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When America Left Arab Rebels to the Slaughter

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Posted on Mar 8, 2011
AP / Murad Sezer

A human skull sits on the ground as villagers pull body after body from a mass grave in central Iraq, exhuming in 2003 the remains of up to 3,000 people they suspect were killed during the 1991 Shiite revolt against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

By Barry Lando

As the standoff in Libya takes on the potential of a bloody civil war, President Barack Obama is forced to consider possible U.S. intervention—at the very least, the enforcement of a no-fly zone. He has ordered his staff to examine how his predecessors handled such situations. One of the most frequently mentioned: how George H.W. Bush dealt with the Shiite and Kurd uprisings in Iraq in 1991, after U.S. forces drove Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait. 

But, rather than being an exemplary use of American power, that whole affair was a disgraceful episode that reverberates to this day. What actually happened was that an American president called for an uprising against a brutal Arab dictator, then turned his back, leaving tens, possibly hundreds of thousands to be slaughtered. I recounted that sorry affair in a documentary, “The Trial of Saddam Hussein,” excerpted on YouTube. (See Part 5 and Part 6.)

It was President George H.W. Bush who, on Feb. 15, 1991, as the Iraqi army was being driven from Kuwait, called on the people of Iraq to rise up and overthrow Saddam.

That call was rebroadcast in Iraq by clandestine CIA radio stations and printed in millions of leaflets dropped by the U.S. Air Force across the country. Problem was, the Iraqis didn’t realize until it was too late that Bush and James Baker, his pragmatic secretary of state, didn’t really mean it.

When it looked as if the insurgents might actually succeed, the American president turned his back. The White House and its allies wanted Saddam replaced not by a popular revolt which they couldn’t control but by a military leader more amenable to U.S. interests. They were also fearful that Iranian influence might spread in the wake of a Shiite takeover. In fact, American officials refused to meet with rebel leaders who were not under Iran’s control and were desperate to explain their cause.


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Though leaders in Washington later claimed they had turned against the uprising because key Arab allies in the region, such as the Saudis, were fearful of a Shiite victory in Iraq, the U.S. later turned down a Saudi proposal to continue aiding the Shiites.

So, as the United States permitted Saddam’s attack helicopters to devastate the rebels, American troops just a few kilometers away from the slaughter were ordered to give no aid to those under attack. Instead they destroyed huge stocks of captured weapons rather than let them fall into rebel hands. According to some of the former rebels in Iraq, American troops prevented them from marching on Baghdad.

Then, as Saddam’s forces began carrying out horrific acts of repression, American forces were ordered to withdraw from Iraq. And all the while George H.W. Bush answered calls for U.S. action with denials that the U.S. had any responsibility for fomenting the rebellion in the first place.

What about the no-fly zone? In the end, Bush agreed to provide a no-fly zone to protect the Kurds in the north, but that was only because the plight of thousands of Kurdish refugees was being dramatically broadcast around the globe by CNN. Bush had no choice. There was no such TV coverage of the slaughter of the Shiites in the south. So no need for Bush to react. In later years, American presidents would use the no-fly zone as a pretext for destroying Saddam’s radar defense and missile system and prepare the way for the U.S. invasion that was to come.

There is a convincing argument that if President George H.W. Bush had backed the 1991 revolt—not sent in U.S. troops, but just backed the uprising—the terrible bloodletting and destruction to which Iraq has been subjected to this day could have been avoided.

The U.S. role in the 1991 uprising is recounted at length in my book “Web of Deceit: A History of Western Complicity in Iraq From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.”

Barry M. Lando spent 25 years as an award-winning investigative producer with “60 Minutes.” He has produced numerous articles, a documentary and a book, “Web of Deceit,” about Iraq. Lando is finishing a novel, “The Watchman’s File.”

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By samosamo, March 12, 2011 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment



With this big bad brucie wucie ‘call me roy’ willis, I’d say
america’s problem is right here. Seems he could do HIS god and
the military a huge favor by packing his gear and paying his way
to afghanistan or any of his hated muslim country.

He sure sounds tough enough to kill them all and let his god
sort them out for sure. And surely if god decides too much is
being asked of him by his ‘children’ then he can appoint some
other mythological creature to ‘handle it for him’.

