28 February 1991

The first Gulf War ends.

In what may well be remembered as the high-water mark of the projection of American power and prestige, it was at Midnight on February 28, 1991 that President George H.W. Bush announced the suspension of combat operations, and an end of Operation Desert Storm. Gulf War One had come to a close.

This Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of that day.

To illustrate how far into the depth of national self-loathing and doubt we have descended, I would invite you, dear reader, to imagine Barack Obama standing humbly, yet resolutely and proud, in the Well of the House of Representatives, as President George Bush the Elder did one week later, on March 7th, and announce to the nation:

…We watched over our sons and daughters with pride, watched over them with prayer. As Commander in Chief, I can report to you that our Armed Forces fought with Honor and Valor, and as President, I can report to the nation that aggression is defeated, the war is over.”

It is difficult for me to ever imagine our first Post-Constitutional, Post-American president delivering a public utterance like this; one that mentioned Pride, Prayer, Honor and Valor in the context of victory over aggression. Oh, he might use the words , in a string of vacuous, empty and platitudinous homilies, in his ever-expansive desire to redound to himself the reflected glory of the hard toil and sacrifice of others, but Barack Obama would never, ever praise the stunning efforts of our military armed forces, and the iron willed strength of our warriors that lead, arrow-straight, to victory.

“Victory”, said President Barack Obama “is not a concept I’m comfortable with”.

Oh, what a winding and dark road we’ve trod these last twenty years, that have lead us to this, the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama.

The twenty-year journey began on August 2nd, 1990. It is interesting to note that the magnificent, common-sense approach to both energy policy and military strength under the exemplary leadership of Ronald Reagan lead both to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and our thunderous victory over Saddam Hussein. Because Reagan deregulated the domestic energy industry, prices for OPEC oil plummeted thoughout most of his presidency, to the point that the cost of oil on the day of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was a little over $20 a barrel.

Throughout the early stanzas of the Iran/Iraq war, during a period of intense domestic U.S. oil price controls and industry regulation, the price of oil was trading in the $30-$50 per barrel region, and this wealth kept the Hussein Kelptocracy propped up and able to function. But, by the end of the Reagan presidency, the price dropped into the low $20’s, where it remained stuck until the end of the 1980’s.

Saddam, bereft of his oil revenues, needed cash. He was in hock to everybody, most notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. So, he did what any self-respecting bully would do: He attacked his neighbors to whom he owned the most money in the summer of 1990.

The conventional wisdom at the time was that Sad-em wouldn’t stop in Kuwait, and would turn left, and pounce on Saudi Arabia. At the time King Fahd supplied about 35% of our imported oil. So, under the leadership of the elder Bush, a massive coalition military force, consisting at it’s height of nearly one-million men, was assembled as a defensive shield in the sands of Araby.

After the usual multi-national United Nations hi-jinx, in which the Arab beligerents insisted on linking the Iraqi-Kuwaiti question to the age-old whipping boy Israel, along with the last dying gasps of Gorbachev’s USSR as it tried desperately to remain relevant, the air campaign began in earnest on January 16th, 1991. By February 28th, after a one-hundred hour ground offensive, the war was over. Saddam was driven out of Kuwait. On the streets of Kuwait City, there were riotous celebrations, with the celebrants chanting “George Boosh! George Boosh!” In these scenes alone were the stock footage for the victorious re-election campaign for President Bush, that was certain to be waged in only eighteen months.

Somewhere along the way, though, a small recession intervened, a heretofore unknown and insignificant southern Governor name Bill Clinton intervened in these plans, calling it “the worst economy in 50 years”. The rest, they say, is history.

But what of this history?

What IF we’d never bothered to check the gates of Fahd’s kingdom, and thus allowed Saddam to have his way with the Saudi Arabian oil fields? This, at the very least, would have cut off the source of immense wealth that was just beginning to pour into the radicalized Wahhabist movement, and would have likely killed it in the cradle.

Also, it wouldn’t have given the anti-Western fig-leaf to the likes of Osama bin Laden; remember, his only brief with the US was our parking of our AWACS and our F-16’s on Saudi Holy Ground, and allowing our female military to prance around without burkas. Such was the hatred-germ in the fevered mind of Mr. bin Laden.

