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Saddam's War of Words

Politics, Religion, and the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait

By Jerry Mark Long

Publication Year: 2004

From a Western perspective, the Persian Gulf War of 1990–1991 largely fulfilled the first President Bush’s objective: “In, out, do it, do it right, get gone. That’s the message.” But in the Arab world, the causes and consequences of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and his subsequent defeat by a U.S.-led coalition were never so clear-cut. The potent blend of Islam and Arab nationalism that Saddam forged to justify the unjustifiable—his invasion of a Muslim state—gained remarkable support among both Muslims and Arabs and continued to resonate in the Middle East long after the fighting ended. Indeed, as this study argues in passing, it became a significant strand in the tangled web of ideologies and actions that led to the attacks of 9/11. This landmark book offers the first in-depth investigation of how Saddam Hussein used Islam and Arab nationalism to legitimate his invasion of Kuwait in the eyes of fellow Muslims and Arabs, while delegitimating the actions of the U.S.-led coalition and its Arab members. Jerry M. Long addresses three fundamental issues: how extensively and in what specific ways Iraq appealed to Islam during the Kuwait crisis; how elites, Islamists, and the elusive Arab “street,” both in and out of the coalition, responded to that appeal and why they responded as they did; and the longer-term effects that resulted from Saddam’s strategy.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedicatoin

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pp. ix-x

Edward Gibbon observed of the various Roman divinities that the people believed themall, the philosophers disbelieved themall, and the politicians found themall equally useful. Such was the case in the Gulf War when Iraq turned to religion as a weapon, seeking to delegitimate the coalition arrayed against it, while appealing to other Arab states to join its jihad...

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pp. xi-xviii

The process of writing a book leaves any author with a sense of extraordinary debt, for no writer, of course, is an island entire unto himself. The ideas here began to take shape first during the Persian Gulf War, 1990–1991, while I worked as a Mideast military intelligence analyst. The United States Air Force offered substantial funding for repeated travel throughout most of the region, and U.S. embassies and military installations...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-7

The American president had a ghost to fight. He also had a new world order to launch. And when Saddam’s tanks rolled across the Kuwaiti border in the early morning hours of 2 August 1990, President Bush seized the opportunity. In his view the opportunity was clear-cut: the conflict, he told religious broadcasters, counterposed ‘‘good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, human dignity vs. tyranny and oppression."2 Thus, determined not to repeat the mistakes of Vietnam, and supported by generals who argued for the importance of decisive...


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pp. 8-8

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2. Historical Background and Inter-Arab Politics prior to the Invasion of Kuwait

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pp. 8-22

In a moment of cynical historical reflection, one might be inclined to blame the British for the Persian GulfWar of 1990–1991. After all, they had held the mandate over what became Iraq. They had shuffled about members of the Hashemite clan, creating facts of geography and monarchies. Modern Iraq, it is fair to say, is the product of British plans more than the logical and natural expression of local geopolitical affinities. T. E. Lawrence made that clear when he described the famous Cairo conference of...

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3. Historical Background and Inter-Arab Politics after the Invasion of Kuwait

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pp. 23-44

In the early days of the invasion, two crises shaped and reshaped Arab political alignments.The invasion itself precipitated the first crisis, and the Arab League meeting in Cairo on 3 August reflects that. The introduction of non-Arab forces five days after the invasion began caused the second major crisis, one that dramatically altered the debate in the next Arab Leaguemeeting on the tenth. As the anti-Iraq coalition grew throughout the fall, the agenda of that second...

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4. Iraq, Deep Culture, and the Employment of Islam before the Invasion of Kuwait

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pp. 45-80

On 8 August 1989, almost a year to the day before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the people of Baghdad witnessed a parade whose elements were as incongruous as its symbols were significant. This was, in fact, the solemn dedication of a new national monument to the heroes of the recent war with Iran. Duplicated along the parade route, the towering monument stood, in Saddam’s words, as an ‘‘arch to victory and a symbol to this Qadisiyya...

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5. Fi Sabil Allah: Iraq and the Employment of Islam in the Invasion of Kuwait

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pp. 81-138

At 2:11 p.m., gulf time, on the day after the Iraqi invasion, Kuwaiti radio made a brief, poignant appeal: ‘‘In the Name of God, the compassionate, the merciful. This is Kuwait. O Arabs, O brothers, O beloved brothers, O Muslims, your brothers in Kuwait are appealing to you. Hurry to their aid.’’ With that, the transmission ceased, the last of thirty-one hours of desperate broadcasts. But the words were not only poignant; they carried a special irony...

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6. Islam and the Region at War

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pp. 139-159

Saddamkept his promise. Shortly after the coalition forces initiated the air war on 17 January, Iraq launched Scud missiles at Tel Aviv. A day later, in one of the most dramatic pro-Saddam demonstrations of the entire conflict, an estimated 400,000 Algerians marched in their capital in response.1 Many of the marchers chanted slogans or carried banners calling for peace, and virtually every political party took part; but the Islamic Salvation Front...

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7. Reflections on Jihad and the Other Gulf War

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pp. 160-184

One day before the cease-fire on 28 February that ended the Persian GulfWar, the Baghdad-based Popular Islamic Conference issued a statement. It was the final plea, the last call for Muslims to come to the aid of Iraq, cradle of jurisprudence, religion, and civilization, before it was too late.There is almost a poignancy about it, for—despite the tens of thousands across the Middle East and throughout...

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8. Closing Reflection: The View from the Mountains

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pp. 185-186

The most spectacular view in Saudi Arabia is one from atop the sheer escarpment just outside Taif, the summer capital.The sun-baked rocks fall away from the cliff’s edge to a floor 2,500 feet below. The view to the west shows little except rocks wrenched up from the earth in some early geologic catastrophe and now strewn about in a plain that stretches for fifty miles to the Red Sea.The fewmountains that remain in this march to the sea are the jagged...


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pp. 187-238


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pp. 239-254


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pp. 255-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780292797406
E-ISBN-10: 0292797400
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292701601
Print-ISBN-10: 0292701608

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 2 maps
Publication Year: 2004

OCLC Number: 60567295
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Saddam's War of Words

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Subject Headings

  • Iraq -- Politics and government -- 1991-.
  • Arab nationalism -- Iraq -- History.
  • Persian Gulf War, 1991.
  • Iraq -- Politics and government -- 1979-1991.
  • Islam and politics -- Iraq.
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