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, March 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment


The Marine calmly replied,
“GOD was too busy today protecting America’s
soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid
stuff and act like an idiot. So He sent me.”

I think that theres a maligned parable in this somewhere that in the name of god and constitutional rights we can inflict pain and suffering on those who disagree with us.

Sad that you had to use a Marine to exhibit this trash thinking.

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By call me roy, March 12, 2011 at 4:07 pm Link to this comment

God is busy right now

If you don’t know GOD, don’t make stupid remarks.
A United States Marine was taking some college courses between assignments. He had completed 20 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. One of the courses had a professor who was an avowed atheist, and a member of the ACLU.
One day the professor shocked the class when he came in. He looked to the ceiling and flatly stated, “GOD, if you are real, then I want you to knock me off this platform… I’ll give you exactly 15 min.” The lecture room fell silent. You could hear a pin drop. Ten minutes went by and the professor proclaimed, “Here I am GOD, I’m still waiting.”
It got down to the last couple of minutes when the Marine got out of his chair, went up to the professor, and cold-cocked him; knocking him off the platform. The professor was out cold.
The Marine went back to his seat and sat there, silently. The other students were shocked and stunned, and sat there looking on in silence. The professor eventually came to, noticeably shaken, looked at the Marine and asked, “What in the world is the matter with you?  Why did you do that?”
The Marine calmly replied,
“GOD was too busy today protecting America’s
soldiers who are protecting your right to say stupid
stuff and act like an idiot. So He sent me.”
The classroom erupted in cheers!

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By samosamo, March 11, 2011 at 7:55 pm Link to this comment


o was out of class that day and besides, history ain’t important
here, maintaining goodgoofy’s ownship of libya is. Which means
o’s call for goodoofy to ‘step down’ was just another pretend
prop. Getting the imf, world back and wto into the region is the
key to keep disaster capitalism running like the well ‘oiled
machine’ o has so diligently maintained.

One noticeable thing did occur yesterday with possible
relevance, gas went up six cents a gallon. No real pretenses for
it seems, just happened, unless I missed fuck wad ben bernanke
opening his mouth about something.

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By call me roy, March 11, 2011 at 6:44 pm Link to this comment

I wonder, where are all the good Arabs are? Why aren’t millions of Arabs flooding there to help? Where are you? Why do you ask for America’s help? We kicked Sadam Hussein’s a*s after some UN Arabs asked for our help and we pulled his cowardly, smelly, fat a*s out of a hole in the ground (where he belonged), and then we got hated for helping. Then some more UN Arabs asked us to come into Afghanistan? Big surprise, Pakistan takes our money and hides the bad guys. Fix you’re own problems! Don’t ask us for anything! Got it?
The gravy train’s coming to a stop.

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By drbhelthi, March 11, 2011 at 4:05 am Link to this comment

A few among U.S. leadership and numerous among EU leadership have not been intimidated into surrender to the Zionist warmongers that
manipulate NATO(USA) politics. Three cheers for their entourage !

Fortunately for the world, the CIA “disinformation program” has been less successful in Europe than in the USA. Europeans are much less “dumbed down” than Americans. News media in Europe, perhaps excepting CNN affiliates, continue to carry useful political news and opinion. European leadership and Europeans are better able to evaluate what has actually happened and continues to happen inside NATO. They are less influenced by Zionist warmongers than USA leadership.

Similarly, “destroying al-Qaida” is a CIA disinformation theme that
continues to distract from the reality of the everyday wars of Zionism, advanced by GHWBushSr. The G.H.W.BushJr. “think tank” did a good job reinventing the name, “al-Qaida.” If the CIA´s black-money-hole were to be plugged, “al-Qaida”- with a multitude of destructive activities in progress around the world – would promptly cease.

If CIA/MOSSAD/Blackwater/Ex/etc mercenaries were removed from Lybia, a resounding calm would emerge.

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By Bat Guano, March 10, 2011 at 10:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Lando, you amaze me, to imply that a country that can’t even control its own borders and protect its own citizens should be the world’s savior is beyond belief.

And OH ! BTW, we’re broke, morally and fiscally.