Would a Saddam-controlled Saudi Arabia been better, or worse, for American interests in the world? Looking through the long lens of twenty years, who’s to say? We never would have wound up fighting a second Gulf War, bin Laden would be just some unknown Middle-eastern trust-funder trying to figure out how to keep his garments so sparkling white in his filthy cave. There would have been no 9/11. There would have been no Howard Dean. And thus, there would have been no Barack Obama.

Also, I think it is unlikely we would have witnessed the explosive growth of radicalized political Islam. Yes, a wealthy and powerful Saddam Hussein would have offered his own set of special and horrendous difficulties and trials, but don’t forget: One of his proposals for backing out of Kuwait was his insistence that other nations should leave other occupied areas including Syria’s removal from Lebanon . It is hard to imagine a middle-eastern dictator with even a tiny smidgen of realpolitik pragmatism, but, there it is. My, how things have changed…

Now we have a Mid East hurling headlong into the 9th century, and any of that age-old and thread-bare “stability” is gone with the wind. Which brings us back to where we are today: February 28th, 2011.

The only reason any of this is germane is because we categorically, and generationally, refuse to get our domestic energy policy in order. We insist that third-world basket-case nations shoulder the burden of our energy exploration, extraction and refining demands. Thus, we send our valorous Armed Forces hither and yon to protect oil fields. We have, up to this point, been rich enough to pay others to put up with this dirty business or energy extraction. But, this house of cards is crashing down around our ears.

We went to King Fahd’s defense only because the stable and predictable supply of world wide petroleum was in our best national interests. If all the man had in his backyard was sand, we wouldn’t have lifted a finger Or, conversely, we wouldn’t have lifted a finger to defend the Saudi Royal Family if we had all the oil and coal and natural gas and oil shale and nuclear power we needed right here in the United States for the next ten generations, thank you. Deal with Saddam yourself, Mr. Fahd.

In the mid-1940’s, we departed down the path of overt obsequiousness to the Soviet game-plan of world-wide communist domination. This lead to a 50-year arms race that created a Total-State in America with which we are still dealing, and for which we are still paying. It also, not unimportantly, nearly wiped out civilization on a number of occasions during that time. We can thank the left for this.

Similarly, we are today well down the path of overt obsequiousness to radical environmentalism, and our inability to show these people the door in our public policy discourse. There simply is no room for their radical ideology, and their false science, in a world where far too much of our energy comes from places it shouldn’t,–when we can obtain all the energy we need right here at home.

Twenty years ago tomorrow marks the anniversary of one of the most stunning victories ever achieved by the Armed Forces of the United States. As George Herbert Walker Bush so beautifully and movingly observed at the time, they did so with great honor, and with great valor. Their sacrifice and power stands to this day as an exemplary light to our nation.

The sad fact is, though, we usually extend these military risks only as a response to great folly on the part of the political Left, in tandem with the inability of the Right to stand against it. If we’d stood up with Whittaker Chambers and insisted that our most valuable atomic secrets were already in the hands of the Soviets, perhaps things would have been different in 20th century America. Perhaps if we’d stood four-square against the Jane Fondas and Robert F. Kennedy Jrs, and insisted on a rational energy policy in this nation, we wouldn’t have run afoul of Saddam Hussein and his oil-lust on the Arabian peninsula twenty years ago.

This is a lesson we still have time to learn. But just barely. Learning this lesson NOW, TODAY would be a fine and fitting tribute to those magnificent warriors I recall here tonight, twenty years on. It is a lesson, once learned, will help insure we don’t have to fight another war like theirs.

25 February 1991

The Warsaw Pact is abolished.

The Warsaw Pact, formally known as the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, was a collective defence treaty signed in Warsaw, Poland among the Soviet Union and seven Soviet satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe in May 1955, during the Cold War. The Warsaw Pact was the military complement to the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, the regional economic organization for the socialist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Warsaw Pact was created in reaction to the integration of West Germany into NATO in 1955 per the London and Paris Conferences of 1954, but it is also considered to have been motivated by Soviet desires to maintain control over military forces in Central and Eastern Europe.

The Warsaw Pact was established as a balance of power or counterweight to NATO; there was no direct confrontation between them. Instead, the conflict was fought on an ideological basis and in proxy wars. Both NATO and the Warsaw Pact led to the expansion of military forces and their integration into the respective blocs. Its largest military engagement was the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, which, in part, resulted in Albania withdrawing from the pact less than a month later. The Pact began to unravel in its entirety with the spread of the Counter-Revolutions of 1989 through the Eastern Bloc, beginning with the Solidarity movement in Poland and its electoral success in June 1989.

