooting helpless individuals whom fate had put in his path. By the time he was shot some 34 hours later, 12 people would have been executed.David Gray was a recluse, whom his neighbours thought odd, but harmless.

He was an avid reader of warfare, weaponry and survivalist literature who had amassed a cache of firearms and ammunition. His mental and physical state in the six months prior to the tragedy had deteriorated rapidly although this was only appreciated in hindsight. He lived in a small crib in Aramoana and was on the unemployment benefit.

After a careful house-by-house search the next day, police officers led by the Special Tactics Group located Gray and shot him dead as he came out of a house firing from the hip. It is the deadliest criminal shooting in New Zealand history.