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By call me roy, March 10, 2011 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment

Barry Hussein Soetoro, the “Anointed One” is looking more like Jimmy Carter everyday? Gas costs how much?

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By felicity, March 10, 2011 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment

tony_opmoc - You might be interested in this
definition of neoliberalism (imperialism) -
Neoliberal globalization is capital (large
corporations financial and non-financial) using
government and especially leadership of US government
to make it easier to exploit the world’s resources
and its people.

The capitalist,ideally, needs to be able to sell
where and when, to invest where and when, to move
money and products in and out of countries and to
repatriate profits at will.  Probably the clearest
explanation of the American agenda today and perhaps
the entire 20th century.

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By tony_opmoc, March 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment

The truth is likely to be very different from what seems apparent. It has taken a considerable time for me to change my view about the inherent goodness of US/UK/NATO - Western Democracy. For 10 years I believed that the first Iraq War was justified, as I believed what I read in the media and saw on TV.

In 1999 I was shocked when we were bombing Yugoslavia, partly because I had years earlier fallen in love with a girl who was of Serbian origin. But even then I believed the propaganda - and that the intervention was justified to prevent Mass Genocide of Bosnians commited by Serbs. Today I have read convincing evidence that mass propaganda was used by Western Democracy - to break up Yugoslavia and instigate a civil war. In war there are always a great many deaths, but the evidence of mass genocide appears to have been largely fabricated.

Now, I can’t prove whether or not this is true, but I am 100% certain that the official story re 9/11 is not true, because it does not comply with the fundamental laws of physics.

However, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the real evil in this world is not coming from any foreign enemy - but that it is coming from us. It is us - Western Democracy - that is harbouring this evil, and we will do absolutely anything - committing the most evil war crimes to steal resources - starting with oil.

It is easy to believe everything in the Western Media about Libya - and undoubtedly some of it is true. But Libya seems different to Egypt and Tunisia, and much more like Iraq and Yugoslavia.

If you want to read an alternative point of view - well here it is…

“Insurrection and Military Intervention: The US-NATO Attempted Coup d’Etat in Libya?”

by Prof Michel Chossudovsky

It was nice to grow up in a World of relative peace after WWII, believing that we were both the Victors and The Good Guys. I believed that for nearly 50 years - even despite the horrors of the Vietname War (that the UK was not involved in).

But now, the reality of our evil is quite horrifying and depressing.

Maybe you will be better off staying in a state of innocence and ignorance and hating “The Muslim Terrorists”. The Truth is much too horrible for many to handle. They become 9/11 Truthers and many go at least a bit crazy. I think its a defence mechanism to cope with the truth of our evil.


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By Leefeller, March 9, 2011 at 11:50 pm Link to this comment

Doing nothing worked real well for the Holocaust victims of Nazi Germany!

Lies and Hypocrisy used as a deciding factor on the inconsistence of constituency, makes the Republicans the best choice, their actions in Wisconson make them experts in screwing all the people most the time!

According to Col. Omar Gadfly,it is that pesky Communist Ununited states which is causing and instigating this annoying interruption from his daily full body massages, ......I think Castro should set Omar straight on who is worthy of being called a communist, and Castro should demand an apology!

I see little difference between Obama and Bush, except I think Obama may be slightly more hawkish?

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By Blackspeare, March 9, 2011 at 8:31 pm Link to this comment

Not to worry.  NATO will impose a no-fly zone very soon and then supplying of the rebels will begin.  A few well directed cruise missiles can do wonders.  Remember cruise missiles have a shelf life and it’s been a while since the USA deployed any.

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By PatrickHenry, March 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

Let the Libyans work it out for themselves.

If anyone should have the right to intervene it should be Libya’s neighbors.

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By call me roy, March 9, 2011 at 7:10 pm Link to this comment

DBM, you don’t sound like a friend to me, pilgrim? I “See (and smell that)” you’ve absorbed sarcasm masquerading as satire through osmoses. Obviously, you used a tainted, faulty filter, as your tongue-in-cheek humor was apparently taken from the “cheeks” of your nether region - not your cranium. “At least an ostrich has enough sense to stick its head in the sand and not some other dark, smelly place.”