East Germany withdrew from the Pact following reunification with West Germany in 1990. On 25 February 1991, the Pact was declared at an end at a meeting of defence and foreign ministers from the six remaining member states in Hungary. The USSR itself was dissolved in December 1991, although most of the former Soviet republics formed the Collective Security Treaty Organization shortly thereafter. Throughout the following 20 years, the seven Warsaw Pact countries outside the USSR each joined NATO, as did the three Baltic states that had been part of the Soviet Union.

28 February 1991

The first Gulf War ends.

On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, its tiny oil-rich neighbor, and within hours had occupied most strategic positions in the country. One week later, Operation Shield, the American defense of Saudi Arabia, began as U.S. forces massed in the Persian Gulf. Three months later, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq if it failed to withdraw from Kuwait by January 15, 1991.

At 4:30 p.m. EST on January 16, 1991, Operation Desert Storm, a massive U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, began as the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off U.S. and British aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf. All evening, aircraft from the U.S.-led military coalition pounded targets in and around Baghdad as the world watched the events transpire in television footage transmitted live via satellite from Baghdad and elsewhere.

Operation Desert Storm was conducted by an international coalition under the command of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf and featured forces from 32 nations, including Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. During the next six weeks, the allied force engaged in a massive air war against Iraq’s military and civil infrastructure, encountering little effective resistance from the Iraqi air force. Iraqi ground forces were also helpless during this stage of the war, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s only significant retaliatory measure was the launching of SCUD missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saddam hoped that the missile attacks would provoke Israel, and thus other Arab nations, to enter the conflict; however, at the request of the United States, Israel remained out of the war.

On February 24, a massive coalition ground offensive began, and Iraq’s outdated and poorly supplied armed forces were rapidly overwhelmed. By the end of the day, the Iraqi army had effectively folded, 10,000 of its troops were held as prisoners, and a U.S. air base had been established deep inside Iraq. After less than four days, Kuwait was liberated, and a majority of Iraq’s armed forces had either been destroyed or had surrendered or retreated to Iraq. On February 28, U.S. President George Bush declared a cease-fire, and Iraq pledged to honor future coalition and U.N. peace terms. One hundred and twenty-five American soldiers were killed in the Persian Gulf War, with another 21 regarded as missing in action.

25 February 1991

The Warsaw Pact is abolished.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a long and complex process due to economic, social, and political reasons. Therefore, when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved on February 25, 1991, the Soviet Union did not go out with a loud bang, but the feeble pop of a balloon.

The Warsaw Pact was drawn up in May 1955. The signers of the Pact included the “USSR, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.” The formation of the pact came after the Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO. In the introduction to the Pact, the document states that Western Germany’s acceptance into NATO was a threat “to the national security of peaceable states.” Therefore it was the duty of the signers of the pact to “take necessary measures to safeguard their security and in the interests of preserving peace in Europe.” The pact seems to show the fear many communist countries had that West Germany’s involvement with NATO would lead to another war. The Warsaw Pact appeared to be for the good of Europe. However, this pact was likely an attempt by the USSR to have military control in Eastern and Central Europe. For example, in Article 4 of the Pact, it states that if an armed event should occur against one of the Parties to the Pact, each of the countries who signed should “come to the assistance of the state or states attacked with all such means as it deems necessary, including armed force.” However, this pact became void before it was officially dissolved as many of the countries involved experienced upheaval in 1989-1991 as their Communist governments were toppled.

“Atop the Berlin Wall”

There were many reasons that the Warsaw Pact was dissolved and the Soviet Union fell. Mikhail Gorbachev played a key role in the fall. As Gorbachev climbed the ladder of the Communist Party and gained a great deal of power by the 1980’s, his policies and reforms for the Soviet Union inadvertently ended the Union. Two of Gorbachev’s policies were known as glasnost and perestroika. Glasnost called for openness in the government in the Soviet Union. Perestroika represented the restructuring of the Soviet Union, specifically the political and economic system. Perestroika “unleashed force and expectations even as it failed to satisfy minimal requirements”. Gorbachev’s policies were an attempt to restructure the Soviet Union to follow the West’s “model of democracy and free markets”. This development led to difficult times for the Soviet Union as the economy suffered. Glasnost allowed for the press to undermine Gorbachev’s authority and that of the regime . Perestroika gave way to more demand for freedom and autonomy within the Soviet Union. It also sparked nationalism and even calls for independence. As tension and nationalist movements increased in 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall “marked the end of the Soviet bloc”. The Warsaw Pact was already a moot point by this time.

12 November 1991

Indonesian forces open fire on a crowd of student protesters in Dili, East Timor.

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The Santa Cruz massacre was the shooting of at least 250 East Timorese pro-independence demonstrators in the Santa Cruz cemetery in the capital, Dili, on 12 November 1991, during the Indonesian occupation of East Timor and is part of the East Timorese genocide.

During a brief confrontation between Indonesian troops and protesters, a number of protesters and a Major, Geerhan Lantara were stabbed. Stahl claimed Lantara had attacked a group of protesters including a girl carrying the flag of East Timor, and FRETILIN activist Constâncio Pinto reported eyewitness accounts of beatings from Indonesian soldiers and police. When the procession entered the cemetery some continued their protests before the cemetery wall. Around 200 more Indonesian soldiers arrived and advanced on the gathering, weapons drawn. Indonesian troops advanced on the gathering enclosed in the graveyard, and opened fire on hundreds of unarmed civilians.

The massacre was witnessed by the two American journalists—Amy Goodman and Allan Nairn—and caught on videotape by Max Stahl, who was filming undercover for Yorkshire Television. As Stahl filmed the massacre, Goodman and Nairn tried to “serve as a shield for the Timorese” by standing between them and the Indonesian soldiers. The soldiers began beating Goodman, and when Nairn moved to protect her, they beat him with their weapons, fracturing his skull. The camera crew managed to smuggle the video footage to Australia.

22 September 1991

The Dead Sea Scrolls are made available to the public.

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On this day in 1991, California’s Huntington Library released microfilm of the Dead Sea Scrolls, providing independent researchers with access to a cache of immensely important ancient manuscripts that had hitherto been confined to a small group of scholars.

The Dead Sea Scrolls date from about two thousand years ago. They were found in caves above the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake which is not only the world’s saltiest, but also the deepest, and at the lowest elevation, 400 metres below sea level. It is located between Israel and Jordan, where the climate is arid and conducive to the preservation of ancient manuscripts.

The first group of scrolls was discovered in 1947 by a young Bedouin shepherd in search of a lost goat. In a cave, he found jars filled with ancient scrolls and fragments of texts. During the next decade, archaeologists and Bedouins discovered ten additional caves containing ancient manuscripts. Most of the manuscripts were of leather and papyrus. They include all but one of the books of the Old Testament, some almost complete, as well as other fragments in languages including Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic. As to the people who hid the scrolls in the caves, one likely theory is that refugees from Jerusalem deposited the scrolls during the Jewish-Roman war.

Many of the longer scrolls were deciphered, published and translated soon after their discovery. However, the more fragmentarily preserved manuscripts were in the hands of an official group of editors who had been assigned to do this work by the governments of Jordan and Israel. Unfortunately, the pace was slow, and access to the manuscripts was limited to the editorial team.

21 August 1991

A coup attempt against Mikhail Gorbachev fails.

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Just three days after it began, the coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev collapses. Despite his success in avoiding removal from office, Gorbachev’s days in power were numbered. The Soviet Union would soon cease to exist as a nation and as a Cold War threat to the United States.

The coup against Gorbachev began on August 18, led by hard-line communist elements of the Soviet government and military. The attempt was poorly planned and disorganized, however. The leaders of the coup seemed to spend as much time bickering among themselves–and, according to some reports, drinking heavily–as they did on trying to win popular support for their action. Nevertheless, they did manage to put Gorbachev under house arrest and demand that he resign from leadership of the Soviet Union.

Many commentators in the West believed that the administration of President George Bush would come to the rescue, but were somewhat surprised at the restrained response of the U.S. government. These commentators did not know that at the time a serious debate was going on among Bush officials as to whether Gorbachev’s days were numbered and whether the United States should shift its support to Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Yeltsin’s stock rose sharply as he publicly denounced the coup and organized strikes and street protests by the Russian people. The leaders of the coup, seeing that most of the Soviet military did not support their action, called off the attempt and it collapsed on August 21.