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By brianrouth, March 9, 2011 at 5:23 pm Link to this comment

who is calling the shots in the white house

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By Jim Yell, March 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It seems according to one history I read that the Walker/Bush families were not merely symathetic to Hitler, but in fact were active in helping Hitler prior to WWII. It is true that many Americans who should have known better were sympathetic to Hitler, but did not help him materially.

Now we are asked to review the continuing crimes of this gangster family in American Politics and the World.

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By felicity, March 9, 2011 at 1:28 pm Link to this comment

Actually, prior to his attempted invasion, and during a
visit by a Bush representative to Saddam/Iraq, Saddam
brought up the possibility of stopping Kuwaiti
aggression and was given a tacit okay to do just that.

That well-known but little advertised event may add
further intrigue to just exactly what operation Desert
Storm was really about, in other words how did it
profit the US and the presidency of GHW Bush.

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By trierarch, March 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm Link to this comment

David, I understand the confusion you have with Desert Storm. There is so much disinformation in the media many Americans are confused about what is up or down. Continue reading the articles in truthdig and the books many of these writers publish, then do some research your own and you’ll develop an understanding of what has happened to America.

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By DavidByron, March 9, 2011 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment

This article makes no fucking sense at all.

It recounts a few examples of what we all already know—that the evil empire is always murdering people for profit and the idea of any sort of “humanitarian” action by them is a big lie.

And then demands “humanitarian” action by the evil empire!

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JDmysticDJ's avatar

By JDmysticDJ, March 9, 2011 at 11:24 am Link to this comment

George H.W. Bush could have avoided the war that destroyed Iraq, and provided a huge propaganda tool for Osama Bin Laden, Islamic extremists, and insurrectionists. Saddam Hussein offered to negotiate the withdrawal of Iraqi troops three days before the invasion began. George H.W. refused to talk.

According to authoritative sources, including the Lancet, (“The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal. It is one of the world’s best known, oldest, and most respected general medical journals,”) and the United Nations report on morbidity and mortality, the destruction of Iraq’s infrastructure, including: sanitation, electric, and medical facilities and manufacturers, resulted in the deaths of 1,000,000 Iraqis, half of them children.

Leslie Stahl: “We have heard that a half million children have died (as a
> result of sanctions against Iraq). I mean, that is more children than died
> in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”
> Madeleine Albright: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price, we
> think the price is worth it.”

If the U.S. is the world’s policeman, it can only be compared to a rogue cop. The people of each nation, should be responsible for their own governance. Will we now be squandering life and resources on three fronts?  NO MORE FOREIGN INTERVENTION!

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By DBM, March 9, 2011 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

Roy my friend ... spend a moment before you write.  It’s not too hard to understand that staying out of a “cesspool country” would not include inviting rebellion through radio broadcasts and leaflets.  Having not “stayed out” by inviting that rebellion as a diversion to make things harder for Saddam as his army was being routed in Kuwait, it was criminal to not follow through while people were slaughtered.

Staying out would include “shutting up” and not starting the rebellion.  America “stopping helping everybody except ourselves” would include closing all foreign bases and staying home, no? 

So, you figure out what party is going to “shut up and come home” (militarily) and vote for it.  Despite constant chatter that “all options are on the table” I fail to see that one getting much of a run.

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By rollzone, March 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm Link to this comment

hello. less people on the planet.

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By Robespierre115, March 8, 2011 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment

Why did the US abandon the rebels? Just look up looney tune Thomas Friedman’s comments from back then where he clearly stated that the US preferred a strongman dictator in Iraq to an independent, revolutionary Shia government.

The US will not aid the Libyan rebels unti it is convinced there are figures in there it can set up as puppets.

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By call me roy, March 8, 2011 at 7:46 pm Link to this comment

America Left Arab Rebels to the Slaughter?

Look Barry, Americans are getting tired of having to go into you’re cesspool countries to clean up you’re over flowing toilets. Get Europe or Africa to wipe you’re rear ends. With Independents taking over our politics again, America is going to stop helping everybody except ourselves. Got it? You’re socialism, progressivism, and shariaism are about at end in America. The fifty year gravy is over baby. Take this idea back to 60 minutes!

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