The collapse of the coup brought a temporary reprieve to the Gorbachev regime, but among U.S. officials he was starting to be seen as damaged goods. Once a darling of the U.S. press and public, Gorbachev increasingly was viewed as incompetent and a failure. U.S. officials began to discuss the post-Gorbachev situation in the Soviet Union. Based on what had transpired during the August 1991 coup, they began a slow but steady tilt toward Yeltsin. In retrospect, this policy seemed extremely prudent, given that Gorbachev resigned as leader of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Despite the turmoil around him, Yeltsin continued to serve as president of the largest and most powerful of the former soviet socialist republics, Russia.

19 June 1991

The Soviet occupation of Hungary comes to an end.

On this day (19th June) in 1991, the last Soviet troops were withdrawn from Hungary which had been there for 45 years following World War II. The road to this historic moment was not a smooth one, with 45 years of oppression under their belt. The beginning of this process was kickstarted when Janos Kadar was replaced by Karoly Grosz.

When Miklos Nemeth was appointed Prime Minister in November 1988 a democracy package was soon adopted, introducing freedom of association, assembly and press; new electoral law: and a revision of the constitution by January 1989. Mass demonstrations broke out on 15th March, during which the people called for more reforms, which encouraged the beginning of the Round Table talks on the 22nd April with many different parties.

On the 2nd May 1989, the Iron Curtain (a term used to describe the split between the capitalist west and communist east) began to fall when the 150 mile fence between Hungary and Austria began to be removed. This was symbolically shown by the Austrian and Hungarian foreign ministers cutting a section of the fence on the 27th June.

While this was clearly allowing Hungarians to travel to Austria, it also had an effect on communist Eastern Germany, run by Erich Honicker, a hardliner unwilling to install reforms. With Hungary being a popular holiday destination for East Germans, the opening of the border allowed them to flee west. This was especially noticeable during the three hours that opened the border gate between Sankt Margarethen im Burgenland (Austria) to SopronkOhida (Hungary) for the Pan-European picnic on the 19th August, which saw more than 600 East Germans running west.

The Hungarian borders were finally opened with Eastern Germany on 11 September 1989.

28 February 1991

The first Gulf War officially ends.

The Gulf War is a well known conflict that occurred in the early 1990’s between Iraq and a coalition of forces led by the United States. To many the Gulf War is known as the Persian Gulf War, but over time it was abbreviated by dropping the word Persian at the start.The Gulf War started on August 2nd in the year 1990 and officially finished on February 28th 1991, although the conflict carried on for another four years thereafter.

After the Iran-Iraq War the country of Iraq was essentially bankrupt. This position meant that Iraq asked for fellow countries Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to forgive the debt it owed to them as payment for Iraq stopping Iran from pushing its way through the Middle East. Both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait declined and said they still wanted payment which infuriated Iraq.Iraq also believed that Kuwait was drilling for more oil than its allowed OPEC quota, thus driving the price of oil to really low levels. This compounded Iraq economic issues further because the Iraq economy was heavily reliant on oil as its means of export.

Iraq went further in asking for countries to reduce their quotas to drive up oil prices so it could bolster the Iraqi economy, Kuwait responded by asking if they could increase their quota by 50%. Iraq was incensed by this move.
Further to all of this Iraq was also lodging a complaint that Kuwait was drilling at an angle over the Iraqi border thus stealing Iraqi oil too, something that threatened tensions further.

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16 January 1991

The Gulf War begins.

At midnight in Iraq, the United Nations deadline for the Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait expires, and the Pentagon prepares to commence offensive operations to forcibly eject Iraq from its five-month occupation of its oil-rich neighbor. At 4:30 p.m. EST, the first fighter aircraft were launched from Saudi Arabia and off U.S. and British aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf on bombing missions over Iraq. All evening, aircraft from the U.S.-led military coalition pounded targets in and around Baghdad as the world watched the events transpire in television footage transmitted live via satellite from Baghdad and elsewhere. At 7:00 p.m., Operation Desert Storm, the code-name for the massive U.S.-led offensive against Iraq, was formally announced at the White House.

The operation was conducted by an international coalition under the command of U.S. General Norman Schwarzkopf and featured forces from 32 nations, including Britain, Egypt, France, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. During the next six weeks, the allied force engaged in a massive air war against Iraq’s military and civil infrastructure, and encountered little effective resistance from the Iraqi air force or air defenses. Iraqi ground forces were helpless during this stage of the war, and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s only significant retaliatory measure was the launching of SCUD missile attacks against Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saddam hoped that the missile attacks would provoke Israel to enter the conflict, thus dissolving Arab support of the war. At the request of the United States, however, Israel remained out of the war.